The area that makes up Southwest Virginia includes over 20 counties and destinations like Bristol, Abingdon, Big Stone Gap, Galax, Blacksburg, Roanoke, Radford, and many other smaller communities. The region was first settled before the Civil War by immigrants of English, German, and Scots-Irish origin.
It shares more in common with its Appalachian neighbors like Kentucky and Tennessee than other parts of Virginia, especially when it comes to music. Southwest Virginia is home to the Crooked Road Music Trail, an arts corridor with hundreds of venues to see “old-time” and mountain music.
These genres led to the creation of modern country and bluegrass music. Today the area is home to a number of annual festivals including Mountains of Music Homecoming, Mountain Music School, Home Craft Days Festival, and Rhythm & Roots.
This post is only an overview of the region. If you want to read more about it, check out our book, This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States.
What to Do in Southwest Virginia
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center– Formerly known as Heartwood, this incredible multifaceted center is the welcome center for the region with an artisan market, exhibits, and weekly jam sessions. They have their own cafe selling regional dishes. 1 Heartwood Circle, Abingdon
William King Museum of Art– Located in a former school, the hilltop art museum features exhibits from Appalachian artists as well as exhibits with artifacts related to early life in Southwest Virginia. 415 Academy Drive NW, Abingdon
Barter Theatre– At the heart of Abingdon’s arts community is the theater that dates back to the Great Depression when guests could “barter” their way in for a show. Today they run two to three productions at a time, including family-friendly programming. 127 West Main Street, Abingdon
Arts Depot– As the name implies, the art gallery located in a former train depot features the work of artists from around the region. They can display their paintings, photos, and even fabric artwork as well as sell them. 314 Depot Square SW, Abingdon
Wolf Hills Brewery– Located right off of the main strip in Abingdon, Virginia, the garage setting is perfect to strike up a conversation with the friendly bartender or locals. 350 Park Street SE, Abingdon
Virginia Creeper Trail– The rails-to-trails path connects Abingdon to the North Carolina border, stopping in towns like Damascus along the way. The 34-mile path is popular with cyclists and hikers. Abingdon
Damascus Brewery– The brewery has a “local hangout” vibe and offers crowlers to go. It’s the perfect spot for refreshment after a long day of biking or a section hike. 32173 Government Road, Damascus
Jeff Matthews Memorial Museum– The museum interprets the history of Galax with 1800s cabins, Native American artifacts, and one of the largest Kodiak bears on display in the world. 606 West Stuart Drive, Galax
Blue Ridge Music Center– Learn about the region’s music year-round, including the European and African traditions that merged in Appalachia. They also have an outdoor amphitheater that hosts seasonal concerts. 700 Foothills Road, Galax
Harry W. Meador Jr. Coal Museum– This museum tells the story of the legacy of coal mining in Appalachia and how it has affected the people that live there. 570 Shawnee Avenue East, Big Stone Gap
Sinkland Farms Brewery– The scenic farm is also a craft brewery with ten beers on offer. They also have live music and food trucks as well as seasonal events like a pumpkin festival. 3060 Riner Road, Christiansburg
Buffalo Mountain Brewery– Located at McDaniel’s Tavern, this venue is not only a craft brewery but also hosts bluegrass jam sessions. They offer an English bitter, cream ale, and a porter with names inspired by the region. 332 Webbs Mill Road North, Floyd
Birthplace of Country Music Museum– Opened in 2014, this museum is inspired by the 1927 Bristol Sessions that heavily influenced modern American music. It has Smithsonian-affiliated exhibits and educational programming. 101 Country Music Way, Bristol
Blue Ridge Institute and Museum– Located at Ferrum College, this museum documents the mountains, its music, and culture with a living history farmstead, photographs, and recordings. 20 Museum Drive, Ferrum
The Mill Mountain Star– The landmark of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains has some of the best views around. It was originally built in 1949 and is lit up throughout the year. 2000 J.B. Fishburn Parkway, Roanoke
Taubman Museum of Art– The art museum was designed by architect Randall Stout. It contains a permanent collection made up of works by artists like John Singer Sargent and John Cage. 110 Salem Avenue Southeast, Roanoke
Wineries and Cideries- In addition to the many breweries, this region has wineries, cideries, and distilleries on the Blue Ridge Cheers Trail. Don’t miss Abingdon Vineyards, Chateau Morrisette, and Foggy Ridge, among many others. The Virginia Blue Ridge Winery Tour or Roanoke Craft Beer Tour is a good way to see them.
Hiking- This region contains some incredible trails and recreation areas, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the High Knob Recreation Area, and the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail. There’s also the Brumley Mountain Trail, located just outside Abingdon in Rosedale.
