Take Advantage of Fall with a Fun-Filled Road Trip to Abingdon, VA

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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. This small mountain town is located in the southwestern corner of Virginia, just a few hours from the metro areas of Charlotte, Asheville and Knoxville, TN.

The Martha Washington Hotel & Spa in Abingdon, VA on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Copyright 2012 Jason Barnette

Day One

Arrive in historic Abingdon, VA and explore the charming brick sidewalks of Main Street. Abingdon was founded in 1778, and the entire 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 patriots mustered to confront the British forces in 1780.

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.

The 34.3-mile Virginia Creeper Trail was named after the steam engine that once creeped up the rails into the Iron Mountains. By the 1970s, many railroads were abandoned, so in 1986 the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy began converting old railroad beds into trail systems for hikers and bikers. Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org

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.

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!

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.

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 or Salamander Hike for families.

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. 

Day Four

Before heading home, explore Abingdon’s public art trail, including 3 of Virginia’s famous LOVEworks. After all, Virginia is for Lovers!

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