If you’re looking for a bucolic getaway, Virginia is full of satisfying small towns. One in particular — Wytheville, named for George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence — offers an unparalleled mix of nature and history, with hiking trails and kayaking as well as the home of a notable First Lady. Plan on visiting during annual events like Chautauqua, an arts and music festival held in mid-June, or the Wytheville Wine Festival, which brings together the best sips from around the state in mid-August.
What to Do in Wytheville
First, get outside: Take in the mountain views from the Big Walker Lookout, a 100-foot-high metal tower. Open for over 75 years, it’s a popular detour for road trippers who come to enjoy the ice cream sold inside the store and live music offered on weekends from May to October.
New River Trail State Park is named for the waterway that cuts through it — which is notable as one of two rivers in the world that flows south to north, after the Nile in Egypt. See the river for yourself by renting a kayak or tube from the park outfitters, or go fishing along its banks. A trail runs 57 miles along the river along a reclaimed railroad track. The historic shot tower nearby was built during the Civil War as a way to quickly create ammunition.
Like so many other parts of Virginia, Wytheville has ties to the American presidency. Edith Bolling Wilson grew up here before moving to Washington DC, becoming the second wife of Woodrow Wilson. Her home has been restored and is now a museum.
The Thomas J. Boyd Museum covers the region’s history from early settlement to the Civil War to the 1950 polio epidemic that devastated the community’s children. Items on display include an iron lung and a cabinet made by a famous local maker, plus a live bee habitat. The small but mighty Great Lakes to Florida Museum sits inside a former 1926 Texaco service station and covers the driving route that brought the original snowbirds from Ohio to Florida.
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Where to Eat and Drink in Wytheville
Despite Wytheville’s relatively small size, there’s a nice range of dining options. Start the day at The Grind, a downtown coffee shop where you can fuel up before a hike with caffeinated drinks and breakfast sandwiches.
Skeeter’s Hot Dogs has been a Wytheville staple since 1925. As the name implies, they’re known for their hot dogs, originally sold for a nickel and topped in chili, onions and mustard. Z’s Casita, meanwhile, has freshly pressed Cuban sandwiches and empanadas.
Starting as a tenant house in (you guessed it) 1776, the Log House 1776 Restaurant is made up of a series of interconnected buildings set around a garden inhabited by rabbits. The menu includes favorites like stuffed pork tenderloin and Virginia country ham; the lounge is also a local hangout.
Graze on Main Restaurant, set inside the Bolling Wilson Hotel, highlights classic Southern dishes like pimento cheese, shrimp and grits, and an extensive selection of bourbon. After dinner, grab a cocktail at Perch Rooftop Terrace, the bar overlooking Main Street. Continue in that spirit at two downtown craft breweries: Seven Sisters, a former auto shop named for the mountain range, and 7 Dogs, a brewpub that honors the owners’ adopted pets. Located 20 minutes away in Max Meadows, West Wind Farm Winery is a fourth-generation winery where you can enjoy award-winning wines and a picnic.
Where to Stay in Wytheville
Near the highway, you’ll find all manner of chain hotels, but if you want to be in the heart of town, the Bolling Wilson Hotel is a boutique hotel dating back to 1927, renamed in honor of the First Lady. If you don’t require a roof, the tent-only campsites at New River Trail State Park are unparalleled in terms of beauty, with views of Chestnut Creek. The Inn at Foster Falls is also inside the park, in an 1887 building with ten uniquely furnished rooms.
How to Get to Wytheville
From Washington DC, it’s a roughly 300-mile drive into the mountains — it’s a popular route for motorcyclists, who seek out the quiet, curving roads and scenic overlooks. Other options include airports in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia, each about two hours away, and the Amtrak station in Roanoke. The Virginia Breeze bus line’s Highlands Rhythms route can also get you here from DC.
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