Location: Southwest Virginia
Distance: 196 miles
Driver: Daniel Davis
Guitarist and lead vocalist, Folk Soul Revival
“I like the idea that this is the birthplace of country music, that I can be part of a community where that all started and is still considered a place where real country music comes from, as opposed to a lot of the stuff they call ‘country’ on the radio. It’s nice to be close to those roots.”
Day 1 | 20 miles | Wise – Saint Paul
Your trip down country music memory lane begins about as far west in Virginia as you can go before you hit the Kentucky state line. First stop: the town of Wise, Virginia. Just 10 miles from Daniel Davis’ hometown of Coeburn, Va., Wise is near the westernmost terminus of Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, the 333-mile-long Crooked Road. Of The Crooked Road’s nine major historical music venues, Country Cabin II is just down the road from Wise in Norton, Va. The cabin regularly hosts classes on traditional Appalachian pastimes like clogging and in-line dancing as well as its annual Dock Boggs Festival in September.
In Wise proper, roots lovers should be sure to check out the RTE 23 Music Festival, which is set to take place August 25 this year. This homegrown festival has built a tremendous following since its inception in 2014 and has become a staple event in the region. In the evening, head east to the up-and-coming town of Saint Paul, Va., located on the Clinch River. Sugar Hill Brewing Company makes great beer and serves southern inspired pub eats. For a truly local dining experience, head over to Southwest Virginia native Chef Travis Milton’s new restaurant, Milton’s, located in the super chic Western Front Hotel. After a sumptuous meal of chicken fried bacon, leather britches, and sausage and kraut, head upstairs to one of the hotel’s hip rooms, starting around $109 per night.
Day 2 | 42 miles | Saint Paul — Bristol
On day two, make the hour-long trek south to the border town of Bristol Virginia/Tennessee. After you stop to take your obligatory selfie with the Bristol sign on State Street, check out The Birthplace of Country Music Museum ($13 per person). This thoughtfully curated museum, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, takes visitors through Bristol’s music history, from the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings to today.
If you really want to get the most bang for your buck this trip, time your visit to coincide with Brisol’s pride and joy, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (September 21-23). You can catch Bristol-based Folk Soul Revival here performing their newest self-titled album, which is set to go live late August. Thunder Mountain Campground is your best bet for camping, unless there’s a race (the campground is adjacent to Bristol Motor Speedway). Holston River Brewing Company is located on-site and shuttles will be offered for guests staying here during Rhythm & Roots.
Thought not located in Bristol, The Carter Family Fold Memorial Music Center is nearby and one of the region’s most important cultural sites. The annual Carter Festival takes place August 3 this year, but the intimate venue also has shows every week featuring the likes of Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys and Appalachia Rising.
Day 3 | 134 miles | Bristol — Floyd
You could easily hop on the interstate and zip up to Floyd, Va., in two hours, but if you’re more of a Sunday drive kind of road tripper (which, we trust you are), take the aptly named Crooked Road along U.S. Route 58. You’ll wind through the charming town of Damascus and up through Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park. Once the road straightens out, be on the lookout for Galax, home of Rex Theater and the Old Fiddlers’ Convention (August 6-11), the world’s oldest and largest gathering of fiddlers.
Once in Floyd, head down to The Floyd Country Store, which holds a Friday Night Jamboree, Saturday Americana Afternoons, and Sunday jam sessions year-round. The timeless setting of the country store makes the whole experience feel like a big family reunion. Before you hit the road headed home, stop in for wood-fired pizza, craft beer, and more live music at Dogtown Roadhouse & The Sun Music Hall.