5 Small Towns in Southwest Virginia You Need to Visit

Lays Hardware Center For The Arts

With dozens of critically acclaimed restaurants, nonstop entertainment, and easy transportation, the lure of Virginia’s bigger cities is obvious, but less likely are the quaint and cozy small towns. Southwest Virginia has many options in this category, offering a quiet getaway with tons of character and friendly locals to make it worth your while. These five small towns beckon you to come stay a while and experience the laidback charm of Southwest Virginia.

—COEBURN—

The small town of Coeburn sits along the Guest River with the Jefferson National Forest just south of the town border, providing ample outdoor activities for visitors. The High Knob Lake Trail and Little Stony National Recreation Trail are two of the popular hiking spots in the area, and cyclists head to the Guest River Gorge Trail, a scenic “rails-to-trails” pathway that runs along the river. Coeburn recently partnered with the neighboring town of Saint Paul and Spearhead Trails, an ATV and multi-use trail system in Southwest Virginia, to add a trailhead that offers access to the Mountain View Trails, one of the trails that winds through about 100 miles of the region.

Known for its beautiful downtown, this mountain gem features antique lamps, brick sidewalks, and several pedestrian bridges. Coeburn is also known as an artistic haven and is part of the Lonesome Pine Artisan Trail in Wise as well as a member of the ‘Round the Mountain Artisan Network. The Historic Lays Hardware Center for the Arts is part of the famed Crooked Road, which pays tribute to local musical legends like the late Dr. Ralph Stanley, himself a longtime resident of Coeburn, and Appalachian music culture as a whole. Every Friday night, the venue hosts musical talents from the region and informal performances are offered most Thursdays.

Where to Stay/Eat: When planning a visit to Coeburn, consider staying at the nearby Inn at Wise, located about 8 miles west of the downtown area, and stop at Moon Dog Brick Oven for a bite to eat. Looking for a quick but delicious takeout spot? Coeburn’s Frosty Bossie is known for their burgers, chili, shakes, and ice cream.

—PULASKI—

Pulaski has several historic stops worth a visit, including the Pulaski Theatre, a recently restored historic theatre that hosts concerts, live stage performances, and children’s shows. Another spot worth a visit is the Pulaski Railway Station, a historic train depot built by the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad in 1888 and nicknamed the “Grand Old Lady of Pulaski”. While much of the depot was destroyed in a fire, a historical restoration managed to salvage the original stone walls, preserving this important piece of Southwest Virginia history.

A few miles southeast of Pulaski, the Draper Mercantile has been a favorite spot for locals for over 125 years, frequently hosting live music, workshops, and special events. You can also shop a selection of locally sourced foods and artisan wares in the Draper Mercantile Marketplace.

Pulaski is also well known as an outdoor recreation …read more

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The Top 5 Scenic Drives in the Shenandoah Valley (and Where to Stop Along the Way)

Take in the view from 3,514 feet at Mary's Rock.

Cradled by the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains, Virginia’s 140-mile Shenandoah Valley is laced with some of the most spectacular thoroughfares in state. One of the most historic corridors in Virginia, the valley features everything from colonial-era towns to Civil War battlefields, providing a portal to some of the state’s best outdoor recreational opportunities and access to the Shenandoah National Park, the George Washington National Forest, and the Shenandoah River. Today’s Shenandoah Valley is a diverse place, sprinkled with charming towns, wineries, craft breweries, and infinite outdoor adventures. So load up the car and explore Virginia’s most stunning landscapes with one of these epic road trips.

Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the most spectacular motorways in America, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway runs through mountainous corridors of Virginia and North Carolina, linking the Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Shenandoah Valley’s portion of the parkway stretches between Waynesboro and Natural Bridge, and includes a number of iconic highlights.

