Virginia has so many sweet small towns, most of which hold designations as historic districts and/or Main Street Communities.
In 2014 we highlighted nearly two dozen small towns and the response from our Facebook and Twitter communities was so great that we’re now giving you a “part two” with 22 more. Make a plan to get around the towns this year.
— ASHLAND —
Did you know that Ashland, Virginia is known as the Center of the Universe? In fact, you’ll find Center of the Universe Brewing Company there, along with railroad, Civil War and American Revolution history. Seek out the LOVEwork for a photo op, then head over to Ashland Coffee and Tea where you can craft your own beverage at the tea bar. Nearly every evening of the week includes an intimate, live performance by a variety of artists. Hungry? Check out Virginia Barbeque Company offering homemade sides and hand-pulled Virginia barbecue. It’s a true “mom and pop” experience.
— BEDFORD —
photo credit: Star City Skycams, IG account: @starcityskycams
If you’re into antiquing, Bedford is a great shopping destination for you to find a new old treasure. It’s also a place to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of June 6, 1944 – the day the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. Bedford is the beneficiary of the National D-Day Memorial because it was the American city that lost the most soldiers per capita that day. Take your time walking through. This memorial bears 4,413 names, the most comprehensive list of fallen Allied Forces from that day. Stop in at Town Kitchen & Provisions to put together a picnic lunch of local, handmade delights. It’s a culinary go-to just as the butcher used to be! For dinner? Try Liberty Station Restaurant, a restored train depot that is home to delicious American fare.
— BIG STONE GAP —
photo credit: Joshua Moore, IG account: @jtm71
Even Hollywood has visited Big Stone Gap in Southwest Virginia, meaning: you’re missing out! The film named after Adriana Trigiani’s book premiered at the 2014 Virginia Film Festival and includes actor Patrick Wilson and actresses Ashley Judd, Jenna Elfman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Krakowski and Jasmine Guy. A ready-made day awaits you in this Victorian-era town. Get all of the details inside this Big Stone Gap Getaway. Purchase Big Stone Gap, the novel.
— BLACKSTONE —
Blackstone dates to an unknown time (Revolutionary period), and was called “The Village of Black and Whites” thanks to the two rival tavern owners – the Schwartz Family (schwartz is German for black) and the White Family. In 1885, “Blackstone” was embraced as the town name; in 1888 it was incorporated. Today you’ll find a revitalized community to enjoy. Spend the day shopping and visit Schwartz Tavern, as well as The Robert Thomas Carriage Museum, home to one of the finest collections of horse-drawn carriages, sleighs and buggies. When you’re ready for a break, head to Blackstone Herb Cottage for homemade soups and salads, fresh veggies, sandwiches and more.
— CAPE CHARLES —
photo credit: Chad Williams, IG account: @echadwilliams
A Chesapeake Bay community on the Eastern Shore, Cape Charles offers great dining and accommodations, public beach access (the only bayside public beach on the Eastern Shore), and access to bird and wildlife habitats. Find the one-of-a-kind LOVEwork for a selfie or family photo, then set out on an adventure in Kiptopeke State Park or the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. When it’s time for nourishment, find comfort at Cape Charles Coffee House or get the “fresh and local” entrees at The Shanty.
— CLIFTON —
Sorry, celebs and Washington elite, your secret hideaway is no longer a secret. Clifton is a National Historic District that dates to 1868 when it was originally called Devereux Station. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised to note the absence of a stoplight in Clifton. There’s simply no need for one. It’s a walk into the past with amazing present-day taste. Connect with a local and inquire as to the whereabouts of the house on Main Street in which the screenplay for Sleepless in Seattle was written, then visit Paradise Springs Winery for a tasting and a bit of history in a beautiful setting. If you have the kids with you, check out Adventure Links at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. It’s a great place to burn off some energy. For dinner, there’s no place like Trummer’s on Main.
— CLIFTON FORGE —
— FLOYD —
photo credit: Star City Skycams, IG account: @starcityskycams
Floyd, Virginia is the quintessential destination for music lovers seeking an authentic experience. There’s nothing glamorous about Floyd. It’s not Vegas, baby; it’s dirt-real with spur-of-the-moment porch pickin’, homemade food, handcrafted arts and crafts, and good, friendly people. Your must see’s, do’s and eat’s include the Floyd Country Store (home of the Friday Nite Jamboree), Blue Ridge Restaurant (homemade country dining for 80+ years), Historic Pine Tavern (family-style dining since 1927), and the cool artisan opportunities.
— FRANKLIN —
A one-time rail and steamboat hub, Franklin sits along Blackwater River, a tributary of the Albemarle Sound around North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Fewer than 25 miles west of Suffolk, this proud Main Street Community features antique and gift shops alongside mainstay restaurants. Check out Barrett’s Landing Riverfront Park for access to the river for fishing and simply enjoying the outdoors.
— FRONT ROYAL —
With the Blue Ridge Mountains as a beautiful backdrop, Front Royal is an access point for Shenandoah National Park, a launching point on the Shenandoah River, and the entrance to Skyline Caverns, one of the only places to see rare Anthrodites. L’Dees Pancake House is the place for hometown dining.
