Chincoteague, Virginia.

9 Most Scenic Small Towns In Virginia

Between the pristine Atlantic coast beaches to the east and the majestic Blue Ridge Mountain peaks to the west, Virginia has much to offer adventure lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Old Dominion is home to charming, little-known locations that do not get the hype they deserve. From serene seaside escapes and hidden historical hamlets to picturesque alpine villages, these cute towns showcase a unique side of the state not many get to experience, promising exciting experiences for all types of preferences.

Whether a thrill seeker, culinary connoisseur, culture vulture, or history lover, the region’s rich diversity ensures there is something to interest everyone. Furthermore, these charming towns in Virginia are an ideal escape from the bustle of city life, presenting a relaxed rural atmosphere without crowds and plenty of outdoor opportunities. If you are up for an unforgettable experience on the East Coast, remember to include these beautiful Virginia towns on your itinerary.

Cape Charles

The beach in Cape Charles, Virginia
The beach in Cape Charles, Virginia.

Cape Charles is a laidback Chesapeake Bay town with a small population and many quiet open spaces, making it an excellent retreat for those looking to escape their daily routine. It is home to the Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve, where locals and visitors alike go to find solitude. This beautiful outdoor space features a long boardwalk cutting through diverse natural habitats, perfect for a stress-free walk.

Cape Charles is famous for its colorful history, which is best experienced with a stroll through the Cape Charles Historic District. This quaint neighborhood has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, boasting over 500 historical buildings, with some dating back to the 19th century. Cape Charles charms visitors with a bustling arts scene showcasing beautiful local and regional art in venues like Ellen Moore Gallery and Local-ISH Art.


Lee University in Lexington, Virginia
Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Editorial credit: Bryan Pollard /

College towns have always had a unique flair, and this is no different about Lexington! Home to the Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute, the town hosts an enviable cluster of museums, promising visitors an exciting trip down memory lane. The Jackson House Museum offers a peek into 19th-century Lexington in the historic home of a former Confederate general, whereas the VMI Museum chronicles the history of America’s oldest state-funded military college through a vast collection of artifacts.

Lexington has generous outdoor opportunities for the extroverted traveler, and one of the best ways to explore the town is by booking an easygoing horseback ride with the Lexington Carriage Company. This takes you through the historic downtown, with insightful commentary from a resourceful guide. Before leaving the town, remember to sample its impressive craft brewery scene with a tour of Heliotrope Brewery.


St Lukes' Church in Smithfield, Virginia.
St Lukes' Church in Smithfield, Virginia.

Smithfield traces its storied beginnings to the mid-1700s when it was once a bustling shipping hub. Today, however, it is more famous for ham curing and production. A collection of 18th and 19th-century structures in its historic downtown bears witness to its longstanding heritage, with noteworthy venues like the 1750 Isle of Wight Courthouse and St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum deserving a visit. However, for a comprehensive perspective of Smithfield’s history, the Isle of Wight County Museum houses an interesting collection of interactive exhibits chronicling the region’s past.

Beyond its history, Smithfield entices outdoor lovers with the sprawling Windsor Castle Park, a remarkable riverside oasis with several miles of walking trails, quaint picnic spots, a boat launch, and a fishing pier.


The famous White Mill in Abingdon, Virginia
The famous White Mill in Abingdon, Virginia. Editorial credit: Dee Browning /

Set in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Abingdon's unique appeal comes from a combination of artsy vibe, historical heritage, and exquisite outdoor recreation. This small Washington County village harbors a slew of art centers, but Barter Theater is easily its crowning jewel. Famous for being the country's longest-tenured professional theater, the venue continues entertaining visitors with diverse stage performances. History lovers will fancy a stroll through historic downtown Abingdon, harboring delights like the Historic Society of Washington County. This fantastic facility uses the region’s genealogical records to tell the story of people and places.

Meanwhile, Abingdon’s beautiful outdoors is best explored along the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail. Stretching nearly 35 miles from Abingdon to Whitetop, the multi-purpose route welcomes runners, hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to discover the town’s wilderness.


Downtown Staunton, Virginia
Downtown Staunton, Virginia.