Stock up for your tour at the Cheese Shop in Stuarts Draft—and then hit the parkway. South of the Waynesboro, visit the Humpback Rocks Recreation Area (milepost 5.8). Tackle the quad-burning, mile-long ascent of Humpback Rocks for sweeping views of the northern Blue Ridge from atop the 3,080-foot greenstone pinnacle. Next, continue to one of the parkway’s gems—the sandy swimming beach at 25-acre Sherando Lake. Cap off the day with a wine tasting at any of the vineyards around the parkway’s northern entrance, like Barren Ridge Vineyards, in Fishersville, or the Ox-Eye Vineyards in downtown Staunton.

Skyline Drive

Take in the view from 3,514 feet at Mary’s Rock.

Adam Fagen

Bisecting the 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive showcases one of Virginia’s most spectacular natural wonders. The 105-mile roadway features endless Blue Ridge panoramas, including 75 scenic overlooks. Stop the car and you’ll find more than 500 miles of hiking trails to explore on foot. Chances are good that you’ll spot some of the park’s resident wildlife—black bears, red fox, coyotes, and more than 190 different birds—that regularly appears near the roadway.

Hop on Skyline Drive at the park’s northern entrance, just outside Front Royal, and head south. For a quick, 2.6-mile out-and-back hike to one of the park’s most iconic vistas, stop along the first third of the drive, at the Meadow Spring Trailhead (milepost 33.5), and head for 3,514-foot Mary’s Rock, a panoramic promontory scalable by linking the Meadow Spring Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Next, stop near the drive’s halfway point, at Big Meadows (milepost 51). Stretch the legs with a short loop around the deer-grazed lea, and then grab lunch at the New Market Taproom inside the Big Meadows Lodge.

End the day in Waynesboro, just 5-miles from Skyline Drive’s southern terminus. The town is home to three of the breweries along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail—Basic City Beer, Seven Arrows Brewing Company, and Stable Craft Brewing.

Route 11—The Wilderness Road

Running from Winchester south to Roanoke, Route 11 meanders through the …read more

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Off-Road in Southwest Virginia: Exploring the Area’s ATV Trails

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Southwest Virginia has long been an escape for outdoor pursuits. Scenic mountains and small-town charm have traditionally brought people to this corner of the state for things like hiking, camping, mountain biking, and fishing. But now those who like a little more power in their outdoor activities are in for a treat as the region has created a number of off-road ATV trails to create a new way to enjoy the area.

Turns out, the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia are the perfect place to put rugged off-road vehicles to the test. Whether you’re a first-timer or an off-roading die-hard, you’ll find plenty of options on the diverse trail system that’s been created over the last decade. Known as Southwest Virginia’s Spearhead Trail System, the group of five individual trail groupings have created a network of more than 300 miles of trail to explore by ATV. You’ll also find a lodging catering to ATV users, rental equipment, guide services, and support for your vehicle. Trails are rated, much like ski runs, to ensure you know what you’re getting yourself into. One permit allows you to access all the trails—and experience the mountains in a whole new way.

Spearhead Trails

it’s allll fun & games until you fly head first into a tree

A post shared by KC (@kaseyyy_chitwood) on Mar 5, 2017 at 5:38pm PST

Each of the five groupings that make up the trail system have something different to offer visitors, and each within relatively close proximity, which allow you to explore multiple trails on a visit. Here’s a rundown on your options:

Coal Canyon : Located near Poplar Gap Park in Buchanan County, Virginia, Coal Canyon offers 61 miles trails that are perfect for ATVs and Side-by-Sides. Plans are in the works to ultimately create a 100-mile system stretching from the towns of Grundy to Haysi. You’ll find lots of family-friendly riding here on the site of reclaimed mining land, which offers lots of ridge-top views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Riders of all skill levels will find something to love here.

Mountain View : You’ll find more than 100 miles of tree-lined trails here, including 10 miles of singletrack for dirt bikes. While you’ll find a mix of trails for every level, the biggest number are rated as difficult, so you can put your vehicle (and driving) to the test here. The trailhead is in the ATV-friendly town of St. Paul, where you’re welcome to ride your vehicle around town as well as the trails.

