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  • Johnson City, Tennessee
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    Johnson City,

    Tennessee

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    Johnson City is a city in Washington, Carter, and Sullivan counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee, mostly in Washington County. As of the 2020 United States census, the population was 71,046, making it the eighth largest city in Tennessee. Johnson City is the principal city of the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers Carter, Unicoi, and Washington counties and had a combined population of 200,966 as of 2013. The MSA is also a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, Tennessee–Virginia Combined Statistical Area – commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. This CSA is the fifth-largest in Tennessee with an estimated 500,530 residents.
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    Inspiration

    How rum is making at comeback at these 6 distilleries

    Quick: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions rum? Chances are you think about sticky-sweet, umbrella-garnished beach drinks, fraternity parties, or Coke. But in 2020, this historic spirit is more diverse, sophisticated and, most importantly, funner than ever before, as American small distilleries produce a variety of styles – both classic and creative. Their spirits can hold their own against time-tested legacy brands. Like any craft spirit, rum is arguably best enjoyed at the source, where you can talk to distillers and see how it’s made. Here are a few to check out around the US and Caribbean when you’re passing by. 1. Lassiter Distilling Company: Knightdale, North Carolina Yes, the Caribbean is the heartbeat of the rum industry and rum was a cornerstone of Colonial New England’s economy, but here’s a little lesser known fact: before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, rum was drunk all along North Carolina’s coast. The region was a hub for the sugar trade, after all. That’s one of the nuggets of info you’ll learn when you visit Lassiter Distilling Company, a rum-focused distillery in Knightdale, a charming town just off Route 64, which connects Raleigh to the beach. Among the many independent businesses that have sprung up here in the past few years is Lassiter, which is located in a gorgeous old railroad depot. Drop in on a Saturday for a distillery tour or schedule a visit for another day in advance. The husband and wife distiller/owners turn out a silver (unaged) rum, one that’s aged in classic American white oak and a clever Rum au Café that's infused with Raleigh Coffee Company coffee beans, each of which you can sample as part of the free tour. Got time? Stick around for a rum drink at their small yet elaborately designed tiki bar, which is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Potted plants dot the tasting room of Lyon Distilling Co. © courtesy Lyon Distilling Co.2. Lyon Distilling Co.: Saint Michaels, Maryland When Lyon Distilling launched in 2013, it completed a drinking trifecta. Now travelers can visit a brewery, a winery and a distillery, all within Saint Michaels, a one-square-mile town on the Chesapeake Bay’s picturesque eastern shore. Located 45 minutes from Annapolis and 90 minutes from Washington and Baltimore, the town attracts makers of all sorts, like boat-builders and brewers. That, along with the fact that the bywaters of the Chesapeake were a rum-running hub during Prohibition, convinced co-founder Jaime Windon that this was an ideal spot to open a distillery and make maritime spirits. “The proper shore is 90 minutes from us. With all the sailors coming through there, making rum feels right on Bay,” Windon says. Situated in a former flour mill, Lyon turns out dark and unaged rums, over-proof expressions, and several special products, like limited-edition holiday releases and coffee rum, a rich, enchanting spirit flavored with fresh ground coffee from a local roaster and cocoa shells from a DC chocolatier. Free tours with tastings are offered every day at 2PM. 3. Hye Rum: Stonewall, Texas Tourists have long traveled to Texas Hill Country, birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson, to visit