When you need an exciting weekend getaway, small towns can offer big fun. Check out our weekender's guide to Abingdon, Virginia.
When you need a fun weekend getaway, small towns can offer big enjoyment. Tucked in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Abingdon, Virginia, is known for its historic theater, beautiful mountain hiking and biking trails, and a quaint, tranquil downtown area. Located about a two-hour drive west of Roanoke, Virginia, and two hours north of Asheville, North Carolina, it’s a bustling little hub of activity.
Although it’s a small mountain town with only about 9,000 residents, Abingdon attracts thousands of visitors each year with its shows at the renowned Barter Theatre and its hiking and biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail. According to Amanda Leslie Livingston, marketing manager for the Abingdon Convention and Visitors Bureau, “Visitors tell me they particularly love our charming and historic downtown and the great restaurants that feature local, seasonal produce.”
Take in a Show at the Barter Theatre
Abingdon’s most popular attraction is the Barter Theatre. One of the longest-operating professional playhouses in the country, it offers up productions of a variety of contemporary plays and musicals. The theater opened during the Great Depression and got its name from the practice of allowing local residents to pay for admission with whatever they could afford to barter, including chickens and apple pies.
Many well-known actors have performed at the theater, including Gregory Peck and Ernest Borgnine. Open from February to December, it also hosts a series of shows by regional Appalachian playwrights each year.
Travel the Virginia Creeper Trail
Many visitors come to Abingdon to experience the scenic Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile biking and hiking trail that was formerly a railroad line. It’s considered one of the best examples of rails-to-trails recreation. The trailhead is easy to find next to a free parking lot in downtown Abingdon. Cyclists of all ages can experience its scenic beauty without a steep climb, and the trail winds through forests and hills that extend almost to the North Carolina border.
Explore Arts and Crafts
Discover abundant regional craft traditions with a visit to Heartwood, a complex of galleries and studios where expert artisans offer their latest creations in clay, fiber, wood, metal, and other mediums. For more artistry, check out the Arts Depot located in a historic freight station dating back to the 1890s. Resident weavers and potters may work quietly in their studios while you browse the many striking bowls and pieces of handmade jewelry for sale. For more fun, stay for coffee or wine and live music.
For a different experience altogether, take a pleasant drive on the Countryside Artisan Trail to visit artists at their studios.
The Abingdon Farmers Market offers the opportunity to stock up on garden-fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and prepared foods from regional farms. Be sure to double check the operating hours before you go, as they change throughout the year. Local eateries include the popular Rain Restaurant, which lists many local farms as suppliers, and The Peppermill. If you have time, take a leisurely drive to Abingdon Vineyard and Winery to sip the latest varieties.
Relaxed Evenings and Nights
Stroll downtown at sunset to make your way to 149 Sweets, which offers house-made ice cream and baked goods, or try Anthony’s Desserts to enjoy hand-roasted coffee alongside a truffle or tart. Enjoy a nightcap and a cozy evening at the stately Martha Washington Inn and Spa, which mixes period furnishings with modern conveniences. The inn enjoys a storied past, having served as a private residence, women’s college, and Civil War hospital. As a hotel, it’s hosted many famous guests, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Elizabeth Taylor.
A weekend in Abingdon can have you riding your bicycle through the gorgeous Blue Ridge region, taking selfies in the picturesque downtown, and enjoying crafts, theater, and dining. Follow us on Twitter to discover more intriguing getaway destinations.