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COVID-19 has changed the world. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit areas of the global pandemic. Local restaurants, museums, state and national parks have all changed hours of operation, procedures, and some have gone out of business altogether.
Please verify current operations of any places you want to visit mentioned in these articles, and contact me if a business has permanently closed so I can update the article. Thank you and stay safe out there!
It’s the only Wytheville in the country so I know you won’t confuse this charming town with anywhere else. By the time you finish reading this I know you won’t forget the town, either. Here are five reasons why you need a weekend getaway to Wytheville, Virginia.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Wytheville Convention & Visitors Bureau during this three-day trip. However, all the text, photos, and opinions are very much my own and I would not recommend anything here I do not fully support myself.
1. Local Food in Wytheville
I’ve always thought you can learn a lot about a destination by the local food. In Wytheville I learned it was delicious in a comfortable atmosphere that I won’t soon, or ever, forget.
My first night in Wytheville I grabbed dinner at 7 Dogs Brewpub. From the same owner as Moon Dog Brick Oven, where you can get fantastic woodfired pizzas, 7 Dogs is one of the only craft breweries in town (Seven Sisters Brewery is coming soon). Their menu of appetizers, burgers, and tacos looked amazing and my burger was one of the few I’ve had lately that was cooked perfectly.
Skeeter’s Hot Dogs has been a staple of Main Street for a long time now. Located inside an old hardware store and recently under new ownership, the small eatery is known for their “Wold Famous Hotdogs” on steamed buns. Just in case that’s not exactly your thing you can also get some pretty fantastic BBQ, sandwiches, and they do a mean breakfast each morning.
Just down the street is another local icon, Wiffle Pops. I had breakfast here my last morning in Wytheville before heading out of town. If I had known the crepes were the size of plates I wouldn’t have ordered a buffalo chicken crepe and berry cheesecake crepe.
The Log House 1776 Restaurant was certainly the most interesting atmosphere for eating in Wytheville. What started out as a single lob cabin on Main Street has since grown with additions and dependencies spanning almost a block. I think my table was in the historic log cabin because I had a fireplace next to me and exposed log beams overhead. Architecture aside the baked chicken on pasta (Buttons n Bows) I ordered was simply amazing.
Graze on Main is located inside the Bolling Wilson Hotel and open to the public. The bar up front is stocked with lots of options for craft and commercial beer, wine, and liquor. A comfortable dining area in the back was the perfect place for me to enjoy a rather amazing burger with my first-over brown sugar glazed baked carrots.
2. Wytheville Lodging
It would be hard to spend a weekend in Wytheville without having a place to stay but I cannot stress enough that you need to ditch the commercial hotels by the interstate and get yourself an upgrade. That is exactly what the Johnsons did after visiting Wytheville for years and they have loved it ever since.
Did you know Kampgrounds of America has cabins at most of their properties? I discovered this during my night at the Wytheville KOA. The one-bedroom cabin was fully equipped with a full kitchen, couch and TV, dining room table, bathroom with shower, and a queen bed (but you have to bring your own linens). Along with about forty other campers that night, mostly in RVs, it was peaceful and quiet.
The Bolling Wilson Hotel, named after first lady Edith Bolling Wilson, is the crown jewel of hotel lodging in Wytheville. After enjoying dinner at Graze on Main I headed to the rooftop deck to enjoy the sunset view of the mountains surrounding the town. In my room the comfortable bed and ultra-quiet air conditioning led a great night’s sleep.
The most interesting lodging in Wytheville was my night at the Trinkle Mansion Bed & Breakfast. This historic home, built in 1912 by William Trinkle, was meticulously restored and renovated into a bed and breakfast in 2007. Owner Pattie Pizzinger warmly greeted me in the spacious foyer and gave me the grand tour of the home. My room, Rosspoint, had an enormous bed that was super comfortable and an incredible shower in the gleaming bathroom.
This is where I met the Johnsons. The older couple, who were returning from a vacation in Florida, had just finished dinner at the Log Cabin 1776 Restaurant. We sat in the Gentlemen’s Parlor beside the foyer for about half an hour exchanging travel tips and stories. That’s when they explained that fateful decision three years earlier when they decided to book a night at the B&B rather than the hotel by the interstate, and they’d been coming back every year since.
3. The Wytheville Museums
Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for something to do on a rainy day the museums in Wytheville are intriguing, educational, and just downright fun.
Start with the Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum. It’s located in an old 1930s-era gas station along what used to be US Route 21. Park at the Wytheville Visitor Center, let them know you want to visit the museum, and take a short five-minute walk along a path to the old gas station. The museum has a few artifacts on display and some interpretive panels to read.
The Thomas J. Boyd Museum, named after the “father of Wytheville”, is the go-to place for all kinds of local history. Learn about the only Civil War battle to happen in this town, see an old telephone operator’s station, or discover the gruesome history of the 1950s polio outbreak.
The Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum, locally just called the Rock House, is Wytheville’s only house museum. Built in 1823 by the town’s first physician it was home to two prominent families in Wytheville’s history. Today a 30-minute guided tour explains that history while pointing out the hundreds of original and period furnishings throughout the house.
