Culture & Recreation

For a relatively small region, Washington County’s array of cultural, historical, and recreational activities would make many cities jealous. A thriving arts scene, foodie culture, vibrant history, and great outdoor recreation are just a few of the reasons that USA Today, Southern Living, and others name our communities “Best” towns. 

Culture & the Arts

The Barter Theatre: The state theater of Virginia and the nation’s longest-running professional resident theatre; also offers classes for students.

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, a.k.a. “The Martha”: A historic property built as a private residence in 1832 that has been an upscale hotel since 1935; located across from the Barter Theatre

William King Museum of ArtThe region’s premier visual arts facility, offering fine world art, contemporary regional art and cultural heritage exhibits that change frequently.

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace: The gateway to Southwest Virginia’s distinctive heritage, great outdoor recreation, and scenic beauty. A one-of-a-kind venue showcasing the best in regional crafts and also serves as home for ‘Round the Mountain – Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network and headquarters of The Crooked Road – Southwest Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, where you can hear old-time, bluegrass and gospel music from local artists.

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The Crooked Road – Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail: A 330-mile driving trail through the mountains of Southwest Virginia that focuses on the uniqueness and vitality of the region’s heritage music; also includes outdoor recreational activities, museums, crafts, and historic and cultural programs.

Bristol Motor Speedway: This world-famous half-mile track hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Trucks races; also offers tours.

Birthplace of Country Music Museum: Affiliated with the Smithsonian, this museum celebrates Bristol’s seminal country music heritage and designation as the Birthplace of Country Music by the U.S. Congress in 1998. Also hosts the Rhythm & Roots Reunion, one of the largest music festivals in the South.

Paramount Center for the Arts: Features nationally known musicians, Broadway touring shows, ballet, symphony, and choral and chamber music. It also offers its stage to local performing groups, including:

Several ballet companies
Symphony of the Mountains, a regional orchestra
Voices of the Mountains, a regional chorus
The Paramount Players, the area’s chamber music ensemble

Shopping: A variety of shopping options, from two large malls to smaller specialty shops selling art, antiques, clothing, décor, and outdoor gear.

Outdoor Activities

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area (NRA):  200,000 acres of National Forest land near Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest point. The lofty terrain is a melding of rare spruce-fir forest, open meadows, and large rock formations. Additionally, a herd of wild, free-ranging ponies call these high elevations home. With a wide array of outdoor activities and rich biodiversity, Mount Rogers NRA truly lives up to its name as national recreation area.

South Holston Lake: With hundreds of miles of shoreline, is popular for fishing, boating, skiing, and other recreational activities; hosts a number of fishing tournaments each year.

Several public and private golf courses, including:

Glenrochie Country Club, Abingdon
The Virginian Golf Club, Bristol
The Olde Farm, Bristol
Clear Creek Golf Club, Bristol

World-class recreational trails, including:

Appalachian Trail: The longest hiking-only trail in the world runs through the heart of Washington County.

Virginia Creeper Trail: A hiking, biking, and equestrian trail running from Abingdon to Damascus; considered to be one of the best mountain biking trails in the eastern U.S.

Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail

Iron Mountain Trail

U.S. Bicycle Route 76, a.k.a. the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail

Daniel Boone Heritage Trail

Crooked Road Music Trail

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, a driving and walking trail that traces the route used by patriot militia during the pivotal Kings Mountain campaign of 1780, begins in Abingdon

Centrally Located

Washington County is close to both natural recreation and major metropolitan areas, further enhancing the quality of life for residents. In a day’s drive or less, you can reach:

  • Asheville, NC (< 2 hours)
  • Charlotte, NC (3 hours)
  • Nashville, TN (4.5 hours)
  • Richmond, VA (5 hours)
  • Louisville, KY (5 hours)
  • Atlanta, GA (5 hours)
  • Columbus, OH (5.5 hours)
  • Virginia Beach, VA (6 hours)
  • Myrtle Beach, SC (6 hours)
  • Washington, DC (6 hours)