Whenever you find yourself on a Virginia road trip along the I-81, Wytheville is a destination that’s not to be missed. This quaint town might be on the smaller side but it’s full of adventure! From beautiful lookouts to delicious restaurants and plenty of unique experiences in between, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Wytheville VA for a fun-filled weekend… or longer!
The town of Wytheville (pronounced with-ville) is just as quirky as its name. It’s the only one in the whole world but that’s not the only thing that makes Wytheville unique as you’ll see in this post. But first – a little history.
While this area is the original territory of the Tsalaguwetiyi (East Cherokee), S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), Tutelo and Moneton Peoples, Wytheville’s modern history begins with the establishment of Wythe County in 1789. It was named after the signatory of the Declaration of Independence, George Wythe, but not until 1839. Prior to this, the town was named Evansham but before receiving this name, it had no name at all!
Just a few decades later, Wytheville became a strategically important spot in the American Civil War. The town’s close proximity to a nearby Confederate lead mine and the connecting railroad made it the target of a Union brigade on July 18th, 1863. This mine supplied lead for the Confederate Army’s munitions, the railroad transported Confederate troops and supplies, and the telegraph wires following the railroad were vital for Confederate communication. Now known as Toland’s Raid, this attack weakened Confederate forces and aided in their eventual defeat.
That’s not the only turbulent part of Wytheville’s history though. The town also suffered heavily during the 1950 polio epidemic. Wytheville endured the worst polio outbreak per capita in the entire country in what is now known as the ‘summer without children.’
Despite these trying times in its history, Wytheville is a charming town with so much to offer. Keep reading and you’ll experience the positivity and upbeat vibe with adorable shops, great restaurants, top Wytheville VA attractions and more!
Top 13 Things to Do in Wytheville VA
When the slogan is “There’s Only One”, that should give you an indication that good things are in store for your visit. See all the great ways to spend your time in town with these top things to do in Wytheville!
One of my favourite things to do whenever I visit a new city or town is to just wander. Spend some time exploring the Wytheville Historic District where you’ll find a wonderful mix of retro and modern as murals stand alongside historically significant buildings. Roughly bound by Monroe Street, Eleventh Street, Jefferson Street, Twelfth Street and West Railroad Avenue, you’ll spot a number of historically rich buildings that date from the 1830s to the early 1940s!
If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to check out Wytheville’s historic walking tour. You can pick up a pamphlet from the Wytheville Convention & Visitors Bureau or view it digitally here. Inside you’ll find eight different routes highlighting specific aspects of the town’s history.
Hunt for Public Art
Speaking of public art, there are some fantastic pieces to check out in town. Your first stop has to be Wytheville’s LOVEwork! It’s part of the Virginia LOVEworks project where the word is artistically displayed in ways that are inspired by its location. This push for public art is a nod to Virginia Tourism’s slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers” which has been used since 1969. What makes it even cooler is that no LOVEwork is the same!
Wytheville’s LOVEwork speaks to a few pieces of the town’s history. Starting with the L, it shares the influence of the aforementioned railroad. The O shows the town’s iconic hot air balloon that you’ll see depicted as the water tower. You’ll see the intersection of the I-81 and I-77 represented in the V with the E showcasing the town’s baseball history. Be sure to snag a photo with it as you experience Wytheville and don’t forget to use the hashtag #LOVEwork if you post it online!
Another iconic public work to see is the Edith Bolling Wilson mural. This work of art is 30 metres long (100 feet) and depicts five scenes from the First Lady’s life. You’ll find it located along the town’s heritage walk and across the street from her birthplace downtown!
The newest addition to Wytheville’s art scene is HOPE Inc’s butterfly wings mural. Located on Main Street, it was directly inspired by the turbulent times the world has experienced over the past two years. This eye-catching, predominantly black and white mural also features Emily Dickenson’s poem “Hope is a Thing with Feathers.”
