Virginia’s charm lies not only in her natural scenery, but in her abundance of small cities, towns and villages. Many of these areas have been recognized, not only Virginians, but by nationwide publications and travel guides. With many award-winning places to choose from, we’ve selected a few of our favorites, along with a few that may not have garnered national attention, but have certainly caught our eye. If you’re looking for new places to visit in the coming year, these towns should be at the top of your list.
As a town we’ve featured more than once, it’s no surprise that others have noticed the many charms of Abingdon, as well. In 2015, Abingdon was named the #2 “Best Southern Small Town” in the country by the
USA Today and 10Best Readers’ Poll
and one of the “18 Most Charming Small Towns Across America” by
With just over 8,000 residents, Abingdon is small, but offers a rich history with ties to the Cherokee Nation, William Byrd and Daniel Boone. Named after Martha Washington’s ancestral home in England and home to the elegant Martha Washington Inn and Spa, Abingdon became a town in 1778. Today, its historic downtown hosts a thriving arts and culture scene, featuring venues like the Barter Theatre and the William King Museum, as well as many other galleries, antique shops and museums.
2015 USA Today and 10Best Readers’ Poll
, Floyd took an impressive 9th place finish for “Best Southern Small Town” in the country. With a population that hovers around 500, Floyd offers small town living at its finest. Located in Southwest Virginia, Floyd holds a surprising treasure trove of arts and music. From the regular Friday Night Jamboree at The Floyd Country Store to headlining music festivals like Floydfest, this tiny town brings in artists and performers from all over the country. The historic downtown provides a wide array of shops, many of them featuring locally made arts and crafts, pottery and locally grown foods.
Staunton is another of Virginia’s small town gems that has garnered praise at national levels. Named the one of the best small towns in the the United States by
, one of the best main streets in the country by
, and “One of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations in the United States” by the
National Trust for Historic Preservation
, Staunton is well-deserving of the recognition. Founded in 1732, this lovely little town in the Shenandoah Valley provides history and culture with sites like the American Shakespeare Center and The Frontier Culture Museum, as well as historic architecture, specialty shopping, premier dining and night life opportunities.
Although technically a city, Charlottesville is often viewed as a town for it’s quaint, close-knit feel and small geographical size. Frequently named one of the top places to live and visit, not just in Virginia, but in the nation, Charlottesville has more accolades than we can even list. Most recently, Charlottesville was named one of the “12 Cutest Small Towns in America" by
. As the hometown of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville hosts both his academic village at the University of Virginia, as well as his historical plantation home at Monticello. With a charming downtown, beautifully preserved homes and buildings, museums and monuments, Charlottesville provides history and culture, both in town and in the surrounding areas.
Few people who know Chincoteague Island will argue with this town’s reign as one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America.” In a recent CNN report,
named Chincoteague as the #2 Coolest Small Town in America. This was followed by a coveted #8 spot in the
2015 USA Today and 10Best Readers’ Poll
for Best Coastal Small Towns. First settled in the 1700s, Chincoteague gained the spotlight in the 1960s with the publication of “Misty of Chincoteague,” a story about one of the island’s now famous wild ponies. Today, Chincoteague is best known for its Annual Pony Swim and Auction, but also offers pristine beaches, amazing seafood, boat tours, home tours and an all-around chilled out beach town experience.
When it comes to recognition, few things could be nicer than to be named one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns.” But that’s exactly what
Coastal Living Magazine
called Smithfield in 2015, just before naming it one of their “Atlantic Coast Dream Towns.” And it’s no wonder. This lovely little town, known for its world-famous ham, boasts a long history as part of the Virginia Colony beginning in 1634. Founded on the Pagan River near Jamestown, Smithfield eventually became the “Ham Capital of the World.” So is it good food that makes this town so happy? Perhaps, but an incredible community spirit certainly helps. With concerts in the park, community BBQs, and countless other local events, this town makes the most of its stunning historical downtown, featuring sites like the Smithfield Inn, as well as historic homes, schools and churches.
7. Cape Charles
The town of Cape Charles sits near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Founded in 1884, the town was originally a planned community intended to support a new railroad and the Little Creek-Cape Charles Ferry. Today, with a population just topping 1,000, Cape Charles maintains its quaint, post-Victorian charm. After walking the town streets lined with old-fashioned shops and restaurants, including a old-school soda fountain, head to the Cape Charles Museum to explore the town's history, or simply walk the quiet neighborhood streets and soak in Cape Charles' seaside charm.
Set on the banks of Kerr Lake in Southside Virginia, Clarksville is Virginia's only lakeside town. Featuring an historic district that is on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia's Historic Register, Clarksville is surrounded by natural beauty that includes the lake, as well as the nearby Occoneechee State Park. With historical architecture, locally owned shops and businesses and annual events like the LakeFest festival, Clarksville provides ample opportunity for visitors and residents alike to enjoy its laid-back charm and personality.
If the surrounding countryside doesn’t stop you in your tracks, the charming little town of Crozet will. Situated roughly between Charlottesville and Staunton at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Crozet is known for its abundant outdoor opportunities, including hiking, parks and award-winning wineries. But the town itself is worth a visit, featuring historic buildings, rustic streets and quaint local shops. With a population around 5,500, Crozet fits the bill for authentic small town living in the heart of Virginia.
What Scottsville lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. There may be fewer than 700 residents in this tiny little town, but according to the town website, there are more than 150 commercial, residential, religious, factory and warehouse buildings that offer nationally recognized historical significance, including the old historic courthouse where Thomas Jefferson himself once practiced law. Situated along one of the most beautiful stretches of the James River just between Albemarle and Fluvanna counties, Scottsville is a haven for canoeing, tubing, fishing and hiking.
Founded in 1733 by Pennsylvania Quakers, Waterford was once a thriving mill town along Catoctin Creek, and served as the second largest town in Loudoun County before the Civil War. After the war, the town's economy went downhill, but the old building and farms were not demolished. In the 1930s, a handful of old Waterford families began buying and restoring buildings and by 1970, Waterford and 1,420 surrounding acres were added to the list of National Historic Landmarks. Today, the majority of the town's building date before 1840, offering a uniquely preserved look at life in early rural Virginia. Every October the village hosts the Waterford Fair, a three-day festival including home tours, craft exhibitions, artisan demonstrations, Civil War re-enactments and more.
Located in Clarke County, Berryville was founded in the mid-1700s. The town is the site of where John Morgan, a Revolutionary War hero, would take on rowdy, young locals brave enough to fight. Because of this legend, and a bawdy tavern located nearby, the area was originally known as "Battle Town." Today, Berryville has calmed down and is home to a thriving community and many historical sites. Highlights of this pretty little Shenandoah Valley town include the Holy Cross Abbey (a Trappist Monastery) and Rosemont (former home of Governor Harry F. Byrd), as well as many local business, legendary battlefields and charming historic sites.
Let us know what scenic small cities, town or villages you would add to the list. We would love to see your contributions in the comments below!