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The first stop on any Appalachian heritage driving tour should be the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum, a National Historic Landmark and vivid reminder of the impact of the coal industry on Appalachian communities. Here you can step into one of the world's first exhibition mines and learn how coal was produced in this mine that operated for 73 years.
Depart Pocahontas to Tazewell and the Historic Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park displaying artifacts used by Native Americans and 18th- and 19th-century settlers. See a wedding dress made into a Confederate battle flag, two examples of McCormick's first reaper, Indian beads, pottery and tools as well as 14 log buildings.
Depart for Breaks Interstate Park, the "Grand Canyon of the South," located on the Virginia/Kentucky border. While there, enjoy the 4,600-acre park that offers hikes, paddle boats, swimming, horseback riding and mountain-bike trails.
You can eat in the park's Rhododendron Restaurant, which offers fine dining with a breathtaking view. Open April 1 - Dec. 20. Arrange to overnight at Breaks Lodge, too.
Delving into the region's country music heritage, you won't want to miss the A.P. Carter Museum in Hiltons in Scott County, dedicated to the performance of old-time music and its preservation.
On Saturday nights, you'll enjoy music shows at the Carter Family Fold nextdoor and exhibitions commemorating the Carter Family, whose music was first recorded in 1927 and has been called "as haunting, mournful and beautiful as the Appalachians from which it came."
Depart for Big Stone Gap in Wise County and the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park that depicts the lifestyle of early pioneers and the development of this region, with artifacts including an antique flintlock bear gun, quilts and a real moonshine still!
Travel two blocks to the John Fox Jr. Museum, the home of the famous mountain author who wrote Trail of the Lonesome Pine among other novels. The museum was the family home that is still filled with original furnishings from the turn of the century.
Depart for the June Tolliver House & Folk Art Center. The house is a National and Virginia Historic Landmark and serves as a craft/gift shop with items featured from local artists.
Visit the Harry W. Meador Jr. Coal Museum, where you can trace the history of the local coal industry from its beginnings in the late 1870s to the present.
During summer evenings, see Virginia's Official State Outdoor Drama, Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama. The play depicts the love story between a beautiful mountain girl and a handsome mining engineer during the great coal boom in Southwest Virginia when coal and iron ore changed the region.
Visit Cumberland Gap and discover the Nation's largest national historic park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in the far west corner of the state.
See the new movie, "Daniel Boone and the Westward Movement" at the visitor center and then drive to Pinnacle Overlook, which offers a spectacular view of the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
Also, visit Hensley Settlement, a preserved frontier community, and tour the 5-mile underground Gap Caverns.
Next, travel 8 miles to the Wilderness Road State Park near Ewing in Lee County. This 192-acre park is the site of the nation's most authentically reconstructed frontier fort, Martin Station. See Daniel Boone and other living interpreters tell the story of the 1769 Indian raid that destroyed the settlement.You can retrace Daniel Boone's footsteps along the Daniel Boone Driving Route back down in Gate City, and then take a 7-mile hike along the Wilderness Road Trail.
Travel on to the Natural Tunnel State Park and see this 100-foot-high, 850-foot long tunnel formed through rock by the erosive action of water and some engineering feats. It's "The Eighth Wonder of the World!" You can take a chairlift ride or hike down a nature walk.
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