MagazineFebruary 2022Best of the Blue Ridge: 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards

Best of the Blue Ridge: 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards

After another tough year, the best of the Blue Ridge has helped us all persevere. Despite continued uncertainty, the region’s scenic spaces, big adventures, and independent businesses have been there to help us follow a path towards brighter days. With that in mind, we once again asked you to tell us what you love the most. In our annual readers’ choice awards, we highlight your picks for the top trails, towns, events, craft beverages, and outfitters in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Keep reading to get the scoop on this year’s winners.

Destinations 

National Forest/Park

Blue Ridge Parkway (N.C./Va.)

There’s a reason the Blue Ridge Parkway is regularly the most-visited national park in the country. Snaking 469 miles through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, this storied road will take you to some of the most iconic natural landmarks in the region, including Mount Mitchell, Whitewater Falls, Linville Gorge, and the New River. Along the way, visitors can access a range of scenic hiking options, from the summit views of Mt. Pisgah Trail to the idyllic Apple Orchard Falls. The parkway also runs by several cultural touchstones, including Mabry Mill and the Blue Ridge Music Center, a performing arts center dedicated to preserving regional mountain music.

Runners Up

  • New River Gorge National Park (W.Va.)
  • Shenandoah National Park (Va.)

State Park

Douthat State Park (Va.)

Runners Up

  • Stone Mountain State Park (N.C.)
  • Watoga State Park (W.Va.)

Trail

Appalachian Trail (East Coast)

Runners Up

  • Virginia Creeper Trail (Va.)
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail (N.C.)

Biking Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail (Va.)

Runners Up

  • New River Trail (Va.)
  • Great Allegheny Passage (Pa. and Md.)

Urban Park/Greenway

Roanoke River Greenway (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • James River Park System (Richmond, Va.)
  • South River Greenway (Waynesboro, Va.)

Waterfall

Cascade Falls (Pembroke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Triple Falls (Brevard, N.C.)
  • Falling Spring Falls (Covington, Va.)

Swimming Hole

Devil’s Bathtub (Duffield, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Roaring Run (Eagle Rock, Va.)
  • Hooker Falls (Brevard, N.C.)

Lake

Smith Mountain Lake (Smith Mountain Lake, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Deep Creek Lake (McHenry, Md.)
  • Lake James (Nebo, N.C.)

Whitewater

Gauley River (W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • James River (Richmond, Va.)
  • Nantahala River (N.C.)

Fishing Spot (Public)

Big Stoney Creek (Giles County, Va.)

Runners Up

  • South River (Waynesboro, Va.)
  • Davidson River (Brevard, N.C.)

Climbing Crag

Seneca Rocks (Pendleton County, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Dragons Tooth (Catawba, Va.)
  • Humpback Rocks (Sherando, Va.)

Overlook 

McAfee Knob (Catawba, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Bald Knob Overlook (Pembroke, Va.)
  • Raven’s Roost (Sherando, Va.)

Birdwatching Spot 

Wolf Creek Park (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

From the forest to the wetlands, you’ll find yourself surrounded by calling birds in Wolf Creek Park. Whether you’re looking for hawks, woodpeckers, flycatchers, wood thrush, or one of at least 15 species of warblers, the park is particularly active during migration seasons. “This habitat not only provides the breeding space for these guys, but the boardwalk and nature trails that are there allow bird watchers to be able to get in there, see them, hear them singing, and watch them in all their activities,” said Rachel Davis, a coordinator and guide for the New River Birding and Nature Center. “When I go, I look with attention for all of the signs of life, and then I just try to submerse myself in it.” The park is also a stop during the annual New River Birding and Nature Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary this May.

Runners Up

  • Glen Alton (Ripplemead, Va.)
  • Catawba River Greenway (Morganton, N.C.) 

Place to Watch the Sunset

Snowshoe Mountain (Snowshoe, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Bald Knob (Pembroke, Va.)
  • Craggy Pinnacle (Asheville, N.C.)

Place to Stargaze

Green Bank Observatory (Green Bank, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Natural Bridge State Park (Natural Bridge, Va.)
  • Roan Mountain (Roan Mountain, Tenn.)
snowboarder at Snowshoe
Five terrain parks at Snowshoe means there are plenty of opportunities to improve your skills. Photo courtesy of Snowshoe Mountain

Ski Run

Cupp Run (Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.)

Cupp Run has a long and storied history of challenging the best skiers from the South and beyond. Originally the creation of French World Cup alpine ski racer Jean-Claude Killy, this relentless, black diamond run on Snowshoe’s western slopes provides a tough challenge with plenty of steep, bumpy sections. Over a mile and a half, you’ll experience a 1,500-foot vertical drop and grades of up to 52 percent. Despite skiing at esteemed resorts and areas all over the globe, Killy maintained that Cupp Run’s steep consistent grades were one of his favorite places in the world to hit the snow. 

Runners Up

  • Whoopdedoo (Sugar Mountain Resort, N.C.)
  • Tie – Diamond Jim (Massanutten Resort, Va.) and Tyro (Wintergreen Resort, Va.)

Terrain Park

Mountaineer Terrain Park (Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Appalachian Ski Mountain Terrain Park (Blowing Rock, N.C.)
  • Wintergreen Resort (Wintergreen, Va.)

Campsite/Campground

Fairystone State Park (Stuart, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Davidson River (Pisgah Forest, N.C.)
  • Devils Backbone Basecamp (Nellysford, Va.)

Kid-Friendly Adventure 

Explore Park (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • ACE Adventure (Fayetteville, W.Va.)
  • Tie – Wind Rocks Hike (Giles County, Va.) and Arrowhead Bike Farm (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Pet-Friendly Adventure

Stonewall Resort (Roanoke, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Cascade Falls (Giles County, Va.)
  • Tie – Mill Creek Nature Park (Narrows, Va.) and Coyner Springs Dog Park (Waynesboro, Va.)

Place for Outdoor Singles to Live

Asheville, N.C. 

Runners Up

  • Roanoke, Va.
  • Brevard, N.C.

Place to Raise an Outdoor Family

Roanoke, Va.

Set in southwest Virginia’s stretch of the Blue Ridge, Roanoke offers families ample open spaces to explore. From the mellow paved greenway system along the Roanoke River to the more rugged escapes at Carvins Cove and the Appalachian Trail on the outskirts of town, the small city has plenty of opportunities for kids to progress in the outdoors. Locals also attend adventure-based events throughout the year, like Roanoke GO Fest, which features a weekend packed with live demonstrations and group activities. Plus, with many outfitters and gear shops in town, Roanoke fosters a community of outdoor enthusiasts to support family pursuits along the way.

Runners Up

  • Brevard, N.C.
  • Waynesboro, Va. 

Summit 

Seneca Rocks (W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Humpback Rock (Va.)
  • Mt. Mitchell (N.C.)

Instagram-Worthy Spot

McAfee Knob (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Grandview Cottages (Greenville, W.Va.)
  • Humpback Bridge (Covington, Va.)
Cherokee Flats
Cherokee Flats provides ADA access to fishing on Big Stony Creek. Photo courtesy of Giles County Tourism 

ADA Accessible Experiences

Cherokee Flats Day Use Area (Giles County, Va.)

Runners Up

  • The Park at Flat Rock (Flat Rock, N.C.)
  • C&O Canal National Historic Park (Potomac, Md.)

Beer/Wine/Spirits Trail

Asheville Ale Trail (Asheville, N.C.)

Runners Up

  • Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail (Shenandoah Valley, Va.)
  • Brew Ridge Trail (Lovingston, Va.)

People

Regional Outdoor Athlete

Alexandra Garcia (@alexandramariagarcia_)

You can read Alexandra Garcia’s account of her difficult pursuits here. 

Runners Up

  • Neko Mulally (@nekomulally)
  • Karsten Delap (@karstendelap)

Raft Guide

Ryan Charbonneau, Nantahala Outdoor Center (N.C.)