— GALAX —
Photo credit: Emily Miller
Galax boasts the largest and oldest Old Time Bluegrass Fiddler’s Convention in the world. In fact, during the 80th annual event this August, an attempt will be made to reclaim the Guiness World Record for the largest mandolin ensemble ever! If you’re in town on a Friday night, head to the Rex Theater where they’re broadcasting a live radio show that you can be present for. Locate the unique-to-Galax LOVEwork to capture the essence of what this town is about. Afterwards, get an affordable but tasty hometown meal at Scoots.
— GATE CITY —
Vintage and antique seekers will enjoy a stroll through Gate City, so named for its role as the gateway into Virginia from Kingsport, Tennessee. If a family owned restaurants and a walk through time sound like a treasure of a day, then this is your place at a slow pace. Enjoy pastries from The Family Bakery and an authentic short-order lunch at Hob-Nob Drive-In.
— MARION —
Earl Neikirk IG account: @neikirkimage
One of the country’s last remaining Art Deco Mayan Revival theaters can be found in Marion, Virginia. The Lincoln Theatre is akin to an art museum with six giant, intricate murals lining the auditorium; a must see! While you’re visiting, find and purchase a Mountain Dew soft drink. It’s a simple thing, really, but did you know that it was created by William “Bill” Jones right there in Marion? Jones sold his creation to Pepsico in 1964. Shopping and dining are plentiful enough in Marion. For barbecue, Wolfe’s. For a Marion original, a dip dog at Dip Dog Stand. Aerosmith band members have had one and you should, too.
— MARTINSVILLE —
photo credit: John Harrelson
NASCAR roars twice each year at nearby Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, but the city of Martinsville itself is an artisan community. Main Street is vibrant with art walks (find the murals!) and a farmers’ market. Enjoy more of the outdoors when you borrow a bike for free to enjoy a ride along the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail.
— MATHEWS —
Mathews is a historic maritime community with the Chesapeake Bay as its main point of scenic beauty. Sunrises are stellar. Enjoy it from your own vessel along the Mathews Blueways Water Trails or from New Point Comfort Nature Preserve. When the hunger pangs kick in, eat well at The White Dog Bistro, an upscale experience in a Georgian mansion. Or for the local flare, head to Richardson’s Cafe where the soda fountain counter is still ready and waiting for you to sidle up.
— MIDDLEBURG —
photo credit: Courtesy of Salamander Resort
Middleburg is a beautiful gem in Virginia horse country. Rolling pastures and beautiful board fences usher you into the quaint town dotted with brick and stone buildings. There’s a boutique on every corner and farm-fresh dining each way you turn. Washingtonians enjoy this escape and you certainly will, too. Your “musts” include dining at Red Fox Inn Restaurant just as Jackie Kennedy Onassis did, trying on hats (if not buying one) at Lou Lou Too, and sampling the wines of Middleburg’s wineries.
— PURCELLVILLE —
Purcellville is your destination for an abundance of wineries in one concentrated area, but it’s more than that. As the saying goes, Purcellville is “everybody’s home town,” because it has cool mid-1700s history, cute shops, and a genuine welcoming vibe. The businesses are overwhelmingly local-owned; rest assured that you’ll be graciously received. On your grand tour, seek out the LOVEwork for a photo, tip back a pint at one of the two breweries, or maybe try something harder at Catoctin Creek Distillery. For dining, the patio at farm-to-table Grandale Restaurant is a great option. Something a little more simple but also locally sourced would be a juicy burger at Market Burger Fries & Shakes.
— RADFORD —
Radford has so many outdoor opportunities with the New River as its centerpiece, and it has a quirkiness to it since it’s also a college town. Specialty shops abound and you can find a good mix of chain and local eateries. Glencoe Museum is a popular stop for history buffs while St. Albans Sanatorium is where you can go to get a little freaked out. It’s been called the “most active location on the East Coast” by experienced paranormal teams. Eek!
— SOUTH BOSTON —
Small town South Boston is where you’ll find the NASCAR sanctioned South Boston Speedway, a track that spurred the careers of retired drivers Ward and Jeff Burton. But South Boston is more than motorsports. Enjoy performing arts at The Prizery and then peruse the South Boston – Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History, home to permanent exhibits like one dedicated to Virginia’s 55th Governor, William M. Tuck. For dining, check out Bistro 1888, a AAA Three Diamond restaurant.
— ST. PAUL —
The hub of Virginia’s most recent multi-use trail system, The Spearhead Trails, St. Paul is a pioneer river town with fun history (saloon uproars, anyone?) and more outdoor adventure than you can shake a stick at. The Clinch River is a water lover’s paradise with tremendous fishing and paddle sports. It’s also the home of about 50 species of mussels — more than any other river in the world! St. Paul is seeing a revitalization with historic and ecologic preservation, as well as economic growth.
— URBANNA —
Urbanna‘s claim to fame is hosting Virginia’s official oyster festival, the Urbanna Oyster Festival, held each November. Visit other times of the year to see special things like the 1755 John Mitchel Map, called “the most important map in American history.” The walking tour will highlight important historical sites around Urbanna.
— WINCHESTER —
Most people call it Winchester but you may call it Apple Country. Winchester was Patsy Cline‘s hometown and once you visit, you’ll fall in love with it, too. Head to Old Town and enjoy great dining on the pedestrian mall, then check out the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Spring’s blooms are breathtaking and the Glen Burnie Gardens at the museum will show off and delight. If those aren’t enough, plan to visit during the annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, now entering its 88th year.
Can you think of 22 MORE great small towns in Virginia? Leave a comment to give a shout-out!