With its vibrant tourism industry, Virginia boasts popular destinations such as Virginia Beach, Richmond, Norfolk, and Chesapeake. However, for those seeking an authentic experience reminiscent of the locals, delving into the best small towns to visit in Virginia is an absolute must. Uncover the hidden gems that lie beyond the well-trodden path and embrace the true essence of this captivating state. Virginia's small towns offer a unique perspective that will leave you captivated and yearning for more, from rich historical sites to exhilarating nature trails and the charm of coastal communities. Get ready to immerse yourself in the genuine beauty of Virginia and discover the state in a way that will truly resonate with your adventurous spirit.
Historic Old Town Warrenton is home to numerous buildings of interest, including the Old Jail Museum. The area is known for its prominence during the French and Indian War and Civil War. You can learn more about that history at the Fauquier Historical Society. While here, spend some time enjoying the over 70 wineries located within an hour of the city.
Often referred to as the "Gem of the Eastern Shore," Onancock has a beautiful downtown district peppered with artisan shops and galleries, including North Street Market, the Red Queen Gallery, and the Crockett Gallery. Onancock's historic high school is now a suite of artisan studios, many of which you can visit. After a day of enjoying the art here, paddle along Onancock Creek to take in the beautiful sunset.
Chincoteague Island offers a number of activities, including beautiful hiking and biking options throughout the community. If you want to get your hands dirty, consider going crabbing, a local pastime. You can get all of the supplies you need at a local hardware store or rent a charter service to show you how it's done. You can also visit the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge or Iron Pony Adventure Park for aerial obstacles and ropes activities to enjoy.
Hiking or biking from downtown Farmville through the High Bridge Trail State Park is about a 31-mile trip, but a beautiful one. The bridge was built in 1853 for the South Side Railroad, but today it's undergone a "rail to trail" conversion. While in the area, you can also kayak or canoe, ride a zip line, and play a round of golf to enjoy the area's best outdoor experiences.
Abingdon may be one of the best small towns to visit in Virginia for its outdoor amenities, but it's also an excellent choice for foodies. For some of the best choices, check out the Tavern, which sits in the oldest building in the city, built in 1779. The Rain Restaurant is an excellent choice for cocktails and salmon or steak. For a lighter lunch, make your way to Greekos Grill and Cafe. Don't overlook the craft beers at Wolf Hills Brewing Company.
Smithfield is the quintessential small town, and one of the best ways to learn about it is to take a guided tour. Several options exist through the Smithfield Tourism Bureau, including those of the Historic Church Street area and one of the Ivy Hill Cemetery. There's also the "Life of Ham" guided van tour of the city, which pays homage to the city's largest company, Smithfield.
Though sailing is another fun pastime here, Kilmarnock is also a fantastic location for paddleboarding. Do that along the many miles of shoreline in the city if you like. There are lots of other water activities here, including canoeing or fishing. You can also hike the Baylor Park Nature Trail, which is about half a mile long in a remote, quiet area. You can also have fun at the Kilmarnock Town Centre Park with summer concerts, a splash pad, and a dog park.
Noted for its many working farms, a trip to Purcellville is also a welcome experience for equestrians. A rural community with many stables and farms with horses, this is a location for horseback riding, watching a jumper show, or learning the equestrian arts. Also, consider one of the Purcellville summer camps for horseback riding lessons and adventures at many of the available farms.
Middleburg's history dates back to 1728 when George Washington's cousin founded it. The historic downtown area is a true treasure, as it's home to several chic boutiques and artisan shops. You can stop into the Salamander Resort and Spa for a day of massages and spa treatments and enjoy Southern cuisine at Red Fox Inn, which is the oldest running establishment in the community.
Though many come to Staunton for hiking, fishing, and canoeing, it's also a fantastic place to learn about the region's—and the country's—history. Visit the Staunton Visitor Center to learn about African-American heritage in the area. Make a trip to the Antique Fire Engine Museum and the Camera Heritage Museum as well. The Frontier Culture Museum is yet another option, this one offering costumed human actors portraying people from the 1800s you can interact with during your visit to learn more about what was happening at that time.
Wytheville has been home to the Wythe Raceway for over 50 years. It's a half-mile dirt racing track to visit to watch the races—or if you're feeling adventurous, you can take one of the courses to learn how to race yourself. While here, catch live music or karaoke and dinner at the 7 Dogs Brew Pub or one at Seven Sisters Brewery. Graze on Main also offers live music and an excellent wine selection.
Once called the "Prettiest Small Town in America," thanks to the beautiful historic buildings in the downtown area, Culpeper is also a fantastic location for antiquing. There are plenty of locations to visit, including the Amish Furniture Connections, the Arts and Cultural Center of Culpeper, Hardwood Artisans, and Ines. Tour the A.P. Hill Boyhood Home that dates to 1770 while there, or visit during the Cattle Drive at Andora Farm to learn more about the area's ranching.
Cape Charles is a charming town on a small peninsula, home to about 2,810 acres of land and only about 1,000 people. The 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel helps you to get to the area. Once there, hike through the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to over 752 acres of maritime forests and saltwater ponds.
The small town of Luray is also home to a set of deep caverns by the same name, and you can take a guided tour. You'll be surrounded by limestone walls, some of which reach ten stories high. Walk through the paths to Dream Lake, a serene underground lake, where you'll also find a stalactite pipe organ that creates incredible music deep underground.
A charming Victorian-era fishing village, Wachapreague is still one of the best places to enjoy onshore or offshore sport fishing. Many anglers book charter trips to get the best shot at the local white and blue marlin, yellowfin, and big-eye tuna. With under 250 residents, this is truly an unspoiled seaside town. You can also visit the Current Reflections Fine Art Gallery for a taste of local artisan art.