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Love sign Wytheville Virginia

It may be known to many snowbirds as a good place to stop on their route to the sun because of its prime location at the crossroads of I-77 and I-81, but Wytheville, Virginia (pronounced “with-ville”) is more than just a place to bed down for the night, or fill up the car and continue on your way. Even if you find yourself in this town while on a road trip to another destination in the U.S., a day or two to explore more of what Wytheville has to offer can be a wonderful part of that journey. Because whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, a culture vulture or a road warrior, there are plenty of things to do in Wytheville for all of you.

Things to do in Wytheville for the History Buff

downtown Wytheville

Wytheville has a population of just under 8300 people but it takes its history seriously, judging by the number of museums and historic sites that can be found here (there’s even a municipal Department of Museums that administers many of them). You can start with whichever museum strikes your fancy, because each one offers something a little different.

The Wytheville Homestead Living History Museum

Time traveller-wannabes will enjoy this property which is home to a number of 19th century structures that reflect what daily life might have looked like for residents of Virginia in the mid 1800s. This is the only museum of its kind that focuses exclusively on a single county, not the region or the state, and everything in and around it reflects this hyper-local history.

Homestead museum Wytheville Virginia-3
The original 1848 home and its grounds is now the Homestead Living History Museum

The original structure of the main house dates from 1848 (with later additions in the 1930s), and the 19th century rooms display antique artifacts and furniture from this period, including rare tin-panelled pie safes that would be headliners on the Antiques Roadshow with their $20,000 valuations.

FUN FACT: The tin used on these pie safes’ panels is punched with holes to allow air to cool the baked goods inside, but the tin is punched from the inside OUT which apparently discourages insects from crawling over the protruding edges and getting inside.

Antique pie chest Wytheville Homestead Museum
Antique pie chest with punched tin panels to cool the baking

Outside the main home there are several outbuildings that you can visit as well, including a smokehouse that is original to the property, plus other structures that have been relocated here from elsewhere in the county, like the gunsmith and blacksmith shop and the Umgartner family’s log house. It’s a glimpse into the lifestyles of the past that makes you appreciate the conveniences of the present, while still marvelling at the effort and ingenuity of these early settlers.

Homestead museum Wytheville Virginia outbuildings
The Homestead museum has both original 19th century structures from Wythe County

TIP: The Homestead Museum holds a BABA Festival here on the grounds in June, which stands for Bands Art Bourbon & Ale. (Sounds like 4 pretty good reasons for a visit!)

The Historic Jackson Ferry Shot Tower at New River State Park (Austinville, Virginia)

This museum is for all the engineers and craftsmen out there who will certainly appreciate the inventiveness that went into this structure and the reason for its construction: in 1807, local miner Thomas Jackson built this stone tower on a hill beside the New River so that it could be used for the manufacture of ammunition or ‘shot’.

Jackson Shot Tower from ground level Wytheville
The Jackson Ferry shot tower is one of only 3 in the United States

These shot pellets were made from lead that was mined locally and they were a vital commodity for farmers and hunters alike.

Lead shot pellets

But that lead shot needed to be made of perfectly round pellets, and making those little balls required an unusual and very precise method: the lead was melted in heated kettles at the top of the Shot Tower where the molten metal was then poured through small sieves with various sized holes. The molten droplets then fell down the centre shaft of the tower, and as they fell they also cooled, forming into perfect spheres – but only if the height of the tower was precisely 150 feet.

Shot tower looking up to top
View up the shot tower where the molten lead would drop from above

This is why the Shot Tower rises 75 feet above ground, and extends another 75 feet below ground into the hill, where the lead balls would land in a pool of water at the bottom. This ‘cushioned’ their fall and prevented them from flattening. The cooled shot was then collected via an underground tunnel leading in from the riverbank and voilà, perfectly formed lead ammo pellets.

