Abingdon, VA, is a charming town that offers plenty of things to do for nature, art, history, and food lovers. It’s located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia and is a hidden gem.
Abingdon is only a few hours’ drive from Raleigh, NC, Atlanta, GA, Nashville, TN, and Lexington, KY.
Here is the driving time from several major cities to Abingdon, Virginia:
- Raleigh, NC – 4 hours
- Boone, NC – 1 hour
- Atlanta, GA – 5 hours
- Lexington, KY – 4 hours
- Richmond, VA – 4 1/2 hours
When visiting the mountains, many think of Boone, Blowing Rock, or Asheville. I’m here to tell you to consider the town of Abingdon, VA.
It has historical appeal, fantastic dining, shopping, and miles of hiking and biking trails (like the Virginia Creeper).
But with fewer people!
Here are some of the best things to do in the delightful town of Abingdon, Virginia.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 – Stay At The Martha Washington Inn & Spa
The Martha Washington Inn is a luxurious Inn and Spa in the historic district of Abingdon, VA.
It’s conveniently located across the street from the famous Barter Theatre and within walking distance to fantastic shopping and some of the best restaurants in the country (according to USA Today).
The Martha Washington Inn is inviting, elegant, and rich in history. It was built as a personal residence in 1832 for a hero of the War of 1812, then served as a women’s college, a Civil War hospital, and a residence for actors at the Barter Theatre.
It has many fabulous amenities, including a heated saltwater pool, multi-level outdoor jacuzzi, spa, nail salon, mini-golf course, tennis courts, pickleball courts, and complimentary gourmet breakfast at the onsite Sister’s Restaurant.
They offer free bicycle use for exploring the town and a Creeper Trail shuttle to White Top Station, including bikes, for an additional fee.
The free port tastings offered each night are one of our favorite aspects of the Martha. We loved sipping it on the beautiful front porch.
The Martha Washington Inn is definitely one of the most unique and romantic places we’ve ever stayed. I loved wandering the halls lined with beautiful art, antiques, and historic photos that tell the inn’s history.
And if you’re traveling with kids, don’t worry, it’s family-friendly. Kids will love the trampoline and mini-golf.
2 – Stay At The 119
On our second trip to Abingdon, we stayed in an Airbnb called The 119. We traveled with family members and were very comfortable in this home.
There are three bedrooms (one with two beds) and two bathrooms.
The home is an updated farmhouse, and we loved the modern style the homeowner incorporated throughout.
It worked perfectly for us and is conveniently located across the street from the Virginia Creeper Trail. It is also within walking distance of all the great shops in downtown Abingdon.
I recommend this place to anyone traveling with family or in a group. I appreciated the modern style, everything to make a good cup of coffee, and how clean and comfortable it was.
3 – The Barter Theatre
Where did Larry Linville from Mash, Wayne Knight from Seinfeld, and Gregory Peck start their acting careers?
The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.
The Barter Theatre has an interesting history. During the Great Depression, when theater struggled, the Barter let patrons pay or (barter) for tickets with produce & livestock.
In other words, giving “ham for Hamlet.”
It was successful, and the Barter Theatre is one of the few professional Equity Theaters in the country. (This means the actors are paid professionals and the shows are of Broadway caliber.)
So if you love “Newman” or “Frank Burns,” you can thank the Barter Theatre for helping their career.
Many more famous actors have performed in the Barter, including Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, Ned Beatty, and Gary Collins. You can see their pictures on the wall when you visit the Barter.
On our second trip to Abingdon, we saw a show at The Barter, and Gary and I absolutely loved it.
127 W Main St, Abingdon, VA 24210
4 – The Barter’s Smith Theatre
The Barter Smith Theatre is where I learned that my husband is a better actor than me. 🙂
This theatre is located across the street from the main Barter Theatre. It has a smaller, more intimate space. Newer and edgier plays are often shown here.
The play we went to was a one-person show that relied heavily on audience participation. My husband and I were asked to be a big part of the show, and we had to act out certain scenes on the spot.
It was a lot of fun, and afterward, several people came up to us and said that I was okay but that my husband was really good.
I was deflated for a bit, but the free nightly port at our hotel had me in good spirits in no time.
But seriously, I would highly recommend a show at the intimate Barter’s Smith Theatre. It was a very unique and enjoyable experience.
Barter’s Smith Theatre
127 W Main St, Abingdon, VA 24210
5 – Virginia Creeper Trail
People travel from all over the world to bike the Virginia Creeper. I’ve wanted to for years, and I’m so glad I finally got to explore this beautiful trail.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is widely recognized as one of North America’s most beautiful trails.
It meanders through lush forested mountains, rolling farmland, mountain streams, and several trestle bridges.
You can bike, hike, or ride horseback on it.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is 34 miles long. The trail starts in Abingdon, goes through Damascus and Green Cove, and ends at White Top Station.
Although the trail is 34 miles long, many people bike just 17 miles of the trail by having a shuttle drop them off at White Top Sation, the highest point on the trail.
