22 Virginia Small Towns You’re Going to LOVE

by Casey Higgins | Posted on February 27th, 2014

Virginia’s small towns are treasure troves of great food, warm hospitality, immense history, and Southern charm. Antiquers and outdoor enthusiasts equally will be at home in these 22 destinations promising all of the above and more. Map out a weekend and see what you’re missing.

The Martha Hotel & Spa, Abingdon, Virginia

The Martha Hotel & Spa, Abingdon, Virginia

Abingdon is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, making it the perfect destination for outdoor activities. The Virginia Creeper Trail begins in downtown Abingdon and is great for biking, walking, jogging or horseback riding. The historic downtown district begs for a walk along the cobblestone sidewalks, and delicious finds aren’t far away. Get pampered with a spa treatment at The Martha Hotel & Spa, dine at a tasty restaurant serving locally-grown menu items, catch a play at the famous Barter Theatre, or grab a craft brew and listen to live music at Wolf Hills Brewing Co.

Bristol, Virginia. Image by Malcolm Wilson.

Bristol, Virginia. Image by Malcolm Wilson.

With its wonderful music heritage — as the site of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, recognized as the “Big Bang of country music” — and its historic charm, Bristol is the perfect destination for music lovers and history buffs. And it will only get better with the opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in August 2014. Bristol’s downtown offers live music every night in a variety of venues, along with many music events throughout the year. As a designated Arts & Entertainment District, Bristol is home to art galleries featuring local artists, live dance and theatrical performances, and numerous arts events. You can also find wonderful local dining spots that you won’t find anywhere else. From the Burger Bar, Brooklyn Grill and Eatz to Alfredo’s and Shang Hai, there’s something for every taste.

Downtown Culpeper, Virginia at Dusk

Downtown Culpeper, Virginia at Dusk

Culpeper, a National Trust 2012 Great American Main Street, is home to some great wineries and Virginia’s only legal moonshine distillery, Belmont Farm Distillery. Along with great dining options (It’s About Thyme Markets’ brick oven pizza or Foti’s uniquely inspired farm to fork creations),  shop for one-of-a-kind items (global treasures, earth friendly gifts, antiques, original art, and handcrafted-in-the-USA items). Just a short drive out of town, find Culpeper’s well-preserved Civil War battlefields at Cedar Mountain, Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station for a self-guided or guided tour.

Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia

Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia

Damascus is known as Trail Town USA thanks to the seven trails that intersect there, namely the Appalachian Trail and  the Virginia Creeper Trail, which connects to Abingdon. Damascus is a gateway to the 191,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Virginia’s highest peak. The Damascus Old Mill is a historic staple in the center of town. Located on the banks of Laurel Creek, the mill overlooks the grist mill waterfall, while ducks and geese float peacefully on the mill pond. It serves as an inn, restaurant and local watering hole. Damascus is for vacationers who are tired of sitting in traffic, waiting in long lines, and spending lots of money in crowded, hectic conditions.

Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat in Farmville, Virginia

Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat in Farmville, Virginia

In Farmville there are  plenty of family fun activities. High Bridge Trail State Park offers hiking and biking while the Appomattox River offers a historical story and a relaxing float. There are outfitters to assist with your recreational needs. Just a few minutes outside of town is the Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat, a high ropes course with zip lines, perfect for adventure seekers looking for a challenge. Main Street offers antiques, accessories and furniture shopping at the renowned Green Front Furniture, as well as a Belgium bakery, sweet shop, fabrics, bridal stores and more. When it’s time to eat, head to Charlie’s Waterfont Cafe on the river.

Historic Fincastle boasts southern charm and is deeply rooted in historical significance. Fincastle is a designated Lewis and Clark community, having ties to both Andrew Lewis and William Clark prior to and after their western expedition. There is a self-guided walking tour that leads visitors to many of the town homes and buildings, some dating back to the late 1700s and early to mid 1800s. Stay in one of the two bed and breakfast’s in the historic district, perfect places to sit back, relax and enjoy the simple comforts of home and southern conversation. Stop in to the Heritage Family Market for fresh deli meats and cheeses, the perfect take-home taste of Fincastle.