Where to Eat in Southwest Virginia
The Tavern– The former stagecoach stop dates back to 1779, previously hosting the likes of Henry Clay, King Louis Phillipe, and President Andrew Jackson. The menu features American and German dishes like schnitzel and North Carolina trout. 222 East Main Street, Abingdon, (276) 628-1118
128 Pecan– The funky diner is open for lunch and dinner with a casual menu including soups, salads, sandwiches, and daily specials. The Thai sesame peanut noodles and crab cake sandwich are favorites. 128 Pecan Street Southeast, Abingdon, (276) 698-3159
Bone Fire Smokehouse– Voted the best barbecue and ribs around, the restaurant is known for its smoked meats. But they also have incredible wings and jackfruit, a vegan option. Set in a former hardware store, they also have live music. 260 West Main Street, Abingdon, (276) 623-0037
White Birch Juice & Food– Open since 2014, the cafe has healthy options like cold-pressed juices, pasture-raised meats, and farm fresh eggs. Enjoy breakfast burritos, smoothie bowls, and burgers. 170 East Main Street, Abingdon, (276) 608-0541
Historic Pine Tavern– Opened in 1927 at a roadside inn, the restaurant serves family recipes in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have family-style dishes like fried chicken, country ham, and buttermilk biscuits. 611 Floyd Highway North (Route 221 North), Floyd, (540) 745-4482
Damascus Old Mill Restaurant– Set in a historic inn, the restaurant has Southern favorites like their fried green tomato BLT, chopped steak, and country-fried catfish. 215 West Imboden Street, Damascus, (276) 475-3745
Mojos Trailside Cafe– The restaurant and coffee shop is conveniently located near the Creeper Trail, making it the perfect stopover. They serve breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. 331 Douglas Drive, Damascus, (276) 475-5505
Texas Tavern– Family owned since 1930, this 24-hour diner is known for its burgers, chili, and breakfast. The menu is small but efficient. 114 Church Avenue Southwest, Roanoke, (540) 342-4825
Blackbird Bakery– Another 24-hour restaurant, this cafe offers coffee drinks, made-from-scratch pastries, ice cream, and cozy spaces to relax. 56 Piedmont Avenue, Bristol, (276) 645-5754
The Black Hen Restaurant– One of many great restaurants in the college town, this one has contemporary American fare like spiced lamb chops, steaks, and weekend brunch. 126 Jackson Street Northwest, Blacksburg, (540) 951-3000
Where to Stay in Southwest Virginia
Martha Washington Inn– The 63-room hotel was built as a retirement home for a War of 1812 general and later was a college campus. It’s hosted presidents and celebrities and has a spa, restaurant, and a cozy library. 150 West Main Street, Abingdon
Craddock Terry Hotel– Set in an 1888 shoe factory, the stylish yet industrial hotel has amenities like daily breakfast and a dog ambassador. There are 44 pet-friendly rooms and rental bicycles to explore the area. 1312 Commerce Street, Lynchburg
The Virginian Lynchburg– The Curio Collection property is in a 1913 building with a rooftop bar and lobby coffee shop. The over 100 rooms boast complimentary WiFi, coffee makers, and cozy bathrobes. 712 Church Street, Lynchburg
Hotel Roanoke– Built in an 1882 Tudor building, the hotel has over 300 guest rooms. The hotel also has eco-friendly details like electric vehicle charging as well as a spa, restaurant, and a coffee shop. 110 Shenandoah Avenue Northwest, Roanoke
The Omni Homestead Resort– Boasting over 2,000 acres of Virginia landscape, the resort has been the getaway for 23 US presidents. It has a full-service spa that takes advantage of nearby mineral springs. 7696 Sam Snead Highway, Hot Springs
Chapman Knoll– This rural bed and breakfast features private guesthouses with breakfast delivered daily. Each has a fireplace, kitchen, free WiFi, and luxury toiletries. 7629 Charity Highway, Woolwine
Primland Resort– The luxury resort has a range of accommodations, including lodge rooms, cabins, and treehouses. They have soaking tubs, WiFi, and a private vehicle to take to and from the lodge. Primland also has two restaurants and countless activities. 2000 Busted Rock Road, Meadows of Dan
Apple Ridge Farm– The non-profit farm’s Caboose Car Bed & Breakfast allows visitors to stay in former train cars outfitted in queen beds. They also have decks and complimentary breakfast as well as access to the pool and ropes course. 9230 Pine Forest Road, Copper Hill
Woodchuck Hostel and SongPeddlar Rest– The ten-bed hostel hosts hikers from the Appalachian Trail and Creeper Trail with hearty breakfasts, WiFi, and shuttle services to the trails. There are dorms, a cabin, and hammocks. 533 Docie Street, Damascus
The Bristol Hotel– Set in a 1925 building, the 65-room boutique hotel is inspired by the area’s surroundings with vintage doors and railroad-inspired furnishings. There’s also a rooftop bar, an in-house restaurant, and art installations. 510 Birthplace Of Country Music Way, Bristol
Stonewall Bed & Breakfast– Located near the Blue Ridge Parkway, the three-level log cabin is furnished in antiques with free WiFi and access to hiking trails. Each room has a different style. 102 Wendi Pate Trail Southeast, Floyd
Fancy Gap Cabins– The site has rustic cabins equipped with a queen bed, mini-fridge, and porch. They also have campsites and motel rooms. Free WiFi is also available. Milepost 202.5, Blue Ridge Parkway, Fancy Gap
Natural Bridge Historic Hotel and Conference Center– With over 150 rooms, the Colonial-era hotel at the state park has WiFi and flat-screen televisions. Guests can also dine at multiple restaurants or tour the caves. 15 Appledore Lane, Natural Bridge
Camping- Southwest Virginia has an abundance of places to camp. Floyd Eco Village has traditional campsites as well as dorm rooms while Fancy Gap has RV and tent sites.
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Sammi Eubanks also contributed to this guide. Visit Abingdon provided assistance in research and hosted our stay.