Abingdon - Saltville - Marion - Chilhowie - Abingdon
Dig into breakfast with the world’s largest biscuits at the Biscuit Connection this morning, then walk it off on a self-guided tour of Abingdon. Besides the Barter Theater, Main Street’s highlights include the William King Museum’s collections of Southern Appalachian art and objects; the grand Martha Washington Inn; the proud Courthouse; numerous crafts shops, cafes and galleries; as well as The Tavern, offering German and American fine dining in Abingdon’s oldest building (1779).
Depart in the early afternoon for the half-hour’s drive to Saltville, named for the salt marshes that attracted wildlife here since the Ice Age. Their fossilized remains abound, and at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians, you’ll likely be greeted by a 12-foot mechanical woolly mammoth on your way to the fossil, Indian, and Civil War exhibits.
From here, you’ll pick up the Smyth County Artisan Trail to Marion, home of the Lincoln Theater, one of only three remaining Art Deco Mayan Revival theaters, and host to Song of the Mountains, the PBS bluegrass series. Spend the night in 1920’s-era elegance at the General Francis Marion Hotel, or return to Abingdon for your overnight and a show. On the way, foodies should check out Food & Wine’s best new chef of 2010 at the Town House in Chilhowie, and music lovers can go local at a weekly bluegrass jam in Saltville or Chilhowie on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights.
Abingdon - The Crooked Road - Hiltons - Gate City - Big - Stone Gap
Today and tomorrow, you’ll be sticking close to The Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail as you make your way into Virginia’s Coal Country. Before you go, pick up Joe Wilson’s A Guide to the Crooked Road; there’s a wealth of information about the area and its musicians in here, as well as two CDs with a short narration introducing each song.
Bring along a Carter Family CD, too, for the hour-long drive to the Carter Family Fold The Fold is a concert venue and family memorial dedicated to old time music, with performances every Saturday night. A.P. Carter’s Cabin and General Store are also here, and although they’re only open during performances, they still make a pretty picture, and you can pay your respects to A.P. and Sara Carter behind their little country church just up the road.
A few miles on, stop by the Lazy Time Pickin’ Parlor in Weber City; it’s both a music store and a bluegrass jam central. Pickers like to hang out here, and there’s a good chance they’ll be playing some tunes. At this point, the Crooked Road joins the Wilderness Road, Daniel Boone’s pioneer trail to Kentucky. Make a stop for lunch just outside Gate City at the Hob Nob Drive-In, almost unchanged since the 1950s.
For an afternoon outdoors, visit Natural Tunnel State Park, named for the 850-foot tunnel carved out by the creek running through it. Short trails and a chair lift take you to the tunnel entrance and to Carter Cabin, a log structure built in 1774 and dating back to the Wilderness Road days. A replica of a Wilderness Road Blockhouse is also here, as is an outdoor swimming pool for recreation.
Continue on to Big Stone Gap, a railroad town that sprang up with the coal industry, which you learn about at the Harry W Meador Coal Museum (Wednesday to Sundays until 5 pm). July and August sees the Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama being staged Thursday-Saturday nights. The Victorian-era romance was written by local author John Fox Jr and set in this area; it remained America’s bestselling book until Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Music tends to take place at local festivals and events; inform yourself at the visitor center, itself the lavish private car of a railroad president.