Small towns to big cities: we’ve got the whole range here in Virginia. If you think about it, mid-sized towns really get the best of both worlds. There’s plenty of local charm and also plenty to see. Most of these places have a main stretch, but that isn’t the only road in town. Plus, while you’re navigating around, chances are you won’t be stopped in stand-still traffic. If you’re looking to relocate, or simply go sight-seeing around this wonderful state, here are some mid-sized cities you’ll want to consider.
With a population of nearly 100,000, Roanoke doesn't quite fit the mold of a small town. In fact, it's the business and cultural hub of Southwestern Virginia. The town was originally known as Big Lick, chartered in 1874. It served as an important stop on the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad. Today, Roanoke makes the perfect destination for a Blue Ridge Mountain getaway. The railroad culture is alive and well, and visitors can explore the many museums which honor the town's history. Some of the top-ranked activities here include hiking the Mill Mountain Star, visiting the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and the brewery tours.
Staunton can be found in the heart of Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley. It's often recognized as a wonderful place to live and visit, for reasons which range from its history to its present-day culture. The roads are distinctively hilly, and the shops and stores are charming. One of the most noteworthy features in Staunton is the Blackfriar's Playhouse, a replica of what stood during Shakespeare's time. Some of the other popular spots to see are the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, Woodrow Wilson's birthplace, and the Frontier Culture Museum. Be sure to pack some good walking shoes!
It's true that Charlottesville is a college town, but it's also a city independent of Mr. Jefferson's University. From farmlands and vineyards to the Blue Ridge Mountains to the mall, there is plenty to do in this artistic and scholarly medium-sized town. You could spend an entire day getting lost in all of the bookstores, unique boutiques, and delicious local eats. Charlottesville is best explored on foot, and the city truly comes alive when the weather is beautiful. If you've spent any time here, you'll understand why it's been referred to as America's happiest city.
4. Newport News
Newport News has the advantage of its wonderful mid-coast location. Surrounded by the James River and Hampton Roads Harbor, there is plenty of activity in this town all year round. It's just a short drive from two major attractions, Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. Although its the fifth-largest city in Virginia, Newport News still retains plenty of character and is never an overwhelming place to visit. When you're in town, you won't want to miss a trip to the Mariners' Museum, the Virginia Living Musuem, or the Newport News Park.
With its green rolling hills that are so characteristic of its region in Virginia, Lynchburg is often referred to as "the City of Seven Hills" or "Hill City." This Blue Ridge Mountain city has a population of roughly 80,000 and has grown steadily since its settlement in 1757. Here's a little-known fact about this city: for 4 brief days in 1865, Lynchburg served as the state capital after the fall of Richmond. Today, the town is a center for culture, history, and great dining. The home to Randolph College, Liberty University, Lynchburg College and Virginia University of Lynchburg, Lynchburg is also a hub for education. Some of the city's top attractions include seeing the Old City Cemetery, the Riverwalk Trail, and the Point of Honor.
Enjoy the bustle of Washington D.C. but from a safe distance? You'll love Winchester. Just a short drive from the Nation's capital, Winchester has the feel of a smaller community. European settlement to this northwestern Virginia city began in 1729. As the town developed, it played a significant role in both the Revolutionary and Civil War. Today, the city of Winchester is considered to be an artistic center of the region. Each May, it's the location of the world renowned Apple Blossom Festival. This event consists of parades, live music, and endless fun activities. Winchester is also the spot for outdoor enthusiasts, as it is an access point for the Appalachian Trail and other hiking routes. Other exciting attractions include the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters, and the Patsy Cline Historic House.
Petersburg is definitely on the smaller spectrum of mid-sized cities in Virginia (its population is roughly 33,000), but there is plenty going on here. Early on, Petersburg was established as a strategic point of interest for transportation and business because of its location at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers. The town's development began as early as 1611, established as the Citie of Henricus. It played important roles in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the town's history can still be explored today. And Petersburg is just a quick drive from Richmond. Some of the city's places of interest include Petersburg National Battlefield Park, Centre Hill Mansion, and the Siege Museum.
Located in the lovely Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is the county seat of Rockingham County and has a population of approximately 50,000. The city, formerly known as Rocktown, was explored by settlers in 1716. Today, the downtown area is where all the activity happens. In fact, Harrisonburg was the first designated culinary district and arts & cultural district in Virginia. Harrisonburg is also home to James Madison University, which contributes to the overall liveliness of the area. A great time to visit Harrisburg is during the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival, which happens twice a year and celebrates the finest in music, food, and beer.
Danville is the heart of southern Virginia. Established along the banks of the Dan River, this city has a population of nearly 45,000. Danville developed when an explorer by the name of William Byrd was determined to establish the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. Byrd was completely enthralled with the land's natural beauty, predicting that it would be the perfect site for a future city. Settlement officially began in 1792, with a successful economy for bright leaf tobacco. Today, Danville is a charming place to visit. The city boasts some wonderful outdoor festivals and activities. A recent addition is the newly-renovated amphitheater where major touring artists perform.
Have you spent time in any of the above cities in Virginia? This list is not comprehensive, so be sure to share some love for your favorite mid-sized cities that might have missed the list!