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Hey lovebirds, get married for free in Abingdon!

We all know Virginia is for Lovers. Now Abingdon is celebrating lovers with a free joint wedding ceremony this summer.

Love Art, Abingdon, Virginia

Virginia is for Lovers

Save the date for the Summer Lovin’ Concert, Saturday June 10, 2017, and get hitched (or renew your vows)  – for free!

The Abingdon CVB will provide an officiant, wedding cake, party favors, and, for a wedding band, The Carolina Breakers, a popular beach music band.    Plus, one lucky couple will get to spend their honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa.

The Summer Lovin’ Concert takes place at the Abingdon Market Pavilion in downtown Abingdon.  The festivities will kick off with a joint wedding ceremony, after which the happy couples and their friends can party to the upbeat sounds of the Carolina Breakers.  Guests can enjoy a free slice of wedding cake while supplies last, and visit the beer garden for a cash bar (offering beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages for sale).

Carolina Breakers

Based in Myrtle Beach, SC, the Carolina Breakers are a high-energy band with five lead vocalists and a horn section covering beach music hits, plus Motown, Funk, Rhythm and Blues, Disco, Beach and various other special requests.

All couples who register by May 1st will be entered in a drawing to win a complimentary night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa.

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa

Register to get married and you could spend your honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa!

The fine print: Couples getting married must be over 18 years old, and secure a valid marriage license in advance from the Commonwealth of Virginia and bring the original document with them.  Click here to learn more about applying for a marriage license in Virginia.

The event is free and open to the public. No alcohol will be provided; a beer garden will be available, benefiting the non-profit organization Abingdon Main Street.

For questions, contact Sara Saavedra at ssaavedra@abingdon-va.gov, or register below!

For more information on destination weddings in Abingdon, and a list of vendors, click here.

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Announcing the winners of the 2016 Abingdon Shorts competition

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Abingdon Shorts competition!

The short film competition was created to promote and support the creative talents in our region, while celebrating the unique people, places and events that make Abingdon a tourist destination.

Films had to be less than three minutes long, and embody the spirit of Abingdon’s tag line: “It’s Always Play Time in Abingdon.”

There were several short films submitted, of which the judging committee selected the top three to receive awards.  The winners will be used in promotional content on the Visit Abingdon website and social media channels.

Abingdon has just announced the next round of competition, with submissions due July 19, 2017.  To enter or learn more, visit AbingdonShorts.com

First Place: “Like a Kid Again” by J.R. Linkous

JR Linkous Headshot

J.R. Linkous is a Bristol based designer and filmmaker. “Like a Kid Again” was filmed entirely on location on Abingdon’s Main Street. See more of his work at jayarelinkous.com.

“When I first read the details for the Abingdon Shorts film competition, I knew in about 20 minutes what I was going to do.  When trying to put together an idea for a video or film, I have these “easy ideas” that come to me right away. You know, the ones that make sense. I typically try to bypass any of those and come up with something that goes the extra mile and looks at communicating the same point or story in a completely different way. When I read the line “it’s always playtime in Abingdon”, my initial thought was to highlight the Creeper Trail, fishing, backpacking, all the elements that easily communicate “playtime”.  However, I decided that I wanted to connect Main Street Abingdon with “playtime”.  As always, I’m working with no budget and little time.  What I had to come up with would have to be simple but communicate the point just as well. I decided that I wanted to use my 5-year-old daughter because she’s cute and she didn’t charge me a dime to act.  At this point, I have to connect shopping and tourism with a 5 year old. It was all downhill after this!  The phrase “makes me feel like a kid again” came to mind. That idea combined with the desire to have a twist at the end resulted in my Abingdon short film entry “Like a Kid Again”.

 

Second Place: “The Shoot” by Jon Phelps/Nice Marmot Productions

Jon Phelps headshot
Jon Phelps of Nice Marmot Productions is an IT professional in Abingdon, Virginia. For more from Nice Marmot Productions, visit their Youtube channel.

