WanderLove: Find what you love in Abingdon, VA

Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. And while travel doesn’t look quite the same this year, you can still indulge your love of travel with an epic road trip to Abingdon, VA.

Abingdon is ideally situated for road trips, with its combination of amenities, outdoor assets, and quirky Appalachian charm. Abingdon is Mile Marker Zero for The Virginia Creeper Trail, and the gateway to the spectacular, unspoiled beauty of Southwest Virginia.

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Creeper Trail aerial 3 fall - credit Sam Dean

Day One

Arrive in historic Abingdon, VA and start to explore the charming brick sidewalks of Main Street. Take a walking tour of almost 250 years of American history. Abingdon was founded in 1778, and the entire immaculately preserved downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places. Self-guided walking tours are available from the Visitor Center. If you want a deeper dive into history, line up a tour with History Alive! Tours. Costumed, in-character tour guides will take you to the most significant sites in Abingdon history, including the Abingdon Muster Grounds, where brave patriots mustered to confront the British in 1778.

Inside tip for wanderers: After you’ve walked Main Street, stroll down Plumb Alley for a different view of Abingdon. Check out Walnut Grove Cabin, a meticulously recreated log cabin and blacksmithing shop that is a private residence. Nearby you'll also find a meditation labyrinth with a sign reminding you "All Shall Be Well." 

Main Street exterior - The Bank - credit Jason Barnette

Check in to your hotel – redeem your reward points at any number of national brands, or try an off-the-beaten path option like the Alpine Motel, a vintage roadside motel with spectacular mountain views.

Allow plenty of time for meals in Abingdon, as you eat your way through the “Best Small Town Food Scene in the Country” for TWO years running! With over 30 independently owned restaurants, Abingdon has more eateries per capita than New York City. Whether you want to sample hoecakes or haute cuisine, you’ll find it in Abingdon.

Experience the nostalgic charm of a night at the drive-in. Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia, offers live performances at the historic Moonlite Drive-In. Take in a live show from the comfort and safety of your car. Even better, the experience is completely touchless, featuring electronic tickets, and programs delivered to your smart phone.

Photomerge 2 OZ Moonlite Drive In Barter Theatre

Day Two

The Virginia Creeper Trail is considered one of best rail-trails in the country, famous for its scenic vistas, tumbling creeks, and 47 original trestle bridges. The trail runs from Abingdon (mile marker zero), through the tiny town of Damascus, where it intersects with the Appalachian Trail, and on to Whitetop Station on the Virginia/North Carolina border. Hikers, bikers, and equestrians of all ages share the crushed-limestone and hard-packed dirt trail.

At times the trail parallels Whitetop Laurel Creek through a deep narrow gorge where there are both spectacular whitewater rapids and the occasional quiet swimming hole. At other times the trail crosses trestles, some of which are more than 500 feet high and afford beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. White steeple churches and homes from an early era dot the landscape as you enter and exit the charming small towns of Southwest Virginia.

Numerous outfitters are ready to provide bikes and shuttle services to the trailhead, making it accessible to even novice riders. Start in Abingdon or take a shuttle Whitetop Station for an all downhill ride, or challenge yourself with the full 34-miles!

Inside tip for wanderers: The trail can be quite busy on a sunny summer weekend. Take a cue from locals and head for the less-traveled “lower section” between Abingdon and Damascus. This section is gently rolling hills, giving you just enough of a workout to splurge on dinner, and it features the most photographed trestle bridges.

Request the SWVA outdoor guide
Creeper Trail riders fall 2 Sam Dean

Just off the trail in Alvarado you’ll find Abingdon Vineyards, a gorgeous farm winery along the banks of the South Holston River. Enjoy a flight of wines and live music on the lawn. Rent kayaks at the Vineyards or bring a picnic blanket and just relax! This winery combines the sophisticated palate of Napa Valley with the unique terroir of the Appalachian Mountains for a style of wine the owners call “Nappalachian.” With a beautiful covered patio and riverside picnic tables, it’s a perfect outdoor venue for socially distanced entertainment.

Abingdon Vineyards with Kayak

Day Three

Abingdon is your jumping off point to explore the curvy back roads and tiny towns of Southwest Virginia.

Pick up a picnic lunch at Bonefire Smoke House or JJ’s Restaurant, and head out for some sightseeing on the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway – aka “the road to the wild ponies.” The Abingdon area is home to Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. Stops along the way include the highly instagrammable ponies of Grayson Highlands State Park and the charming town of Damascus, VA, known as Trail Town USA.

Hikers can tackle the trail to the Mount Rogers peak, an approximately 8.5 mile out-and-back trail that starts in Grayson Highlands State Park. 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.

Inside tip for wanderers: Always “know before you go” and check the official websites for parks and trails. Many visitor centers are closed currently; plan to bring plenty of water and snacks. Have a backup plan in mind if the parking lot is full. If you’d rather skip the hassle of doing your own research, consider a guided hike from White Blaze Outdoors – specialties include a Waterfall Tour and Salamander Hike for families.

Grayson Highlands ponies

After a day of exploring, enjoy dining al fresco in Abingdon. Pick your favorite patio experience. For a luxurious step back in time, enjoy a glass of vino from the award-winning wine list at Sister’s American Grill at The Martha. The grande dame of Abingdon has now added intimate outdoor dining, as well as tables on the front porch overlooking Main Street. Plenty of Abingdon eateries also offer patio dining, from innovative fine dining, to family-friendly joints. 

Inside tip for wanderers: after dinner, walk over to Wolf Hills Brewing for live music and craft brews in their newly renovated space on Deadmore Street. Colorful murals by local artists adorn the patio walls, and the rumble of the passing trains is a reminder of Abingdon's past. 

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Day Four

Before heading home, explore Abingdon’s public art trail, including 3 of Virginia’s famous LOVEworks, with #4 added in October 2020! In addition to the permanent pieces of art, you’ll find special pop-up LOVEworks throughout town, just for summer 2020. Enjoy the fun of stumbling upon a LOVEwork, or download the complete list of pop-up LOVEworks and check them all off. A perfect activity for families!

Not ready to head home yet? Check out Abingdon’s other itineraries for inspiration. You’ll find enough for a full week of fun.

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SWVA Cultural Center LOVE sign exterior

Learn more about how to find what you love in Virginia

WanderLove is calling – and adventure is the destination. Reconnect with what you love this summer on an epic Virginia road trip.

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Abingdon Vineyards with Kayak

WanderLove: Find what you love in Abingdon, VA