It’s not a requirement that you buy dinner from the Heartwood restaurant, but Thursday night is BBQ night — it smells so good it’s hard to resist.
Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway is a regional welcome center of sorts, open every day except Christmas, where people come to eat lunch, sample Southwest Virginia music and wines, and shop for unique handcrafted items made by Southwest Virginia artisans.
A big, barn-inspired building visible from Interstate 81 at Exit 14 in Virginia, Heartwood is fairly hard to miss. It’s the center of Southwest Virginia’s creative culture initiatives — and also a part of the local Abingdon arts scene.
Among the other arts and craft venues in Abingdon are the Holston Mountain Artisans, whose shop also features juried craft; the Arts Depot, which contains working artist studios and galleries that are open to the public; and William King Museum, whose art exhibits vary widely and change regularly.
Downtown Abingdon also boasts several other unique destinations, including an olive oil shop that offers free tastings, an artisan dessert shop and a brewery — as well as antique shops and boutiques.
A major Main Street attraction is Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia, which attracts a crowd year-round for its high-quality shows, ranging from the hilarious to the dramatic. As the legendary tale goes, the theatre got its name from the Depression-era practice of letting patrons barter for admission with farm produce — a proud tradition, though unfortunately no longer allowed.
Abingdon has been known as a creative place since its frontier days, when it was located on a key route of westward migration — a heritage that’s still documented in historic sites around town. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture of Southwest Virginia, Heartwood — and Abingdon — is a good place to start.
Virginia Creeper Trail
Yes, your toddler and your mom can join you on a 17 mile bike ride. But it may only be possible on the Virginia Creeper Trail.
What makes this trail different from any other? For just a few dollars, visitors can rent bicycles and ride a shuttle van to the top of the mountain for a long, enjoyable downhill ride that’s especially popular among families.
The 17-mile ride from Whitetop to Damascus features stunning scenery and its dozens of century-old railroad trestles; at the halfway point, families stack up their bicycles, toddler-buggies and kid seats while they stop for lunch at a great local diner just off the trail.
The Virginia Creeper Trail and the other hiking and biking trails in the Abingdon, Va., area are another unique side of this friendly little town of 10,000, which has long been a destination for the arts and creative culture of Southwest Va.