From there, it’s a 17-mile downhill ride to Damascus, VA where most shuttle services pick you up. (This is what we did.)
You can continue biking to Abingdon, VA if you want to bike the entire 34 miles. We were told that this 17 miles stretch to Abingdon was even more scenic than the 17 miles that most people bike by starting at Whitetop Station.
Also, the 17-mile stretch from Damascus to Abingdon is fairly flat and has several beautiful trestle crossings. (When we visit Abingdon again, we plan to bike this part of the trail.)
If you’re staying at the Martha Washington Inn, they’ll supply bicycles and shuttle you to the top of the trail for a small fee. Or you can get on the Virginia Creeper Trail right in Abingdon.
We walked down the street from our hotel to the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop. They supplied our bikes and took us to Whitetop Station.
We appreciated the extensive information the shuttle driver gave us about the area as we journeyed to the top of the trail.
The most interesting fact was learning that Wayne Henderson, the famous guitar maker, lives in the Whitetop Mountain area. He was a mail carrier for many years while making guitars for famous clients like Eric Clapton.
The trail truly was beautiful and scenic. We especially liked riding over the many bridges and stopping to play in the water.
There are a couple of places to buy food on the trail. Neither was open when we biked, so I would suggest bringing a water bottle and snacks. We also wished we had brought water shoes for playing in the cool mountain streams.
Pro-tip: If you plan to bike the trail in the fall when the leaves are changing, book your hotel and bike rentals at least a couple of months in advance, as this is a really popular time for people to ride the Virginia Creeper.
Update: We were able to return and bike the trail in the fall. The colors were so beautiful! This time we rented ebikes from the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, which helped us cover more of the trail in less time.
6 – Hidden Valley lake
Hidden Valley Lake is the perfect spot if you’d like to enjoy a stunning mountain lake while visiting Abingdon, Virginia.
Just a 20-minute drive from town, the lake is surrounded by beautiful forestry and is a peaceful oasis.
The lake is open for fishing 24 hours a day and stocked with several fish varieties.
There are several lovely hiking trails around the Hidden Valley Lake area. Some will take you to incredible rock-climbing spots. (Learn more about rock climbing in the area here.)
The trail we took surprised us with a gorgeous overlook of the mountains.
Whether you’re looking to hike, fish, or camp, Hidden Valley Lake is a great place to enjoy some time in nature.
7 – Wolf Hills & Wolf Cave
As you stroll through the charming backstreets of Abingdon, Virginia, keep your eyes peeled for Wolf Cave.
Tucked away in the corner of Plumb Alley and White’s Alley, this cave was once the home of a pack of wolves.
In 1760, Daniel Boone and his dogs were camping near the cave when the wolves attacked his dogs.
The incident caused Daniel Boone to name the area “Wolf Hills.” Today, you can see the cave’s opening by peeking through the windows of the building that sits atop it.
The cave runs for many yards beneath the Cave House (a home that sits on the same lot) and Main Street in Abingdon, but access to it is prohibited as it is privately owned.
8 – Sinking Spring Cemetery
Over 30 Confederate soldiers, including General John Hunt Morgan, are buried at Sinking Spring Cemetery.
General Morgan was known as “the thunderbolt of the Confederacy” for his attacks in Indiana and Ohio. These attacks were the farthest north a Confederate army advanced during the Civil War.
General Morgan was so famous that his burial procession stretched three miles long.
His remains were placed in the Martin Tomb at Sinking Spring Cemetery for a short time but now rest in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.
9 – Abingdon Spirit Tours
Donnamarie Emmert, also known as the Haint Mistress of Abingdon, offers a walking tour of downtown Abingdon where she shares history and ghost stories about Abingdon.
And the town does have a lot of ghost stories. Probably because of its long history dating back to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
My family had the opportunity to go on one of her ghost tours near Halloween, and we loved it. See my video below for a peek at the tour.
The Tavern, the Courthouse, the Wolf House, and several other buildings in Abingdon are reportedly haunted.
For example, Ernest Borgnine stayed at the Wolf House when he was a young actor. He was so frightened by a ghost in the house that he ran out of the front door screaming.
(Ernest Borgnine has acted in several movies and was the original voice for Mermaid Man in Spongebob Squarepants.)
What did they find? A chair that moved in the middle of the night and mysterious voices.
Donnamarie is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to ghosts in Abingdon. If you’re ever in town, be sure to take one of her Spirit Tours! She offers them year-round.
10 – William King Museum Of Art
The William King Museum of Art is a constantly rotating gallery and gathering space in Abingdon, Virginia.
The exhibitions range from contemporary art made by local artists to fine art from around the world.
We enjoyed the opportunity to experience such a wide variety of art in one place.
I liked The Cosmic Adventures of Slimepunk exhibit featuring comic strips by Brett Marcus Cook. My husband spent a lot of time in The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit learning about the history and evolution of the motorcycle.
In addition to the rotating exhibitions, the museum offers a variety of educational programs, lectures, and special events throughout the year.
11 – The Arts Depot
As an art lover, I really enjoyed visiting The Arts Depot.
