We all know Virginia is for Lovers. Now Abingdon is celebrating lovers with a free joint wedding ceremony this summer.
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).
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.
Register to get married and you could spend your honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa!
Southwest Virginia has been a well-guarded secret among outdoorsmen in the know for decades. However, with so much of the region accessible from the I-81 corridor and the increased demand for outdoor recreation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the secret is out. It’s no exaggeration to say that in the past few years the region has seen unparalleled attention and growth, and it is currently in the midst of a vibrant renaissance that is putting its outdoor resources, Appalachian culture, and small-town charm on full display.
Destinations like Grayson Highlands State Park, the connected Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the iconic Virginia Creeper Trail, and the nearby outdoorsy hubs of Damascus and Abingdon have been on the radar for quite some time, and for good reason. But every year new areas of the region are starting to be explored and “discovered” by recreationists, and in doing so many folks are realizing the vast outdoor recreation potential of southwest Virginia. Along with numerous hiking, mountain biking, birding, rock climbing, and paddling possibilities—there’s also great fishing. And to be specific here, I’m talking about mountain stream fishing.
The Blue Ridge Highlands that form the topography of this pocket of Virginia create many deep valleys and and natural drainages that the amount of fly fishing possibilities in the region is staggering. Sound management practices, diverse fishing experiences, and quality outfitters and guide services only add to the allure. When you add in the fact that southwest Virginia gets an annual rainfall of nearly 50 inches, surging many of the smaller creeks and streams to fishable levels, you begin to realize that this area is an anglers’ paradise. Here are just some of the best rivers and streams to fish in southwest Virginia.
Whitetop Laurel Creek
Whitetop Laurel Creek, widely regarded as the best trout stream in the Old Dominion, is both stunningly beautiful and extremely accessible. By using nearby Abingdon, Va., as a launching off spot, and utilizing the Virginia Creeper Trail to get to some of the best holes, an angler is set up for a great day. Its location within the Mount Rogers NRA means that this area is taken care of, and more than seven miles of this waterway are stocked with both rainbow and brown trout. For the angler looking for a more remote setting, the small nearby tributaries such as Beaverdam Creek and Tennessee Laurel Creek are great alternatives and allow one to go after native brookies and soak up the beautiful backcountry of the region.
South Fork Holston River
The South Fork Holston River originates in Smyth County near the community of Sugar Grove. This portion of the Holston River is formed by several cold-water streams, and it has been called by some the best trout fishery east of the Mississippi. In fact, this waterway has produced the Virginia state record for the biggest brown trout caught at over 15 pounds. Although many will enjoy the stocked trout sections, the SFHR also contains many special regulation areas where native brookies thrive and provide the experienced angler a tougher challenge. “The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has done a great job of preserving wild trout sectors in this area,” says Bruce Wankel, a fly fishing guide at the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop. “The stream raises its own.” This highlights that local agencies recognize the importance of keeping things as naturally sustainable as possible.
Middle Fork Holston River
The Middle Fork Holston River is a medium-sized river that contains many different sport fish species. With the headwaters located near the Smyth-Wythe County line, the river flows approximately 56 miles and then connects with the South Fork Holston River to form South Holston Reservoir. Many anglers choose to float sections of this river to maximize their experience. Along with smallmouth bass and sunfish, this river has two designated stock trout areas around the towns of Atkins and Marion.
Wild Trout Streams in Grayson Highlands
Special regulation trout streams in Grayson Highlands State Park include Big and Little Wilson Creeks, Quebec Branch, Mill Creek, Wilburn Branch, and Cabin Creek. These “Blue Line Creeks,” according to Wankel, are for the real fly fishing connoisseur. He explained that these high-country streams require solid backcountry skills. Yet with a little information, these areas easily accessed by most folks. If the idea of hiking into rugged mountain streams, surrounded by Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, mature hardwoods, and large rock outcroppings sounds like fun, you’ll want to do some exploring.
