It’s often true that the more obscure or less known something is, the cooler it becomes. That principle applies well to these 10 small towns, which because of their populations seem very underrated.
For most of us, these towns might only sound familiar if we’ve driven by them en route to somewhere else on the map. But with so much history and pristine beauty, it’d actually be a mistake to miss out on stopping by these tiny towns. Small towns in Virginia are a reminder of what we love most even about the bigger cities: the food, culture, and friendliness. What’s so wonderful about our state is you’ll find these characteristics everywhere from the least-populous towns to the most-populous cities. Here are some particularly cool small towns you’ll want to check out on your next road trip.
Welcome to Monterey, Virginia. With a population of only 150, it's a safe bet that it's the kind of place where everyone knows your name. The town is located in Highland County along the scenic Route 250. What really puts Monterey on the map is the annual Maple Festival, which takes place in March and celebrates the process of making authentic maple syrup with all kinds of delicious maple treats. It's really no wonder why Monterey and Highland County are considered to be "Virginia's Sweet Spot."
The town of Scottsville (originally known as Scott's Landing) is located just outside of Charlottesville and makes up part of both Albermarle and Fluvanna Counties. The population is just over 560. Scottsville played an important role during Virginia's early history. In the 1700s, it served as a quasi-capital, being the westernmost point of government with quick access to rivers. This was an ideal characteristic for a place of commerce, especially as explorers were still discovering the wilderness. Today, Scottsville's historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a year, Scottsville is home to the James River Batteau Festival, a celebration of batteau replicas complete with a costume-clad crew.
Reedville is a historic Northern Neck fishing village located near the Chesapeake Bay. The town is named for Elijah Reed, a sea captain from Maine who saw incredible potential for the fishing industry there. And he was right. The menhaden fishing industry rendered Reedville the wealthiest town in the country, per capita, between 1890-1900. Signs of this prosperity can still be seen today, with beautiful Victorian mansions along Main Street, which is aptly known as "Captain's Row." Reedville is also known for hosting an annual oyster roast.
Tazewell is an Appalachian treasure located in southwest Virginia. It's population is just over 4,500 and was originally known as Jeffersonville. This town was one of the smallest in the country with the unique distinction of owning a street car. Tazewell is known for its proximity to the Clinch River, which has been distinguished by the Nature Conservancy as one of the "Last Great Places." With the Appalachian Trail nearby, this town is considered an outdoorsman's paradise.
Part of the Lynchburg Metropolitan Statistical Area, Altavista is located in Campbell County as has a population of roughly 3,400. Its beginnings are relatively modern, as the area was incorporated in 1905 during the development of the Tidewater Railway. Altavista's Downtown Historic District is a fascinating area to explore, with plenty of great stopping points. The Main Street Shoppes, for example, is a former bank-turned-restaurant which serves delicious gourmet sandwiches and coffees.
6. South Boston
Despite how it may sound, South Boston is nowhere near Massachusetts. The town was formerly known as Boyd's Ferry, and it's located in Halifax County. With a population of just over 8,000, South Boston isn't necessarily a tiny town, but it's an area that many people aren't as familiar with. This makes it a prime candidate for the cool factor. In early fall, the downtown streets of South Boston are filled with artists, crafters, and many festival-goers scouting out the incredible hand-made goods. This annual South Boston Harvest Festival is every bit as charming as it sounds. Enjoy some quaint refreshments such as a turkey leg and a glass of lemonade as you wander down Main Street.
Nestled in the heart of the Virginia Highlands, Marion is located in Smyth County. The town is named for Francis Marion, an officer in the Revolutionary War. Marion has been designated as a national Main Street Community. Music is a strong thread of the community here, and the Lincoln Theatre is the home of the nationally broadcast "Song of the Mountains," which features bluegrass music. Visitors can even stay in a AAA Three-Diamond boutique hotel known as the General Francis Marion Hotel.
Blackstone is located about 35 miles west of Petersburg in Nottoway County. The population of this town is roughly 3,700 and was officially incorporated in 1888. One of Blackstone's distinguishing characteristics is its closeness in proximity to Fort Pickett, which was built during the second World War as an army post. Other noteworthy attractions include the Robert Thomas Carriage Museum, which houses a wide array of antique horse carriages, as well as the Antiques and Crafts Mall.
Franklin can be found in the Coastal Plain of the state, right at the head of the Blackwater River. With such proximity to the water, Franklin has a rich history of trade and transportation as well as agriculture. What's great about Franklin is its nearness to bigger cities such as Suffolk and even Norfolk, yet its strong identity as a smaller, more laid-back version. You'll get a taste for the city's unique flair at the Visitor's Center, which is an old railroad depot.
Culpeper is not necessary a town you haven't heard of, but it's one of those spots that may be overlooked and underrated. This Northern Virginia town is also included in the Historic Main Street program and has a downtown that has been completely revitalized since its beginnings in the 1700s. You'll find a refreshing mix of authentic diners as well as high-end restaurants here. For a taste of the town's rich history, be sure to stop by the Museum of Culpepper History. You'll also want to be sure to enjoy a sip of wine or two at one of the nearby vineyards.
Whether it’s a town of 100 or 10,000, some places in Virginia just have that wonderful feeling of being part of a small community. Have you visited any of these spots recently? Which other towns in Virginia have a similar dynamic? Be sure to share your thoughts with us!