“Because we had to use the tagline “It’s always play time in Abingdon” I thought it would be amazing if we were shooting a commercial centered around that one line and the actor just couldn’t get it right. I pitched it to my friend Ryan Henderson, the main star of the short, and we wrote it in an evening and shot it the following day in the upstairs of the Barter Theatre. I think I decided to go with a comedy narrative because I have always enjoyed making people laugh and once I had that central idea the script really wrote itself. We went super meta with the ending, having his girlfriend be the actual star of the commercial, but in the end I think it worked well and was a nice little button on the whole thing.”

 

Third Place: “Playtime” by J.R. Linkous

JR Linkous Headshot

 

“Playtime,” also produced by J.R. Linkous, took home the third place price.

 

 

For more information about the Abingdon Shorts competition, visit AbingdonShorts.com.

 

Welcome to Virginessee

Welcome to the state of Virginessee!

Abingdon, Virginia is located smack dab in the middle of Southwest Virginia, a part of the state that’s so far to the west, it’s practically Tennessee.   Our next door neighbor is the city of Bristol TN/VA, a unique place that straddles the state line between Virginia and Tennessee.

The hills of Southwest Virginia are filled with breathtaking Appalachian scenery and quirky small towns.   The winding roads are great for scenic drives by car or motorcycle, and in small towns you’ll find charming Main Streets that highlight a new emphasis on Appalachian culture: food, spirits, music and art like no where else in the country.

bristol-sign

Want to stand in two states at once?

The famous Geico Gecko is just the latest visitor to participate in this tradition.  For decades, visitors have taken pictures on State Street, one foot on each side of the state line.  In the road you’ll find bronze markers indicating the state line.  Take your picture as you stand in two states at once, right in the middle of Virginessee – no gecko required.

Be safe! Look both ways and obey local traffic laws as you take your photo.

To get there

From Abingdon, it’s less than 17 miles to State Street in Bristol.  Take Exit 3 on I-81, and follow signs to downtown Bristol.  Park on the north side (Virginia) or the south side (Tennessee). Either way, parking is free!

An artist takeover at the Abingdon Visitor Center

 

 

corry-james-turner-in-residence-august-2016

PAINTER JAMES E. TURNER IN RESIDENCE THIS FALL

The arts are woven in to the community in Abingdon, and now the Abingdon Convention & Visitors Bureau will highlight a new local artist each quarter with its Artist Takeover program.   Every few months, a new artist will take over the ground floor of the Abingdon Visitor Center at 335 Cummings Street, with a wall-sized art installation, and an exhibit of their artwork, which will be for sale to the public.  The program launches with painter James E. Turner, and the public is invited to a gallery opening as part of Abingdon’s First Thursday gallery crawl, Thursday October 6, 2016 at 5:00pm.

The Artist Takeover will highlight Abingdon’s art scene, and give artists without a studio space of their own a place to display.  Each artist will be asked to design and install a full wall-sized mural in the Visitor Center, which will then be painted over for the next artist taking over the space.

james-turner-fine-artJames E. Turner, also known as Corry the Psychic, is currently in residence at the Visitor Center, painting a painting a 6-foot-high canvas “mural” for the gallery.  Turner, who is also a practicing psychic, creates “spirit paintings,” applying multiple layers of iridescent colors to create abstract, organic shapes.

“As an artist with a brain condition, I capture the beautiful visions I experience,” Turner says.  “They are wheels within wheels and circles within circles.  Colors are cheerful, vibrant, flat, glossy, matt, metallic, and iridescent.   The work changes as the light changes and they are seen from different angles.  They glow in dim light reflections and burst into radiance with daylight.  A photo doesn’t capture the real appearance any more than iridescent butterfly wing can be captured in a photo.”

turner-wheels-within-wheels-_6There will be an opening reception Thursday October 6, 2016, from 5:00 to 7:00pm at the Abingdon Visitor Center at 335 Cummings Street, in conjunction with Abingdon’s First Thursday.  For more information on the First Thursday gallery crawl, visit the facebook page at /abingdonfirstthursday.