The New River, considered to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, offers a variety of fishing opportunities in southwest Virginia. Some of the most popular access spots are along New River State Park, that stretches from Pulaski to Galax. This stretch is mostly slow-moving and provides great opportunities to fish off of a canoe, raft, or kayak and contains real trophy fishing potential. Walleye, muskellunge, catfish, crappie, sunfish, perch, and bluegill, along with many varieties of bass are all found here.
Trout Steams around Wytheville
Within both George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and the surrounding towns found around Wytheville are a handful of great fly fishing spots. Cripple Creek and East/West Fork Dry Run, both located near Speedwell, are two popular wild trout destinations. Cripple Creek is stocked, whereas East/West Fork Dry Run is a special regulated trout area. Venrick Run, located in the Wytheville town-controlled Crystal Springs Recreation Area, is another great example of an area where you’ll find abundant native brookies. Higher up in the mountains, near Big and Little Walker Mountain, there are a handful of remote mountain streams that can be fished.
It is the quality of Virginia’s mountain streams that makes this region so great. “Folks need to plan to come down for more than a day,” Wankel says. “(You need) a long weekend, or even a week, to soak up the natural flavor of southwestern Virginia.” As much as Wankel would love to have this place to himself, he knows it’s just too good not to share.
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
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 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
“Playtime,” also produced by J.R. Linkous, took home the third place price.
Spread over a pocket of Appalachian high country, Virginia’s Grayson Highlands State Park is an alpine Eden. The lofty landscape is embellished by airy mountain meadows, gushing trout streams, rhododendron-filled forests, and a conglomeration of high peaks. Best of all, more than 100 wild ponies roam Grayson Highlands and the neighboring Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which is a 200,000-acre swath of the massive Jefferson National Forest. If you’re looking for a place to spend the night without camping, the nearby town of Abingdon has a wide variety of options from hotels to bed & breakfasts.
Established in 1965, the 4,502-acre park was originally called the Mount Rogers State Park—long known for providing a portal to the state’s highest peak. Besides offering a route to the forest-shrouded summit of Mount Rogers, today Grayson Highlands is a lofty trail hub with a network of 13 different trails inside the state park, and access to the 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail and 68-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.
Peak baggers won’t be able to resist the temptation to tackle Virginia’s highest peak, the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers. Fortunately, the shortest and arguably the most scenic route to the summit comes courtesy of Grayson Highlands State Park. The approximately 8.5-mile out-and-back route begins on the aptly named Rhododendron Trail in Grayson Highlands, beginning from the Massie Gap parking area. It links with the Appalachian Trail and Mount Rogers Spur trail outside the park. Cherish the views along the way—the actual summit of Mount Rogers is in the midst of a moss-cloaked forest.
The park also has plenty to offer less ambitious hikers, with many of the shorter trails in Grayson Highlands loaded with iconic Appalachian vistas. The easily accessible Twin Pinnacles Trail begins at the park’s visitor center and takes hikers on a 1.6-mile loop with sweeping views of Wilbur Ridge and Mount Rogers. The equally short-and-sweet Cabin Creek Trail is a 1.8-mile riverine ramble, leading visitors along a trail framed by rhododendron and mountain laurel that features a 25-foot waterfall.
Grayson Highlands is also a hotspot for anglers. You’ll find nearly 10 miles of trout streams, featuring brook and rainbow trout, which are part of the Blue Ridge Highlands Fishing Trail. The park’s waterways are designated Special Regulation Wildlife Trout Streams, mandating the use of artificial lures and single hooks, and requiring any trout under 9-inches be released unscathed. The longest stretch of fishable water inside the park is the 3.5-miles along Big Wilson Creek, accessible from either the 1.78-mile Wilson Creek Trail, beginning at the park’s main campground, or via the Appalachian Trail, accessed from the Massie Gap parking area. Sections of Big Wilson Creek are also designated as a “stocked trout stream,” requiring both a Virginia fishing license and a trout license.
Secrets of the Park
One of the park’s highlights is the band of ponies roving the highlands—including a famous, flaxen-maned stallion named Fabio, renowned for his salon-quality locks. The origin of the equines is somewhat mysterious, but one story suggests the ponies were bred by locals to survive the fickle Appalachian high country with minimal human interference. Inside the park, the herd was introduced by the Forest Service in 1974 to provide a natural landscaping service for the highland balds, first cleared by loggers at the end of the 19th century and later grazed by cattle throughout first half of the 20th century.
