Abingdon: Your Gateway to Southwest Virginia
Located in the Blue Ridge mountains, Abingdon was named after the ancestral home of Martha Washington and boasts a walkable 20-square-block Historic District featuring architecture from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The city is known for its artsy vibe and its proximity to some of the most spectacular outdoor recreation in the commonwealth. It also serves as a jumping off point for many other destinations in the area, with delicious food, foot-tapping music and much more waiting to be discovered.
Day 1: Spend Your Day the Local Way
Grab a bite at White Birch Food & Juice Bar
Offering locally sourced raw juices and smoothies at 170 E. Main St., White Birch serves up a variety of healthy alternatives to your everyday meal, including farm-fresh breakfast and lunch items.
Immerse yourself in art at Blue Ridge Highlands Arts Depot
Folk art, clay, textiles, portraiture, jewelry, oil, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media painting and more are showcased in this historic 1860-era freight station, and now known as The Arts Depot. Visit three galleries with rotating shows, and seven resident artists in their working studios who invite you to interact with them. The Depot also serves as the home of the Appalachian Center for Poets and Writers.
Get lost, metaphorically, that is, at The Channels State Forest
The Great Channels are a one-of-a-kind maze of boulders and crevices in the Channels Natural Area Preserve, a Virginia best-kept secret and most singular natural wonders. Hikers can wind their way through a 20-acre sandstone labyrinth formed more than 400 million years ago during the last ice age. Pick up a map at the Abingdon Visitor Center and prepare to be wowed by what you’ll see as you trek through areas that have only been open to the public for little more than a decade.
It's always game time at JJ’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
When it’s time for lunch, head to JJ’s – where you’ll feel like one of the locals. Not just a restaurant, not just a sports bar, JJ’s uses only the freshest locally grown ingredients and prepares comfort food at affordable prices. Try their classic burger, the catfish dinner or one of their vegetarian options, as well as weekend specials that will make your mouth water. A full bar has 21 rotating beers on tap. Dine in – or stop by and pick up one of their mouthwatering Picnic Pick-Ups.
See the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace
Rooted deep in history, this area’s culture is authentic, distinctive, and alive. Experience the birthplace of American Country music at the headquarters of the Crooked Road, Virginia's Heritage Music Trail. Every week, live music takes the center stage and showcases the region’s traditional and mountain music. The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace is your gateway to discovering the unique people, places, and stories of the most beautiful region in America, offering a vibrant culture of tradition, music and craft.
Dinner is always a good idea at Bone Fire Smokehouse & Musictorium
Dinner plans should include a true smokehouse, offering delicious smoked meats and unique Southern high-country sides. Bone Fire leaves the decision to “sauce or not” up to individual tastes but tempts diners with a variety of homemade original-recipe options. The location, in the former Withers Hardware Store in historic downtown Abingdon, provides a unique setting that complements the quality food, excellent service and great live original music. Popular among residents and tourists alike, Bone Fire has been recognized regionally and nationally for their excellent smoked meats.
Get your rest at The Martha Washington Inn & Spa
Enjoy a complimentary glass of port at the front desk before retiring to one of the 63 rooms and suites at the inn, all featuring their own character and personality. Built in 1832 for General Robert and Sarah Buchanan Preston and their nine children, much of the architectural integrity of this historic landmark has been meticulously preserved for more than 150 years. Don’t miss the rare and elaborate Dutch-baroque grandfather clock, imported from England and measuring over nine feet tall, that now resides in the Edith Wilson Parlor. Check in to the Spa and enjoy a therapeutic float in the indoor saltwater pool for a truly decadent end to a busy day.
Day 2: Explore the region
Get a strong start at Rendezvous International Café
A rendezvous with a fabulous sweet or savory crepe and a delicious cup of coffee makes a great start to a great day. Prefer an iced latte? That's on the menu, too – along with an assortment of hot or cold beverages, including frappes and smoothies. Fill up in a way that suits your appetite and head out for what awaits!