Experience the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum
Wytheville is quite proud of its heritage with the crown jewel of it being First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. Born and raised in Wytheville, she is well known as one of the most historically influential (albeit controversial) women of the 20th century. Not only did she marry President Woodrow Wilson just 15 months after his first wife’s death, she “stewarded” his presidency after he suffered a stroke in his second term. Add that she is of Indigenous descent and you have one gritty gal that changed the narrative of what it means to be First Lady.
The museum itself is housed inside the Bolling Building where the second story served as the Bolling Family home from 1866-1899. Below it on the ground floor, exhibits showcase the story of Edith Bolling Wilson including her early years growing up in Wytheville into adulthood. Take a guided tour to learn more about the only southern Appalachian-born First Lady and her vital role in promoting peace during World War I. As one of only eight historic sites dedicated to the interpretation of a First Lady in the United States, it’s definitely a must stop when visiting Wytheville.
Enjoy the Patio Views at The Bolling Wilson Hotel
Continuing with the Edith theme, pop across the street after visiting the museum for a cocktail or bite to eat at The Bolling Wilson Hotel.
While the eloquently designed Graze on Main restaurant offers a great ambiance that pairs perfectly with the dishes they share, you’ll want to head upstairs to The Perch. This is the best spot in the heart of Wytheville for great views not just of the town but the Blue Ridge Mountains, too! Get cozy in the comfy lounge seats with warm fire pits and personal throughs for when those chilly autumn nights arrive. With constant cocktail specials and foodie features, you can’t go wrong with a visit here. Oh, and did I mention it’s also recognized as a Great Bourbon Bar of America?
The hotel itself is a great spot to call home when visiting Wytheville. Not only is the design incredibly elegant but you’ll be constantly intrigued by the unique decor and different designs of guest rooms. Each of the three floors is themed differently to symbolize aspects of Edith Bolling Wilson’s life with orchids, canaries and bourbon. What do they all mean exactly? You’ll have to visit to find out!
Check Out Some Local Art
As you have probably guessed, Wytheville certainly has its artsy side. Besides the public art pieces, you’ll want to check out Formato Fine Arts, an incredible woman-led art gallery in the heart of town. It was founded in 2018 and features a wide array of artists all local to the area. You’ll see the work of painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and even performance art. Committed to exploring new ideas through traditional and newer mediums, there is always a heavy emphasis on female-identifying artists being represented.
Do a Little Shopping in Wytheville
Supporting local is always high in my books and what better way than by checking out some local shops? There are plenty of shops to peruse from the unique clothing and decor finds at The Farmers Daughter Boutique to homesteading gear at Wilderness Road Mercantile. You’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy!
It might not strike you as the first place to go for a shopping excursion, but Wytheville Office Supply has been a staple of the town’s main street since the 1960s! This store is absolutely massive and is a hundred times better than your local Staples or Office Depot. You’ll find plenty of trinkets you didn’t even know existed that will make office life much easier… or if not, at least more fun. Also, you can spot this store from miles away thanks to the 30-foot long metal pencil that adorns the shop!
Grab a Pint at the Local Breweries
Wytheville is home to two breweries and both are fantastic in their own ways. 7 Dogs Brewpub is the town’s original brewery and is inspired by a ragtag group of canines that have won over owner Nelson Tidwell’s heart. As for the cat perched on top of the logo? Well, Dizzy keeps all the dogs in line, of course! Housed in one of Wytheville’s historic buildings, you’ll enjoy the open-concept ambiance in the full-service restaurant. Though the energy of the place really shows when the bands are playing in this top-notch music venue!
Seven Sisters Brewery is the newer brewery of the two and is named as a tribute to the local mountain ridges as well as the Pleiades – a cluster of stars also called the Seven Sisters. Their seven flagship beers loosely reference each of the seven as they offer a variety of brews with an emphasis on German styles. However, this is not just a brewery but also a community space! Families are welcome as they offer plenty of space along with a number of games like tic-tac-toe, Connect Four and cornhole! It’s a great spot to spend the evening with good company.
