Historic downtown town city in Lexington, Virginia, via Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

11 Offbeat Towns to Visit in Virginia

“Give me liberty or give me death,” Patrick Henry cried in Richmond, Virginia, to announce the start of the American Civil War. Nowadays, the state of Virginia is happy to give you an abundance of liberty while you are out exploring the many offbeat towns of the state. Take a dip in Chincoteague’s lush waters or marvel at the majestic ponies of the area. Go cave-diving through Luray’s many underground systems and walk the historic or natural trails of Abingdon or Smithfield. Most of all, experience excitement and wonder outside the usual roads and paths in the state of Virginia. Instead of liberty or death, give yourself a desirable adventure through the many offbeat towns in Virginia.


Vintage small coastal island town main street. Chincoteague, Virginia
Vintage small coastal island town main street. Chincoteague, Virginia

Chincoteague, on the island of Chincoteague, is home to a wild breed of ponies in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. If these adorable, four-legged beauties are not enough to make you visit the island, then perhaps a possible sighting of small NASA rockets from Wallops Island, delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), might interest you.

Beyond these unique attractions, visitors can learn all about Chincoteague’s oyster industry at the Museum of Chincoteague Island. The Assateague Lighthouse offers splendid scenery of the harbors and waters surrounding the island. Best of all, fine establishments like the Anchor Inn, Marina Bay Hotel & Suites, and The Reef provide excellent services for your leisure.


Historic Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia
Historic Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, via Joel Carillet / iStock.com

Located on the Great Wagon Road—a route many pioneers used to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains—Abingdon is a two-hour getaway from Roanoke, with several hiking and biking trails to engage your adventurous nature. One of these grand pathways is the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-mile footpath flanked with panoramic views and sights, winding from the expansive Whitetop Laurel Creek to the high-altitude Mount Rogers. It also terminates into the beautiful Burkes Garden. Another is the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile trail connecting Abingdon with its sister city, Damascus. Aside from these treks, one can enjoy the waters of Holston Lake or the labyrinthine corridors of the Great Channels. Do enjoy a peaceful night at A Tailor’s Lodging, Black’s Fort Inn, or Creeper’s End Lodging.


View of the main street in Smithfield, Virginia
View of the main street in Smithfield, Virginia, via Wikipedia

Want to know what the early American lifestyle was like in Virginia? Then head on to the town of Smithfield, where the 18th and 19th centuries are arrayed in the many edifices of the Windsor Castle Park. Admire the world’s oldest ham since 1902 at the Isle of Wight County Museum, and say merry praises a panoply of bronze statues sculpted by critically acclaimed George Lundeen. Tour the premises of St. Luke’s Historic Church Museum, Virginia’s oldest brick church, or explore the verdant region around the Pagan River where several battles during the American Civil War took place. Should you require accommodations, consider booking rooms at the Smithfield Inn or the Mansion at Main.


Lexington, Virginia.
Lexington, Virginia. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.

Built by Scottish, Irish, and German immigrants on a region previously inhabited by the Saponi, Monoca, and Tutelo tribes, the town of Lexington is a place of great diversity. This diversity is especially prominent in the geographical terrain in the Shenandoah Valley and around the Maury River. One specific feature is the Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-high limestone arch that serves as a fitting portal into Lexington. The fields around Lexington are so fertile that one can find a prototype of a mechanical reaper at McCormic Farm, a device that kickstarted modern industrial agriculture.

If the outdoors is not to your liking, then you might be interested in touring Lexington’s historic buildings. The Sam Houston Wayside and Goshen Pass Wayside are vitally and vibrantly grand structures that honor great American heroes. Nearby, the Miller’s House Museum enlightens tourists about Lexington’s transportation past. For lodgings, look to the Abigail Inn, The Georges, and Grace House for your needs.


Downtown Onancock, Virginia.
Downtown Onancock, Virginia. Editorial credit: John Blottman / Shutterstock.com

Approximately 40 minutes from Chincoteague, the opulent town of Onancock blesses and beckons visitors with all sorts of spectacles. From a monthly international film at the Roseland Theater to compelling and interactive history lessons at Onancock’s maritime museum, there is no shortage of amazing attractions to enjoy in this quaint town. Charter a ferry towards the distant Tangier Island from May to October, or boat down Onancock Creek that leads out into Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps take a stroll through Onley Point and Bailey Point. Whatever you do, simply enjoy this great town that John Smith called "the Gem of the Eastern Shore,” and stay a while at The Spinning Wheel Bed & Breakfast, The Inn at Onancock, or The Charlotte Hotel.


Buildings along Beverley St in Downtown Historic Staunton, Virginia.
Buildings along Beverley St in Downtown Historic Staunton, Virginia. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock.com

Climb aboard a historic train from the Virginia Scenic Railway and towards the quaint dwelling of Staunton. About 40 minutes from Lexington, you can experience all the sensational delights that the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley has to offer. The Frontier Culture Museum chronicles all the happenings in one of the oldest towns in Virginia, while also hosting performances that showcase the culture of the people that called the Shenandoah Valley their home.