When Ryan Charbonneau decided to train as a raft guide in 2009, it was a spur of the moment decision that he thought would make for a cool summer job. A decade and a half later, he’s still psyched on the waters of the Southeast. “When I first started, it was the adrenaline,” he said. “I was 19 years old and I wanted action. As I get older, I’ve learned to appreciate just getting to spend time outside.” Over the last five years, Charbonneau has also been training new raft guides, sharing his love of the river with the next generation. 

Runners Up

  • Chris “Ewok” Carswell, Smoky Mountain River Rat Whitewater (Tenn.)
  • Kathleen O’Neil, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions (Ga.)

Fly Fishing Guide

Walker Parrot, Davidson River Outfitters (N.C.)

Runners Up

  • Seth Schuler, Fly Fishing the Smokies (N.C.)
  • Alyssa Adcock, Boone’s Fly Shop and High Country Guide Service (N.C.)

Outdoor Videographer

Tommy Penick (@tommypenick)

Runners Up

  • Nathaniel Flowers (@00nathaniel00)
  • Kurt Schachner (@kshat00)
The sun rises over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo by Best Outdoor Photographer Sarah Leek

Outdoor Photographer

Sarah Leek (@sarahmleek)

For Sarah Leek, the outdoors and photography are inextricably linked. While she’s happy sharing her photos with an audience, ultimately spending time outside is a form of therapy for Leek. “It’s easy sometimes to get so wrapped up in photography that I’m just looking for somewhere to go just to take photos,” she said. “That’s not really what it’s about. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remind myself that it’s about adventure. If I’m out there and I happen to get some beautiful photos that I can share with people, then that’s amazing. If I don’t, that’s okay too because I just love being outside, and that’s really what keeps bringing me back to it over and over.”

Runners Up

  • Derek DiLuzio (@derekdiluzio)
  • Connor Fernandes (@photofern.wnc)

Regional Instagram Account

Trek Virginia Outdoors (@TrekVirginiaOutdoors)

Runners Up

  • Best of Roanoke (@BestOfRoanoke)
  • Kat Dellinger (@KitKat.Dellinger)

Regional Band or Solo Artist

Isaac Hadden (@isaachaddenmusic)

The way Isaac Hadden tells it, he’s been around music his whole life. “I’ve been going to concerts and music festivals around this area literally since I was in utero,” he said. So it makes sense that he would one day start playing himself. Now the Virginia-based teenage musician is a regional phenom who’s been hitting the festivals and venues of the Blue Ridge since he was 15, playing a blend of jazz-infused improvisational funk-rock. “It was a natural transition from audience member to playing on the stage,” he said. This year, you can catch him on the stages of FloydFest, Rooster Walk, and more to be announced. 

Runners Up

  • The Judy Chops (@thejudychops)
  • Balsam Range (@balsamrange)

Regional YouTube Personality

Seth’s Bike Hacks (@sethsbikehacks)

Runners Up

  • Biking with Bobo (@bikingwithbobo)
  • Corey Lilly (@corey_lilly_)

Outdoors TikTok

Virginia Tourism (@visitvirginia)

Runners Up

  • Ash Manning (@ashleysadventure_)
  • Stays and Getaways (@staysandgetaways)

Regional Outdoor Podcast

Pisgah Podcast (@pisgahpodcast)

Michael McQueen and Drew Hager met 20 years ago riding BMX. Their shared love of bikes led them to start a podcast in 2020 focused on the mountain biking scene of western North Carolina. “With my skills and knowledge with audio and with Drew’s knowledge in the industry, it has kind of worked out with both of our powers combined,” McQueen said. From tales of the trails to reroutes and fitness, the podcast provides two-wheel tips with expert insight. 

“Trying to get an understanding of why something is the way it is has been a really big lesson for me and helped me out with things outside of even just this podcast or this hobby of mountain biking,” Hager said. Check out episodes 116, 130, and 140 for some of the duo’s favorite conversations.  

Runners Up

  • Virginia Outdoor Adventures (@virginia_outdoor_adventures)
  • Open Space Radio (@openspaceradio)

Events 

Music Festival (Overall)

FloydFest (Floyd, Va.)