Today, the free-wandering herd is managed by the Wilbur Ridge Pony Association. The ponies are rounded up every fall for a health check–and so that a few individuals (usually young males) can be selected for auction at the annual Grayson Highlands Fall Festival.
Grayson Highlands is not just a bucket-list trip for hikers in the Old Dominion—the park is also one of the premier bouldering destinations in Virginia. With nearly 1,000 problems scattered throughout the park, there are enough routes to suit all kinds of climbers. The lofty elevation of the park’s bouldering areas, many more than 5,000 feet, also make Grayson Highlands a prime climbing destination during the summer, when temperatures render many popular routes in the Southeast off-limits.
The park features more removed climbing spots, like the Highlands Bouldering Area (accessible after a hike from Massie Gap), but is also scattered with plenty of easily accessible problems, especially along the 1.4-mile Listening Rock Trail. There are also climbable boulders in the vicinity of the park’s contact station, picnic area, and even the main campground. One of the area’s most beloved climbs, the Wilson Creek Boulder, is an easily stroll from any tent site there. Without a doubt, the definitive guide to bouldering opportunities in the state park is Aaron Parlier’s book Grayson Highlands Bouldering.
While the park’s trails are positively bustling in the fall, spring and summer, hosting everyone from day-hikers to thru-hikers, Grayson Highlands also has plenty of potential for hearty souls in the dead of winter. The elevation ensures the high country in Grayson Highlands and the neighboring Mount Rogers National Recreation Area consistently get a generous coating of powder, and the airy alpine meadows are ideal for exploring with cross-country skis.
Several of the park’s trails are open for cross-country skiing, including the 3.7-mile Old Upchurch Road, 1.2-mile Seed Orchard Road, the 3.2-mile Horse Trail (east), and the 0.9-mile Horse Trail (north), which connects to the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
Quick Tips: Getting the Most out of Your Trip
The park’s campground is popular and fills up quickly, especially in the summer and early fall, during peak leaf-peeping. There is no backcountry camping in the park, but Grayson Highlands provides a gateway to a bounty of options for overnights. The state park is sandwiched between two wilderness areas—the 6,076-acre Lewis Fork Wilderness, laced with nearly 30-miles of trails, and the peak-capped Little Wilson Creek Wilderness, a rugged 5,461-acre expanse crowned with three summits above 4,600-feet. Both part of the larger Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
Weather in the park can change rapidly, and temperatures in the highlands ensure hypothermia is a consideration year-round. Snow is possible from September to May, and the barren high-country balds, famously devoid of trees, are also especially prone to powerfully unfettered winds. Rangers close the park in the case of extreme conditions—including air temperatures below 15°F and wind speeds above 35 mph. But that still leaves the vast majority of the year to explore one of Virginia’s most beautiful places.
Originally written by RootsRated for AbingdonVA.
Featured image by S.A., courtesy of Grayson Highlands State Park.
‘Tis the season to shop ’til you drop, and we suggest Abingdon as an especially fine choice for buying unique, meaningful gifts. We’re the quintessential “shop small” destination with quaint boutiques lining our historic downtown streets. Let us show you why.
WEST MAIN STREET
Shops on and around Main Street between Cummings and Wall Streets offer a good selection of gift-buying options. Start at Abingdon Mercantile and Frame Shop, two stories of fantastic finds in what used to be an old hotel. Many of your favorite gift brands are found here, as well as home decor and apparel.
Abingdon Mercantile & Frame Shop
Stuff your stockings with sweet treats from The Candy Shed, Abingdon’s candy store. Bulk candies, lollipops, a variety of mint tins, and nostalgic candies can be found here. Want more sugar and old fashioned fun? Be sure to swing by Ellis Soda Shoppe for a float!
The Candy Shed
Looking for local handmade gifts? Check out Necessities, a trove of local love and international delights, too. Find delicious teas and foods, as well as art, kitchenware, and linens.
