Downtown Historic Staunton, Virginia. Image credit MargJohnsonVA via Shutterstock

8 Towns in Virginia With the Best Downtown Areas in 2024

Virginia is best known for its integral role in American history and independence. The site of several groundbreaking events, such as the establishment of the first English settlement, Virginia prides itself on its accomplishments and traditional American lifestyle and architecture. However, the state has more to offer visitors: college downtowns beaming with nightlife, Victorian-styled historic districts, and stellar dining opportunities. To get a new taste of the Old Dominion State, visit these towns in 2024 and experience the magic of their downtowns firsthand.


Historic downtown of Staunton, Virginia.
Historic downtown of Staunton, Virginia. Image credit MargJohnsonVA via Shutterstock

Perhaps one of the state’s best-kept secrets, Staunton is slowly catching the attention of the public eye. Having earned its position in numerous travel blogs, its award-winning downtown and charming atmosphere are worth the visit. Its six historic districts and Main Street are home to a great number of locally owned businesses, making it a great place to meet locals. The downtown features preserved Victorian architecture and attractions such as the Frontier Culture Museum and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, a proud Staunton native!

The Farmer’s Market takes place on Saturdays from April to November, so visitors can explore the town's goods as long as they can. The town’s culinary scene is active and centered in the downtown area as well, with dining options being heavily influenced by the production of cider and craft beer, which Staunton specializes in. Make sure to visit the Ballerino Creamery, Byers Street Bistro, and the Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room to get a full taste of what Staunton has to offer.


Historic Row Houses Along the Street in Petersburg Virginia
Historic Row Houses Along the Street in Petersburg, Virginia. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock

Petersburg’s downtown is known as Old Towne Petersburg. The antique district conceals a long history of resilience, best portrayed in the historical tales of the great fire of 1815 that took the town’s wooden houses by surprise. Petersburg remained a critical site for trade despite more recent natural disasters, such as the 1994 tornado. Therefore, the town’s architecture is a mix of renovated townhouses, preserved Victorian buildings, and aesthetic modern offices and residences. This is mostly attributed to the town’s location alongside the Appomattox River, where scenic canals blend beautifully into the town’s Victorian landscape. Visitors start off on foot from Petersburg’s Visitors Center and enjoy touring the Courthouse complex and the Petersburg Area Art League.

Beyond the town’s museums and galleries lies a different perspective of history from the eyes of its locals, best explored in the countless antique shops found downtown and on Sycamore Street specifically. Penninston’s Alley Antiques and Collectibles survived the great fire of 1815 and has much to tell about the town’s resilience and love for life.


Colorful fall trees in Catawba valley road near Virginia Tech and Blacksburg in southern Virginia.
Colorful fall trees in Catawba valley road near Virginia Tech and Blacksburg in southern Virginia. Image credit Rui Serra Maia via Shutterstock

Blacksburg prides itself in its farmers market and showcases its best local artists' creations and organic produce, mostly attributed to the lush greenery and cool climate of the town’s location between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The busy college town is home to the prestigious Virginia Tech, which is connected to the downtown via College Avenue Promenade.

The town’s Main Street is bustling with activities and recreational opportunities for visitors and locals alike. The Historic Smithfield Plantation and Alexander Black House and Cultural Center offer travelers a glimpse into the town’s past as a settlement and resting stop. The arts scene is vibrant in this town and centered in Market Square Park, where music events are held. In addition to the historic Lyric Theatre, summer festivals such as Summer’s Solstice guarantee no dull moment in downtown Blacksburg. As you walk the downtown’s dynamic streets, you will find numerous dining options and cuisines, such as The Black Hen and Ceritano’s Ristorante.


Yellow tulips with Monticello Home in the background, spring Garden in Charlottesville, Virginia
Yellow tulips with Monticello Home in the background, spring Garden in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville is home to one of Central Virginia’s best downtowns, with eight blocks of historic shops, unique architecture, and countless dining options. With its longstanding history and preserved heritage, the town boasts two famous presidents who once resided there: Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Visitors can check out the campus of the University of Virginia and its many monuments, such as the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. The town's signature brick walkways are accompanied by shady oak trees.