__ Original Pocahontas__: Located near the historic town of Pocahontas, Virginia, in Tazewell County, this trail system is known for its “deep woods” experience along with impressive vistas. The OP, as locals call it, features 65 miles of twists and turns accessible from trailheads in Pocahontas (another ATV-friendly town) and Boissevain Park. If you want to explore more about the region’s mining history, the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine and Museum is an excellent way to see for yourself …read more

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10 Unique Treats for Chocolate Lovers

red truck bakery flourless chocolate cake

Most people appreciate a little bit of chocolate every now and then, but if you can’t get enough of the decadent dessert, we have a few more options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Visit these ten chocolate-loving locations to try some unique takes on your traditional sugar fix.

Red Truck Bakery—Marshall & Warrenton Locations

Red Truck Bakery has earned quite a few accolades; it was named one of the 15 Best Small-Town Bakeries by Travel + Leisure magazine and Conde Nast’s Traveler named them one of America’s 13 Destination Bakeries. The bakery is also a favorite of both former President Obama and celebrity mega-maven Oprah Winfrey. When visiting, feed your chocolate craving with the Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake, a decadent (and gluten-free!) dessert made with Callebaut dark chocolate, eggs, butter, vanilla, espresso, and orange. For a tasty chocolate treat that incorporates a local Virginia product, order the Double-Chocolate Moonshine Cake, made with real corn whiskey hooch in the next county over. A rich chocolate cake topped with a smooth chocolate glaze, the dessert was named one of the most unique gifts of the year by Bon Appetit and NBC’s Today Show. Can’t make it to the bakery in person? The bakery ships nationwide on the same day as they are made, guaranteeing a fresh and flavorful delivery.

The Conche—Leesburg

The Conche embraces chocolate in everything they do, from the seasonal, creative cocktails to their coca-filled dessert menu. This restaurant provides an indulgent experience for even the biggest chocoholics. Start with the Crispy Calamari, made with a double chocolate stout beer batter. Next, try the Seared Scallops, crusted with cocoa nibs and served with a cocoa infused black bean puree or the Cocoa Rubbed NY Strip Steak with a chocolate burgundy reduction. When it comes to dessert, consider either a selection of their Boutique Bon Bons or, if you’re really looking to splurge, the ConcheEntremet. Served and flambéed tableside, this dessert consists of a dark chocolate sphere encompassing rich sour cream chocolate cake, Guanaja chocolate cremeux, and salted caramel ice cream, all topped with caramel and chocolate sauces.

Horton Vineyards & Winery—Gordonsville

Combining chocolate with one of Virginia’s favorite beverages, Horton Vineyards offers two dessert wines crafted with chocolate essence. If you lean towards white wines, try the Blanco Xoco, a sweet chocolate-infused white wine made with Rkatsiteli and Vidal Blanc grapes. Red wine drinkers will love the Rojo Xoco, a favorite in the Gordonsville-based tasting room. This red wine is made with Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Norton, and a dark chocolate essence, resulting in a wine that tastes like a raspberry Tootsie Roll pop.

Cock & Bowl—Occoquan

Visit Cock & Bowl in Occoquan to try a truly delicious chocolate treat: The Tortue (Turtle) Waffle. This exquisite dish starts with a freshly baked Belgian waffle, which is topped with a mix of Belgian chocolate and caramel, pecan brittle, and a liberal dollop of whipped …read more

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11 Newly Opened Hotels for Meetings

Looking for the perfect meeting or event location just got easier with 11 new options that opened or re-opened in 2017. Many offer water or mountain views but all offer flexible space and modern amenities to fit varying budgets and group sizes.

Norfolk

Opened April 2017, Hilton Norfolk The Main is downtown Norfolk’s newest world-class, $147 million, mixed-use entertainment, meeting, dining and hotel destination. It features a 300 room hotel, three world class dining venues and IACC Conference Center which includes 42,000 square feet of state-of-the-art classrooms, centers for leadership and tiered conference rooms. There are also two ballrooms in the Hilton, the largest accommodating groups of up to 1,500.

