One of the best things about Kingsport is just how affordable things are. You can get a quality home rental here for less than the monthly payment on a ten year-old station wagon. With wood side panels, even. Local utilities and grocery costs are way cheaper than national averages, and there are all sorts of free or low-priced entertainment options.
So what's the downside? Do the low prices reflect double-digit unemployment, social decline, and roving street gangs? Actually, no. In fact, Kingsport is a National Sustainable Community Award Winner, which means that the city's done a bang-up job providing economic stimulus, higher education, and quality of life for its residents. Crime rates are pretty much in line with national averages, though assaults are somewhat in vogue. To avoid being thumped with a badly intended turkey leg, travel with friends, try not to be unduly obnoxious, and consider hanging out in vegetarian restaurants. Just saying. Tofu's pretty dang soft.
The city's downtown area has undergone some impressive revitalization. The Kingsport Academic Village, opened in 2009, has pumped millions into the local economy and offers students access to the resources of five local universities under a single roof. Watch out for those studious youngsters. The area's wealthiest employer, the Eastman Chemical Company, is spending more than $1 billion to update its facilities and help make Kingsport attractive to workers. The investments help set the tone for a thriving array of local shops, taverns, and restaurants that attract visitors and help fill the local tax coffers.
Sure, Kingsport is a busy little city with twenty-odd local neighborhoods. Still, you could break down the residence districts largely as "city" and "not city." Here's a list of some of the best urban and suburban neighborhoods that Kingsport has to offer:
Chippendale Road / Ambleside Road: If only every neighborhood was like this. Crime-free streets, no child left behind, golf cart-friendly streets and sidewalkswhat's not to love? Hurry up and find a home for rent so you can start living the good life today. $$$$
Orebank / Harrtown: Popular with both seniors and young professional types, this community features a mix of older and new homes. There are only a handful of apartments to rent, and just an odd mobile or two, so you'll have to do some scouting if you want to make this corner of Mayberry your own. $$$
Town Center: Ah, the bustling heart of the Greater Tri-Cities area. If you suffer from loneliness issues, move here. Nearly 18,000 people work within a few blocks and the neighbors are conveniently stacked in small homes, apartment complexes, and high-rise apartments. If you still can't make friends, drown your sorrow at T.K.'s Big Dog, where you can get your fill of "hot dogs from all over America." The food, not panting canines. Really.$
Fordtown / Smith Shoals: Leave the city apartments behind and head out to this more rural southern suburb. Why? Fairgrounds, of course! Aside from cows and prized pumpkins, you'll be front row center for swap meets, a tobacco conference, bear-hunting get-togethers, and the ever-popular Little City Girls roller derby action, which is feistier than you can imagine.$$$
Colonial Heights: Once used by marauding Iroquois, you can now stroll safely along the lush waterways and forests of this suburban neighborhood without getting scalped. The area is dominated by the gorgeous Warriors' Path State Park and features two--count them, two--dollar stores. Piggy-bank shopping is the best!$$$$
West View Park: This affordable working neighborhood offers inexpensive home rentals and some good old-fashioned boiled cabbage. $$
If you live or work near downtown, do your heart and wallet a favor and walk. Kingsport's layout is very friendly to pedestrians and the 40-plus city blocks are teeming with interesting shops and curiosities. If you'd rather tool around in your own vehicle, well, it's your American birthright, and you won't find traffic anywhere near as tight as in larger cities. An upshot of having the ###1 Marriott in the world over on Meadowview is that you can get your pick from a veritable slew of taxis. There's a local bus system, too, and it offers dial-up rides to needy patrons.
When you aren't firing up bunsen burners or pounding down hot dogs, there's still plenty to see and do. You'll find the regular assortment of chain stores and movie houses, but the local attractions are what make Kingsport really shine.
Summer brings music to downtown. The best part is that the blues, rock, gospel, and bluegrass concerts on Broad Street are always free. Grab your jug and mug and get ready for a real hootenanny. If you don't know what that is, you'll soon find out.
How do you satisfy your swim jonesing when you're located hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean? The newly opened Kingsport Aquatic Center has got you covered. Heated indoor pools, water slides, and a lazy river provide endless opportunities for play and exercise, and napping in an inner tube for hours.
Put on your faux coonskin cap and take a hike on the historic Daniel Boone Wilderness trail. For history buffs and history not-so-buffs alike.
Beavers, Bees, and Wolves
Oh my. The Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium is a wonderful 3,000-acre preserve that gives you a chance to see heaps of native animals and waterfowl. A domed planetarium offers educational shows and presentations from September through May.
Get in the Spirits
Located an easy distance from town, the Countryside Vineyards & Winery is a real local treasure. Come sample the award winning red and white wines for free, and then get someone else to drive you home. Another nearby winery, the Corey Ippolito Vineyards & Wedding Venue, offers a truly inspired packaging of services. Liquid courage, anyone?