Staunton is perhaps best known for being the birthtown of America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson. Tourists can check out the exact site where the former leader was born at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, which also preserves his legacy through different artifacts, such as typed and handwritten letters. But there is more to Staunton than its presidential history, and art enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. The facility features galleries, archives, a garden, conference spaces, and classes.

The Frontier Culture Museum is another worthy stop in the town, delivering a mix of history, art, and the outdoors. Covering 200 acres of space, it is the largest open-air museum in the region, with historic exhibits like traditional structures from Africa, Europe, and America.


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

One of the oldest towns in Virginia, Onancock’s legacy dates back to 1680 when it was established. Travelers interested in the town’s history can visit the Eastern Shore Watermen’s Museum and Research Center for a look into its maritime heritage. The site showcases a fascinating portfolio of old photographs, artifacts, and nautical equipment. One of the best experiences in town involves riding on the Tangier-Onancock Ferry, which operates between Onancock and Tangier Island. The ride lasts about an hour and features beautiful water views and the opportunity to interact with locals and other tourists.

Onancock’s art scene is no slouch, as evidenced by the impressive number of art centers across the town. As visual art enthusiasts admire award-winning folk art inside Danny Doughty Gallery, lovers of performance arts enjoy family-friendly stage shows at North Street Playhouse.


Seven Bends State Park near Woodstock, Virginia
Seven Bends State Park near Woodstock, Virginia.

This quaint community along the Shenandoah River delights visitors with a laid-back atmosphere and a wealth of attractions. While it has something to address all types of interests, outdoor explorers will naturally gravitate towards Seven Bends State Park. The area features scenic hiking and biking trails through a wooded section and fun recreation opportunities along the Shenandoah River, such as fishing, kayaking, and boating. Woodstock has gone through landmark events in its history, a rich legacy that tourists can experience with a tour of the Woodstock Museum.

Meanwhile, a couple of art venues allow connoisseurs to explore the local art scene, including the Shenandoah Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Spot, which are better suited for DIY art lovers. After a long day of exploration, remember to restock with wholesome American fare at Spring House Tavern.


Aerial View of Kilmarnock, Virginia
Aerial View of Kilmarnock, Virginia.

For a small of just about 1,500 residents, Kilmarnock will impress any newcomer with its rich mix of attractions. The quaint town sits near the Rappahannock River mouth and provides a range of green spaces ideal for nature lovers. Among them is the Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve, a 204-acre park housing diverse habitats and outdoor opportunities like hiking, bird watching, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and more. Those curious about the town’s heritage can check out Kilmarnock Museum, which honors the region’s rich history and unique traditions through a variety of exhibits.

Antique collectors and treasure hunters can speculate for unique finds at Kilmarnock Antique Gallery, home to more than 100 dealers and an awesome oyster plate collection. Finally, take the time to peruse local art inside Patty Richards Art before leaving the town.


Aerial view of Chincoteague, Virginia
Aerial view of Chincoteague, Virginia.

If relaxed coastal getaways define your idea of an ideal vacation, consider booking a trip to Chincoteague. This island's location on Virginia’s Eastern Shore charms all with an easygoing beach scenery, best exemplified by the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Housing a mixture of marshes, beaches, dunes, and maritime forests, this natural oasis offers the perfect escape from crowds, with an opportunity to watch the area’s wildlife. Chincoteague is a remarkable family holiday destination thanks to Maui Jack’s Waterpark. Here, kids and adults alike converge to enjoy unadulterated aquatic fun, featuring waterslides and swimming pools.

For the indoor inclined, visiting Captain Timothy Hill House offers an avenue into the history of the island town. The structure was constructed in the 1800s. Alternatively, you can stop by the Chincoteague Island Library to learn interesting facts about the town.

The Takeaway

The Old Dominion presents one of the best vacation experiences on the East Coast, and these small towns in Virginia are proof of just how much travelers can expect. The state’s rich history, diverse natural landscapes, unique culture, and outdoor opportunities ensure that there are enough attractions to keep all types of travelers engaged and entertained. Whether traveling on a solo trip, vacationing as a couple, or holidaying with family, there is no limit to the level of fun you can expect in small-town Virginia.

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