Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. As we begin to travel again, planning an epic road trip is a safe way to explore Virginia’s endless beauty, from its pristine beaches to the scenic curves of its storied mountains.
To help you plan your next vacation out on the open road, we’ll be sharing a few of the most scenic and adventure-filled routes through the Commonwealth, including the best outdoor adventures, iconic sites, restaurants, and lodging options to add to your itinerary.
Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree, Jr.
The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail is a driving trail through Southwest Virginia that takes you through one of the most scenic and culturally unique regions of the United States. It also takes you through some of the most musically significant areas in the U.S. for Bluegrass and Traditional Mountain Music. The trail itself is more than 300 miles, including more than 60 cultural music venues across 19 counties, four independent cities, and more than 50 towns.
Many of the venues and institutions that make up the Crooked Road experience have been in existence for years; however, the Crooked Road initiative was launched in 2003 as an effort to link these opportunities together into a more coordinated tourism experience for the traveling public.
The Crooked Road helps a traveler recognize a variety of activities while visiting. From shopping to outdoor recreation, to cultural or historic attractions, the Crooked Road helps attract tourists, grow businesses, and improve Southwest Virginia’s quality of life for local residents.
Experience first-hand for yourself with the following suggestions when you visit.
Arrival into Bristol Tri-Cities Airport, head into Bristol
- Tour the Birthplace of Country Music Museum: An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, this state of the art museum celebrates the influence of the 1927 Bristol Sessions to today’s music and features exhibition space spread over two floors including traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian. Discover a performance auditorium, radio station and an interactive multimedia experience charged with making history come alive.
- Bristol Brewery– beer and assorted menu
- Lumac Rooftop Bar– Rooftop bar and restaurant at the Bristol Hotel
- Blackbird Bakery – pastries and sweets
- Burger Bar – Long-running spot for burgers, hot dogs, shakes, where singer Hank Williams was last seen alive.
Depart for Hiltons
photo credit: Cameron Davidson
- Performance at the Carter Family Fold: The Carter Fold is a rustic, 1,000 seat music shed offering traditional music every Saturday night. The Carter Family was discovered in 1927 by Victor Recording Studio in Bristol and recorded 300 songs between 1927 and 1942. Playing traditional Appalachian music, the family has often been credited as forerunners of modern-day country music. Today, A.P. Carter’s old general store acts as a museum. Recent additions include the newly moved and reconstructed original A.P. Carter Homeplace.
Return to hotel in Bristol
Depart for Abingdon
photo credit: Bill Crabtree, Jr.
- Tour the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace: Get a personal welcome to Southwest Virginia’s heritage, craft, music, outdoor recreation, scenic beauty at the gateway to Southwest Virginia craft, music, food and local culture. Shop crafts by local artisans, juried to be the best of the best, and the most complete collection of Crooked Road old time, bluegrass and gospel music. Meet artisans and musicians at live events and in interactive exhibits.
Free time in Abingdon
Martha Washington Inn & Spa, photo credit: Sam Dean IG: @sdeanphotos
- Wolf Hills Brewing – Craft brewery rich in tradition which will leave you howling for more
- Barter Theatre – check out the state theatre of Virginia! While the regular theatre shows have been cancelled due to COVID-19, the theatre is hosting live drive-in shows
- The Martha Washington Inn & Spa – Built in 1832 as a private residence for General Francis Preston
- The Tavern – a dining tradition in Abingdon since 1779!
- William King Museum of Art – in an historic 100 year old building, come visit!
Depart for downtown Marion
photo credit: Earl Neikirk IG account: @neikirkimage
- Wolfe’s BBQ – Virginia is for Lovers’ 2016 Culinary Challenge winner
- The Wooden Pickle – come dine where the locals do, sweet spot in Marion
- Moon Dog Brick Oven of Marion – Wood fired pizza restaurant
- Waterlily Restaurant– Casual farm-to-table restaurant in Marion
- Live music at the Lincoln Theatre: Home of the nationally-syndicated “Song of the Mountains” bluegrass television series and an Affiliate Venue of the famous “Crooked Road” Heritage Music Trail, the Lincoln Theatre is one of only three remaining Mayan Revival theatres in America. This Virginia Historic Landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its history harkens back to the romantic heyday of the grand movie palaces of the “Roarin’ Twenties.”
- Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts in Marion: The School is named for Wayne C. Henderson, a world renowned guitar instrumentalist and luthier from nearby Rugby, Virginia who has become an international ambassador for the music, heritage and culture of the Southern Appalachian region. Check out the “Henderson Happenings” for event listings.
- Overnight at General Francis Marion Hotel: Named National Geographic’s Top 150 Hotels in North America! The General Francis Marion Hotel, once said to be the most elegant lodging establishment in Southwestern Virginia, reopened in February 2006. After almost two years of renovation and restoration, the grand old hotel was reborn with the comfort, convenience and amenities of a modern hotel while retaining the ambiance of the 1920’s.
Photo Credit: Emily Miller
- Visit Blue Ridge Music Center : A state-of-the-art performing arts facility built to preserve and promote the historic music of Virginia and the Blue Ridge.
- Visit the Rex Theater: This historic theater hosts a live radio show every Friday evening featuring stage performers of bluegrass and old time bands.
Depart for Floyd
photo credit: Brian Camp, IG account: @brian_k_camp
- Live music at Floyd Country Store, an authentic country store with popular Friday Night Jamboree and Sunday gospel sessions. Catch weekly music performances on Facebook Live!
Looking for more WanderLove Road Trips to explore the Commonwealth? Follow these routes to plan your next road trip adventure!
Any chance of a map? j
A map sure would help us who are driving from different areas. I plan to go to Marion for my birthday!
It was fun to envision taking this trip; such great suggestions! A map on the page would be a plus!
When will this blog be updated? Mask mandates are done, everything is business as usual.
Hi Jama, I’ve updated with the businesses that have reopened. Unfortunately, several private businesses are still closed due to COVID-19 but hopefully they will reopen soon!
Patricia F Foraker
this is very interesting do they have a map of the crooked road and were it starts and the towns it goes thru and what is available to see. we have seen part of the ones you show but would like to see more.