Abingdon, Virginia, is one of those places murmured about among those “in the know.” Located in Southwest Virginia, just over the Tennessee state line, Abingdon is a charming small town with a big personality. Only 8,000 people live there, but more than 140,000 visitors flock to its colonial streets yearly. Whether you’re looking to explore early American history, bike the famous Virginia Creeper Trail, or take in contemporary art, you’ll find a restful yet intriguing respite in Abingdon.
Friday First Stop: Abingdon Vineyards
Toast your arrival at Abingdon Vineyards. This local winery is owned and operated by Napa ex-pat Loren Gardner and offers crisp chardonnay, fruity rosé, and bold red blends. The vineyard sits along the banks of the South Holston River, and those passing through on pontoons and kayaks have been known to come as they are right off the boat. Gardner says that’s part of the charm of his property. It’s high-quality wine in a low-pressure environment.
Where to Stay: The Martha Washington Inn and Spa
As you make your way through Abingdon’s historic district, you can’t miss the stately accommodations. Referred to by locals as “The Martha,” the hotel has welcomed people such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor through its doors. Outside, an expansive porch with wicker furniture beckons guests. Inside, 63 rooms and suites are uniquely outfitted with plush furnishings and charming antiques.
Common spaces such as the library offer intimate corners for hushed conversations. Outside, find tennis and pickleball courts, an 18-hole putt-putt course, and a relaxing jacuzzi. The hotel is in an ideal location for walking (or biking!) to and from town. Complimentary port is poured each evening for a luxurious nightcap.
Where to Eat: The Tavern
Tap into local colonial history and have dinner at The Tavern. Built in 1779, the tavern is the oldest bar in Virginia and one of the oldest in the country. Despite serving as a bank, bakery, general store, cabinet shop, barber shop, private residence, post office, and antique shop throughout its lifespan, today, it is an upscale eatery with a laid-back atmosphere.
Ask for a table on the patio to have the Tavern as your backdrop. Start with a cocktail and an order of baked brie before diving into the Jagerschnitzel for an entrée. It comes with several pieces of fried pork tenderloin topped with mushroom demi-glace and served alongside pickled cabbage.
Saturday Coffee: The Girl and the Raven
Get your cup of Joe at The Girl and the Raven. Here, small-batch coffee is ethically sourced and roasted on-site. Fresh pastries are on display at the counter, and a full menu of fresh pressed juices, bowls, salads, and sandwiches is available. Bonus: breakfast is served all day for late risers!
Saturday Morning: Creeper Trail
Rent an electric bicycle from the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, and make your way to the start of the Virginia Creeper Trail. A part of the National Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, the gravel trail follows 34 miles of former train track through two counties. It’s a primarily shady, bucolic ride through pastures and over streams. Use the electric bike’s power to give you the occasional boost up short, steady inclines. Be sure to stop into the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center for maps, water, and gear.
Saturday Lunch: Jack’s 128 Pecan
A cheeky restaurant in the heart of town, Jack’s 128 Pecan is known for its vibrant, art-filled interiors and delectable menu. The eponymous smash burger is the must-order here. Add a side of Parmesan fries to elevate your main dish.
Saturday Afternoon: Art and Shopping
What’s a day in a new town without diving into its local art and shopping? Art abounds in Abingdon. Begin at the William King Museum of Art, whose motto is “Never the same museum.” Five galleries display historic and contemporary Appalachian art and objects in three rotating galleries. Admission is free, but donations are accepted and welcome. While at the museum, head next door to the studios to visit Lavalle Designs, where designer Stephen Curd creates custom-tailored jeans, jackets, tops, dresses, leather goods, and jewelry.
Don’t miss other notable shops in town, including:
- Abingdon Arts Depot
- Holston Mountain Artisans
- Katbird’s Wine and Gourmet
- Siegners LTD
- Chella’s on Main
- SONDER home + travel
- The Book Cellar
Saturday Evening: Rooftop Drinks and Dinner at Summers Roof and Cellar
Sommelier and owner Charlie Berg orchestrates a symphony of wine and cuisine at Summers. Begin your evening with drinks on the rooftop, which overlooks the historic downtown below. Light, bright interiors and exterior scapes put the Appalachian views on full display. After a cocktail, head downstairs to the cellar for a supper of items like deviled crab dip or cacao and coffee-rubbed pork chops.
Saturday Theater: The Barter
Abingdon’s crown jewel is the Barter Theatre. When the Depression-era theater opened in 1933, money was tight. Theater operator and actor Robert Porterfield devised a plan. Theatergoers could pay 35 cents or the equivalent in fresh produce in exchange for a ticket to a show. In fact, the theater’s first motto was “Trading Ham for Hamlet.”
In its first year, the theater only made about $4.00, but the actors and crew gained a collective 300 pounds thanks to all the good eating they had done! Today, the Barter brings more than 140,000 people through its doors annually, and many notable actors have performed on its stage, including Ernest Borgnine and Gregory Peck. Grab a ticket to experience the theater for yourself.
Final Stop: Plumb Alley
Before your departure, take a quick drive down Plumb Alley. This narrow street runs behind some of Abingdon’s historic homes. Stop by the Wolf Hills Cave House and peer into the outbuilding windows. Legend has it that a pack of wolves attacked Daniel Boone and his dogs while he was camped here in 1760.
When you’re ready to put your plans into action, head to visitabingdonvirginia.com.
Find more travel tips, weekend getaways, destination ideas, and so much more in our “Travel” section. Click HERE.