An Abingdon Christmas
An Abingdon Christmas
Christmas can be a truly magical time of year but that is especially true when you’re in Southwest Virginia. Snowflakes glitter as they fall atop our hills, festive music rings out along the Crooked Road, and our Main Streets come alive with unique Yuletide splendor the likes you won’t find anywhere else. All the communities throughout the region have their own unique Christmas traditions and activities but perhaps one of the most rustic and magical places to spend a day during the season is Historic Abingdon.
Historic Abingdon throughout the year is an absolute gem of the region. Within walking distance is a bountiful selection of activities and places to explore. The new and innovative stores found on either side of the street juxtapose the rich history found in every cobblestone of the sidewalk. Abingdon was originally named Wolf Hills by the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone after a pack of wolves attacked his hunting dogs as he was passing through the area. You can still see homage to that original name in way of the many wolf sculptures scattered throughout the town. Later the area was renamed Black’s Fort after a fort was built to protect the colonists in the region from attack. Several years later, it was renamed to Abingdon to pay tribute to Martha Washington’s ancestral home. As you might imagine, Abingdon has a rich and vibrant history that you can see illustrated by a simple stroll down its streets. The architecture alone is enough to transport you to more colonial times but if that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of markers along the way to illuminate the history that once occurred at the spot of your own feet.
I cannot recommend enough a trip to Abingdon regardless of the season but when wreaths are decorating the street lights and good tidings in the air, the town becomes alive with energy you’ll not find elsewhere. Although, with little time to spare in the holiday season, you’ll want to make the best of it. Thankfully, you’ll find your guide to a great December day spent in Abingdon Virginia.
Beginning with the source of the name of Abingdon itself, a perfect place to begin your journey is the historic hotel and spa named after Martha Washington. The Martha Washington Inn has seen many uses over the years. Built originally as a home for a hero of the War of 1812, General Francis Preston, it has since been through several stages to get to be the beautiful cornerstone of the region it is today. Within its halls it has seen Civil War soldiers be trained, many women pass through as it served as a center of education devoted to women; more recently it housed many visiting actors to The Barter, and no shortage of happy hotel guests. Even passing along the streets and outside its fences you can see gorgeous Christmas decorations glimmering through the windows and Christmas trees that shine like chandeliers. If your day spent in Abingdon is to include an overnight stay, you won’t find a more magical place to lay your head than the Martha Washington Inn.
As mentioned before, a simple stroll down the cobbled sidewalks of Abingdon is a true delight. A perfect start to any day would be enjoying the fresh air and beautiful sights that Abingdon has to offer. If you pay close attention during your stroll, there are plenty of historical markers with interesting stories to tell about the city or its many residents. On the side of some buildings are plaques detailing its particular significance or whom it used to house. Although the town is seeping in history, no reading is necessary to travel back in time for a brief moment. Many of the buildings themselves are elegant reminders of time past.
Also to enrich your walk are the many entertaining aspects of the downtown and historic district of Abingdon. There are a vibrant arts and crafts scene brewing in the town and plenty of unique stores and restaurants to compliment them. Tucked in every corner of the street is some cute little stop or dessert shop or something that you would have never expected but won’t forget.
With as many unique places to explore as Abingdon, the best way to do so is to set aside enough time to not leave any cobblestone unturned. However, here are some local favorites that are perfect to stop by in the morning or mid-afternoon to enrich your day
- Camella’s Remember When Tea – An authentic old fashioned tea room with a great selection of fine teas
- Blue Hills Market – A delightful natural food store
- Katbird’s Wine and Gourmet – Selling fine wine, delicious coffee, and a variety of other treats
- The Gallery @ Barr Photographics – A fine-art gallery
- Abingdon Olive Oil Company – A unique stop for olive oil and related products
- Forget Me Not – A fashionable boutique store
- Persnickety – A lovely clothing store
- Southern Gypsey – A must-see general store
- Necessities – A great stop for food and gifts
- Anthony’s Desserts – A great stop for delicious desserts
- 149 Sweets – Another great stop to satisfy your sweet tooth
- The Candy Shed and Gifts – Another sweet destination
- Wolf Hills Antiques LLC – A wonderful antique store
- Foxglove Antiques – Another lovely antique store
With so many options to choose from and many great ones to find that aren’t on that list, Abingdon is sure to promise a day full of adventuring. Although now that you’ve shopped your heart out and filled your stomach with tasty treats, what now you might ask? Lucky for you, the fun is only beginning. Perhaps the hallmark attraction of Abingdon, and the entirety of SWVA to some, is the Barter Theatre. The Barter Theatre has had a storied life with many legends and stars surroundings its name. Gregory Peck found the beginnings of his career at the Barter Theatre. When it first opened in 1933, it attracted locals in a peculiar way “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” Hence the namesake of the theatre. Farmers traded in produce for an evening at the playhouse and it has been a success ever since.
The Barter produces world-class performances year-round but the ones during the holiday season are especially magical. Whether it be a musical for the kids or a more mature take on the holidays for adults; the Barter will leave you with a Christmas experience that you will never forget. A memory you can cherish during each holiday season. One of the best stops for the entire family in the state of Virginia.
By this point in the day, it is easy to make a quick Google search for restaurants closeby. A long day of shopping, sightseeing, and an evening at the theatre can build up quite an appetite. You are in luck, Abingdon is host to some of the most exquisite restaurants in Southwest Virginia. Here is a shortlist of some local hotspots with delicious menus and great atmospheres.
- Bonefire Smokehouse BBQ – Serving live music and barbeque
- Greeko’s Grill and Cafe – A great greek restaurant
- Jack’s 128 Pecan – A cozy restaurant serving southern cuisine
- Morgan’s – Restaurant headed by celebrated chef Stephen Gilbert
- Rain Restaurant – Serving unique cuisine inspired by locations around the globe.
Abingdon has some of the greatest dining in Southwest Virginia but a particular restaurant that has a fabled past in addition to a great menu is The Tavern. The Tavern is located in the oldest building in historic Abingdon. The first post office the west slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains had was in The Tavern. The building has seen many uses during its existence, much like the Martha Washington Inn. Also like The Martha, The Tavern is a delightful trip back to more colonial times that comes alive with magical energy during the holidays.
As your day winds to an end, as it becomes a happy holiday memory to always cherish and perhaps become tradition, you’ll find a perfect end to the day is how it started. Almost poetically, Abingdon comes alive with gorgeous, vibrant colors at sunset. A stroll back up the street, marvelling at the beauty of a fading winter sky will leave your heart full of Christmas spirit.