Those seeking something specific for someone who’s hard to buy for may have luck with a special antique or primitive gift. Try Jerroleen’s Shed, a well curated antiques and primitives store that also carries interesting “man gifts” like beard balm and “bloody knuckles” hand salve.
EAST MAIN STREET
On the other side of The Martha Washington Inn & Spa and Barter Theatre is more great shopping. Start at Forget-Me-Not, a ladies boutique in what was once an old apothecary. Today that building is filled with jewelry, clothes, gift cards, and more, but none of it is the ordinary, run-of-the-mill variety. You’ll find something special here!
Abingdon Olive Oil Companyis the perfect place to find a fine oil for the Betty Crocker in your life. If you don’t know where to start, the knowledgeable staff can give you great recommendations.
Abingdon Olive Oil Company
Katbird’s Wine & Gourmet will probably have you at “complimentary wine and beer tastings every Saturday afternoon,” and if so, we don’t blame you. Sample something new and choose a new favorite to take home for a holiday dinner or to gift a co-worker or friend. A variety of home goods and gourmet delights may even find their way into your bag as well.
Katbird’s Wine & Gourmet
Two blocks back on Park Street sits Wolf Hills Brewing Company. If you didn’t find a craft beer you like at Katbird’s try the local flavor and perhaps take home a growler!
Just down Park is Holston Mountain Artisans, the perfect place to pick up a handmade gift from a local artisan. From photography and pottery to joinery and jewelry, there’s no telling what impressive handcrafted object may be the perfect gift.
Holston Mountain Artisans
There’s moreGREAT SHOPPINGin Abingdon, so don’t stop here. You’ll find music stores, more clothing and jewelry, and LOTS more artisan shops and galleries to peruse this holiday season.
Those who have never experienced the holiday season at Barter Theatre in Abingdon are truly missing out. It’s not your average theater, and it’s not your average “come watch our holiday show and go home” experience. Rather, attending a show at The Barter Theatre during the Christmas season should be a tradition. Indeed, an annual holiday destination.
A Christmas Carol at Barter Theatre
“The Christmas shows at the Barter are one of my very favorite things to do during the holiday season. It has become a tradition of sorts for me and my friends or family to start the season off with one of the favorite holiday classics …” Trip Advisor user Evie H.
Over the River and Through the Woods at Barter Theatre, Christmas 2017
At Barter Theatre during this festive season, patrons can expect elaborate, gorgeous decorations throughout the common areas, as well as hot cocoa to warm you as you come in the door. Holiday trees are here, there, and everywhere! It’s a truly delightful scene.
The gift shops – one at Barter proper and another at Barter Stage II – have souvenirs and gifts to choose from. Perhaps someone on your list needs a gift certificate to share this experience with you next year?
The gift shop in the Barter Theatre is especially festive at Christmas.
2016 CHRISTMAS SEASON AT BARTER
The shows rotate near-daily at Barter and Barter Stage II. Hurry to order your tickets online before they’re sold out!
There’s too much noise in the world today. Too many distractions, and too much chaos. Settle down and settle in with a destination Christmas in Abingdon, Virginia.
Abingdon is a small town that’s big on culture and hospitality. Here, you can escape the hustle and bustle and focus on what’s important: your loved ones. Let us show you the way.
DELIGHTFUL STAYS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
The Martha Washington Inn & Spa is the grand dame of Abingdon. Steeped in history, this hotel was originally the home of the Preston family but has seen life as a dorm for Barter Theatre actors, a women’s college, a makeshift Civil War hospital, and eventually a hotel.
A photo posted by Abingdon, VA (@visitabingdonva) on
The Martha’s appeal for families are numerous: an on-site restaurant where kids under 12 eat free, the spa and heated pool, the fire pit, the beautiful decorations, the history, and of course, the ghost stories! Depending on the number of family members getting away with you, your accommodation options range from Martha’s Residence, a two king suite with fireplace seating areas and an optional connecting Deluxe King room, to the Family Friendly Suite, a two bedroom apartment with a king and two double beds.