The Exchange Hotel, Gordonsville, Virginia

Civil War Museum at The Exchange Hotel, Gordonsville, Virginia

When in Gordonsville, spend time walking in the steps of extraordinary history, and then take a stroll down Main Street to enjoy timeless charm and great food traditions. During the Civil War the elegant Exchange Hotel became a receiving hospital for more than 70,000 troops. Today it has been restored to its grandeur. Downtown, find quaint shops and galleries that combine modern styles with antiques and country sensibilities. Don’t miss contemporary gems like Pomme, where acclaimed French Chef Gerard Gasparini has brought a taste of Paris to the heart of Virginia. Looking for a taste of traditional country cooking? Don’t miss the annual Gordonsville Famous Fried Chicken Festival! Gordonsville is recognized as “the chicken-leg center of the universe” because of how the history of the southern staple traces its roots to women serving the treat to 19th century train passengers.

Kilmarnock is a quaint, pedestrian friendly, small town close to the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Boutique shopping, a variety of restaurants and signature events make it a relaxing, weekend destination and a great jumping off point for enjoying the history of the area, like the Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library, the Steamboat Era Museum or the Kilmarnock Museum. After a day of relaxing or touring, grab an ice cream at Stevie’s – a tiny location but with a large variety of offerings.

Downtown Lexington, Virginia

Downtown Lexington, Virginia

Lexington has an exceptional concentration of museums, historic sites, art galleries, music, theaters, and other cultural and outdoor offerings. With strong connections to Civil War and military history, visitors often enjoy carriage rides through historic downtown. Don’t miss a stop at Lee Chapel where General Robert E. Lee is buried. Steps away, museums and historical sites such as Virginia Military Institute, George C. Marshall Museum, Stonewall Jackson House and Memorial Cemetery—where General “Stonewall” Jackson is buried—chronicle stories of the U.S. military. Lexington also features attractive shops, hotels, businesses and top-rated restaurants.

Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia

Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia

Luray, is a charming small town with BIG prospects for all varieties of travelers. “Choose your Level” is the mantra, referring to the mountains, river valley and underground topography. Home to Luray Caverns, Shenandoah National Park and the Shenandoah River, the area has become a hub of outdoor recreation. Lodging options include a restored Jazz Age-era hotel, a number of B&Bs and hundreds of vacation cabins and country homes, making it the “Cabin Capital” of Virginia. Many dining choices ensure every palate finds its complement. Visitors may relax at the local winery, enjoy live music or theater, or browse Main Street, where shop owners offer locally-made artisan goods, outdoor equipment or bargain-priced estate sale finds.

Dining in Old Town Manassas, Virginia

Dining in Old Town Manassas, Virginia

Known for Civil War history, Manassas originated in 1852 at the junction of two railroads which linked Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. with the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond. It features a wonderful museum system and charming Old Town historic district, perfect for a day trip. Explore Old Town Manassas where family owned shops and restaurants line picturesque streets. Have lunch at Okra’s Louisiana Bistro for Creole and Cajun with a patio setting. Open year round, the farmers’ market sells seasonal produce, breads and more. Stroll down to Opera House Gourmet and pick up a bottle of wine or visit Creative Brush Studio where you can buy a painting right from the artist.

View of the Occoquan River in Occoquan, Virginia

View of the Occoquan River in Occoquan, Virginia

Home to America’s first automated grist mill, the quaint town of Occoquan is situated on the banks of the Occoquan River. Rich in history, it is just 11 miles from our nation’s capitol and is home to more than 60 boutiques and restaurants. The streets are filled with unique shops from jewelry, art, a Scandinavian spa, to gourmet treats, it offers something for every visitor. Have a Virginia wine tasting at the Olde Dominion Wine Shoppe, then enjoy lunch on the water at Madigan’s. Take the kids to the Pink Bicycle Tea Room to enjoy an afternoon tea-tasting. For Dinner, sip on Belgium brews at Cock & Bowl and hear live music while dining on European fare.