his ranch. This region, which extends to parts of Central and Southeast Texas, is covered with rocky soil, the kind that lends itself to fine vintages in Europe. Accordingly, it’s long been a draw for winemakers, and there are presently more than 65 wineries along the 25-mile strip of Interstate 290 that connects Fredericksburg to Johnson City. But that’s not why we’re here. Hye – population: 100-plus – sits along that stretch and in addition the nearly dozen wineries you can visit there, you’ll find Garrison Brothers, a whiskey distillery, and Hye Rum, a distillery that opened in 2017. It’s set in a quaint house that co-owner Stephanie Houston describes as “slightly larger than a tiny house.” They produce five different French-island-inspired rums with molasses from Louisiana. Visit for a tour with the distiller then settle in at the low-key bar with a flight of rums, each of which delivers bold flavors befitting of the Lone Star State. A souvenir tasting glass is part of the package. Cocktail classes are also on offer. 4. Havana Club: Havana, Cuba Since the Obama administration relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba, Americans have headed posthaste to this tropical island to ogle at its colorful architecture, abundant vintage cars, and so much else. The food, of course, is a big draw for many, but for some, the most compelling lure is the preferred spirit of one of Cuba’s most legendary residents, Ernest Hemingway, who penned seven books just outside Havana. The historic and massive Havana Club distillery, which sits in the nation state’s capital, is not open to the public, but you can learn about the rum-making process – from sugar farming to barrel aging – and its history in great detail at the Havana Club Museum of Rum. Located in a colonial townhouse built in the 18th-century, the museum’s exhibits provide a closeup view of the many crafts involved in rum production, from building stills and constructing barrels to distillation. And, of course, you can experience the consumption part for yourself in the 1930s-era tasting room. A bottle of Montanya on the taproom bar © courtesy Montanya / Nathan Bilow 5. Montanya Distillers: Crested Butte, Colorado Situated in the West Elks, a little mountain range in the Rockies, Crested Butte is an incredible Colorado ski town and the wildflower capital of the United States. It’s also a mountain biking mecca and home of Montanya Distillers, a destination not only for its lively bar and restaurant, complete with live music, but for the in-depth lesson you can get on a tour about the quirks and beauty of making rum at 8800ft. Montanya’s staff, from founder and owner Karen Hoskin to the distillers to the bottling line, is 64% women, which is unique among the many producers in the world. Their special release, Valentina, highlights this, as every step in the process involved women. Whether or not you tour the distillery, a flight of Montanya rums, which are made with molasses from Louisiana-grown sugar cane, is complimentary. Come for the samples, stay for dinner and a cocktail. Come for the samples, stay for dinner and a cocktail and live music. The cozy wood- and brick-heavy tasting room/eatery is a lively local hangout. 6. MISCellaneous Distillery: Mount Airy, Maryland Meg McNeill, co-owner of MISCellaneous Distillery in rural Maryland, an hour north of Washington DC, describes her Popi’s Finest Rum as “rum that thinks it’s whiskey.” Like bourbon, it’s aged in new American oak barrels, which imbues Popi’s with its oaky flavors. See for yourself on one of the tours they offer every weekend. Tours are free, but a $5 recommended donation is passed on to a local charity. Go to learn about the distillation and aging process, stay to create your own cocktail with a variety of made-in-DC mixers like Element Shrubb’s inventive vinegar-based drinks (honeydew-jalapeno, anyone?) and natural syrups from Pratt Standard Cocktail Company. In addition to aged and silver rums, the distillery produces whiskey from grains harvested from the surrounding rural property, as well as vodka, gin, and bourbon. They all meet the approval, by the way, of husband-and-wife owners’ pup Jaimee, a friendly Bernese mountain dog. Got one of your own? Feel free to bring him along for a play session.