For more information on James E. Turner, visit http://www.jameseturnerfineart.com/  and to learn more about his alter ego, Corry the Psychic, visit http://www.corrythepsychic.com/

Ready to escape the election news? Go off the grid in Abingdon, VA

Virginia Creeper Trail – Sam Dean Photography

Are you already feeling a little tired of wall-to-wall election coverage?   Since many of us are attached at the hip (literally!) to our smartphones, it can be hard to get away from the news.

We’ve solved the problem for you, with a list of places that don’t just tempt you to turn off your phone – they force you to!

The Virginia Creeper Trail

Even though it’s an easy, mostly downhill ride on this famous trail, texting and biking is still a bad idea.  Plus, large sections of the trail within Jefferson National Forest have no cell reception. Keep your phone with you for taking pictures of the gorgeous mountains and trestle bridges, but wait to update your Instagram feed until you get back to town. #latergram #creepertrail  Find out more>

Virginia Creeper Trail, Green Cove Station

Green Cove Station, Virginia Creeper Trail – Sam Dean Photography

 

Barter Theatre

Escape into the world of imagination with a play or musical at Barter Theatre.  Best of all, the use of cellphones or other electronic devices is not allowed during the show.  So pay attention to the pre-show announcement, and turn it to airplane mode, unwrap your candy, and enjoy two hours of news-free entertainment. Find out more>

Actors on stage at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA

Courtesy of Barter Theatre

Adventure Mendota Kayaking

Located just outside of Abingdon on the North Fork of the Holston River, this outfitter’s slogan is “Get off the grid and into the river!”   You’ll be out of cell range for most of your trip, while you lazily paddle down the river (this section is generally rated Class 1 or Class 2, great for beginners and families).  Find out more >

Courtesy of Adventure Mendota

Courtesy of Adventure Mendota

The Spa at The Martha

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa actually has excellent cell reception, and free wi-fi for guests.  But you won’t want to use it when you sign up for a day of pampering at the spa. This grand old hotel in downtown Abingdon offers massage, facials, mani/pedis, body treatments, a heated salt-water pool and outdoor hot tub and fire pit.  Put that phone on silent, slip on a robe and bliss out.

Indoor swimming pool at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa - Jason Barnette

Indoor swimming pool at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa – Jason Barnette

The Abingdon Visitor Center gets a new look (that’s really an old look)

 

Industrial Electrical overhead line construction at the pro football hall of fame in Canton, Ohio.

The small town of Abingdon has been welcoming visitors for nearly 250 years, ever since it was a stop for weary travelers heading west on the Great Wilderness Road. Thousands of tourists are attracted to Abingdon each year to visit Barter Theatre, the Virginia Creeper Trail, and the beautiful historic downtown shopping district.  Now, the town’s official Visitor Center has gotten a new paint job that restores its historic charm.

The Abingdon Visitor Center is located at 335 Cummings Street, in a former private residence built in 1906.  The house was in need of exterior painting, and town officials decided to try to determine the home’s original Victorian colors, in order restore the building to its original appearance. Using tiny core samples, a historic conservator was able to analyze the layers of paint and find the original 1906 colors.

The Abingdon Visitor Center before restoration.

The Abingdon Visitor Center before restoration.

The Hassinger House, also known as The Grove, is a late Victorian clapboarded and decoratively shingled house built in 1906 by William Hassinger, who owned Hassinger Lumber of Konnarock, VA.

The project used cross-section microscopy analysis techniques to determine the original exterior paint palette. The study showed that the house had gone through at least 17 to 18 paint jobs throughout the years, with up to 25 generations of paint in some areas.  The earliest paints were then color matched for replication, and the results were dramatically different from the building’s 21st-Century appearance.