Jackson Shot Tower Wytheville VA
The Jackson Shot Tower extends 75 feet above and 75 below ground

I’m not a engineer or a physicist, but this is just plain fascinating, and you have to wonder how Jackson determined that 150 feet was the perfect height to make this all happen. There are only 3 shot towers like this in the U.S., and this one in particular may be the only one like it in the world. So kudos to the creative men like Jackson who came up with the idea and brought that idea to fruition.

The Edith Bolling Wilson Museum

American First Ladies haven’t generally been given the same attention as their Presidential spouses when it comes to legacy museums, libraries and the like, but Wytheville is home to one of the rare instances where the woman behind the man has a museum dedicated to her. The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation and Museum is located in the actual home where the second wife of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was born, and honours the feisty, accomplished and independent woman that she was.

Edith Bolling and Woodrow Wilson engagement photo Library of Congress
Engagement photo of Edith Bolling and Woodrow Wilson *Library of Congress Photo

In fact, many people unofficially refer to Edith as the ‘first woman President’, because after Woodrow Wilson was physically incapacitated following a stroke in 1919, Edith became both his caregiver and his advisor, vetting policy papers and deciding for herself “what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband”. In effect, she bypassed the law in which the Vice President would have stepped in, apparently out of love for her husband and a desire to keep Wilson from becoming depressed by having his role as President taken away.

The museum is very small, with a few interesting artifacts from Edith’s life before and after she became Wilson’s wife, including her original driver’s licence from 1904 when she was married to her first husband (named Norman Galt). This alone shows that Edith was a woman ahead of her time, and perhaps foreshadowed her role as President Wilson’s advisor that would put her in the ‘driver’s seat’ in effectively running the United States for 17 months.

Edith Bolling Wilson Drivers Licence 1904Wytheville Virgi
Edith’s original 1904 driver’s licence

The upstairs rooms where Edith was born and raised are not yet restored so there isn’t much to see there. But visiting the museum is a chance to learn more about this woman and her incredible, unlikely rise to a position of power as a result of a love-at-first-sight meeting with Wilson. As such, it’s a story that holds appeal for both feminists and hopeless romantics. The museum also has several original editions of Edith’s memoirs, the publication of which was another first by this First Lady. (A glance through the book even reveals some eloquent and often ‘steamy’ love letters that both she and Wilson exchanged during their courtship.)

Edith Bolling Wilson Memoir Wytheville Virginia
Edith Bolling Wilson’s Memoir

Edith Bolling Wilson made a return visit to Wytheville in 1960 to donate a stained glass window to St. John’s Episcopal Church. A year later she died on the day that would have been Woodrow Wilson’s 105th birthday.

The Thomas J. Boyd Museum

The Thomas J. Boyd Museum is named after a prominent 19th century resident known as the ‘Father of Wytheville’, and chronicles some of the history of Wytheville, including how the town got its name. The town originally dates back to 1789 but was named Evansham in 1792, not Wytheville. The name change followed a fire in 1839 when the town was renamed after George Wythe, a man who never actually lived here but was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, so perhaps his name was chosen to lend some gravitas to the town.

The museum is small, but one of the most poignant exhibits here documents a relatively modern tragedy that happened here in 1950, when one of the polio epidemics that swept through the United States struck this small town particularly hard. To this day, no one knows why exactly, but Wytheville had more cases of polio per capita than any other place in the country, and the fear of contagion led many residents to keep their children indoors for months. That year would become known as the ‘Summer Without Children”, and one resident went so far as to fill one of her bedrooms with sand so her children could play there without stepping foot outside.

Iron lung for children Thomas Boyd museum Wytheville VA
A child-sized Iron lung, which acted like a respirator for polio victims

This polio exhibit hit a little closer to home, having just gone through our own Covid pandemic, so it was perhaps a little easier to understand this kind of extreme response at a time when polio vaccines didn’t exist.