Kayaking from Onancock, Virginia

Kayaking from Onancock, Virginia

Captain John Smith called the area of Onancock “the Gem of the Eastern Shore” in the 1600s. Budget Travel called it “The Coolest Town in the South.” Others have said its “a town with heart.” Who can disagree? Onancock has a live theater, world class award-winning restaurants, and an old time movie theater that hosts an International Movie Festival. The art scene is unparalleled with renowned artists, craftsmen, sculptors, actors, dancers, musicians, glass blowers … you name it. The natural beauty and wildlife is astounding. Take a kayak trip to a local winery or to the site of an old Indian village to experience the serenity of the shore. Even in a state as rich in history as Virginia, Onancock stands out.

Historic Orange Train Station in Orange, Virginia

Historic Orange Train Station in Orange, Virginia

The Town of Orange is a true old-fashioned small town experience, with a few special twists. The Historic Orange Train Station on Main Street is surrounded by an eclectic and historic downtown commercial district with local shops, homes, the 19th century County Courthouse, historic churches and sites, and local restaurants with affordable to fine dining options. Don’t miss the James Madison Museum, the first to commemorate our fourth president, called the Father of the Constitution. Modern amenities mix with home-spun style at places like the stately federal-style Holladay House. Year-round you will find unique experiences in Orange, but whenever you visit, you are sure to be welcomed like a local, fed like a farmer, and sleep like baby in comfort and style.

Scottsville is situated on America’s founding River – the James – and is a town with deep historical roots and an ever encompassing vision for the future. In a return to its agricultural roots, Scottsville offers Thistle Gate Vineyard and James River Brewing, which is located in the downtown district.

Smithfield Station Waterfront Inn Restaurant in Smithfield, Virginia

Smithfield Station Waterfront Inn Restaurant in Smithfield, Virginia

Smithfield is perpetually stuck in the weekend. It has a slower pace, there is always something going on, and it constantly smells of bacon. There are plenty of towns that have historic buildings, kooky museums, and unique eateries, but, when it comes to the best of all of them, one needs to look no further. Waterfront dining complete with sunset? Smithfield Station. Regional, national, and international musical acts and performances? Smithfield Little Theatre. Locally grown fresh produce? The farmers’ market on Saturday. Unwind and have a few ham biscuits at the Smithfield Inn, there’s no rush.

Staunton Trolley in Staunton, Virginia

Staunton Trolley in Staunton, Virginia

Staunton boasts arts, history and fantastic dining.  The American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse offers four of five shows each week and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum includes Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow limousine. If you love Victorian homes, there are quite a few to admire up and down the streets of Staunton. Many restaurants and coffee shops give you plenty of dining options while a bakery and chocolate shop satisfy your sweet tooth.

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Troutville is the only designated Appalachian Trail Community in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Troutville’s location along Route 11 makes it an ideal choice for thru-hikers on the trail, as well as day hikers. With access to a town park that includes restrooms and shelters, hikers are able to camp within the park grounds. If camping is not a preferred choice, there are more than five hotel properties within a short walk. The Town of Troutville is also home to Botetourt County’s fine dining restaurant, Pomegranate Restaurant and Gathering Place. Offering a wide variety of menu items, from steaks and seafood, to wine, beer and spirits, Pomegranate hosts bands on the weekend to provide entertainment to the entire area.

Warrenton is in the middle of everything you could possibly want. Old Town Warrenton is filled to the brim with local artisans, shopping and restaurants. Not far from town are mountains to hike, caves to explore, Civil War battlefields, wineries, and polo matches. Truly, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re 100 or 10, you’ll feel at home.

The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia. Image by Cameron Davidson.

The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia. Image by Cameron Davidson.

The very first Washington is a sweet place indeed, and you may have heard it called Little Washington. There’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with the world-renowned restaurant, superb bed and breakfasts, and a wealth of artisans to delight your eyes and ears. Take in a show at The Theatre at Washington, Virginia or sip fine wines at Gadino Cellars or Little Washington Winery and Vineyards; the countryside and all its awaiting treasures are yours.

Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Woodstock has a charming downtown with interesting shops and good restaurants, and a brewery on the way. Woodstock is the fourth oldest town in Virginia, home to Revolutionary Peter Muehlenberg, and boasts many historic homes and churches, not to mention the County courthouse designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Located at the intersection of  Interstates 77 and 81, Wytheville provides the best in small town living and natural beauty. Known as the crossroads of Virginia, Wytheville is home to a regionally known dinner theatre, wineries, scenic drives, a butterfly house, historic B&Bs, museums, and First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson. The New River and the Big Survey provide countless outdoor opportunities for nature enthusiasts.

Which Virginia small town is your favorite? We asked that question of our “locals,” who contributed content to compile this list. Feel free to comment with your pick below!

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Douglas says:

Great guide to many of the small towns that make Virginia such a special place. If you are looking for a great place to stay when visiting Culpeper, Warrenton, Washington, Orange, Luray or Gordonsville look no further than The cabins at Rose River Farm. Check us out at http://www.roseriverfarm.com/accommodations.html

Earl Cherry Jr says:

In the paragraph about Fincastle being a “Lewis and Clark” community, the Lewis you named is not the one that went on the “western expedition.” Captain Andrew Lewis was a militia commander on the Virginia frontier of the French and Indian War period, who explored no further than Ohio. He died well before Meriwether Lewis accompanied William Clark and the Corps of Discovery through the Louisiana Purchase. Andrew Lewis did have ties to the Fincastle area, but I don’t know of any tie that Meriwether Lewis had. William Clark may have once lived in Fincastle County, but that once covered the area roughly bounded by the New/Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers, and the 36 30′ N parallel ( the extension of Virginia’s southern border).

Sdb71 says:


Katrina says:

Pay a visit to Virginia’s Potomac River Playground – Colonial Beach, VA! Birthplace of two Presidents (George Washington and James Monroe), home to famous former residents (like telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and author Sloan Wilson), and containing the second-longest public beach in the Commonwealth, Colonial Beach is a must-see.

Food fanatics will enjoy fine selections from over 25 different eateries. Everything from seafood to steak to ice cream to Thai and French cuisine can be found here. Lots of good old-fashioned comfort foods, too. Fine wines can be found at the nearby Ingleside Vineyards.

Nature lovers will enjoy the RiverWalk path at the end of the Boardwalk. Great hiking and birding opportunities are available at the nearby Voorhees Nature Preserve, Stratford Hall and the Westmoreland State Park.

Sports enthusiasts can catch a game by Colonial Beach-based Northern Neck Rivermen, a champion semi-pro football team. There’s also auto racing at Colonial Beach Dragway and bows and arrows at Rock Springs Archery. Charter fishing is available on the Big Dipper with Potomac River Charters or with Reel ‘Em In.

Shopaholics have plenty of stores to choose from. Everything from clothing and antiques to jewelry and home decor can be found here.

Bring the kids! This is a very family-friendly destination. Rent some kayaks and paddle around on beautiful Monroe Bay, play at one of the many parks, grab an ice cream cone at Nancy’s, fish from the town pier or build a sand castle on the beach. A few miles outside the town limits, you can check out the goats on the goat walk at Westmoreland Berry Farm.

Nightlife abounds with live music at the beachfront tiki bars. The special events calendar is jam-packed with fun things to do all the year through. There are 2nd Friday ArtWalks, a Blues Festival, Jetski Races, Croquet Tournament, the huge Potomac River Festival and new for 2014 is the First Annual Colonial Beach Bikefest!

kim ellington says:

sorry…..Colonial Beach is NASTY, trashy and downright dull. It amazes me why they have always failed to clean that place up given the historic and the close driving distance from rich nova. Shame on those whom have let it go to ruin.

Jane says:

Sooooo much to.do…….so little time…….
Definitely a fun place to be anytime of the day/night

Binh says:

What about Middleburg?