Set against the mountainous backdrop of southwestern Virginia, FloydFest is a renowned roots bash that mixes national heavyweights with regional upstarts, bringing big crowds to the Blue Ridge to check out an eclectic mix of artists across nine stages. Plus, with a schedule packed full of group hikes, bike skills clinics, craft workshops, a children’s play area, and a climbing wall, there’s plenty to keep the whole family busy during the five-day festival. Get your tickets for 2022 for a lineup that includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Trampled By Turtles, Marcus King, Amythyst Kiah, Morgan Wade, and the reunited Turnpike Troubadours. 

Runners Up

  • 4848 Festival (Snowshoe, W.Va.)
  • Rooster Walk (Martinsville, Va.)
GO Fest
GO Fest features activities for the whole family, including BMX demonstrations. Photo courtesy of the Roanoke Outside Foundation

Family-Friendly Festival 

GO Fest (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • FloydFest (Floyd, Va.)
  • Rooster Walk (Martinsville, Va.)

Unique Festival

Sinkland Farms Sunflower Festival (Christiansburg, Va.)

More than 175,000 sunflowers cover eight acres of rolling hills during the annual Sinkland Farms Sunflower Festival. Delight in the sights of summer as you wander the fields, explore a variety of food trucks, sample craft beverages, and listen to live music. The young ones will love exploring the kids’ zone, gliding through the air on the zipline, and watching the farm animals. 

Runners Up

  • Highland County Maple Festival (Highland County, Va.)
  • Roadkill Cookoff (Marlinton, W.Va.)

Costumed Event

Dead Reckoning Halloween (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Spooktacular (Stuart, Va.)
  • The Asylum Ball (Weston, W.Va.)

Toughest Race

Blue Ridge Marathon (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

Moonlight On the Falls (Davis, W.Va.)

Hellbender 100 (Old Fort, N.C.)

Mud Run/Adventure Race

Mad Anthony Mud Run (Waynesboro, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Gritty Chix Mud Run (Oak Hill, W.Va.)
  • Helgramite Hustle Mud Run (Martinsville, Va.)

Running Event (Under 13.1 Miles)

Fall Foliage 10K (Waynesboro, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Canaan Valley 10K (Davis, W.Va.)
  • Tie – Moonlight on the Falls (Tucker County, W.Va.) and The Rabid Squirrel (Danbury, N.C.)

Running Event (13.1 Miles and Over)

Blue Ridge Marathon (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Rim to River 100 (New River Gorge, W.Va.)
  • Park to Park ½ Marathon (Waynesboro, Va.)

Triathlon

VBR Ironman 70.3 (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Scenic Mountain Triathlon (Richwood, W.Va.)
  • King of the James (Richmond, Va.)

Bike Race

Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob (Spruce Knob, W.Va.)

As the name implies, GRUSK is a true gravel grinder to the top of West Virginia’s highest peak, Spruce Knob. With options to ride 27, 50, 82, 140, or 212 miles, it’s a multi-day event that challenges riders of all abilities. Amid the grueling ascents and steep descents, take in views of the Mountain State and soak up your time in the saddle. Even if you’re not competing, there’s an option to ride a 27-mile tour of the highlights, including the summit and Spruce Knob Lake. The 2022 event will run July 7-10. 

Runners Up

  • Tour de Dirt (Floyd, Va.)
  • Go Cross Cyclocross Race (Roanoke, Va.)

Climbing Event

Big Lick Showdown (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Hound Ears (Boone, N.C.)
  • Tie – Rocktoberfest (Pine Ridge, Ky.) and Stone Fort (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Paddling Event

Gauley Fest (Summersville, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Kibler Valley River Run (Arat, Va.)
  • The Green Race (Saluda, N.C.)

Fly Fishing Event

Greenbrier Fly Fishing Classic (Lewisburg, W.Va.)

The annual Greenbrier Fly Fishing Classic attracts anglers from around the region as they compete in this smallmouth bass fishing event on West Virginia’s scenic Greenbrier River. Proceeds from the 2022 event, scheduled for May 14, benefit Project Healing Waters, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, and Greenbrier Youth Camp. 