– Hilton Norfolk The Main –

Hyatt House Virginia Beach Oceanfront opened spring 2017 and includes well-equipped oceanfront guest rooms with some featuring full kitchens. Directly situated on the Atlantic Ocean and in close proximity to the Virginia Beach Convention Center, the hotel has over 1,900 square feet of flexible meeting space with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment.

Chincoteague

Marina Bay Hotel and Suites is located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in the heart of downtown Chincoteague Island. Combining the warmth and elegance of an exclusive property with all the facilities of a modern hotel, this is Chincoteague Island’s first boutique hotel. It offers 76 guest rooms and small indoor and outdoor event spaces.

Alexandria

Historic Old Town Alexandria welcomed its first waterfront hotel, a Hotel Indigo, in April 2017. The new property adds to the bustling development of Alexandria’s riverfront district, which includes a new Waterfront Market and a new water taxi service linking Alexandria to the monuments and museums of DC’s National Mall.

– Hotel Indigo Alexandria, ©2017 Eric Kieley Photography –

Roanoke

Home2 Suites by Hilton Roanoke opened in April 2017. The hotel is across the street from Valley View Mall and surrounded by several popular restaurants. With convenient access to the Roanoke- Blacksburg Regional Airport, I-581, and I-81, getting in, out and around the Roanoke area from the hotel is easy. With 121 suites, Home2 Suites- Roanoke is an extended-stay hotel for every type of traveler.

Richmond

The Commonwealth (formerly Commonwealth Park Suites) has undergone an 18-month, complete re-imagining and renovation of its 59 guest suites and 3,000 square feet of meeting space. Rueger’s, the hotel’s 42 seat restaurant and bar, pays homage to the saloon that opened on the site of the hotel in 1846. The renovation included restoration of the historic 1912 façade, new elevators, new entrance canopies and improved accessibility.

The Graduate Hotel opened in summer 2017 and offers a unique experience to visitors, paying tribute to the local college and its culture. The walnut paneled lobby, complete with a chandelier made of Arthur Ashe’s signature frames, is a one of the many nods to Richmond’s rich history. Grab a bite to eat in Brookfield, the lobby café and watering hole, or travel up to Byrd House, the rooftop pool and beer garden perched on the sixteenth floor.

Gainesville

Opened September 2017, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott – Gainesville has 110 comfortable suites featuring …read more

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6 Virginia Weddings We Love

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From a romantic rooftop wedding in downtown Roanoke to rustic-chic nuptials with a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop, these are a few of our favorite Virginia weddings that have pulled at our heart strings and left us misty-eyed.

Veritas Vineyards & Winery in Afton: Christopher & Michael

Surrounded by their family and friends, Christopher and Michael said “I do” at Veritas Vineyards & Winery in Virginia’s picturesque wine country. The couple brought their black-tie nuptials to life with a classic color scheme of whites and creams, glitzy gold decor, and an abundance of lush florals and greenery. Both looking dapper in modern black tuxedos, the two had a sentimental first look in Veritas’ beautiful tasting room before exchanging vows in an al fresco ceremony with the vineyard and misty Blue Ridge Mountains as their backdrop. The couple celebrated their newlywed status with dinner and dancing in Veritas’ grand ballroom, which was draped from floor to ceiling with white fabric and illuminated with romantic candlelight and twinkle lights.

Contact Photographer Tom Daly for additional info.

Center in the Square in Roanoke: Raquel & Daniel

Downtown Roanoke’s hip rooftop venue Center in the Square provided a romantic setting for Raquel and Daniel to exchange vows. They decked out their venue in a modern black and gold color scheme with pink blooms, lucite chairs and bistro lights. Wearing her mother’s wedding dress, Raquel made a grand entrance down the rooftop’s circular staircase before her parents escorted her down the aisle to Daniel. After exchanging vows, the newlyweds celebrated with dinner and an epic dance party as the sun set over downtown Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Raquel and Daniel added their own personal touches to the celebration by having a tasty candy and dessert bar and having friends and family write well wishes on a black and gold globe in lieu of a traditional guest book.

Contact Carrie Michelle Photography for more info.

Neon District in Norfolk: Joyce & John

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