Top Stops Along The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail
Top Stops Along The Crooked Road
The musical heritage of Southwest Virginia is a celebration of one of the richest traditions in the world – Appalachia music, which includes various genres such as old-time, folk, country, and bluegrass.
Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, known as The Crooked Road, is a regional destination famous for celebrating heritage music throughout the year. It covers 19 counties, 4 cities, and 54 towns and communities. The trail features ten major venues, over 40 affiliated venues and festivals, and 25 wayside exhibits that offer visitors ample opportunity to experience one of the world’s greatest musical traditions.
The Crooked Road spans nearly 330 miles of stunning mountain scenery, making it a paradise for music lovers. It is a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else. Southwest Virginia is the birthplace of America’s music, and it continues to thrive.
We encourage visitors to explore as many venues as possible when visiting the region, including the following.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum
The Birthplace of Country Music focuses on Bristol’s role in the birth and development of country music through the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, WBCM Radio Bristol, and many community and educational outreach programs. The BCM Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings by the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest V. Stoneman, and others – recordings that were influential in shaping the sounds and practices of early commercial country music. Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, a three-day festival, takes place every September and includes over 100 bands on a dozen stages in historic Downtown Bristol. Radio Bristol is broadcast live from the Museum and can be listened to locally and online.
Blue Ridge Music Center
Located in Galax, the Blue Ridge Music Center is a popular destination for music enthusiasts who want to experience the rich musical heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The center offers visitors a chance to enjoy a variety of traditional music genres, including bluegrass, old-time, folk, Americana, country blues, and gospel. Guests can attend performances, exhibits, and jams and explore hiking trails. The center has an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor interpretive center with a theater, gift shop, and museum showcasing the thriving American musical culture of the region. During the operating season, Midday Mountain Music is held every day in the museum’s breezeway, and the outdoor amphitheater hosts the summer concert series every Saturday evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum
The Blue Ridge Institute & Museum in Ferrum, the official State Center for Blue Ridge Folklore, highlights the folk traditions of western Virginia. The BRIM galleries explore folklife’s many facets – music, crafts, foodways, decorative arts, and more – through rotating exhibitions. The Museum re-creates life on a Virginia-German farmstead in the year 1800, and the museum store offers hard-to-find authentic folk crafts from Virginia and Appalachia. The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, which takes place every October, features authentic craft, music, and events like draft horse working and coon-dog racing on display. The BRIM also hosts a weekly jam on the museum grounds.
Carter Family Fold
The inimitable Carter Fold is a rustic, 800-plus-seat music venue offering traditional music nearly every Saturday night. The Carter Family (A.P. Carter, his wife Sara, and his sister-in-law Maybelle) was discovered in 1927 by Victor Recording Studio during the Bristol Sessions. This amazing family recorded 300 songs between 1927 and 1942. Playing traditional Appalachian music, the family is often credited as forerunners of modern-day country music. A.P. Carter’s old general store is now a museum (opens one hour before each show), and recent additions include the newly moved and reconstructed original A.P. Carter Homeplace.
The Country Cabin in Norton is the longest continuously running site for traditional music along the entire Crooked Road. The original Country Cabin was built in 1937-38, while Country Cabin II was built in 2002 to accommodate larger audiences. As part of the mission of Appalachian Traditions, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating and preserving culture including music, history, storytelling, craft and dance, the Country Cabin presents old-time and bluegrass music every Saturday night, featuring local and regional musicians. Mountain-style and line dance is taught at Country Cabin throughout the year. Bus tours and groups are welcome. The County Cabin complex is available for events such weddings, parties, reunions, and much more.
County Sales, located directly across from the Floyd Country Store in Floyd, is a hub for mainstream and hard-to-find traditional music. Housing the world’s largest selection of bluegrass, old-time, and early country music recordings, it was established in 1965 and has long been the go-to destination for enthusiasts, collectors, and musicians who can sift through tens of thousands of titles spanning major labels to self-released projects. With a legacy spanning over five decades, County Sales is now a non-profit focusing on preserving, reissuing, and reconnecting people to traditional music.
Floyd Country Store
For decades, the Floyd Country Store has been a hub for the community, celebrating traditional Southern Appalachian music and dance. It’s renowned for offering an authentic Appalachian music experience, with a group of musicians and dancers carrying on local traditions. Whether it’s jamming on the front porch, participating in the Sunday jam, or dancing at the Friday Night Jamboree, traditional music is what brings people together at this store. Additionally, The Handmade Music School is located here, dedicated to teaching old-time, bluegrass, and traditional music and dance from the Blue Ridge Mountains. The store is also a fully functional country store, featuring a lunch counter, candy, ice cream, and other items.
Old Fiddler’s Convention
Every year in Felts Park during the second week of August, the Galax Moose Lodge #733 presents the Old Fiddlers’ Convention. This convention, which began in 1935, is the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. People from all over the world come to perform and listen to music on stage and in the campgrounds. The youth competition, held on Monday nights, is one of the most popular events at the convention.
The Ralph Stanley Museum
The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center in Clintwood showcases the life and music of the renowned Dr. Ralph Stanley. The museum features a vast collection of memorabilia donated by the Clintwood native, including vintage instruments and numerous musical awards. Housed in a historic four-story Victorian house, the exhibits focus on Ralph and Carter Stanley, the musical roots of the region, and other bluegrass greats like Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless.
The Rex Theater in Downtown Galax hosts live performances of Bluegrass and Old-Time bands every Friday evening as part of a weekly radio show. Since 1940, the historic venue has welcomed a variety of music acts, both local and national. The theater is also home to “Blue Ridge Backroads Live,” a weekly radio show that broadcasts live on Classic Country 98.1 FM and spans five states, including online listeners. The Rex Theater, which recently underwent extensive renovations, has entertained Galax locals and visitors worldwide for 83 years
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace
Discover the captivating people, places, and stories of the stunning Southwest Virginia region at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace in Abingdon. This vibrant welcome center, situated close to the Virginia/Tennessee state border, boasts a 29,000-square-foot venue that functions as a visitor center, retail center for locally crafted goods, music venue, and community space. Additionally, it is the headquarters for The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, which honors and fosters traditional acoustic string music performances in the area. Be sure to experience the charm of Southwest Virginia at this remarkable venue.