Runners Up

  • South River Fly Fishing Expo (Waynesboro, Va.)
  • So Fly Fest (Warm Springs, Va.)

Businesses

Ski Resort

Snowshoe (Snowshoe, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Wintergreen Resort (Wintergreen, Va.)
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain (Blowing Rock, N.C.)
whitewater rafting
The whole family will love whitewater rafting with the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Photo courtesy of the NOC

Raft Guide Company

Nantahala Outdoor Center (Bryson City, N.C.)

Runners Up

  • RVA Paddlesports (Richmond, Va.)
  • ACE Adventure Resort (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Zip Line

Adventures on the Gorge (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • The Gorge (Saluda, N.C.)
  • Nantahala Outdoor Center Mountaintop Zip Line Tour (Bryson City, N.C.)

Fly Fishing Shop

South River Fly Shop (Waynesboro, Va.)

Tommy Lawhorne and Kevin Little met while fishing the waters of the South River more than two decades ago. But it wasn’t until 2011 that their many talks about opening a fly shop became a reality. “A lot of times you go to a nice stream, you end up needing stuff, and there’s not a shop close,” Little said. “Nearest shop might be an hour away or more.” If that’s the case, a day on the water is as good as done, so Laworne and Little opened South River Fly Shop just two blocks from Constitution Park and the river, offering gear and expert advice. “A stream that has its fly shop or a fly shop that has its stream is generally a much better stream and much better fly shop,” Lawhorne said. 

Runners Up

  • Fly Fishing the Smokies (Bryson City, N.C.)
  • Davidson River Outfitters (Brevard, N.C.)

Fly Fishing Guide Service

Fly Fishing the Smokies (Bryson City, N.C.)

Runners Up

  • South River Fly Shop (Waynesboro, Va.)
  • Davidson River Outfitters (Brevard, N.C.)

Private Trout Fishing Waters

Hiner Town Trout Fishing (Monterey, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Davidson River Outfitters (Brevard, N.C.)
  • Grandfather Mountain Trout Fishing (Banner Elk, N.C.)

Climbing Guide Company

Pisgah Climbing School (Brevard, N.C.)

Runners Up

  • Blue Ridge Mountain Guides (Charlottesville, Va.)
  • New River Mountain Guides (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Climbing Gym

River Rock (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • The Riveter (Mills River, N.C.)
  • Center 45 (Boone, N.C.)

Gym/Training Facility

Burn Boot Camp Blacksburg (Blacksburg, Va.)

Runners Up

  • ACAC Downtown (Charlottesville, Va.)
  • Peak Fitness (Morganton, N.C.)

Bike Shop

Sycamore Cycles (Brevard, N.C.)

When Wes Dickson was a teenager, he got a flat tire while out on the trails of Brevard with his dad. They had to drive almost an hour into Asheville to get it fixed. That memory stayed with him into adulthood as Dickson’s love of bikes continued. In 2000, he opened Sycamore Cycles on the edge of Pisgah National Forest. With another location in Hendersonville and a third shop opening in downtown Brevard this spring, Dickson aims to share his love of riding with more people. “Creating personal connections with the riders is really what we’re going for here,” he said. 

Runners Up

  • Cardinal (Roanoke, Va.)
  • Arrowhead Bike Farm (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Running Store

Fleet Feet (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • RunaAbout Sports (Roanoke, Va.)
  • Ragged Mountain Running Shop (Charlottesville, Va.)

Outdoor Shop

Walkabout Outfitter (Multiple Locations)

Runners Up

  • Footsloggers (Boone, N.C.)
  • Rockfish Gap Outfitters (Waynesboro, Va.)

Real Estate Company

Looking Glass (Brevard, N.C.)

Runners Up

  • Nest Realty (Va./N.C.)
  • The Joe Kraft Team (Roanoke, Va.)

Resort

Snowshoe (Snowshoe, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • The Omni Homestead Resort (Hot Springs, Va.)
  • Chetola (Blowing Rock, N.C.)