Victorian homes were often affectionately called “Painted Ladies,” for their vivid, multi-colored appearances.  The report found that the Hassinger House originally had a much more intense color scheme, “painted with an earth tone palette of deep red-brown, olive green and cream-color. No other colors were found during this research, but it is possible there could even have been a fourth color (based on suggested commercial palettes of the period.”

Newly painted in green, red-brown and cream, the Abingdon Visitor Center will now give visitors a preview of the many historic sites the town has to offer.

The newly painted Visitor Center welcomes guests.

The newly painted Visitor Center welcomes guests.

 

We Scream, You Scream, Abingdon Ice Cream!

A tray with three homemade ice cream treats, Hot Fudge, Raspberry Cheesecake, and Death By Chocolate at Anthony's Desserts on Main Street in Abingdon, VA on Friday, June 14, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette

A tray with three homemade ice cream treats, Hot Fudge, Raspberry Cheesecake, and Death By Chocolate at Anthony’s Desserts on Main Street in Abingdon, VA

Ice cream is a great treat anytime of the year, but in the summer months ice cream holds a special place in the hearts of kids and adults. Abingdon is chock full of family-owned ice cream eateries that cater to tastebuds of all kinds and all ages. During the Virginia Highlands Festival (July 29 – August 7) take a break from the heat and chill down in one of these unique ice cream shops on or near Main Street.

 

Anthony’s Desserts

This elegant shop offers house-made ice cream, coffee, and a multitude of baked goods like cookies, brownies, crème brulee and cheesecake. Walking into Anthony’s Desserts, you can smell all of the amazing things being cooked in the kitchen.   Each week they create homemade ice cream in house with no preservatives or artificial coloring. selections change every week.

284 W Main St
Abingdon, VA 24210

Anthony’s Desserts

Camellas

Camella’s Remember When Tea Room

Located in one of Abingdon’s historic buildings on Main Street, Camella’s has been transformed into a tea parlor and ice cream shop. Upon entering the adorably quaint shop you’re immediately pulled back in time to a more genteel era.

165 E Main St, Abingdon, VA 24210

Camellas Remember When

Icecreamcamelles

Kristan’s Country Store

This small store along Charwood Drive in Abingdon is just the place to go for a quick ice cream stop. The Country Store also provides a place where avid bakers can pick up a rare spice or an Amish ingredient. Reasonably priced cones and cups are available in 5 classic Mayfield flavors.

125 Charwood Dr
Abingdon, VA 24210

Kristan’s Country Store

Ellis Soda Shoppe in Abingdon, VA

Pop Ellis Soda Shop

Pop Ellis Soda Shop is a local eatery along Abingdon’s Main Street. Right in the center of town, it’s located in a former drugstore, and still has an old-fashioned soda fountain.  Order one of Ellis’s signature ice cream sundaes or an ice cream float in flavors like Root beer, Coke, Cherry Blossom, Chocolate, and Orange.

217 W Main St
Abingdon, Virginia 24210

Ellis Soda Shoppe

The Ice Cream Shack

Right off exit 19 across from Dunk & Deli is The Ice Cream Shack, a brightly painted building with tropical flair. Despite the name, the Shack actually serves up frozen yogurt and flavored shaved ice.

924 E Main St
Abingdon, VA 24210

The Ice Cream Shack

IceCreamStopIce Cream Stop

The Ice Cream Stop is a hidden gem that’s a favorite with locals.  With over 15 different flavors and plenty of options, you can create your perfect custom ice cream cone! A drive through also offers ice cream if you’re on the go.

24453 Lee Hwy
Abingdon, VA 24210

Ice Cream Stop

Swirled

Swirled

Abingdon’s newest frozen dessert shop serves 24 different flavors of frozen yogurt and 41 types of toppings. Just start with your own bowl and fill it up with hundreds of different combinations of frozen flavors to ward off the hot days.

406 Cummings Street
Abingdon, VA 24210

Swirled

For a full listing of Abingdon’s dining options, click here.

