JD and I are getting ready to head to Maine for the 4th, a journey that will take us fairly close to the northern terminus of Interstate 81. As we prepare for our adventure, I’m reminded of the hidden treasures along our own stretch of 81 that traces the spine of Southwest Virginia from Bristol to Blacksburg.
If your 4th of July travel plans find you between I-81 Exits 1 (Bristol) and 118 (Blacksburg), forego the temptation to hit the chains and opt for some of the wondrous and unexpected stops along the way, like Glade Spring and Damascus at Exit 29. Venture north, and you’ll find WhistlePig Bistro and Made ~ the shop on the Glade Spring Town Square. To the south, you’ll happen upon Trail Town USA, Damascus where you can stretch your legs on the Virginia Creeper Trail or step onto the Appalachian Trail, just to say you did. No one has to know it was just a photo opp.
If you want to know what the locals know, take Exit 14 to Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway. Heartwood is the perfect place to learn all about the undiscovered wonders of Southwest Virginia’s cultural heritage, pickup a souvenir, and catch one of two live performances by David Edgar at noon and 5:00 p.m. on the 4th.
You’ll also find nearly 25,000 handcrafted pieces from 300 ‘Round the Mountain juried artisans and get insider knowledge about the Southwest Virginia region from one of its travel ambassadors. Want to know more about The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail that encompasses over 330 miles? They’ll help you find your way to one of the nightly jams at one of the 9 major venues and over 60 affiliates along the way, including one at Heartwood starting at 6pm on Thursday the 5th.
Do you have a favorite exit between Interstate 81 exits 1 and 118 in Southwest Virginia? We’d love to hear about it. And wherever your travels take you, we hope you have a happy and safe 4th!
Karen Quina-Doyle | Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation