01/16/2016 | Rosa Lee Jude Director, Wytheville Convention and Visitors Bureau
Motorcycles, Zebras and Wine
With four distinct seasons as the backdrop, scenic drives offer a great way to find a diversion from the hustle-bustle of interstate travel and experience the beautiful back roads of the area. While these drives are great in vehicles with four wheels, there is an alternative route for those who prefer to travel on two. In recent years, a special trail has been created with motorcycle riders in mind called the “Claw of the Dragon.” The trail features loops touted as “Rides on the Wild Side” ranging from 62 to 224 miles long. These roads weave in and out of neighboring counties, giving the riders an opportunity to experience the region while keeping Wytheville as their home base. Along the way, riders can stop at local attractions.
For almost a decade, the 45-acre Fort Chiswell Animal Park has been the most interactive zoo experience in Virginia. Not satisfied just to adopt dogs and cats, the owner’s keen interest in larger animals resulted in the creation of this unique business. With animals from six continents, zoo guests can get up close and personal via a safari bus experience with options to feed the animals. The zoo’s larger animals include camels, zebras, buffalo, antelope, and many others. It is an enjoyable activity for the entire family and a rare opportunity to interact with animals in their habitat.
Another authentic experience is a visit to one of the area’s many wineries. West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery is a fourth generation family homestead with panoramic views of the beautiful mountain ranges. Local music and foods complete the weekend experience at the farm with special events each Saturday.
With over 58,000 acres of public lands, Wythe County is a fabulous location to find a variety of year-round recreational opportunities. Hiking, biking, horseback riding and motorcycle biking are just a few of the ways that you can enjoy the over 240 miles of trails. Over 20 miles of river frontage on the New River as well as several lakes and streams offer trophy fishing opportunities. The many acres of forest are a hunter’s paradise.
A beautiful learning environment, Beagle Ridge Herb Farm is a 160-acre wooded retreat with over four miles of nature trails and numerous display gardens. The walk-through butterfly house, Flying Flowers, is home to 32 different butterfly varieties with native and non-native plants.
History Paralleling Our Nation
The history of the area patterns the history of the nation with many interesting events, legends, and characters along the way. Wytheville embraces its heritage with over five historical museums honoring medicine, the Civil War, and polio’s unique impact on the area. The Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum depicts the mid-20th century era with its unique look at transportation. A self-guided historic walking tour showcases local history from pre-Civil War times until today. The region’s only African American Heritage Museum has an emphasis on education through photographs and exhibits. Five locations on the Virginia Civil War Trails mark the route of Toland’s Raid in 1863 and offer a beautiful scenic drive between locations.
Few communities can tout being the birthplace of a First Lady. The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum tells the story of a Wytheville daughter who married the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. Her influential and controversial life is chronicled in artifacts from her childhood to her years in the nation’s capital.
Several mansions dating to the 1800s also offer a historical glimpse into some of the first families of the region and their parts in the growth of Southwest Virginia. The legend and lore surrounding these locations offer many interesting stories about the area’s first affluent citizens.
This is just a glimpse into why so many visitors have chosen Wytheville as a destination for a long weekend, vacation, or as a place to relocate. The relaxing variety and hospitable spirit makes everyone feel at home.