There’s nothing like a Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas. Now, imagine celebrating the holidays by stepping back in time through centuries of holiday customs, history and ambiance, from Colonial to Appalachian to the Civil War to the present. Nestled between the soaring peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Great Appalachian Valley, Abingdon is the ultimate costumed and sparkling backdrop for a magical winter vacation.
Abingdon is one of the oldest English-speaking settlements west of the Blue Ridge, founded in 1778. An enthusiasm for historic preservation and passion for the contemporary makes Abingdon a holiday treat: a walkable, bike-able and drive-able town to fall in love with.
During Christmas in Abingdon, the brick sidewalks and ancient oak trees are lined with lights and street vendors sell fragrant roasted chestnuts and Christmas crafts each weekend. Carolers add to the romance. Virtually every historic structure in town is decorated in period style or in a contemporary fusion, from The Tavern (ca. 1779), the oldest operating restaurant in Virginia; to the porches and interiors of the grand old Martha Washington Inn & Spa (ca. 1832); to early settlers’ cabins.
The famous Barter Theatre offers two different productions at the historic Moonlite Drive-In. Artisan, boutique and antique shops help customers choose one-of-a-kind gifts while offering refreshments and extended hours. This year, see “Frosty the Snowman” and “A Christmas Carol” from the comfort of your car. A company of talented actors have agreed to live in quarantine together, so they can safely interact both on and off the stage.Instead of performing in the Barter Theatre building, a stage was built in front of the big screen at a local drive-in theatre just minutes down the road. The live performance is simulcast on the screen, while sound is broadcast to your car on a local radio station. Families can choose from the musical Frosty! or A Christmas Carol – or see both in a double header!
Santa appears in some unique places in this town to delight the young and young at heart. To build an itinerary around interests and activity levels, go to www.VisitAbingdonVirginia.com/christmas-in-abingdon-itinerary
Abingdon’s over 30 independently owned restaurants welcome theatre-goers, busy shoppers and leisurely diners, and some offer live music. Sample the famous curried mushroom soup at The Peppermill, or treat the family to a cup of hot cocoa and baked goods at Anthony’s Desserts.
The front lawn of The Martha Washington Inn & Spa is transformed into a festive Christmas Village each weekend, with craft vendors, hot cider stand, and live entertainment. Stroll the grounds and enjoy the Christmas decorations, and shop for holiday goodies.
Stay in accommodations that are equally festive during the season. A few ideas include the Black Dog Inn, a newly restored, charming federal style home built in 1834 by a German merchant for his family. Located in the heart of Abingdon, Virginia’s beautiful Historic District, Black Dog Inn is within walking distance of dozens of wonderful dining establishments, historic sites and activities. Working fireplaces, continental breakfast add to the delight (Black-Dog-Inn.com). At The Martha Washington Inn & Spa immerse in total pampering without having to leave for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A glass of wine by a cozy fire, an atrium-enclosed heated saltwater pool and specialty spa treatments add to the relaxation (www.TheMartha.com). More places to stay: Check in to one of Abingdon’s numerous bed and breakfasts or cottages. Get off-season rates at national chain hotels or enjoy a cozy Virginia mountain cabin. See a full list of lodging options, here.
Here are just a few of the holiday happenings in Abingdon. Updates are provided at the Visitors Center website, www.VisitAbingdonVirginia.com/Christmas.
- The Barter Theatre offers two productions at the historic Moonlite Drive-In, with early showtimes for the littlest fans: See Frosty the Snowman or A Christmas Carol and enjoy a completely touchless experience from the comfort of your vehicle. Mid-November through December; check days and times with the theater.
- The Abingdon Farmers Market opens each Saturday morning with baked goods, crafts and gifts.
- Self-guided walking tours of the charming brick sidewalks and eye-catching architecture of downtown Abingdon, named a Virginia Historic Landmark. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor’s Center, 335 Cummings Street, 276-676-2282.
- Extended hours for downtown merchants and the Abingdon Arts Depot.
- Interactive Santa’s Elves Workshops at the King Museum of History.
- Christmas Village at The Martha, presented by the Virginia Highlands Festival, Fridays through Sundays each week, November 6 – December 20, 2020
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace, an artisans’ gallery, visitors center and a gathering place for food and entertainment, is the gateway to mapped trails of Appalachian music, craft and outdoor recreation. Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace hosts open jams, music series, artisan demonstrations and café specials along with a Santa visit.