    Inspiration

    The Best Things to Do in Texas Hill Country

    From city streets to rolling countryside, the Texas Hill Country is a geographical juxtaposition. The vast scenery ranging from hills to rivers to protected areas and long-standing sites is full of wonder, to boot. Spanning across Central Texas and correlating parts of San Antonio and Austin with small town communities, this region within the Lone Star State is not only a mix of topography but also of activity. Get exploring with these ideas for what to do in Texas Hill Country. Find German Roots Sections of Texas Hill Country have a strong German heritage, with settlers emigrating to Texas in the 19th century. The resulting German towns with names such as Boerne and Walburg preserve this heritage. In Fredericksburg, the Pioneer Museum tells of day-to-day living through dated buildings such as Sunday houses built for farmers and ranchers to stay in town on weekends while Vereins Kirche Museum in the Marktplatz replicates the city’s first public building. Named for Prince Carl Solms-Braunfels, New Braunfels’ backstory is told in part through contemporary murals telling about everything from Prince Carl Solms-Braunfels, whom the city is named for, to one depicting other important figures along the exterior of Krause’s Biergarten & Café, a revitalized German institution dating back to the 1930s. Ties to Our Nation’s History Two noteworthy figures are from Texas Hill Country – and their legacy still stands there today. In Fredericksburg, the National Museum of the Pacific War is linked to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who spent his boyhood years in Fredericksburg. Later on in life, he would command the U.S. military in the Pacific during World War II. The three-museum complex presents an extensive chronology on this battlefront through exhibit galleries with photographs, artifacts and media installations. Highlights include a gallery to Nimitz that was a hotel run by his grandfather, a Memorial Courtyard honoring all those who’ve served in the Pacific Theater and a Plaza of Presidents, acknowledging 10 commanders in chief who fought in the war. One of them was LBJ, a fellow Texan. The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site in Stonewall, encompasses the life of our 36th president. Then, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos focuses on how his formative years shaped his leadership in the Oval Office. Take in flowers During their blooming season, Texas’ wildflowers add bursts of color along roads and road stops in Texas Hill Country. Wildseed Farms has been growing these flowers and selling their seeds for over three decades, partially at their over 200-acre farm headquarters in Fredericksburg. With flowers in bloom from March through October, visitors can admire bluebonnets, red corn poppies, Black-eyed Susans and other types within both their trial and display gardens; venture along half mile walking trails, a seasonal butterfly garden and a seating area. Part of the University of Texas at Austin, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center focuses on the conservation of native plants by cultivating them within their gardens and arboretum. Get an earful of music Perk up and get your feet ready for some moving along to the sound of live music at venues across Texas Hill Country. In San Marcos, Cheatham Street Warehouse is a honkytonk institution that’s credited with presenting George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughn in their earlier days. Within Gruene, a historic district of New Braunfels, Gruene Hall dates back to 1878 and continues to present weekly performances from Americana to rock-a-billy; acts at Texas’ oldest operating dance hall have included Strait, ZZ Top and Willie Nelson. T he Luckenbach Dance Hall near Fredericksburg has its fair share of headliners – not only Nelson but also Waylon Jennings – while the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera is hopping country music. Sip along Some Wineries Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state, having and more than 50 wineries and vineyards are located in Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg has an Urban Wineries Trail mapping out close to a dozen tasting rooms in town; stop into Becker Vineyards’ Main Street location to try their Cabernet Franc Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, and other new or limited releases. In New Braunfels, Dry Comal Creek Vineyards and Winery is on a sprawling property with Texas-made labels such as their White Black Spanish, which blends Symphony grapes with the winery’s estate Black Spanish varietal. Waterside Fun Texas heat can get brutal but Texas Hill County has natural-forming rivers and man-made attractions for cooling off. Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort in New Braunfels has four areas compassing a mix of water rides. The Dragon’s Revenge is an uphill water coaster while Master Blaster kicks off its journey from atop a six-story tower. Wimberley’s Blue Hole Regional Park is known for its bluish swimming hole originating from an underground river; there’s is a seasonal reservation system where bookings for swimming are required. Elsewhere in New Braunfels, you can go tubing along the city’s connecting Cormal and Guadalupe rivers by renting a ring from companies locally referred to outfitters. In San Marcos, the spring-fed San Marcos River starts at Spring Lake, where glass-bottom boat tours are available at the Meadows Center. In Rio Vista Park, the San Marcos Lions Club offers tube rental during the summer. Getting Physical Outdoors Stretch your legs a bit by exploring Texas Hill Country on foot within various parks. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg is just as captivating as its name due to a massive pink granite dome that’s the park’s centerpiece. This nature site also has about 11 miles of hiking trails and rock climbing ops. Colorado Bend State Park in Bend is noted for its cascading Gorman Falls, which can be reached via a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike. At Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City, its six-mile Wolf Mountain Trail provides a hiking challenge that rewards with mountain views and a stop at a water pool while its Juniper Ridge Trail can put advanced mountain bike riders to the test.

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