Pokemon Go: Catch ’em all in Abingdon

Over 8 million people have downloaded the new game Pokémon Go, and downtown Abingdon has been flooded with Pokémon trainers searching for Squirtles, Charmanders, and of course, Pikachu himself.

pokemon-tavern

We’ve put together this handy guide to hunting Pokémon in Abingdon, including where to recharge your phone for free, where grab a bite to eat while you’re hunting, what else to see in town while you’re here, and tips for how to catch ’em all without breaking any laws (or any bones!).

The Abingdon Police Department has an important message for players. “Attention all Pokémon trainers, we need your help. As you pursue Pikachu, or any other Poké-characters, please use caution.  Sometimes people do not understand that you are playing in augmented reality. Remember in the real world, laws apply.”  Read more here.

So remember, keep your eyes on the road while driving, respect private property, be safe, and have fun! And if you catch a particularly rare Pokémon in Abingdon, take a screenshot and tell us about it with the hashtag #PokemonGoAbingdon.

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Pokestops in Historic Abingdon

Known Poke Stops include the Abingdon Farmers Market, Barter Theatre, Washington County Library, the Virginia Creeper Trail and the sidewalk in front of The Martha Washington Inn & Spa.

In addition, wild Pokemon have been sighted all up and down Abingdon’s historic district, at places like The Tavern, and the stores at the Market District, Park Street, and Courthouse Hill.

While you’re out hunting, stop by one of Abingdon’s restaurants for something to eat or drink.

pokemon 1

Pokémon Gyms

Put your Pokémon to the test as you battle it out in one of these Gyms.   Remember, town parks are closed after dark, and make sure to respect private property.  Gyms located in Abingdon include the sculpture garden at the William King Museum of Art, Barter Stage II, Heartwood, the town park at the corner of Tanner St. and Park St., the Arts Depot and Veterans Park

 

 

Charge your phone for free

Did you know Abingdon offers two free phone charging stations in downtown? If your battery is running low while you are out hunting, look for the bright red English phone booths in front of the Municipal parking lot on Main Street and at the Creeper Trail Welcome Center.  Each phone booth contains a free charging station.

Phone Booth 2015

Top tips for how to get the most out of a street festival

Just in time for the Virginia Highlands Festival (July 29 – August 7, 2016), we have this insider’s guide to how to enjoy a street festival.

Becky Caldwell, Executive Director of the Virginia Highlands Festival says in this month’s Blue Ridge Country magazine, “I have a confession to make – I am a festival junkie…I prefer to eat my food off a stick and a paper plate than a fancy restaurant. Beer belongs in plastic cup, and the best dancing happens on the grass.”

The Virginia Highlands Festival showcases the region’s best art and culture, including fine arts, antiques, music, outdoor adventures, writing workshops, and Appalachian history.  See the full schedule at VaHighlandsFestival.org.

People dance in the street during the Thursday Jam at the Farmers Market in Abingdon, VA on Thursday, June 6, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette

Check out her pro tips below, and then make plans to put them in to action at the 68th Virginia Highlands Festival in downtown Abingdon, July 29 – August 7, 2016.

1. Dress for the weather, and plenty of walking. Don’t worry about looking cute, because everyone has the same trickle of sweat running down the small of their back. Just be comfortable!  That means good walking shoes, loose, breathable clothing, and sun protection like a hat, visor, or sunglasses.

Families enjoy walking the street during the 2012 Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, VA

 

2. Know that you will spend more on food and drinks at a festival than you probably did for a week’s worth of groceries. Embrace this fact, and enjoy your $10 burger.

3. Leave your diet at home. You know who eats a salad at a festival? No one! It’s time for funnel cake and BBQ – in that order. Besides, you’ll probably walk off all those calories anyway.

Independence Day hotdog 944x424

4. Loosen up about the schedule. Things in a festival can change all the time because of traffic, weather, or general life craziness. Show up ready to explore, and don’t let yourself be limited to the printed event guide. Which leads us directly to Tip #5….