For those who want to experience more of Staunton, head to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum to know more about President Woodrow Wilson, or venture across Virginia’s Heritage Migration Route that has close ties to the Great Road and Philadelphia. If you ever get tired, the Avid Hotel Staunton, Howard Johnson Express Inn, and The Blackburn Inn and Conference Center are there to attend to your needs.


Downtown Farmville, Virginia.
Downtown Farmville, Virginia. Image credit: Puritan Nerd via Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to education, Farmville serves as an excellent college town for those who want to know more about Virginia. After all, Farmville is only 65 miles west of the era-making Richmond, and home to the Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College. Students and travelers can learn about the Civil War at the High Bridge Trail State Park and Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park. They can also learn how the war came to an end at the Appomattox Court House. The Robert Russa Moton Museum, on the other hand, illustrates the rise and challenges faced when advocating for Civil Rights awareness during the 1950s. Last but not least, prestigious establishments such as Hotel Weyanoke, Hilton Tru, and The Manor Cottages have all the accommodations you need to feel safe and relaxed at Farmville.


Downtown Luray, Virginia.
Downtown Luray, Virginia.

Brave the darkness underground in the town of Luray. About 90 miles west of Washington D.C., the Luray Caverns is the largest cave system in the eastern US, challenging spelunkers with sinuous and labyrinthine chambers. To immerse yourself in the sluicing experiences that the pioneers had to go through, one can get a hands-on immersion at the Stonyman Mining Company Gem Sluice.

If the underworld is not to your liking, perhaps the waters of Hawksbill Creek and Lake Arrowhead might suit your fancy. Or the amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley from atop Old Rag Mountain will give you excitement in Luray. Either above or below ground, it is best to sleep your weariness away at The Hawksbill House, Cardinal Inn, or Hotel Laurance.

Cape Charles

The historic district in Cape Charles, Virginia
The historic district in Cape Charles, Virginia, via Robin Zeigler on IStock

As one of the earliest colonized areas in the Thirteen Colonies, Cape Charles has functioned as a vital hub for transportation and commerce in Virginia. One can appreciate the town’s crucial junction at the Bay Coast Railroad. In addition to this historic railroad, the Cape Charles Memorial Library is the oldest library on Virginia’s eastern shore, chronicling the various individuals that contributed to the American dream. Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a 17.6-mile structure that crosses the expansive Chesapeake Bay, promotes a dynamic and sublime view of the region as well as guides travelers to the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge and Kiptopeke State Park. So in your exploration of Cape Charles, remember to book rooms at the Northampton Hotel, Fig Street Inn, or Hotel Cape Charles.


Historic Waterfront Occoquan, Virginia.
Historic Waterfront Occoquan, Virginia. Image credit Cheryl Velez via Shutterstock.com

The town of Occoquan is so aptly named due to its location on the Occoquan River. It is also a designated Historic District thanks to its well-preserved Victorian architecture and specific historical events that boosted Occoquan’s significance. For example, legendary explorer John Smith once visited Occoquan when it used to be called Tauxenent, a Doeg settlement, and in later years Thomas Jefferson also passed through the offbeat town. Occoquan's Mill House Museum elaborates on the many grist mills that contributed to Occoquan’s development, while River Mill Park and Lake Ridge Park provide both natural and cultural pleasures. If you do require more assistance regarding Occoquan’s past, look no further than to the many historical markers that are dotted all over the town’s streets.  


Old town Fredericksburg, Virginia
Old town Fredericksburg, Virginia. Image credit James Kirkikis via Shutterstock

If Farmville is the site where Ulysses S. Grant negotiated the end of the Civil War, then Fredericksburg is one of the last places to be marred by battles during the war. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park illustrates four specific battles while also being the resting sites to over 17,000 Union soldiers. The first battle was in 1862; the second, in 1863 near Chancellorsville. The third and fourth—the Battle of Wilderness and the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse) happened a year later. One can find the remnants of these battles around the Rappahannock River.

Besides serving as a battlefield for the Civil War, Fredericksburg had personal value to President George Washington and his family members. The Mary Washington House, Ferry Farm, and Historic Kenmore have historic ties to the Washington family. If you wish to experience more of Fredericksburg, first find accommodations at The Silk Mill, Kenmore Inn, or Silver Collection Hotel before undertaking a thorough research and exploration of the town’s epic past.

In Conclusion

Being one of the oldest states and regions of the US, Virginia continues to foster an environment of ecological beauty and a wonderful Americana aura. As exciting as it might be to venture into the bigger cities like Roanoke and Richmond, Virginia’s offbeat towns capture the heart and soul of the American lifestyle with unique contributions to the past and the present. Soak in the Atlantic Ocean at the shores of Chincoteague and Onancock. Brave the darkness beneath Luray’s underworld, and explore the prominent Shenandoah Valley from resplendent towns like Abingdon and Lexington. Finally, let Virginia’s unspoiled and unhindered countryside guide you through hills and vales and into these many offbeat towns that will surely keep you captivated.

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