Unique Lodging

Vine Cottage Inn (Hot Springs, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Roanoke Boutique Hotel (Roanoke, Va.)
  • Goshen Post Inn (Goshen, Va.)
Boone Cocoon
Sleep among the trees in the Boone Cocoon. Photo by Journey More

Rustic Lodging

Boone Cocoon (Boone, N.C.)

Boone Cocoon isn’t a typical campsite. Guests spend the night suspended among the trees in hanging pods. “We didn’t want to just tear down a mountain to build a level area and put up cabins,” said co-founder Clayton Oxford. “The idea of building up in the air off of it was intriguing.” 

Located five minutes from Boone and 10 minutes from Blowing Rock in the North Carolina High Country, Boone Cocoon is tucked away in a remote setting but within easy access to amenities and activities. The campsite features a porch, grill, cooking utensils, outdoor shower, and a circular bed that measures more than nine feet in diameter. 

Runners Up

  • Wilderness Adventure (Craig County, Va.)
  • Grandview Cottages (Greenville, W.Va.)

Spa or Wellness Center

Salt Cave and Spa (White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.)

Runners Up

  • Salt Foot Sanctuary & Spa at the Hotel Roanoke (Roanoke, Va.)
  • Chetola Spa (Blowing Rock, N.C.)

Mind/Body Studio

Uttara Yoga (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • High Country Yoga (Boone, N.C.)
  • Asheville Yoga Center (Asheville, N.C.)

Educational Outdoor Rec Program

Camp Mont Shenandoah (Millboro Springs, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Muddy Sneakers (Brevard, N.C.)
  • VCU Outdoor Adventure Program (Richmond, Va.)

Outdoor Club

Appalachian Trail Conservancy (Harpers Ferry, W.Va.)

As stewards of the iconic 2,190+ mile trail, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s reach extends across 14 states and thousands of volunteers. Coordinating with partner agencies and 31 trail-maintaining clubs, the conservancy works to keep the trail open for the more than three million people who visit every year. There are plenty of ways to get involved, from adopting a section of the trail to monitor and maintain to week-long sessions structured to tackle large-scale maintenance projects.

Runners Up

  • Pisgah Area SORBA (Pisgah Forest, N.C.)
  • Keep Virginia Cozy (Richmond, Va.)

Environmental Organization

Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • MountainTrue (Asheville, N.C.)
  • Southern Environmental Law Center (Charlottesville, Va.)

Locally Made Gear   

Farm to Feet (Mount Airy, N.C.)

Runners Up

  • Skylark Hammocks (Waynesboro, Va.) 
  • Tie – Blue Ridge Overland Gear (Bedford, Va.) and Appalachian Gear Company (Kings Mountain, N.C.)

Food and Drink

Post-Adventure Hangout

Parkway Brewing Company (Salem, Va.)

After a day of exploring in the Roanoke Valley, Parkway Brewing Company is the perfect spot to kick back and relax for après-adventure beverages. The tasting room taps are constantly changing with seasonal and limited releases, so you can always count on a wide range of craft brews. Plus, a rotating calendar of food trucks and live music means the party doesn’t stop with the drinks. Park yourself on the patio or in the tasting room to finish the day surrounded by friendly folks. 

Runners Up

  • Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, Va.)
  • The Hub/Pisgah Tavern (Pisgah Forest, N.C.)

Brewery

Buffalo Mountain Brewery (Floyd, Va.) 

Runners Up

  • Tie – Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, Va.) and Parkway Brewing Co. (Salem, Va.)
  • Highland Brewing (Asheville, N.C.)

Beer 

Appa-LATCH-uh—Buffalo Mountain Brewery (Floyd, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Get Bent Grapefruit IPA—Parkway Brewing Co. (Salem, Va.)
  • Full Nelson—Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, Va.)

Winery

Chateau Morrisette (Floyd, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Stanburn Winery (Stuart, Va.)
  • Veritas (Afton, Va.)

Wine

Our Dog Blue—Chateau Morrisette (Floyd, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Big A Red—Stanburn Winery (Stuart, Va.)
  • Crose—King Family Vineyard (Crozet, Va.)

Distillery

Five Mile Mountain Distillery (Floyd, Va.)