“Our family, as well as other relatives, recently stayed at the Martha. We all had a fabulous time! This hotel is elegant, charming, and beautiful both inside and out. We found the rooms spacious compared to other historic hotels we’ve stayed in. The pool is also quite large for a hotel and it was so relaxing to sit in a jacuzzi outside in the middle of the winter. We also enjoyed the library and could have spent hours inside reading all the interesting books.” – TripAdvisor user Jennifer S.
Abingdon’s bed and breakfasts are stunning. Inquire with an innkeeper about renting the whole house if your family wants a private, more intimate environment.
Summerfield Inn is a 1920s Colonial Revival with plenty of room for the whole gang. Seven guestrooms with en suite are in the main house while three additional suites are available in the Carriage House. You’ll want to choose your room carefully as some sleep up to three people and at least one has its own special perk: the Rose Room has a two-person whirlpool tub!
“This location was central for widely separated family members. Lots of room for a gathering …” – TripAdvisor user Tim11502
While breakfast is not served at A Tailor’s Lodging, morning beverages are available and the location is top-notch. Tucked away within the historic downtown, the property offers three queen suites with fireplaces and en suite. The Tailor’s Shop is a sweet little cottage with private entrance and kitchenette.
“This is a great place to stay have stayed here several times of the last few years. This is a place you can rent the whole house for you and your guests. Very quiet and close to the Barter Theaters.” – TripAdvisor user M7735XUgregb
Copper Lantern Boutique Inn is also a centrally located bed and breakfast that consistently receives incredible guest reviews. The 1873 Georgian Colonial boasts five immaculate suites with fine linens and shower amenities.
“We traveled from Colorado to join family members in Abingdon. The Copper Lantern Inn was our home base for a 5-day stay in Abingdon. The Inn’s central location was perfect for hiking, shopping, dining … It was a delightful meeting place for our family.” – TripAdvisor user Carol K.
Have you considered a cabin or cottage? It’s the ultimate “away from it all” Christmas destination, and we happen to have a few options within historic downtown Abingdon.
Creeper’s End Lodging is two new cottages built in a Colonial style and offering two rental spaces in one of them and three in the other. Each cottage can sleep up to 10 guests and each unit has its own kitchenette, which means everyone gets a turn at cooking!
“What a fabulous place for a family reunion! We took over the place and were in heaven. Lovely furnishings and very comfortable. They thought of everything a traveler might need. Close to trail, park, good food, the Barter, and a wonderful yard to play in!!”- TripAdvisor user Cathryn T.
Another excellent collection of cabins is that of Crooked Cabin Properties, a trio still within the historic downtown of Abingdon. The largest and most accommodating for a full-family getaway is The Brook House with sleeping arrangements for eight in 3,000 square feet. Need more room? The Creekside Hatch is an adjacent two-bedroom cottage that sleeps four more people.
“A wonderful experience in a lovely historic town. We had a 20 year reunion at the Brook House and it could not have been more perfect. Spacious, clean, we had everything we needed for a perfect weekend.” – TripAdvisor user Alice P.
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.
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!
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>
Green Cove Station, Virginia Creeper Trail – Sam Dean Photography
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>
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
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
Cradled by the Blue Ridge and the massive Jefferson National Forest, historic Abingdon is an outdoor wonderland. The nearly 250-year-old Appalachian town has a richly colorful past— and a long history of welcoming visitors. A longtime Cherokee hunting ground, the area was christened Black’s Fort when Europeans began trickling into the region in the middle of the 18th century. It was redubbed “Wolf Hills” when, according to local lore, Daniel Boone was attacked by wolves while hunting nearby. For decades the town served as a final outpost for settlers heading westward on the Great Wilderness Road—and featured the very first Post Office west of the Blue Ridge. The town’s name was changed once again—this time, to Abingdon—as a homage to First Lady Martha Washington’s ancestral home, Abingdon-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire.
Today, natural wonders and vivid history still abound in Abingdon. Hike, bike, or paddle Southwest Virginia’s vast wild spaces. Take your time wandering the historic streets of Abingdon, discovering the region’s rich cultural heritage, and all the while soaking up the town’s legendary hospitality. After 48 hours in Abingdon, you’ll leave wishing you were staying much longer than just the weekend.
