Top 10 things to do in Franklin County, Virginia

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Nestled in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, near the city of Roanoke, you’ll find a place with old charm, rich heritage, and boundless natural beauty. Franklin County, Virginia might not be on the top of your mind when it comes to outdoor recreation – but it should be.

1. Go for a paddle on Philpott Lake

If you are looking for solitude, Philpott Lake is the place for you. With 100 miles of mostly undeveloped shoreline, Philpott Lake is surrounded by 7,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness. With eight campgrounds, six beaches and a number of birding and wildlife trails, this is the perfect place to spend a few days exploring. Consider one of the paddle-in only campsites for some added peace and quiet. Franklin County Parks and Recreation regularly host their Concert by Canoe on Philpott Lake, complete with a floating stage and dance platform, free rental canoes, and food trucks.

2. Mountain bike or float the Pigg River at Waid Recreation Park

Floating the Pigg River is the perfect way to cool off after going for a Mountain Bike ride on the newly renovated trails at Waid Park. The park has also recently added a quarter-mile jump-line trail dubbed the Old Buzzard Trail. This adds to the Roanoke Valley’s claim as the mountain bike capital of the east. It’s free to float the pigg river but if you want to rent a tube for the day it will only cost you five dollars. Only interested in a short float? You can rent a tube for two dollars for one hour. If you’re not interested in floating or biking you can just relax in the shade on the beach by the river.

3. Visit Black Water Junction Wake Park

Whether you’re a pro-wake-skater, or a first-timer looking to learn how to wakeboard/skate – Black Water Junction Wake Park is an absolute must. BWJ is a family-owned cable park near a Smith Mountain lake. A cable park allows you to wakeboard and skate without the use of a boat. This makes it much more affordable and easier to learn. The park offers runs for beginners and experts alike. They also offer lessons and gear rentals.

4. Visit Twin Creeks Distillery

After a day of exploring, there’s no better way to relax than visiting the Twin Creeks Distillery tasting room. Here, you can not only sample some of the best and most authentic moonshine there is, but you can also dive into the rich bootlegging history that makes Franklin County the Moonshine Capital of the World. For owner and Master Distiller Chris Prillaman, moonshine is just a way of life and the product of deep passion.

5. Have Some Fun at Crazy Horse Marina

If you want to have some fun on Smith Mountain Lake, Crazy Horse Marina is a great place to start. This is a full-service marina with 24-hour fuel pumps, lots of parking and a restaurant (Mexico Viejo). No boat? No problem. Smith Mountain Boat Rentals has you covered. Here you can rent a variety of watercraft from stand up paddleboards and kayaks to speedboats and jetskis

6. Go Wake Surfing with Smith Mountain Wake Company

Whether you are a seasoned pro looking for gear or a novice (like us) in need of some lessons, Smith Mountain Wake Company has what you need. We took wake surfing lessons and had an absolute blast. Not into surfing? Smith Mountain Wake Company is a full-service watersports pro shop. They offer a variety of watersports lessons, rentals, and more.

7. Eat Ice Cream at the Homestead Creamery

There isn’t much in life that is more satisfying than a big scoop of ice cream after a summer day on the water. Homestead Creamery is a popular destination for fresh food, locally grown produce, and a heaping scoop of award-winning ice cream. Stop in the Homestead Creamery Farm Market for a taste of southern hospitality.

8. Catch a Show at the Harvest Performance Center

The Harvest Performance center is a brand new music venue in Rocky Mount, Virginia. The intimate venue pulls national acts across all genres of music. With a max capacity of roughly 460 people (depending on the seating arrangement), the Harvest allows you to enjoy an intimate concert experience. As an added bonus the Harvest is next door to twin creeks distillery. When paired, these two establishments make for a wonderful evening.

9. Go for a Scenic Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Smart View Recreation

Take a scenic drive through the Franklin County countryside and find yourself a classic Blue Ridge Vista. Smart View Recreation area, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. The area offers hiking trails, a large picnic area, and a beautiful view of the Virginia Piedmont. If you look closely you might even catch a glimpse of Phillpott Lake.

10. Enjoy one of Franklin County’s locally-owned restaurants.

From savory down-home dishes to fresh farm-to-table fare, Franklin County has something for everyone. Here, locally owned means something in a big way. Here are some of our favorites.

  • For breakfast stop at 77 Restaurant or Dudley’s Truck Stop for southern hospitality and a classic American breakfast to start your day.
  • For lunch look no further than Bowling’s Hot Dogs. Bowling’s has been locally owned and operated for over 60 years. Bowling’s is a Fraklin County institution. If you are enjoying a day on Smith Mountain Lake then you need to stop at Magnum Point Grill or Mexico Viejo. Both of these places offer outdoor seating overlooking the water. Pro tip: the fried pickles at Magnum Point Grill and the giant piñacolada (it comes in a whole pineapple) at Mexico Viejo were excellent.
  • For dinner, we dined at Ippy’s restaurant and Buddy’s BBQ. Ippy’s has been serving made-from-scratch meals since 1919! They offer award-winning steaks, seafood a barbeque with a plethora of tasty sides. Buddy’s is serving up some of the best North Carolina style BBQ we’ve had with a Franklin County moonshine twist.

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