Abingdon is a Virgina Treasure
On the front lawn of the Martha Washington Inn, newlyweds strike a pose for a photographer. Meanwhile, the friends and family of the couple come out onto the historic inn's expansive front porch. The Martha, as it's known around the world, has been a General's retirement home, a college for women, a makeshift hospital during the Civil Warand a place where actors and actresses called home while working across the street at at one time a college for women. Today, the 63-room hotel is known for its southern hospitality, its air of elegance and its fine dining. It's a great place for a wedding and is a true Virginia treasure, one of many you'll find in and around Abingdon.
Across the street, an equally famous landmark harkens back to a time when going to a play was a luxury even people without lots of money could afford. The Barter Theater got its start during the Great Depression. The founder created a venue where people could buy tickets with things like produce instead of cash. In fact, according to the Barter's website, things like "Ham for Hamlet" really caught on and the shows were packed. and the actors well fed.
Today, the theater boasts being the longest running professional theater in the country. Actors and actresses like Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Larry Linville (MASH), and Frances Fisher (Titanic) have all graced the stage of this small town theater. Every year, there is still at least one "barter" performance, but even if you can't make that, this theater won't burn a hole in your wallet. Many of the tickets for shows start at just $20 (less than many of the entrees at the Martha).
Strolling along Main Street brings you buy several quaint shops including an old fashioned candy store, an old hardware store that's now a BBQ joint and a wide array of historic homes. One that really stands out (at least in legend) is the Cave House. This large white frame home sits atop Wolf Cave, where legend has it, a pack of wolves attacked Daniel Boone when he was exploring the area. That story led to the town's original name, Wolf Hills, something immortalized in one of those "LOVE" signs found all across the state. While there isn't currently public access to the home itself, a trip behind it on the famous "Plum Alley" gives you a glimpse of the entrance of the cave.
Abingdon's sophisticated side is only part of the equation. Lying in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, the country roots here run deep. On the edge of town an old railroad bed has been converted into a popular trail. The Virginia Creeper trail got its name because the trains along the "line" would creep up the nearby mountains. An old steam engine sits at the trailhead just a few blocks away from Main Street. The first part of the trail takes you across a creek, past a tree that's more than 150 years old and past several lush meadows. It's a great place to ride bikes or just take a stroll. If you're up for something a bit more adventurous, then head to the section that starts in Damascus and runs through the Jefferson National Forest.
About 20-minutes south of town, you'll find South Holston Lake. This pristine waterway brushes up against the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. The earthen dam (located just a few miles into Tennessee) stands 285 feet high. Walking or driving along the top of the dam provides incredible views of not only the lake, but the South Fork of the Holston River as it flows through the valley. Adventure Mendota is another option for getting your feet (or your whole body wet.) The center located on the other side of Abingdon offers kayaking and tubing on a very remote section of the Holston River.
Whether you're looking for luxury or just down home hospitality, you'll find it in Abingdon. The town is filled with places to explore, both within the city limits and just a few miles beyond them. No matter what you decide to do, your visit is sure to be one you'll always treasure. For more information check out www.visitabingdonvirginia.com .