Life-size statues of market hogs serve as a tribute to Smithfield’s status as the “Ham Capital of the World." Photo courtesy of Genuine Smithfield.
Life-size statues of market hogs serve as a tribute to Smithfield’s status as the “Ham Capital of the World." Photo courtesy of Genuine Smithfield.

Take the opportunity to slow down and really enjoy everything the commonwealth has to offer by visiting one of these destinations.

While big cities like Richmond, Virginia Beach, Arlington, and Roanoke offer plenty of attractions to keep both residents and visitors engaged, Virginia has a number of small towns with around 10,000 or less residents that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

If you’re looking for a place to escape to for a day trip or weekend getaway, the small towns listed below will help you slow down and enjoy the Old Dominion.  

Rocky Mount

Image via Living Proof Beer Company Facebook

Nestled at the lower edge of the Roanoke Valley, Rocky Mount has a lot to offer for those who like music and a good drink.  

It is the eastern gateway to The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, a 330-mile driving trail devoted to the region’s heritage of traditional music. It is also home to the Harvester Performance Center, a mid-sized music venue with upcoming performances by Mark Chesnutt and Southern Culture on the Skids scheduled. 

For those who enjoy good libations, there are plenty of options to choose from considering that Franklin County is considered the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” At Twin Creeks Distillery, for example, you can “experience mountain spirits made by grandsons of conspiracy era bootleggers.” Living Proof Beer Company, a microbrewery that produces a wide variety of beers on rotating taps, opened just this summer. 

Wise

A performance of the eldritch horror anthology podcast Old Gods of Appalachia was staged by Pro-Art in October. Courtesy of Michelle Mullins.

Located in the far southwest corner of Virginia, Wise is perhaps best known for being home to the University of Virginia Wise. However, the town, which is nestled high on the Appalachian Plateau, is much more than your average college town—it’s a rural oasis. 

Pro-Art has helped cement Wise’s status as one of the cultural hubs of the region. The nonprofit produces a range of performances throughout the year, including orchestras, popular music concerts, plays, and dance performances. 

If spending the night, The Inn at Wise is the place to stay. Built in 1910, the colonial-revival inn is quite breathtaking. Even if you’re just passing through, you can stop into the casual Wise & Shine Diner or upscale-casual Colonial Dining Room for a bite to eat, then have a drink at the 110 Bar. Depending on the night you’re at the bar, there might even be live music. 

Clarksville

Photo courtesy of Signs Designs

Given the fact that Clarksville is “Virginia’s only lakeside town,” it is the perfect place for those who enjoy spending time on the water. Or at least looking at it.

Each year, dozens of fishing tournaments take place on Kerr Lake, also known as Buggs Island Lake. The freshwater lake covers 50,000 acres and has 800 miles of shoreline. For those who want to try their luck at bass or crappie fishing or simply want to enjoy a day on the water, there are a number of fishing guide services like Prime Time Guide Service and boat rentals like Clarksville Water Sports.

When visiting Clarksville in the southcentral part of the commonwealth, one of the primary draws is Occoneechee State Park, a 2,698-acre state park that features cabins, campsites, an equestrian campground, picnic shelters, an amphitheater, and boat ramps.  

After a long day on the lake, you can retire to Cooper’s Landing Inn. Oozing with history, the main inn was built in 1830, while the smokehouse was built in 1833. The inn isn’t just a place to stay, but also a place to dine. Traveler’s Tavern’s menu reflects each season with seasonal farm-to-table options; think fresh fish, wild game, and summer seafood steamers. 

Smithfield

You’ll find a visit to the charming town of Smithfield in coastal Isle of Wight County to be just as savory as its famous hams. 

Smithfield’s downtown area is a good place to start. There you’ll find places to view locally produced art like at Arts Center @ 319, see a production at Smithfield Little Theatre, have dinner and a drink at Wharf Hill Brewing Co., and shop at Hamtown Mercantile.  

Throughout the year, various events are staged, including the Wine & Brew Fest and Bacon, Bourbon & Beach Music Fest.

Don’t forget to snap a photo with one of George Lundeen’s bronze sculptures, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Robert Frost, that are scattered throughout the town.

And it wouldn’t be a trip to Smithfield if you didn’t stop by a couple of the locations of the “Porcine Parade.” The eight life-size statues of market hogs serve as a tribute to Smithfield’s status as the “Ham Capital of the World.”

Warsaw

Warsaw is the place to go if you’re looking for a low-key day on the Northern Neck, a peninsula on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. 

In the quaint little town, you’ll find a number of unique dining options. Relish Restaurant & Wine Bar sources fresh ingredients from local farmers and producers daily. If you drop by the massive tap room and outdoor beer garden at Old Rapp Taphouse, you’ll have your choice of crafted cocktails, beer, and wine. 

If you need something to munch on for the drive home, grab a bag of popcorn from Northern Neck Popcorn Bag. With flavors that range from lemon cheesecake to beer cheese, you’ll surely find a bag or two that will make your mouth water.  

To bring a piece of Northern Neck life home with you, stop by Colonial Collectibles.  

Warrenton

Historic courthouse in Old Town Warrenton. Photo courtesy refrina/Shutterstock

Roughly an hour outside of Washington, D.C., Warrenton offers a vibrant downtown area with lots of galleries, shops, and restaurants. As you’re making your way up and down the brick sidewalks of Old Town Warrenton, you can browse the shelves at boutique jeweler and retailer Carter & Spence, then have a bowl of Claire’s Famous She Crab at Claire’s at the Depot

A visit to the town wouldn’t be complete without going on the 15-stop Historic Walking Tour.

Warrenton also has a range of events throughout the year, including multiple restaurant weeks, The Great Pumpkin Ride, and GumDrop Square.

If you decide to spend the night, Airlie doesn’t just offer a luxurious place to rest your head at night. During your stay, you can explore the formal gardens, butterfly garden, LOVEwork sign, and organic garden.