Visit the Thomas J. Boyd Museum
After you’ve become a little more acquainted with Wytheville thanks to some aimless meandering, it’s time to dig a little deeper and learn about the town’s history. Head to the Thomas J. Boyd Museum, named after the ‘Father of Wytheville’, to garner more knowledge about the people of Wythe County.
The museum’s collection features a number of fascinating items including Wytheville’s first firetruck (circa 1855!), military uniforms, civil war displays and more. A large section of the museum is dedicated to Wytheville’s experience in the polio epidemic.
As I mentioned earlier, the town was hit exceptionally hard in 1950 as the town of 5,550 suffered 185 cases – accounting for 15% of the cases in the entire state of Virginia. You’ll see real video footage from the time, giving you a glimpse of the turmoil the residents suffered. There is even an iron lung machine that saved countless lives during this horrific time. While I certainly felt the impact walking through the exhibit during my visit in 2019, I can only imagine how I would feel now with everything that has happened.
Explore the Haller Gibboney Rock House
The Haller Gibboney Rock House is a historic home built from 1822-1823. This two-story limestone dwelling was once the home of Wytheville’s first resident physician, Dr. John Haller. For 140 years, the Hallers and their descendants, the Gibboneys and Campbells, lived in this home as they supported their local community in many ways like using the home as an infirmary as well as a school during the American Civil War.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, it now has a new purpose of preserving this piece of history. The collections inside as well as the grounds and structure itself are used to promote an appreciation of typical family life in Wytheville during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Take some time reading up on the exhibits as well as exploring the Rock Garden.
Visit the Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum
Before the interstate system was created, Wytheville was a popular stop along the original route from Ohio to Florida. Many folks traversed old Route 21 for some of that good ol’ Florida sunshine!
Step inside the 1926 Texaco station to check out the memorabilia from a bygone era. See the development of this infrastructure through old newspaper clippings and other artifacts collected over the years. Even though I never took Route 21, it had me reminiscing about the trips I used to take to Florida with my parents when I was little!
INSIDER TIP: If you plan to visit Thomas J Boyd Museum, Haller Gibboney Rock House, the Rock House Gardens and the Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum, you can purchase an All-in-One Ticket to save yourself some money on admissions. They cost $11.00 for adults, $10.00 for seniors 65 years of age and older, and $5.00 for children 6-12 versus admission for only one museum at $4.00 for adults/seniors and $2.00 for children 6-12.
Take in the Views from the Big Walker Lookout
You’ll have to hop in your car for this one but trust me when I say it’s worth the drive! Head a little north of town to Virginia’s oldest privately-owned scenic attraction, the Big Walker Lookout. Pop inside the BW Country Store to pay for your admission as well as take a look at some of the handcrafted goods from local artisans. If you’re feeling like a treat, they’re said to have some of the best ice cream in the state!
Climb to the top of Big Walker Mountain and enjoy the incredible views from ~1037 metres (3,405 feet) atop the ~30 metres tall (100 feet) lookout tower. From here you’ll enjoy some of the best views to be found in Virginia. On a clear day, you can see five states – Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee!
RELATED: There are more great views in Virginia than just the Big Walker Lookout. For more incredible sights, check out my guide to the epic sights along the I-81!
Visit the African American Heritage Museum
Learn about the African American history of Whythe County in what was once the Wytheville Training School. Here you will see a different side of history as you’re shown what education was like in the days of segregation. This was also one of the first schools in the region to employ African American teachers.
Overseen by the Wytheville Training School Cultural Center Inc., they work to preserve the grounds as well as promote a larger understanding of this lesser-known history.
Catch a Show at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre
If you’re a fan of dinner AND a show, you have to plan an evening at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre. You can enjoy broadway-calibre shows at Virginia’s only all-musical dinner theatre. Six shows outline their yearly repertoire and they always close the year with a festive special.
I’m not a huge fan of dinner theatre but the talent I saw during my little sneak peek blew me away. Maybe it was the fun spin on Christmas classics but the energy of the performers is infectious. It will certainly be an evening you won’t forget! However if you can’t squeeze in a show, you can always stop by the Matterhorn Lounge for a meal or grab a pint in the beer garden.