This, along with the well-preserved architecture from the 18th century, earned the town its title as one of the South’s most quaint towns. The Downtown Mall is the heart of the town’s social scene, with more than 150 businesses keeping Main Street busy. Artists and musicians frequent the Ting Pavilion, which hosts infamous artists such as Hall & Oates. You can also rewind the clock and experience the magic of the golden era of cinema at the newly renovated Paramount Theatre.


Downtown street in Lexington, Virginia.
Downtown Lexington, Virginia. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

If there is one thing visitors love more than Lexington’s cuisine, it's the downtown's music and performance arts scene. The student culture energizes the town since the majority of the events are organized by college students from Lexington's very own Washington and Lee University. Lexington’s love for music keeps it bustling all year round, with popular venues such as the Cabell Gallery of Virginia Art, Lenfest Center for the Arts, Brew Ridge Taps, and Haywood's Restaurant.

As you will notice while strolling downtown, special pavers add a unique touch and showcase some of the town’s famous residents, such as the infamous country music singer Patsy Cline. For more information about other walkable landmarks downtown, Lexington’s Visitors Center provides different kinds of tours to fit all accommodations. Restaurants such as Season’s Yield and The Palms serve some of the town’s very best produce, while other shops such as Cheese to You and Old Lex Mercantile offer a different take on specialty foods to make sure visitors make the most out of their visit.

Cape Charles

Businesses on Mason Avenue in Cape Charles Virginia
Businesses on Mason Avenue in Cape Charles, Virginia. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock

Cape Charles is a hidden gem and a business hub in the Chesapeake Bay. The beach town sits on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and is blessed with pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes. The Historic Palace Theatre and Cape Charles Memorial Library walk visitors through the town’s history as a transit town during World War II and its current status as a resort town. The town’s small but proud population frequents the downtown’s Main Street, and the growing businesses energize it.

With its brick storefronts and welcoming locals, Cape Charles differs from other towns in Virginia mainly because of the larger range of outdoor activities it has to offer, such as the Cape Charles Fishing Pier and beach access in every block along Bay Avenue. This, in addition to the Victorian-styled guesthouses and hostels, makes Cape Charles a great place for a retreat. The downtown’s proximity to the beach lets visitors experience all kinds of charm the town has to offer. Don’t miss out on the fresh seafood and high-quality dining experience at The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery!


Main street of an old island town in Chincoteague, Virginia.
Main street of an old island town in Chincoteague, Virginia. Image credit Kosoff via Shutterstock

Chincoteague is Virginia’s one and only resort island, surrounded by water. The island’s historic Main Street is nestled in lush greenery and blends in with its unique ecosystem. Lodging options on Main Street include Comfort Suites Chincoteague Island Bayfront Resort and the Hampton Inn and Suites. The island's locations come with lots of perks, one of which is a first-class seat on NASA rocket launch viewings from the comfort of Chincoteague Robert N. Reed Downtown Waterfront Park.

What better way to enjoy the sunset than at Don's Seafood Market and Restaurant or Ropewalk Chincoteague? Visitors can also get familiar with the island’s visual art scene at the Chincoteague Cultural Alliance and art galleries. Chincoteague’s Native American Heritage is best explored through the Walking and Biking Tour of Historic Chincoteague, as well as antique shops that display cultural garments and accessories.


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

Farmville shares some of its history with Petersburg since it suffered from devastating fires during the 19th century as well, ultimately leading to the establishment of reminiscent brick structures throughout its downtown. Walking tours include 26 stops and commence from Virginia’s Heartland Regional Visitors Center on 121 East Third Street and pass by The Reed-Elam House, where Dr Walter Reed, known for helping cure yellow fever, lived.

The Robert Russa Moton Museum also rewinds the clock back to the 1950s and the public education integration movement in particular. The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts is at the heart of Main Street and the cultural scene of the town. With events and workshops taking place all year round, visitors always find themselves indulging in Farmville's artistic scene when visiting.

With so many options and opportunities for recreation, these best downtowns are a treat for everyone in 2024. In Virginia, you can travel back to colonial times, experience the great outdoors, and experience new culinary themes, all while meeting friendly locals and learning about the history of these towns. You can have it all at these destinations: beaming college towns, quaint streets, and tropical island getaways.

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