Particularly sad are the iron lung machines, including one sized for children, which is still heart-breaking to imagine as a treatment option (even more tragic is that with so few of these machines on hand, the patients chosen for treatment were often determined by lottery).

Child in Iron lung photo from Boyd museum W
Child in Iron lung photo from Boyd museum exhibit

Things to do in Wytheville for the Culture Vulture

Hand-in-hand with history comes culture, and for a small town, Wytheville over-indexes here, too, including having two theatres that run programming all year long. The Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre is Wytheville’s venue focusing on musical theatre, and as the name suggests, guests are treated to dinner and high-calibre shows featuring homegrown and imported talent. With tiered seating, the theatre provides unobstructed views for diners, and visitors often get to interact with the performers table side, or after the show at the theatre’s Matterhorn lounge.

Wohlfahrt Dinner Theatre Wytheville
Wohlfahrt Dinner Theatre box office in Wytheville

The Millwald Theatre is right on Wytheville’s charming Main Street, and just like when it was first built in 1928, today it offers a variety of performances and cultural events from special movie screenings to musical tribute shows to theatrical performances. During our visit we were treated to “An Evening with C.S. Lewis”, an intimate one-man monologue by British actor David Payne, which was excellent.

David Payne As C.S. Lewis Wytheville Millwald
David Payne As C.S. Lewis at the Millwald

Shopping for Treasures from the Past

Antique hunters will also love Main Street, as there are two antique stores here, including a massive indoor flea market-style property known as Jo-Jo’s Attic, where you can find everything from period furniture to vintage kitsch and Star Wars memorabilia. Whether you’re looking for ancient treasures or pop culture pieces, this is the place for serial shoppers to start.

JoJo's Attic Wytheville

TIP: A cute feature of Wytheville’s Main Street is that the town pipes music into outdoor speakers all along the sidewalks, and during Christmas they play holiday music to add to the festive ambiance.

Dining With a Side of Quirkiness

The Log House Wytheville Virginia

If unusual ambiance is your thing, head directly to the historic Log House 1776 Restaurant, and prepare to be surprised and delighted. Much bigger – and quirkier – than it looks from its historic log-cabin exterior, this place is a rabbit warren of hallways, interior courtyards, nooks and crannies, and everywhere you look there’s a cozy place to dine or something unusual to admire. And it’s pretty much all for sale (except perhaps for the actual rabbits that are kept outside!).

The Log House interior Wytheville Virginia
Inside the Log House is a maze of hallways and cozy rooms

But the Log House is not just an unusual retail venue; it is first and foremost a restaurant known for its mouth-watering steaks and some signature comfort food dishes whose recipes will not be shared under any circumstances (don’t miss the stuffed squash for one).

New York Bagels, Really?

And finally, for anyone who thinks that nothing compares to New York when it comes to food culture, not to worry: visitors to Wytheville can even get authentic New York bagels here, brought in several times weekly by Ghetti’s Cafe (and yes, they come with a generous ‘schmear’ of cream cheese in any flavour you can think of!) Small town Wytheville meets Big Apple bagels. Who would have thought!

Things to do in Wytheville for the Nature Lover

With the lush chain of peaks known as the Iron Mountains nearby (a subset of the Blue Ridge Mountains), Wytheville offers nature enthusiasts plenty of opportunity for enjoying the great outdoors without having to go too far out of town. A popular multi-use trail for many locals and visitors is the 57+ mile-long New River Trail State Park which is less than half an hour away. Here, an abandoned railway line that once served the mines has been converted into a trail that follows the banks of the New River for almost 40 miles, has several trestles and bridges to cross, and offers hikers, cyclists and horseback riders a scenic location to explore.

Forest Falls New River Trail State Park Wytheville Va
Forest Falls at the New River Trail State Park Wytheville Va

The best news for visitors who may not be travelling with this kind of outdoor equipment, is that at the Foster Falls entrance, the Park offers bikes, canoes, kayaks and even float tubes for rent on an hourly or full day basis, including shuttle service to the various put-in points along the river.

