Wytheville is one of those sleepy little hidden gems along the Interstate 81 corridor in Southwest Virginia you could almost miss. And if you missed it, you would really miss it. This town has several hidden features for shopping, eating, and entertaining that makes it unique among most towns in the region. It’s a fun place to visit for a few days, which is exactly why I built a trip around spending 36 hours in Wytheville, Virginia.
People don’t always have a week, or even a three day weekend, to getaway for some recreation and fun. That is what makes Wytheville such a great place for visit for 36 hours: it is centrally located in Southwest Virginia at the busy intersection of Interstates 81 & 77. It’s easy to get to this little town, but you may find it difficult to leave after spending a couple of nights here.
1. Dinner at 1776 Log House Restaurant | 7 p.m.
The restaurant has not been here since 1776, however the building it resides in has been. This is an old, rustic, beautiful place to enjoy a fantastic dinner. But don’t worry about the “old, rustic” part: the food is fresh, the utensils are modern, and there isn’t any actual rust anywhere. The restaurant features a good menu for a variety of foods, and they’re open until 10 p.m. on most nights so this is a great place to grab something to eat once you’ve arrived in town. It is also centrally located in town, so it’s sure to be close to where you stay.
520 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA | 276-228-4139 | www.facebook.com/pages/1776-Log-House/137476256271408
2. Wytheville Farmers’ Market | 9 a.m.
All southern towns have a farmers’ market, and Wytheville is no different. The weekly temporary market is open on Saturdays throughout the main growing season from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. This is a great place to grab some local produce, baked goods, and meet farmers from the region. It’s a small market, so visiting won’t take long but you might find something great.
355 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA
3. Visitor’s Center | 10 a.m.
I always recommend people head toward the visitors center, and Wytheville has a pretty good one. It’s located off the main streets in town, but still easy to access. It’s also located inside a relatively new building with a nice museum and loads of information about the town and region. The staff has always been friendly and knowledgeable, so even if you already have a trip planned (such as the plan you’re reading here) they may sway you to do something different.
975 Tazewell Street, Wytheville, VA | 276-223-3355 | www.visitwytheville.com/index.html
4. Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum | 10:30 a.m.
Since you’re already at the visitors center, this would be a great time to visit the nearby hole in a wall museum. The museum is operated by the staff of the visitors center and take groups of people down the long and winding path on a regular basis throughout the day. The museum is located inside a small former gas station on Tazewell Street, but I recommend parking at the visitors center since space is limited at the museum. The little museum is chocked full of historical artifacts and the staff will give visitors a pretty good idea of the importance Wytheville played in tourism along scenic Highway 52.
5. Main Street | 11:30 a.m.
There is a lot to see on Main Street in Wytheville, starting with their most famous icon: the giant pencil. This enormous faux pencil was a marketing stunt for the Wytheville Office Supply that did exactly what it was meant to do: draw them attention. Since that time it’s become an icon on Main Street for the entire town. The downtown area is only about four blocks long, so it doesn’t take too much time to walk end to end. Along the way you’ll pass places like Hannah’s Attic, The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum, and Skeeter’s.
6. Lunch at Skeeter’s | 1 p.m.
Skeeter’s has some of the most delicious hotdogs I have ever eaten. And I’m a huge fan of hotdogs, so that says a lot. This hole in the wall locally owned restaurant has been around in one form or another since 1940 when E.N. Umberger moved his grocery into this building. At first the business sold fresh cut meats, then began the tradition of making hotdogs, and finally ended up just a restaurant. They have a small menu of food for breakfast and lunch throughout the day, but just about anything here is great. You might just be lucky enough to stop by on a day one of the ladies deiced to make a homemade pie with fruit picked from their own front yard. Read: Great ‘Dogs at Skeeter’s on Main Street in Wytheville, VA
165 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA | 276-228-2611 | www.facebook.com/pages/Skeeters-World-Famous-Hotdogs/133203090213 | $5-10
7. The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum | 2 p.m.
Right next door to Skeeter’s is the only museum in the country dedicated to a First Lady of the United States. The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum is a little one-room museum with loads of artifacts used by Edith Bolling Wilson, including letters she wrote, a family photo album, and a stamp used to sign her name. This particular museum is even more unique in the fact that the former first lady was actually born in this very building. The friendly staff is always thrilled to have visitors and eager to regal them with stories about the lady, the town, and the history.
