Music fills the streets of Floyd, Virginia – Photo attributed to Harold Rail
Whether you’re a fan of blues, gospel, folk, Celtic, or Cajun music, a musician stew has caught on in southwest Virginia and continued to simmer through the region’s soaring hills and lush valleys. .
Bristol: the birthplace of country music
Although you could start your musical road trip anywhere along the Virginia Music Heritage Trail, Bristol makes sense. Known as the “cradle of country music”, this city is located 29 km from the Tri-Cities Airport. Fly, rent a car, and let the music play!
You can learn all about historical recordings of Bristol’s 1927 sessions at the Birthplace Museum of Country Music (a Smithsonian affiliate), which is filled with interactive exhibits, antiques, and even a radio station. The museum also hosts monthly bluegrass jam sessions and the annual Bristol Rhythm and Roots Music Festival.
You can easily spend a few hours in the hometown of the wonderful Museum of Country Music – Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
Country musician AB Carter, his wife Sarah, and his sister-in-law Mabel were part of the 1927 Sessions in Bristol. Travel back in time and visit the Carter Fuld family, about 20 miles from Bristol. The Carter family, considered the pioneers of country music, lived here at the base of Mount Clinch. AP’s General Store now operates as the Carter Family Museum, which hosts live music every Saturday night.
The Carter Family Fold presents early music every Saturday night – Photo courtesy of Virginia for fans
Hungry motorists can enjoy classic sodas at a burger bar, where country music legend Hank Williams Sr. may have had his last meal. The food is cheap and the servers are as nice as the milkshakes. Bristol locals say the best barbecue is served at Artisan BBQ in the South, located in the Sessions Hotel, an upscale boutique accommodation with a rooftop bar and indoor and outdoor live music venues. Hotel Bristol is another good option in the city center, where you can walk to the museum, breweries, and restaurants.
Known as the last place Hank Williams Sr. was seen alive, Burger Bar has been flipping burgers since 1942 – Photo provided by Harold Rail
On the way to Abingdon
Abingdon offers outdoor adventures and great food, as well as a history of music. Be sure to stop at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Market on your way to this Appalachian border town. The center gives inside information about the Crooked Road area and holds open jams on the first Thursday of the month. You will also find exhibits on root music, ancient music, bluegrass and gospel, as well as on regional artisans.
Keep your ears open to enjoy live music at Abingdon accommodations like Tumbling Creek Cider, Bone Fire Smokehouse & Musictorium, and Wolf Hills Brewery. Buy tickets to a musical at Barter Theatre, Virginia State Theatre. When it was created in 1933, customers could pay for products!
When the Barter Theater opened in 1933, admission was 40 cents or the equivalent in merchandise – Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
Satisfy your hunger pangs at a range of Abingdon restaurants, from signature eats to upscale. Restaurateur and chef Lucas Patterson pursues two passions, playing guitar in a traveling band for more than a decade and earning a culinary degree on his own. in Luke. Expect an eclectic menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and tacos.
Try the Shrimp tour bus or Mom’s Meatloaf Sandwich – Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
You can burn calories by walking, running, or biking along the Virginia Creeper Trail, which begins in downtown Abingdon and has a reputation as one of the best biking trails in the country. The Abingdon Visitor Center will direct you to bike shops and shuttle services that will take you to the highest point of the trail, then all descend for 17 miles of stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Virginia farmlands.
The Virginia Creeper Trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail at various points – Image courtesy of Harold Rail
After a long day of fun, you can choose to sleep in Colonial-style cottages at the base of Virginia Creeper Road, opt for a more modern aesthetic in a Scandinavian loft bed and breakfast, or relax at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa. . This opulent property exudes a Southern vibe, especially when you drink a complimentary cup from the outlet each night on one of the rocking chairs on the grand balcony.
More fun for Floyd
Your next destination on Crooked Road is Floyd, a small town with a massive heart atop the Blue Ridge Plateau. On the way to Floyd, be sure to take in the epic views from Wytheville’s Big Walker Lookout. There is an old fashioned rustic shop full of trinkets and snacks. The same family has operated the gazebo and storeroom for over 75 years and occasionally hosts live music on the terrace.
When you get to town, consider checking into the Floyd Hotel, a green property located in the midst of Floyd’s musicians, artisans, and friendly people. The staff will tell you about all the festivities, from drumming workshops to live music in the courtyard.
The Floyd Country Store has been open since 1909 and is a must-do for experiencing authentic Appalachian music, clogs, and flat feet. Count on dancing to liven up the honky-tonks on Thursdays and Americana on Saturday afternoons. The shop also hosts open jam sessions on Sundays and Friday nights weekly.
Floyd Country Store is an incubator for local heritage music and dance – Photo by Harold Rail
Walk around the Galax
Pencil in a stop at Blue Ridge Music Center on the way to Galax. The center includes a state-of-the-art amphitheater and an impressive visitor center with an interactive Roots of American Music exhibit. Some call Galax the “old mountain music capital of the world,” and it’s almost certainly around this time that violinists gather every August (since 1935) for the Old Violinists’ Conference. Musicians who like to shop can enter Barr’s Violin Shop, which has a history spanning more than 40 years and offers an extensive inventory of stringed instruments.
Can’t leave before summer? You might want to visit Galax when the city hosts the annual Houston Festival for the second weekend in June. Held in memory of local musician Houston Caldwell, the festival features artisans, local cuisine and more than 30 bands, performing old world music of mountain, bluegrass, and gospel.
Mark Handy and Roger Stamper ready to play bluegrass at HoustonFest – Photo by Harold Rail
Make music for Marion
Then head to Marion’s to relax your musical nerves at the Hôtel Général Francis Marion, built in the 1920s and revitalized in 2006. It’s a short walk from the 1929 New Mayan Lincoln Theater where “Song of the Mountains” is a winning concert series. Prizes, recorded monthly in front of a live audience.
Don’t miss the Wayne C. Henderson Appalachian School of Art, which emphasizes traditional Appalachian heritage. Henderson is a world-renowned guitarist and luthier, who built instruments for Eric Clapton, Gillian Welch, and Doc Watson. The school offers workshops for making dulcimers, violins, guitars, textile art, pottery and much more. Everyone is invited to the party on Monday night.
Get tickets to Song of the Mountains Monthly at Marion’s Lincoln Theater – Image credit to Harold Rail
Depending on how much time you have, continue east to visit the Blue Ridge Institute in Virum, home of the popular Blue Ridge Festival in October, and Rocky Mount, popularly known as the “Mounshine Capital of the World.”
That’s right: Virginia for fans of live music, American history, and plenty of friendly folks along Crooked Trail.
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