It’s housed in a historic freight station built in the 1860s. It has three galleries and seven working studios for resident artists.
Visitors are welcome to interact with the artists and see them in action.
We visited with artist Steven Reeves (below) and admired his stunning paintings of animals.
The Arts Depot showcases a variety of art forms, including folk art, clay, jewelry, oil, acrylic, and watercolor.
If you’re an art lover and enjoy supporting local artists’ work, I highly suggest stopping by.
12 – Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace
I was impressed with how spacious and modern this cultural arts center was.
They showcase the works of the best regional artisans, and you can even purchase their artwork and crafts.
Also, you can catch a live demonstration of the artists at work. Check the website for information.
It’s fun to walk around and view the many different types of art, including pottery, quilting, paintings, handmade soaps, and more.
One of my favorite displays was about Wayne Henderson, the famous guitar maker. He lives in the region and has made over 500 guitars with a waiting list in the hundreds.
My husband purchased a fascinating book there about him called Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build The Perfect Instrument.
The cultural arts center also showcases regional musicians and even has live performances every Thursday night.
The Southwest Cultural Arts & Marketplace is the perfect place to shop if you’re looking for a unique souvenir or gift. You’ll be supporting local artists while taking home a piece of the area’s rich culture.
13 – A Likely Yarn
I so wanted to go inside A Likely Yarn, but it was closed when I went by.
They carry a unique variety of yarns and accessories for crocheting, knitting, and crafting. Locals told me the store has an amazing inventory, wonderful demonstrations, and a friendly, helpful owner.
When I return to Abingdon, I plan to stop by A Likely Yarn and pick up something for my sister, who loves to crochet.
14 – Abingdon Gifting Company
I loved shopping at Abingdon Gifting Company. It’s cute, clean, and has several items perfect for gifting.
I picked up some delicious caramel popcorn for family members. They also sell scented soaps, candies, mugs, bath bombs, and more.
Abingdon Gifting Company offers a build-a-basket service where they craft the perfect gift basket for any occasion.
15 – Stroll Downtown Abingdon At Night
We really enjoyed walking around downtown Abingdon at night. The churches and stained glass windows at night are magnificent.
The courthouse (pictured above) has a signed Tiffany stained glass window that was added to memorialize local soldiers who fought in World War I.
It’s much easier to see its beauty at night than in the daytime.
The Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church (seen above) is a Virginia landmark. The church dates back to the 1700s and was initially led by “The Fighting Parson,” who always preached with a gun at the ready.
16 – Holston Mountain Artisans
This quaint shop houses over 100 of the region’s most skilled artisans and features a broad range of one-of-a-kind art and craftwork.
You can buy artwork, local jams and jellies, pottery, and much more. They also offer live demonstrations and workshops.
Holston Mountain Artisans Shop
214 Park St SE, Abingdon, VA 24210
17 – Grayson Highlands State Park
Grayson Highlands State Park is an hour away from Abingdon but worth the drive to experience the hiking, gorgeous views, and wild ponies.
We didn’t have much time, so we took a short trail called Twin Pinnacles. Even though it’s an easy hike, it takes you to one of the highest and most beautiful overlooks called the Little Pinnacle.
On the way, you’ll pass the Magic Tree. It’s a tree that has mysteriously grown around a large boulder.
There are several hikes at this state park. On some of them, you will encounter beautiful wild ponies.
After you hike at Grayson Highlands, stop to shop or eat at Railroad Market & Cafe. It’s a cute country store just down the road.
We enjoyed ice cream from the cafe, but they also serve hamburgers, fries, and other country-style far.
More Things To Do In Abingdon
Abingdon is a charming town with a lot to offer. While there, we didn’t have time to see everything, but I’ve made a list of places to visit next time around.
The following are all places recommended by the locals, and I can’t wait to come back to visit them.
- Abingdon Farmer’s Market – Open year round (check the website for days and times) and offers locally-made produce, baked goods, crafts, soaps, candles, and more.
- Zephyr Antiques – Huge store with four floors. You’ll find crystal, china, vintage clothes, and all kinds of interesting items here.
- Revolutionary War Muster Grounds – Around 400 men gathered here in 1780 to fight in the Revolutionary War. This militia would be known as the Overmountain Men and would be pivotal in securing America’s freedom. The grounds have an interpretive center, displays, walking trails, and artifacts used in the Revolutionary War.
- Slot Canyons – Also known as the Great Channels of Virginia. It’s a hidden gem just 45 minutes from Abingdon. The 6.6-mile round-trip hike takes you through a 20-acre maze of sandstone boulders.
- South Holsten Lake – Large mountain lake just 20 minutes from Abingdon that has several marinas. Great for boating, tubing, water-skiing, and fishing.
I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed visiting Abingdon, Virginia. This historic town is oozing with charm, hospitality, and history.
And the food here is amazing! Read my post about all the fantastic restaurants in Abingdon and why this town has been named “best small town food scene” four years in a row by USA Today.
I hope you get a chance to visit.
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