145 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA | 276-223-3484 | http://edithbollingwilson.org | Free Admission
8. Davis Valley Winery | 4 p.m.
The Davis Valley Winery is outside of town, about a 20 minute drive down Interstate 81 to Rural Retreat. It is a nice escape for a few hours, and the tasting room at the winery is gorgeous and comfortable to enjoy. They have a small selection of wines and began making whiskey and moonshine in early 2014. The winery is easy to access from Exit 54 and takes about 20 minutes to drive there.
1167 Davis Valley Road, Rural Retreat, VA | 276-686-8855 | www.davisvalleywinery.com
9. Dinner at Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre | 7 p.m.
The Wohlfhart Haus Dinner Theatre is a fantastic dinner theater experience unique in the region. They change the theatrical performances every few months so you can visit a few times a year for a new experience. The food is interesting in that it’s all German themed and styled: sandwiches such as German Beef Steak, Wiener Schnitzel and Wiener Braten, and imported German “biers”. If you’re not up for the dinner theatre performance, you can just visit the Matterhorn Restaurant Lounge & Bier Garten to enjoy a large menu with lots of options.
170 Malin Drive, Wytheville, VA | 276-223-0891 | www.wohlfahrthaus.com | $43 for adults, $41 for seniors, $30 for students, and $26 for children under 12
10. Big Walker Lookout | 1 p.m.
The Big Walker Lookout is my favorite outdoor place to visit in Wytheville, even though it is a bit off the beaten path. The locally owned attraction has been around since 1947 and features a 100′ tall lookout tower with the most stunning views of the mountains in the area. But there is more: you can visit the Big Walker Country Store where you’ll find lots of locally made arts and crafts, books, and baked goods, eat at the deli, grab some ice cream, or just sit at a picnic table and enjoy the view of the valleys and mountain ranges. The drive up to the lookout along Highway 52 is scenic almost year-round and a fun little excursion for a few hours. It only takes 20 minutes from downtown Wytheville to reach the lookout. Read: Off the Beaten Path: Big Walker Lookout in Wytheville, Virginia
8711 Stoney Fork Road, Wytheville, VA | 276-663-4016 | The lookout tower admission is $6 for adults, $4 children 3-12, and free for children under 3, the deli prices range about $5-10
Visitors will find plenty of standard hotels along Interstates 81 & 77 in town, but if you want a truly unique experience try the Bolling Wilson Hotel (170 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA | 276-223-2333 | www.bollingwilsonhotel.com | $130-200). It is located right on Main Street with on-site parking, Graze on Main restaurant on the first floor, beautifully decorated cozy rooms on every floor, and the Perch Rooftop Terrace bar currently under construction (plans to open in early 2015).
Driving – Driving to Wytheville is incredibly easy: the town is at the intersection of Interstates 81 & 77, making it simple to access from just about all points in the Southeastern United States. Wytheville is approximately 140 miles from Charlotte, NC; 160 miles from Asheville, NC; 185 miles from Knoxville, TN; 135 miles from Charleston, WV; and 250 miles from Richmond, VA;
Flying – The nearest airport large, commercially available airport is 75 miles away at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. The airport is served by Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways. The airport includes non-stop flights from New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, and St. Petersburg. Prices range from $250-$750 for one person, round trip, nonstop.
Train – Unfortunately, it is not possible to really get here by train unless you also rent a car at some point. Talks have been progressing through 2012-2014 to return passenger rail service to Roanoke, Virginia, just 75 miles away.