When it comes to winter travel, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains offer a unique and enchanting experience. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountain Range, this region spans over 600 miles, boasting small towns, scenic overlooks, and a drive that’s hailed as one of the South’s most picturesque. To guide you through the winter wonderland, this articlefrom Southern Living turned to Travis Milton, culinary director at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, whose deep connection with the area unveils a side of Appalachia that’s best experienced in the colder months.
Exploring the Scenic Route: Roanoke to Bristol
The interviewed Chef Milton suggests taking the scenic route from Roanoke to Abingdon and Bristol, avoiding the highways to truly appreciate the beauty of Appalachia. This journey offers a glimpse into the vibrant communities and delectable meals that define the region. As you wind through the landscape, the crisp winter air carries scents of charred cinnamon and roasted apples, a testament to the seasonal events like apple butter cook-offs and canning swaps that infuse the area with a sense of community.
Roanoke: Gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains
For those traveling from afar, Roanoke serves as the perfect starting point. The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airportconnects major cities, and accommodations like Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center or the unique Fire Station One provide cozy stays. The latter, housed in a former firefighting headquarters, preserves historical features for a truly immersive experience.
Abingdon: A Picturesque Retreat
A scenic 2-hour drive from Roanoke takes you to Abingdon, a town described as one of the most picturesque he’s seen. The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, with its rich history, offers a luxurious stay, while short-term rentals provide a more casual option. Abingdon’s charm extends to its trails along the Holston River, the Virginia Creeper Trail, and historic Main Street, where quaint shops and a stunning cemetery await exploration.
Bristol: Small City, Big Culture
The final leg of the journey brings you to Bristol, Virginia, where the Inn at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards awaits. Voted the South’s Best Hotel in 2023, this mountain oasis offers luxury yurts and an outdoor fire pit for a cozy winter night. Bristol surprises with its cultural offerings, from Cheap Thrills Records to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. It’s recommended that you visit HollerHouse for unique Appalachian art and Benjamin Walls Fine Art Galleryfor nature photography enthusiasts.
Culinary Delights in the Mountains
To truly savor the essence of Appalachia, Chef Milton suggests exploring local markets. In Abingdon, the Farmers Market hosts holiday and winter markets, showcasing the region’s diverse culinary offerings. For a taste of Chef Milton’s culinary expertise, start your morning at Hickory in the Inn at Nicewonder, where seasonal delights like buttermilk biscuits topped with fried bologna await. And if you’re in need of a caffeine fix, Bloom and The Girl and The Raven are the go-to spots.
Discovering Appalachian Trails: A Hiker’s Paradise
For those seeking an active winter adventure, the Appalachian Mountains offer an array of hiking trails. Near Roanoke, explore the Star Trail or the Roanoke River Blueway, where winter conditions make hikes more manageable. The Appalachian magic comes alive as snow blankets the trails, providing a serene backdrop for an unforgettable trek through nature’s winter wonderland. Lace-up your boots and embrace the tranquility of these pristine trails, creating memories that last a lifetime.
Embrace the Winter Magic
Winter in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains unveils a different kind of magic. From the snowy trails of Abingdon to the cultural gems of Bristol, each stop along the way adds a layer of charm to your journey. Whether you’re indulging in local cuisine, exploring historic sites, or simply breathing in the crisp mountain air, this winter escapade promises unforgettable moments.
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