Eboni says:

Farmville is my favorite! However, I am now intrigued by Occoquan.

amia says:

This is my favorite place to go! I’m only 15 minutes away and try to go at least once a week. It’s like home away from home.

amia says:

I am luckily smack dab in the middle of Occoquan and Manassas. I love Occoquan just a smige better but Manassas is a very close second. They are both full of such history and the shop owners are very gracious and kind. You can’t help but feel at home!

Linda says:

Go Farmville ! This is a great little town with lots to offer.

Leesburg Virginia is one of the most picturesque…..a must see! http://www.leesburgva.gov for some of the very best independent restaurants and opportunities to enjoy Loudoun wines. Keep eyes open for brews coming out of Leesburg as well!

Leesburg VA is a must see! http://www.leesburgva.gov for some of the finest independent restaurants and shops. A great opportunity to experience Loudoun wines and beers!

l5217 says:

Clifton is pretty cool. And I completely agree with another post on Middleburg.

Betty McClure says:

Lexington, Virginia, is my favorite. I lived there for several years. I love the beautiful mountains, small town feel, atmosphere of culture and history and so many other things about it!

Cathy says:

Disagree with Manassas. Once you go to Manassas you’ll want to leave the state. It is filthy and crime filled.

Stephanie says:

That’s why it said “Old Town Manassas” The little 5 block strip down Centerville Rd is pretty.

Jill says:

Wow! thanks very much. I beg to differ so everyone else come and visit to find out yourself!!! Check out Manassas City website and do your visit during the city’s many yearly activities!! We have a skating rink during the winter under our pavilion and lunch time picnics in the summer……..just like Reston Town Center but with much more character!!!

Glenn says:

While Manassas isn’t Fairfax, and has a much higher hispanic and AA population. The crime is not that much. While a few neighborhoods are on the bad list, most of Manassas is okay to great. Downtown Manassas is a family friendly to a couples date night location. Used to go there often when I lived in Manassas for a year. I never had any problems walking around downtown with my wife and/or kids.

Rhonda says:

I am so lucky to live in Abingdon, VA. I love it here and we are close to Bristol and Damascus. It’s not just the town but the people who live here. They are always ready with a hello and a handshake. It’s so nice to live in a place where it’s still customary to hold the door for folks and say thank you.

Steve says:

Manassass is a good place to go if you want to see what happens to a small town when it gets big without the attention devoted to maintaining a civilized and habitable city. Once you’re outside of downtown, assuming you make it there without being carjacked in the first place, you will find garbage lining the streets and low income, poorly maintained housing everywhere. As is often the case when too much of that is built too close together without the authorities necessary to support and police it or the community outreach programs to keep kids involved and off the streets, crime is rampant and unchecked. Manassass is precisely the example of what NOT to do for many of the other towns on this list. Manassass should be listed as a place to avoid and a place Virginians should be ashamed of, certainly not as a tourist attraction. Its very inclusion on this list makes the entire article suspect even if all of the other destinations are exactly as described.

Tina Fox says:

You are absolutely correct. Manassas has become a horrible place to live. Crime, trash and drugs. Prince William supervisors did what most do, became greedy and wanted to line their pockets by selling out to developers. I avoid having to drive there at all. They even started selling off battlefield sites. For those of you new to the area, the site where the movie theater is, and all the stores there also was part of Manassas battlefield. I hiked those trails many times with my husband, and was dismayed to say the least when they sold it off. There were very obvious signs of the past in the woods that stood here. Old stone fences with fox holes dug in behind them, stone fences that obviously lined a road or path. Soon, the whole area will be gone forever. All because the Manassas government seems to think we need more shopping centers or industrial areas.

Jason says:

I assume that you’re both actually referring to the area of Prince William County with a Manassas address, just outside city limits. The independent City of Manassas is pretty much as described in the article: a gem of Northern Virginia. Even still, claims of rampant crime and drugs have far more to so with longstanding stereotypes than reality.

