An aerial view of Market Station in Leesburg, Virginia

Virginia's Best Small Towns For A Weekend Escape

Every once in a while, escaping the rigors of daily life and noise in the city to the quiet and slow-paced life in a small town can work wonders for your mental health. Getting away to simpler surroundings encourages stressed minds to decompress and appreciate the little things. Virginia boasts many tucked-away hamlets ideal for short respites from the urban chaos yet still provide ample charm to immerse within.

Besides relaxing and unwinding, it is an excellent opportunity to discover rich local history, experience rare traditions, and indulge in various outdoor adventures during your short stay. Whether embarking on a solo trip, visiting with a spouse, or vacationing with family, Virginia's best small towns deliver remarkable experiences.


Historic Clifton, Virginia
Historic Clifton, Virginia. Editorial credit: grandbrothers /

This tiny village in Fairfax County is the perfect getaway from the busy streets of nearby Washington D.C., Clifton impresses with serene nature spots and delightful local businesses, which best bring out its small-town charm. A walk through the peaceful downtown reveals a lively Main Street with a mix of restaurants, coffee shops, and wineries. Peterson's Ice Cream Depot is an exciting stop if you enjoy delicious ice cream flavors served with hot dogs and sandwiches. Plenty of outdoor fun in Clifton compels visitors to embrace life in the open spaces. The 5,000-acre Bull Run Marina offers recreational activities like boating, paddle boarding, and canoeing.

Furthermore, the preserve houses part of the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, a 19-mile scenic route popular among hikers, bikers, and horse riders. Clifton's proximity to the bustling capital's downtown provides quick access to multiple accommodation options, including the Hilton Garden Inn.


Street in Culpeper, Virginia
Main Street in Culpeper, Virginia. Editorial credit: refrina /

A lovely combination of rustic charm and modern flair greets you when you stroll through Culpeper's quaint downtown, where restaurants, distilleries, breweries, and wineries hint at local heritage. The neighborhood offers its best showing during the Culpeper Downtown Farmers Market, as local growers and craftsmen lay out their various ware for sale, including fresh produce, local meats, and decorative candles. A rich cluster of restaurants leaves no chance for visitors to feel hungry when in Culpeper, where the likes of It's About Thyme serve tasty European cuisine.

Glistening lake waters make up the town's cozy outdoor scenery, allowing residents to indulge in fun water-fueled activities, including, boating and kayaking on the calm Lake Culpeper. Meanwhile, the Country Club of Culpeper offers various easygoing recreations, from golfing and swimming to tennis. Numerous restaurants across the town are tailored for all budget levels, including the budget-friendly Red Roof Inn.

Great Falls

Kayakers in the Great Falls National Park, Virginia
Kayakers in the Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Spend a fulfilling retreat amid the sereneness of nature in this soothing Fairfax County gem. Great Falls boasts exquisite outdoor scenery punctuated with gorgeous rapids, dense woodlands, and scenic overlooks. The town was named after the natural wonder it proudly boasts, a system of beautiful rapids along the Potomac River. At Great Falls Park, visitors fully immerse themselves in the great outdoors thanks to over 15 miles of hiking and equestrian trails. Scaling the routes to various vantage points, including Overlook 3, delivers sweeping vistas of the cascades.

Beyond the outdoors, Great Falls allows travelers to explore its historic treasures, none more prominent than Colvin Run Mill. This 19th-century water-propelled grist mill offers a window into the technological ingenuity of previous civilizations by scheduling exciting tours. Great Falls is only about 30 minutes from D.C., meaning guests are spoilt for choice in terms of lodging, including the Quality Inn Vienna in nearby Tyson.


Leesburg Courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia
Leesburg Courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia. Editorial credit: Branko Hodzic /

Historical and hospitable, Leesburg lets visitors experience the best of both worlds within its lively downtown scene, where past treasures blend naturally with more contemporary attractions. Touring the Loudoun Museum takes you down memory lane with a fine selection of antique furniture, art, textiles, toys, and other artifacts. Meanwhile, George C. Marshall's Dodona Manor is a window to 19th-century Leesburg, a National Historic Landmark and former abode of General George Catlett Marshall.

Conversely, retail therapy enthusiasts can find luxurious shopping experiences at Leesburg Premium Outlets and the Village at Leesburg. Lastly, outdoor recreation is accessible at the 1,000-acre Morven Park Grounds, which features a manicured garden and several miles of hiking and biking trails. After a long day exploring Leesburg, find a rustic accommodation experience at the Leesburg Colonial Inn.


A historical building in Bluemont, Virginia
A historical building in Bluemont, Virginia. Image credit: Cecouchman via Wikimedia Commons.

Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this quaint village in Loudon County offers wild outdoor adventures through its sprawling vineyards, lush park areas, and mountain trails. However, before getting lost in the open spaces, you can explore the downtown district to meet friendly locals, especially during the Bluemont Farmers Market. The atmosphere is consistently upbeat as growers, craftsmen, and bakers display their assorted goods for buyers. Bluemont has a vibrant winery and brewery scene, providing multiple establishments for those who fancy tasting local brews and wines, including Bear Chase Brewing Company and Bluemont Vineyard.

Ardent outdoorsmen can test their mettle along the challenging Raven Rocks Trailhead. The fairly steep route winds up and down ridges for around 6 miles but culminates in panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscapes at the Raven Rocks overlook. There are many hotels near Bluemont Vineyard where you can lodge, including Hyatt Regency Dulles, which is about 40 minutes away.


Onancock, Virginia
Sailboat in the marina at the center of Onancock, Virginia. Editorial credit: MargJohnsonVA /

Onancock is one of many of Virginia's best small towns for art enthusiasts. A quick getaway to this Accomack County village exposes you to a bustling community of craftsmen, actors, dancers, and musicians. Numerous visual and performance art venues, from the Danny Doughty Gallery to the North Street Playhouse, are available to sample the local landscape. However, there is more to Onancock than its arts, including rich historical heritage awaiting exploration at the Eastern Shore Watermen's Museum and Research Center. Inside, several digital artifacts and physical archives detail the regional maritime heritage.

While in Onancok, visitors are drawn to check out the culinary delights synonymous with the town, highlighted by delicious seafood served at Mallards At the Wharf. When it's time to call it a day after a fruitful adventure, you can check into the Inn at Onancock for a great night's sleep.


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

This beautiful resort town in Washington County is known for its handicrafts and antiques. This town boasts multiple antique shops downtown, where treasure hunters can find unique pieces, such as the Antique Barn and Zephyr Antiques. Abingdon also features a respectable arts community that introduces visitors to a vibrant art landscape. Enthusiasts can browse fantastic pieces at the William King Museum of Art or catch an enthralling stage performance within the historic Barter Theater, whose legacy dates back to 1933.

Elsewhere, history lovers curious about the topic of Abingdon's background are guaranteed to enjoy perusing exciting artifacts exhibited by the Historical Society of Washington County. While there are numerous B&Bs in the town, one of the top-rated lodging choices is Hampton Inn Abingdon.

Cape Charles

Beach Homes in Cape Charles Virginia Seen from the Chesapeake Bay
Beach Homes in Cape Charles, Virginia, as seen from the Chesapeake Bay.

Cape Charles introduces tourists to the best of Chesapeake Bay towns, from an exciting history to rich arts to beautiful outdoors. The tiny village has a delightful retail district housing a mix of structures on the National Register of Historic Places. Strolling through the neighborhood reveals treasures like the Cape Charles Museum, where the town's history and culture are displayed and well-documented. Several galleries in Cape Charles give art enthusiasts something to look forward to, with visits to Ellen Moore Gallery and Local-ISH Art proving an interesting endeavor.

For an escape to the outdoors, the Cape Charle Natural Area Preserve offers a 29-acre mixture of beaches, dunes, and maritime forests, inviting tourists to enjoy its serene atmosphere. In addition, Cape Charles Hotel delivers one of the best accommodation experiences in the region.


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

This island getaway on Virginia's Eastern Shore charms with its cozy outdoor scenery, flanked by the Atlantic coast. Beachgoers are naturally drawn to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts a combination of dunes, beaches, and lowland forests. The area hosts a thriving wildlife population, with the main attraction being a herd of wild ponies roaming the coastal beaches. Chincoteague houses a fair share of historic treasures, including Captain Timothy Hill House. The historic homestead was built at the beginning of the 19th century and offers a window into the state's formative years.

Alternatively, the Museum of Chincoteague Island provides an eye-opening glimpse into the town's captivating history using various cultural and historical artifacts. Finally, Chincoteague is a popular tourist destination with numerous hotels, with this, you can spend your nights at the charming Snug Harbor Marina & Resort.

The Takeaway

Virginia's best small towns offer the perfect balance of escape and enrichment for restorative weekend visits. Whether nestled in lush mountains, along historic waterways, or amid scenic farmland, each exudes an air of tranquility that allows troubled minds to unwind. Exploring their charming downtowns and cultural attractions at a laid-back pace imparts a sense of history, community bonds, and appreciation for simpler things. Meanwhile, immersing in local charm through strolls, cuisine, and conversation with welcoming locals invigorates all body, soul, and well-being.

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