Things to Do Near Wytheville VA
If you’ve visited Wytheville before or are looking to spend a little more time in the area, there are plenty of other great things to do around Wytheville VA. Check out a few of these other nearby destinations for some more Southwest Virginia fun!
Located just an hour southwest along the I-81, Abingdon is a must for historical fanatics and cultural buffs. Founded in 1778, it was located on the route pioneers used to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains. The entire downtown area is listed on the USA’s National Register for Historic Places with Abingdon’s oldest building dating back to 1779!
However, many come to Abingdon for a show at the famous Barter Theatre. Since opening day in 1933, they’ve operated on the ideology of “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh” and you can still do that to this very day! While it’s no longer just 40 cents for admission (or the equivalent in produce) like it was back in 1933, you can still enjoy a show with a food donation during their Barter Days festival in June.
Another big draw is the fantastic trails you’ll find around Abingdon like the Virginia Creeper Trail. Starting in Abingdon, this 55 kilometre long (~34 miles) route follows the old rail line from Abingdon to Damascus, finishing at the border with North Carolina. Whether you experience just a small stretch or complete the full trail, it’s a fan favourite for both hikers and cyclists. If you don’t have much of a chance to explore, make sure to stop by the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Centre and check out the old steam locomotive!
Of course, a luxury getaway is always a good idea which is exactly what you’ll find at The Martha Washington Inn. What was once a women’s college is now a four-star luxury hotel where you’ll enjoy the five-star treatment. We’re talking an outdoor multi-level jacuzzi, natatorium with salt-water pool, a couples suite with soaking tubs and more. While you can enjoy this as one of the great day trips from Wytheville, you may want to spend the night to enjoy the full life of luxury in one of their uniquely decorated rooms and suites. Oh and don’t forget to snag your complimentary glass of port wine before bed!
Grab a Bite at These Wytheville Restaurants
For a smaller town, there is no shortage of good eats in Wytheville. There are quite a few choices to be had but trust me when I say you won’t want to miss these two restaurants in Wytheville!
Log House 1776
Of all the places to eat in Wytheville, Log House 1776 is arguably the best spot in town. However, Log House 1776 isn’t just a restaurant. This two-story log home is an expansive operation!
Before we dive into how cool this place is though, we have to talk about the cuisine. If you’re a foodie or just love good, hearty eats, you need to dine here. Their menu has a wide range of offerings including chicken, beef, pork, fish – you name it! I had their swordfish which I hadn’t had since I lived in Miami and it was incredible. All of the entrees come with your choice of two sides and one of them must be the stuffed yellow crookneck squash. This house specialty has a cult following because it’s that good! And no, they will not give you the recipe no matter how much you beg for it.
You definitely want to plan a meal here but if you don’t get the chance to, make sure to at least stop by and check out the place. Whether you grab a quick drink at Christopher’s Lounge or spend some time perusing the multi-room gift shop, you’ll be amazed at the menagerie of adorable trinkets you’ll discover. I had a huge grin on my face looking at all the fascinating metal sculptures!
With a number of rooms to dine in (and a gorgeous garden patio in the summer!), you’ll have a unique experience each time you dine here. It’s one of the big reasons why the Log House 1776 is one of the top things to do in Wytheville VA!
SOMETHING TO NOTE: Recently, the Log House 1776 suffered a large fire which caused significant damage. The community is rallying though to get them back up and running so while you may not be able to eat here during your next visit, definitely keep it on your radar for future trips to Wytheville!
Skeeter’s Hot Dogs
Mr. E.N. Umberger opened Skeeters in 1925, named after his son’s somewhat unfortunate nickname. Little did he know that these hot dogs would be such a hit for almost a century!
This cozy diner will transport you to a simpler time with their old-school bar stools, classic Coca-Cola imagery and pegboard signs. Even the classic ‘Skeeterdog’ is still the same with its iconic bright red colour. Don’t worry, it’s due to the combo of pork and beef which just adds to the flavour! Smothered in chilli with a touch of mustard and onion, Skeeter’s will quickly become a must-visit whenever you find yourself near Wytheville. While they do have sandwiches, the Skeeterdogs are where it’s at so if you want to get a little crazy, go for The Works or the Big Tex.