Jason says:

I assume that you’re both actually referring to the area of Prince William County with a Manassas address. The independent City of Manassas is basically as the article described: a gem of Virginia. Even still, latent perceptions of Manassas as a hub of crime and drugs are based more on lingering stereotypes and prejudice than on reality.

Debbie says:

Steve, do you live in Manassas? I have lived here for the past 24 years and also work in the local school system. Yes, we have problems that most cities and towns have, but your view of Manassas is skewed. Greater Manassas is run by Prince William County, not Manassas City. We are a great small town. Please come visit, we would love to have you!

Tami says:

Really? No Winchester, VA on this list?

Lee C. Dieter says:

Woodstock is an ideal spot to retire, If you ever want to go back to Northern Virginia it is just a little over an hour down 66. Good food, starting with my friend Joe’s Stake House. An abundance of homes for retirement living, with fishing, hunting, golf and other sports, the Valley College baseball league (Woodstock River Bandits). Our Beautiful little Catholic Church Saint John Bosco and other Churches of all denominations are all well attended. There is indeed Peace in the Valley. The Mountains surround us and welcome everyone. The Shenandoah River, Skyline Drive, the many Caverns and Parks are here for all to enjoy. Come visit and enjoy our beautiful Valley of Virginia

Anji Johnston says:

Bedford is not on the list and it should be – one of the best small towns in Virginia. The Peaks of Otter take your breath away. Well worth a visit.

Joseph says:

Abingdon is the greatest! I have been to the majority of these towns, and the best of these, by far, is Abingdon. Another great small town you failed to mention is Marion, VS, between Wytheville, and Abingdon. It has some great old houses.

JBW says:

West Point, Va……best kept secret.

Olivia says:

Go to Marion, Virginia!

Cape Charles is located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and is an awesome place for families to visit and vacation. Beautiful beaches, quaint shops, horse back riding, restaurants and much much more! Check out http://WWW.capecharlesbythebay.com for more info!

John Walt says:

I am surprised that Fredericksburg was not included. With the history, the area, the shops in Old Town. I assume it is just as well, we can still remain out of sight and still enjoy all it has to offer without the crowds.

Manya says:

Culpeper is not even a small town its like an ant colony with people crawling all over each other to get from a to b and their up to what 8 houses stolen to build roads. Very poor choice

Gino says:

Reedville and Kilmarnock VA both nestled on the Northern Neck are really cool places to see !

Lynn Lowe says:

I can’t believe Blacksburg is not listed. It is a fantastic small town and the atmosphere is one that anyone would love to live in.

Amanda says:

I was born in Bristol and I’m not quite sure I’d call it a small town, especially with the likes of Abingdon or Damascus on the list. What about Gate City? It’s a lovely historic town. The Estillville B&B, the Carter Fold? Definitely more of a “small town” than Bristol.

Patty Wood says:

Hi Everyone, my husband and I are beginning a search for a change of residence from Texas to be closer to our daughter. I am enjoying the different views of the cities. Keep up the dialogue.

Maryann Larssen says:

Hi Patty – we’ve got a wonderful upgraded 1932 farmhouse + kennel bldg. for sale in Saluda. Your family will love this area in SE Virginia. Pls email me at whisperhillva@aol.com if interested. Good luck in your move.

Maryann Larssen says:

Did you forget about Urbana, Saluda & Deltaville in Middlesex County? Lots of great things to see & do. Plus our biggest asset — friendly folks.

Douglas says:

This is a fantastic guide to many of the small towns that make Virginia such a special place. If you are looking for a great place to stay when visiting Culpeper, Warrenton, Washington, Orange, Luray or Gordonsville look no further than The cabins at Rose River Farm. Check us out at http://www.roseriverfarm.com/accommodations.html

Ann says:

Mathews County has just placed 5th in the U.S.A. as the coolest small town in America..
The contest was sponsored by Budget Travel and the town had to have a population
of 8000 or fewer residents. As a certified Virginia tourism center we feel strongly
that you can’t find a cooler small town anywhere.

Helen says:

U vote for galax va fiddlers conv

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