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum is perhaps the most intriguing in Wytheville. The museum, located in two small buildings on Main Street, is the only museum in the country dedicated to the birthplace of a first lady. The museum has a lot of artifacts, books, and information about the early childhood of Edith Wilson, her marriage to Woodrow Wilson, and her years serving as first lady of the United States.
4. Outdoor Recreation
Don’t ever let anyone tell you there’s nothing to do in Southwest Virginia. I sat down with a map and drew a circle roughly marking a one-hour drive from Wytheville. Wanna know what I found? Hiking trails, horseback riding, kayaking and canoeing, spread out across almost half a dozen state parks and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Take I-81 North an hour and you could get as far as Christiansburg and Blacksburg (do I have any fellow Hokies out there?). But before you drive that far stop at Claytor Lake State Park. This small park built on the shore of a large lake is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic with the family and teach your children how to skip stones (this is where I learned!). Go for a swim at the small beach or rent a kayak, canoe, or pontoon boat from Claytor Lake Motor Sports.
About a half hour on I-81 South is my co-hometown of Marion, home to one of the original six state parks to open in Virginia. Hungry Mother State Park is built around a man-made lake and includes a rather nice restaurant. Go for a swim at the small beach, rent a kayak, or hop into a paddleboat with a friend for a nice tour of the lake. Go for an easy walk along the 5.7-mile Lake Trail or the more strenuous 1.9-mile Molly’s Knob Trail to an unforgettable overlook.
Galax is the southern end of New River Trail State Park and makes a good place to enjoy a day hike. The 57-mile long linear park mostly follows the course of the New River, ironically the oldest river in North America. The rail-to-trail park allows bicycling, hiking, and camping. There are also a few places along the way to rent kayaks and go tubing on the river.
Grayson Highlands State Park has been my favorite state park in the country pretty much since forever. Enjoy beautiful views from a couple of scenic overlooks or take a leisure walk through the Homestead Village near the picnic shelters. Go for a hike on the 1.8-mile Wilson Creek Trail to enjoy a series of cascading waterfalls and shallow pools perfect for a swim. Have you heard of the famous wild ponies of the Appalachian Trail? Go for a one-hour roundtrip hike on the Massie Gap Trail for a chance to see these beautiful animals. You never ride the wild ponies but if you enjoy horseback riding you can head out on the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is just a forty-minute drive from Wytheville to the entrance at Fancy Gap. Head north on the Parkway about an hour to the Rocky Knob Recreation Area. Hike the easy 1-mile Picnic Loop Trail or 3-mile Black Ridge Trail from the visitor center. Along the way is Mabry Mill, a great place for an easy hike around several historic buildings and the iconic mill beside a small pond.
Head south about half an hour on the Parkway to the Cumberland Knob Recreation Area. Hike the easy 0.7-mile Cumberland Knob Trail to find a trail shelter hidden in the woods or enjoy the 2-mile Gully Creek Trail to discover a small waterfall and cascades on a creek.
Stay local for the day and head out to the Crystal Springs Recreation Area, a new development just a few minutes down US Route 21 from Wytheville. The 1,800-acre property was once the town’s reservoir. Today the site offers plenty of hiking trails, backcountry camping, and an exciting new mountain biking course.
5. Relaxing Evenings
Why do so many people return home from vacation more exhausted than when they started? If you’re looking for a relaxing evening or two for a weekend getaway then Wytheville is the place to go.
Start in town with The Perch, a rooftop lounge at the Bolling Wilson Hotel. If the rooftop bar isn’t open just grab a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses from Graze on Main on the ground floor and take it up with you. Sit back in the comfortable couches surrounding fire pits and enjoy the view of sunset across the mountains.
If you enjoy great wine take a short drive out to West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery. The locally-owned vineyard has a fantastic tasting room with comfortable furniture to sit back and relax with a glass of your favorite wine.
Beagle Ridge Herb Farm is an interesting escape from the world located about twenty minutes from town. The 160-acre lavender farm includes a butterfly house, giftshop, and leisure hiking trails. Don’t feel like hiking? Let Lick Mountain Excursions take you to the top of the mountain ridge for beautiful views into the valley.
For a little more entertainment check out the latest performance at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre. Each performance includes a four-course meal in a spacious and comfortable dinner theater and after the show you can grab a drink at Matterhorn & Bier Garten.
Bonus: Big Walker Lookout
When in Wytheville, visit the Big Walker Lookout. This has been my own personal rule for years now since I first discovered this mountain top gem with a breathtaking view. Literally.
The drive along US Route 52 out of town takes about twenty minutes. It feels longer but I promise it’s actually a short drive. In a bend in the road along a ridge sits a 100′ tall fire tower that is now open to the public. You can climb it, if you dare, from some pretty amazing views from the wooden deck at the top.
If that’s maybe a little too much for you there is a rather nice view from the parking lot where you’ll find a couple of picnic tables beneath the shade of a shelter. Hop inside the gift shop to browse through touristy gifts and books and grab a scoop of ice cream.