5. Try something new. The best thing about a festival is the sheer quantity of things happening all at once, that you don’t normally have access to. Check out that new band, play a game you’ve never played before, see some art, explore a park.

HighlandsFestivalArt-944x424Find out more about the Virginia Highlands Festival at vahighlandsfestival.org.

A Perfect Lake Getaway Outside Abingdon, VA

South Holston Lake in Bristol, TN

Just a 20 minute drive outside of Abingdon’s town limits, South Holston Lake stretches over miles of open water, surrounded by pristine mountain ridges.  About 60% of the shoreline is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest, and much of the shoreline is undeveloped, making it one of the most scenic lakes in Virginia. (The 7580-acre reservoir straddles the VA/TN border.)

The history behind the lake is as extensive as the lake itself. The Tennessee Valley Authority came to the area in 1942 to start construction on a dam. It was then completed in 1950. Local lore says that there were towns,farms, and graveyards flooded in order to build and create the South Holston Dam and Lake.

To help you and your family explore this undiscovered treasure in the Abingdon area, we’ve compiled a list of marinas, outfitters and public parks.  From boating, to scuba diving, to fishing, to simply having a picnic on the lake, there is something for everyone and every age.

Lake4

Boating

One of the biggest attractions is to boat on the lake during the summer. Many marinas offer boat rentals for families of every size.  With miles of open lake there is little crowding and a great place for swimming and boating without worry.

The Sportsman’s Marina is the most convenient access point for boating, located just 15 minutes from downtown Abingdon. In addition to boat rentals, Sportsman’s offers towables, kayaks, paddle boards, Jetblades, and an Aquapark.  Grab lunch at the Broken Ski Grill before heading out on the water.

Painter Creek Marina offers fully equipped half-day and full-day pontoon boat rentals, along with casual dining at the Painter Creek Grille.

Friendship Resort and Marina is a family-oriented marina surrounded by pristine national forest, offering boat rentals with seating for up to 10.

 

Lake7

Fishing

For those fishermen who have their own gear the Washington County Park is a great place to spend the day catching fish and relaxing by the lake.With many different places to stop and fish as well as other activities for the family this is a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. 

If you are a beginner fisherman or simply want to teach your children how to fish, the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop offers fishing gear, classes and guided excursions.  Or, pick up some gear at Mahoney’s Outfitters, conveniently located on Cummings Street/Hwy 75, on the way to the Lake. 

There are many different kinds of fish that live in the South Holston Lake. Among some of the most popular fish are: Channel Catfish, Bluegills, Small and Large Mouth Bass and Black Bass.  Learn more at the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries >

Other Adventures 

Adventure Diving

If you and your family are extreme adventurists then Adventure Diving will fit the bill! This is your chance to see the South Holston Lake close up. Through their Discover Scuba tour they provide a short lesson and then a tour of the bottom of The South Holston Lake.  This is a great way to get up close and personal with this beautiful lake.  

Paddleboarding and Jetskis

Just a short 15 minute drive Abingdon you’ll find the Sportsmans Marina. They offer more than just boat rentals. They can provide jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks, tubes, and other water equipment for a fun day on the lake!

Places To Stay

When visiting the South Holston Lake it can be hard to only stay for one day. With the beautiful mountains, the rich local history, and small town eateries many visitors choose to stay for a few nights.  

Abingdon offers a number of affordable hotels, B&Bs and cabins with easy access to South Holston Lake.  For the best of both worlds, combine the comfortable lodging and great restaurants of Abingdon with a fun day on the lake.  Find out more about Abingdon lodging options >

Or, for the visitors who have a wild side or simply love waking up and watching a sunrise on the lake, there are a number of campgrounds around the South Holston Lake that provide an easy drive into Abingdon for the evening. Find out more about camping options at South Holston Lake >

Lake8

South Holston Lake is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day, fish, and simply enjoy the mountains on a family vacation. With so much to do it is no wonder this is a visitor hotspot!