Named for one of the main roads used to transport moonshine out of the area during Prohibition, Five Mile Mountain Distillery is continuing southwest Virginia’s storied history of producing spirits. “Being from this area, we were always around moonshine,” said co-owner and distiller Patrick Sisk. “People were constantly making it in their sheds.” You can visit the tasting room and sit on the porch as you sip favorites like Five Mile’s Elderberry Moonshine. Made from grains sourced locally in a distillery the owners renovated themselves, these spirits combine the traditions of the past with the innovation of the present. 

Runners Up

  • Twin Creeks (Rocky Mount, Va.)
  • Silverback Distillery (Afton, Va.)

Spirit 

Peg Hatcher’s Straight Whiskey—Twin Creeks Distillery (Rocky Mount, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Tie – Big Level Bourbon—Smooth Ambler Spirits (Maxwelton, W.Va.) and Amaro Flora—Eda Rhyne (Asheville, N.C.)
  • Roundstone Rye—Catoctin Creek (Purcellville, Va.)
Photo by Eric Stumpf

Canned Cocktail

Orange Smash—Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Copper Mug Mule—Bold Rock (Nellysford, Va.)
  • Watermelon-Basil Vodka Soda—Waterbird (Charlottesville, Va.)

Cider

Bold Rock (Nelson County, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Big Fish Cider (Monterey, Va.)
  • Noble Cider (Asheville, N.C.)

Kombucha

Tha Best Kombucha (Floyd, Va.)

Kristi-Jo and Brad Procak moved to Floyd after a vacation to the area that had them “falling completely in love with the welcoming people, the mountain views, and the warmer weather.” There, they began brewing kombucha for its health benefits, giving it to friends and family to try. Eight years later, the Procaks now brew over 50 flavors throughout the year, including crowd favorites like Blissful Berry and Lavender Lemonade. You can find their kombucha in farmer’s markets, organic stores, breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, and juice bars all around the region. 

Runners Up

  • Blue Ridge Bucha (Waynesboro, Va.)
  • Buchi (Asheville, N.C.)

Coffee Shop

Red Rooster (Floyd, Va.)

Runners Up

  • RND Coffee (Roanoke, Va.)
  • Trager Brothers (Afton, Va.)

Restaurant (Overall)

Floyd Country Store (Floyd, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Pickle and Ash (Stuart, Va.)
  • Blue Ridge Pig (Nellysford, Va.)

Farm-to-Table Restaurant

Local Roots (Roanoke, Va.)

Sustainable, organic, local, and ethical—that’s the philosophy behind every dish that comes out of the kitchen at Local Roots. “Southwest Virginia has this magical environment around us that I’m able to glean so many great products,” said general manager Abraham Eichelberger. “Whenever you come to Local Roots, you are coming to a destination spot that really is showcasing southwest Virginia, a certain essence of Virginia on your plate.” The menu at the Roanoke eatery is constantly changing depending on the season and what is being grown locally, but you can always count on the food being fresh.

Runners Up

  • The Palisades Restaurant (Eggleston, Va.)
  • Wild Wolf Brewing Company (Nellysford, Va.)

Tacos

Tacos Rojas (Roanoke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • White Duck Taco (Asheville, N.C.)
  • Alex’s Taco Truck (Waynesboro, Va.)

Burger

FarmBurguesa (Vinton, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint (multiple locations)
  • River Burger Bar (Waynesboro, Va.)

Barbecue

Bluegrass BBQ (Pembroke, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Buddy’s Barbecue (Rocky Mount, Va.)
  • Blue Ridge Pig (Nellysford, Va.)

Pizza

Dogtown Roadhouse (Floyd, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, Va.)
  • Tie – Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie (North Garden, Va.) and Pies and Pints (Multiple Locations)

Farmers Market  

Stuart Farmers Market (Stuart, Va.)

Runners Up

  • Floyd Farmers Market (Floyd, Va.)
  • Blacksburg Farmers Market (Blacksburg, Va.) 

Cover photo: Staring up at the Milky Way. Photo by Best Outdoor Photographer Sarah Leek

Places to Go, Things to See: