Abingdon, Va., Big Enough to Capture Your Interest, Small Enough to Feel You’re Getting Away

This quaint town has enough Christmas spirit for your family and more.
Abingdon, Va., Big Enough to Capture Your Interest, Small Enough to Feel You’re Getting Away
A mother and daughter prepare to roast marshmallows at a Christmas-themed farm event in Abingdon, Virginia. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)
Tribune News Service
12/3/2023
Updated:
12/3/2023
0:00
By Myscha Theriault From Tribune News Service

Nestled in rural southwestern Virginia, the town of Abingdon offers abundant travel value. Boasting a regional music heritage, a multi-use nature trail and a food and theater scene going back to the Great Depression, this tiny destination has quietly been punching above its tourism weight for years. It’s also home to several active history venues, adding an extra layer of Appalachian authenticity during the winter holidays.

Here’s how to make the most of your tourist time—and dollars—in one of the coolest country getaways Virginia has to offer.

Access

Easy amenity access adds value to any excursion, and Abingdon has it in spades. Not only are nearby attractions convenient to access by car, but affordable interest points in the historic district are just a few minutes apart on foot. Numerous indie accommodation options let visitors step straight out the door and into the atmosphere, keeping things bespoke and on budget. The one we enjoyed was called Sonder Stay, which came with easy parking in the back, tons of charm and a convenient location right on Main Street. Walking to live theater performances, dinner reservations and low-key coffee house hangouts was a breeze.

Interested in incorporating a bit of the outdoors into your food, theater and shopping itinerary? Consider bundling a few nearby excursions for a full day of fun with Mother Nature. For my money, a great plan for enjoying the outside would start with some time on the Virginia Creeper Trail. More than 30 miles long with walkable access from downtown, it offers scenic hiking options along a former rail line. From there, a great driveable add-on is just a short car ride away. Abingdon Vineyards offers a variety of selections in a woodsy, forest setting with riverside boat access. It’s also dog friendly, with weekend food truck wine pairings and local music.

In Abingdon, Virginia, a winery offers casual riverside snacks to go with your chosen pour. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)
In Abingdon, Virginia, a winery offers casual riverside snacks to go with your chosen pour. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)

Round out the excursion bundle by swinging by Full Bloom Farm House on the way home. This bucolic local event venue celebrates the destination’s agricultural roots, boasting an array of homespun activity workshops and holiday photo shoot opportunities. If creating your own cider mixes and winter wreaths along with posing for farm-themed Christmas photos sounds like a great way to infuse your getaway with winter holiday spirit, then Full Bloom is a stop well worth your tourist time.

A farm tractor in Abingdon, Virginia, stands ready for family holiday photos. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)
A farm tractor in Abingdon, Virginia, stands ready for family holiday photos. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)

Arts

Creativity is a huge part of the town’s cultural heritage and adds exponentially to the value of an Abingdon getaway. Barter Theater is by far the star jewel in the town’s art crown with its period architecture and live shows steeped in the history of the town’s theater tradition. Plays vary throughout the year, but those aiming to maximize the spirit of this particular season will especially enjoy the productions starting later in November, including “Miracle on 34th Street” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” With ticket prices starting at 20 bucks and maxing out at less than $60, this is one of the best regional values available.
The William King Museum of art is also worth a visit. Both parking and exhibit entrance are free, with art lab experiences available for separate bookings. Photography, fashion, printmaking and more can be explored here, making an art getaway to the town a bit more in depth than many destinations are able to achieve. The Arts Depot celebrates the town’s creativity as well. Housed in a refurbished antique railroad station, it houses multiple galleries and working artist studios along with classroom and event space.

Appetites

Abingdon has a surprisingly sexy food scene for a town its size. A fun spot to start the day is at The Girl and Raven Cafe. This phenomenally fun coffee and food venue is housed in a renovated old house with a fire pit area, indoor and outdoor seating, and even a bar. With coffee roasted on site, a cabinet full of baked goods to supplement the menu, and the ability to order a bloody Mary with your breakfast biscuit, there’s lots to love. An extra nifty Christmas option I enjoyed was their Rudolf’s secret brew coffee, which came in a beer glass looking like the coffee version of a frothy beer. Fun stuff.
A line of holiday-flavored lattes in Abingdon, Virginia, offers a fresh take on the flight experience for Christmas. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)
A line of holiday-flavored lattes in Abingdon, Virginia, offers a fresh take on the flight experience for Christmas. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)

Mamma Mia is walking distance from the Arts Depot, where there are picnic tables outside if you’d prefer dining outside. Known for their homemade pizza crust, they also offer hot subs, calzones and selection of traditional pasta dishes. Word to the wise, it’s a popular spot and fills up quickly.

Searching for a spectacular dinner splurge steeped in the tradition of the town? Make time for dinner at The Tavern. Founded in 1779, it’s the oldest bar in Virginia and offers ambiance in abundance. Intimate without feeling stuffy, it boasts extra touches such as rotating flavors of compound butter served with warm bread and the ability to enjoy a fireside dinner while imagining holiday seasons gone by. The food is elevated rustic and sized to satisfy. Recommendations include their stuffed steak, homemade garlic Parmesan salad dressing and the chocolate peanut butter pie.

There are a variety of other spots for a quicker meal break on days when your activity schedule is tighter. Jack’s at 128 Pecan Street is a casual, quirky hangout where you can grab a fish sandwich with the locals and be off the main drag a bit. I enjoyed their brown butter cake with butter pecan ice cream and caramel sauce. Another area favorite with a funky vibe is Luke’s. Locals love the shrimp tacos, and the art certainly adds to the atmosphere. Looking for something lighter? White Birch offers fab fresh-pressed juices and light cafe fare in a location perfect for taking a break from souvenir shopping.

And then of course, there’s the town farmers market. In addition to the expected items, you’ll find locally produced gems like authentic kimchi, traditional European sweets from a Balkan bakery, artisanal breads and more. For my money, the market makes for the best source of souvenirs. Miscellaneous trinkets don’t exactly fit my lifestyle, but making a nice meal when I get home using items purchased on location? Priceless. You can even pick up a couple of steaks at Snow’s before you head out of town. A fine meat and deli purveyor on Main Street, they offer a variety of options like sausages, chops and more with staff available for preparation and pairing ideas to make the most of your market goodies.

When all is said and done, Abingdon adds up to a pretty spectacular travel value. Outdoor activity access, serious food and beverage options, and a solid art and theater scene make for a winning combination. Factor in a deep sense of history to go along with its holiday atmosphere, and a winter getaway to this tiny town is tough to beat.

A stone church is decked out for the holidays in Abingdon, Virginia. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)
A stone church is decked out for the holidays in Abingdon, Virginia. (Myscha Theriault/TNS)
Lifestyle and travel expert @MyschaTheriault blends thrift and luxury to live well for less around the world. Copyright 2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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