While the hot dogs are a little more expensive than their original five cent price tag, Skeeter’s is still a great spot for a quick and inexpensive lunch or snack. You haven’t truly experienced Wytheville if you haven’t enjoyed a Skeeterdog!
Where to Stay in Wytheville
With an adorable town comes plenty of adorable options for hotels but if you’re looking for the best Wytheville accommodation option, that would be the Trinkle Mansion Bed & Breakfast.
Feel like a queen (or king!) during your stay at this gorgeous century-old Classical Revival style homestead with its intricate decor and towering pillars. Step inside and you’ll immediately feel welcomed by innkeepers Patti and Bernie. They’ll give you a tour of their gorgeous property and then you’ll quickly understand why it was rated as one of the best bed and breakfasts in the entire USA on TripAdvisor in 2019.
Trinkle Mansion offers four rooms, each uniquely decorated but equally as cozy. With a plush queen bed, private bathroom with a shower and fluffy robes with slippers to accompany them, you’re guaranteed to have a relaxing stay. Two of the rooms even have a claw tub for a little extra dose of luxury! You can also utilize the wireless internet or tune into one of the satellite TV channels when you’re not busy exploring the attractions near Wytheville VA. If you’d rather have a little more privacy, Trinkle Mansion also offers a private cottage rental that’s perfect for a romantic getaway.
The biggest perk of staying at Trinkle Mansion though? It 100% has to be Patti’s incredible cooking as you enjoy breakfast in the morning. Grab your seat in the charming dining room as she pulls out all the stops. Let’s just say that even two years later, I’m still dreaming of her delightful benedict bundles. Pair these delicious eats with lovely conversation and you have the recipe for the perfect start to your day.
By now I’m sure I have you convinced that you need to stay at Trinkle Mansion. Click here to book your stay or if you want even more proof, see all of the glowing reviews from others who have had the pleasure of staying here. In the unfortunate event that Trinkle Mansion is all booked up during your dates, take a look at these other great options for hotels in Wytheville like the aforementioned Bolling Wilson Hotel.
Planning Your Trip to Wytheville
So, are you ready to check out these incredible things to do in Wytheville VA? Here are some frequently asked questions, tips and general things to know to ensure you have a great visit.
Where is Wytheville VA?
Wytheville is located in Southwestern Virginia in the heart of Wythe County just over an hour from the Tennessee/Virginia border. Since it’s where the I-77, I-81 and other highways intersect, it’s very easy to access. This is just one of the many reasons Wytheville is a great spot for a getaway in Virginia!
What is Wytheville VA known for?
Due to these highways all intersecting, Wytheville is known as the hub of Southwest Virginia. Though it has some claims to fame with the most prominent being the birthplace of Edith Bolling Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson’s second wife.
What are some of the free things to do in Wytheville?
If you’re on a budget, there are a number of ways you can experience Wytheville without spending money. Some of the free Wytheville things to do are:
- Explore downtown admiring the gorgeous architecture
- Take a self-guided historic walking tour
- Popping into an art gallery like Formato Fine Arts
- Visiting the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum (though donations are appreciated!)
- Learn at the African American Heritage Museum
Why should I visit Wytheville?
I’d say this post sums that up completely! Wytheville has a wonderful mix of fascinating history, a great arts and culture scene, natural beauty and quirky character all tied into a beautiful package bursting with small-town charm. My time in Wytheville was easily a top highlight during my road trip along the I-81 and I already can’t wait to go back and visit!
Looking for More Things to Do in Virginia?
Check Out All the Stops to See on An I-81 Road Trip
Don’t Miss These Top Lookouts Along the I-81 in Virginia
This post is brought to you in partnership with Virginia Tourism. While I was compensated for my time, all of the content and opinions here are honest and speak to my personal experience!