Strap on your walking shoes and hit the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail
Experience the beauty of Virginia’s mountains on this accessible bucket-list rail-to-recreation trail that travels more than 34 miles through the pristine scenery of Jefferson National Forest. For a start in Abingdon, rent a bike from The Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop or take a shuttle to the highest point at Whitetop Station for a downhill ride. In nearby Damascus, rent a bike from Adventure Damascus Bicycle & Outdoor Co., shuttle to the top and coast 17 miles downhill. Either way, you’re in for a beautiful adventure.
Fancy a beverage? Try Abingdon Vineyards
Sip world-class wines in the Virginia highlands in the middle of 13 acres of vines, planted with nine different varietals. Bringing “Napa to Appalachia” is the goal of the owners and staff, who value Southern hospitality and will welcome you with a smile as they pour their delicious vintages.
Is beer more your speed? The Damascus Brewery is right up your alley
If you prefer high-quality beer and a customer experience beyond all others, head over to see and sample the work of owner Adam Woodson. He loves handcrafting ... the beer, the lighting, the woodwork and the art. Sixty different beers rotate on eight taps. The flagship offering, Beaver Rage IPA, is a “deliciously hoppy-but-not-bitter” IPA sold in Adam’s tasting room and in fine dining establishments in the Abingdon area.
Take your time at William King Museum of Art
William King was an early settler who came to America in 1784 at the age of fifteen and became a successful merchant. The museum is housed in the former Abingdon Male Academy, which was endowed by King and opened in 1824. The exhibitions include fine art, material culture from Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, and contemporary art by regional artists. Permanent collections display furniture, pottery and textiles. The Sculpture Garden invites visitors to stroll, sit, picnic or fly a kite.
Linger over dinner at the Damascus Old Mill Restaurant & Inn
Enjoy full-service fine yet casual dining in an historic and beautiful setting, overlooking the Old Mill waterfall and the ducks and geese floating peacefully on the mill pond. An excellent and varied menu is accompanied by free live music in the pub area on most weekends. Given their location on the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, it’s understandable why the Old Mill has become an important music venue. The Inn offers a personalized experience for their overnight guests that will have you wanting to come back for more.
Take in a show at Barter Theatre
In 1933, the price of admission to the Barter was 40 cents or an equivalent amount of produce. (Four out of five theatregoers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products and livestock.) To the surprise of many, all the seats for the first show were filled. The concept of trading “ham for Hamlet” caught on quickly. Now one of the country’s longest-running professional theatres, the Barter is still staging productions and performances that wow their audiences. At least one performance a year celebrates Barter’s history by accepting donations for Feeding America Southwest Virginia.
Day 3: Visiting History
It’s time for brunch at Harvest Table Restaurant
Harvest Table’s menu includes carrot cake waffles and Dad's Baked Basket, a sampler of sweet and savory scones, fruit turnovers, and muffins to share ... or gorge! Sip on a black raspberry mimosa and, if there's room for dessert, it's a buy-one-get-one deal. The Harvest Table’s creative recipes use seasonal produce and meats from local and regional sources selected to highlight freshness and quality. Their menu favors real foods prepared in a healthy way, supporting "local" and celebrating the Appalachian heritage.
Visit a Big Stone Gap musical legend—the Carl Martin Historical Marker
Carl Martin was born in Big Stone Gap in 1906 and is honored with a historical marker at the Harry W. Meador Jr. Coal Museum on E. 3rd Street North at the intersection with Shawnee Avenue East. Martin played guitar, mandolin, bass, and violin at coal camps, dances, and in traveling shows. In 1930, Martin’s string band recorded two instrumentals for the Vocalian label, released under the band name “Tennessee Chocolate Drops.” He moved to Chicago, recording blues and performing with such artists as Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red until serving in World War II. Martin died in May 1979.
See where the Historic Prospect Public School stood
A plaque commissioned by the Prospect Alumni Association was placed on Highway 23 North at Gate City in Scott County in February 2021. Prospect School, Scott County’s only public school for African American children, once stood nearby. In 1916, contributions to build the two-room school came from the Black community ($1200), the county ($600), and the Julius Rosenwald Fund ($500). This fund, created by the president of Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and inspired by the work of Booker T. Washington, helped build more than 5,000 schools for African American children in the South and supported two additions to Prospect Schools in the 1920s. The school offered grades 1-7; students who sought further education had to leave the county. Prospect School closed in 1965 with desegregation and was later demolished.