Begin at the bountiful Abingdon Farmers Market (Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Swing by the Balkan Bakery stall and grab some freshly baked croissants to nosh while you peruse the market’s locally raised produce, baked goods, crafts and handmade delicacies. After the market has piqued your senses, head over the trailhead for the Virginia Creeper Trail to get your heart racing too. Hike, bike, or run a stretch of the leafy 34-mile trail, named for the sluggish locomotives that once chugged through town on the way to North Carolina. On the way from Abingdon to the midway point in Damascus, the trail rambles past sunlight-dappled meadows, rolling horse pastures—and for an extended stint, it also hugs the best trout fishing stream in Virginia, Whitetop Laurel Creek.
If you didn’t bring your bike, rent a pair of wheels at the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, just a few steps from the trailhead in Abingdon. The bike shop can also arrange shuttle transport to accommodate a ride of any length. If you need to break up your hike, ride, or run on the Virginia Creeper, you can always pop into the Abingdon Vineyard and Winery for a tasting (or an excuse for a breather). The inviting winery is located just a half-mile from the trail.
Spend the afternoon relishing in some well-deserved, post-trail pampering at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa in the center of town. The exquisite accommodation has been hosting guests since 1935. Opt for a private couples massage or just regroup with a round at the inn’s cozy bar. After “the Martha” has rejuvenated you, meander down Main Street to the Tavern, the oldest, and according to local lore, one of the most haunted establishments in town. Functioning as everything from a roadside inn to a post office during the Civil War, the Tavern was even converted into a hospital, accepting both Confederate and Union wounded. Today, the Tavern’s bar is still the oldest in Virginia. Peruse the lengthy wine list and be sure to try the brie-filled bread bowl—coated with honey, brown sugar and toasted almonds. If the place isn’t too busy, you can even ask for a tour. Look for the charcoal bed numbers still adorning the walls of the attic, a lingering testament to the Tavern’s time as a Civil War hospital.
Seize the day with a cup of fresh, locally roasted coffee at Zazzy’z Coffee House and Roastery before making your way to the spectacular Grayson Highlands State Park, driving along the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway. If you are itching to stretch your legs on route, make a pit stop at Elk Garden, in the stunning Lewis Fork Wilderness section of the vast Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. For a brief but picturesque 3-mile loop, loaded with views of the famed high Appalachian balds, hop on the Appalachian Trail for 2-miles, heading toward Deep Gap, and return on the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail, hiking a mile back to the Elk Garden Park Area.
After Elk Garden, continue winding toward the Grayson Highlands and head for the park’s overnight backpackers lot. For a scenic out-and-back hike, hop on the Appalachian Spur Trail (which connects to the Appalachian Trail after about a mile). Follow the Appalachian Trail as it rambles through tunnels of Rhododendron, over scenic saddles, and through expansive alpine meadows. Keep your eyes peeled for the park’s illustrious wild ponies—several grazing herds have been roaming the highlands for just over 40 years, first introduced by the National Park Service to reduce the risk of forest fires. When you are ready for a break, stop and linger over the seeming endless views of the rippling Blue Ridge before retracing your steps back to the parking area.
Back in Abingdon, recount the highlights of your hike over another cherished Appalachian tradition—perfectly smoked barbecue—at the BoneFire Smokehouse. After lunch, stroll over to the Wolf Hills Brewery. Sample some of the establishment’s outdoor inspired craft beers, like the Creeper Trail Ale or the White Blaze Honey Cream Ale. Learn about the brewery’s commitment to sustainability, including donating excess brewing grain to area farmers to use as animal feed.
Cap off your weekend at one of Abingdon’s most enduring treasures—the Barter Theatre. Established in 1933, performers like Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, and Kevin Spacey have all graced the Barter Theatre’s stage. The venue even famously survived opening in the midst of the economic turmoil of the Great Depression by accepting farm produce in exchange for theatre tickets. Today, the Barter Theatre still showcases performances on two different stages. Shows typically begin at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays.