Chautauqua Festival
Photo courtesy of visitwytheville.com

Small Virginia town offers charm, history, recreation or relaxation to guests

Are you longing for a short break from your usual routine, perhaps some scenic beauty away from crowds? May I suggest the tiny but fascinating town of Wytheville, Virginia? This town of fewer than 10,000 will surprise you with its number of attractions. You can stay as busy or relaxed as you choose.

People often make their way to Wytheville because of the outdoor recreation opportunities. For hiking and biking, check out Big Walker Mountain Trail, New River State Park or Crystal Springs Recreation Area. During the right seasons, you might want to try your luck catching some of the rainbow or brown trout known to thrive in the area.

Big Walker Lookout is billed as Virginia’s oldest privately owned scenic attraction. In addition to the 100-foot observation tower, you’ll also find a store full of souvenirs, crafts and canned goods. The store also serves Homestead Creamery ice cream, and the lemon crunch flavor is something special.

If you visit with children, consider a few hours at Cobb Hill Alpaca Farm or Fort Chiswell Animal Park. In the spring, Beagle Ridge Herb Farm is wonderful. The lavender farm and butterfly house are great places to learn about plants and living things of all kinds. For history buffs, check out the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum, dedicated to the former first lady; the Thomas J. Boyd Museum and the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum, all in the downtown area.

Wytheville is home to Virginia’s smallest church, where the doors are always open. It is nondenominational and holds eight.

Take your time to stroll both sides of Main Street, where you can browse a wide variety of specialty shops and boutiques.

Plenty of lodging options

At the junction of interstates, you’ll find several hotel chains; but my highest recommendation goes to the beautiful boutique hotel in the center of town, the Bolling Wilson Hotel. There are only 30 guest rooms, so book as early as possible.

Each room and the theme of the entire décor is a tribute to Wilson. Real orchids and paintings of
orchids are throughout.

According to stories, President Woodrow Wilson sent her a bouquet of orchids every day of their courtship. Be sure to find the town’s 100-foot mural depicting her entire life.

Graze on Main is the restaurant inside the Bolling Wilson Hotel. It is so named because the president and first lady kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn during World War I so the regular grounds-keepers could work elsewhere supporting the war effort.

The wool from the sheep was auctioned off, with proceeds also going to war expenses. Don’t miss the carrot cake, the dessert chosen by the Wilsons for their wedding cake.

Dining options

Across the street from the hotel and next door to the Wilson Birthplace Museum, you’ll find Skeeter’s World Famous Hot Dogs. It has been in business since 1925, and its hot dogs made the list of “best in America” according to Rachel Ray Magazine.

“The Works,” a bargain at less than $3, comes with cheese, slaw, mustard, onions and chili.

A few blocks down Main Street you’ll find 1776 Log House Restaurant. The original part of the building was indeed built in 1776 by a man who had to leave the project to fight in the Revolutionary War. More was added in 1804, and the Civil War factors into its history too.

You’ll wish the walls could tell the tales of those who occupied the rooms in the past, but even more you’ll want to dive into the homemade loaf of fresh-baked bread brought to your table as a starter. Don’t miss the corn fritters with honey or the stuffed squash.

Dinner Theatre

Wytheville has a generous share of chain restaurants, too, so you won’t go hungry, but may I also suggest a meal and entertainment combination?

The musical productions at Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre are always popular, so be sure to book your tickets early. They have both matinee and evening performances after a four-course meal.

This summer’s shows include “Under the Boardwalk” through June 27 and the gospel revue, “Oh, Happy Day!” (July 1–­­Aug. 29).

Wytheville has the distinction of the being the only town in the world with that name. It embraces its uniqueness, and I found it to be a friendly and fascinating place to visit.

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