TIP: For those who like adventure ‘with soft landings’, the newly opened Inn at Foster Falls is a deluxe boutique hotel option for those who want to stay right in the Park. Apart from the 10 uniquely designed and spacious rooms, the Inn offers guests an afternoon ‘dessert social’ with decadent treats and beverages. With river views from its wraparound porch and access to the nature trail literally on its doorstep, this is MY idea of the best of both worlds.

Inn at Foster Falls
The newly opened Inn at Foster Falls boutique hotel
dessert social treats Inn at Foster Falls

Wytheville for the Road Warrior

The Blue Ridge Parkway may be the most famous scenic drive that runs through Virginia, but Wytheville is at the heart of something else that only true road warriors may know about: 350 miles of twisty roads and byways collectively referred to as the Claw of the Dragon. Motorcyclists in particular come here to ride the Back of the Dragon, a 32-mile long stretch of pavement that boasts 260 curves, but there are stretches all along the Dragon that offer amazing rides and amazing views.

Big Walker lookout panorama Wytheville Virginia
Big Walker lookout panorama on the Claw of the Dragon near Wytheville Virginia

If the winding roads aren’t enough of a thrill, smack dab in the middle of the Bland Loop of the Claw on a swooping curve on Big Walker Mountain is one of those classic roadside attractions that make road tripping so fun: the Big Walker Lookout Tower and Country Store. The breathtaking views overlooking the surrounding Jefferson National Forest make this an ideal rest stop for visitors, and it’s for this reason that the Kime family built a 100-foot lookout tower here in 1947. On a really clear day, visitors who climb to the top can reportedly see 5 states: Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. But even if the weather isn’t perfectly clear, the views are stunning and the climb is more than half the fun.

Big Walker lookout truck and tower Wytheville Virginia
The tower stands 100 feet tall

Seventy-seven years and three generations later, this family-run business still attracts visitors (and motorcyclists in particular) by the thousands. But the country store is also known for the local artisan crafts that it sells and book signings it holds with local authors. And in keeping with their location on Virginia’s Crooked Road heritage music trail, they also host free concerts featuring local musicians who help keep the tradition of Appalachian and bluegrass music alive.

Big Walker lookout Wytheville Virginia
The Crooked Road heritage music keeps bluegrass alive and well

TIP: Admission to climb the tower cost $8 for adults, but if you don’t like heights, you may want to opt out. The steel structure is perfectly safe and the views from the top are breathtaking, but you’ll feel a little wobble when you climb, so if you suffer from acrophobia, you should probably stay on the ground.

Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum

Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum Wyt
Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum in Wytheville

Road enthusiasts may also want to do a pit stop for a photo at one of Wytheville’s smallest museums – the tiny historic gas station located on Tazewell Street on the old Route 21 that once formed part of the Great Lakes to Florida Highway. Back in 1926 when it was built, this gas station serviced cars travelling the route south from Ohio to Florida. It’s a little piece of highway history, and a photo of the recently-restored gas pumps from the days of early motorcar travel is reason enough to stop, even if you can’t fill up at those long-gone prices.

1928 Speedboy Gas pump Great Lakes to Florida Highway M
Check out the price per gallon on this 1928 Speedboy Gas pump!

Wytheville for the Small Town Lover

Virginia has no shortage of charming small towns, beautiful scenery or historic sites, and Wytheville is just another example of where the best of all of these things converge. Small but authentic, this town may be at the crossroads for many travellers heading to other destinations, but it’s worth spending some time to discover the history, culture and natural surroundings that make it unique. It may be the only town with this name in the world (even if it is one that many people mis-pronounce), but there’s more to Wytheville than meets the ‘I’ of Interstates 77 and 81. Stay awhile and see what you will discover here.



Trinkle Mansion B&B Wytheville Virginia

If you like meticulously-restored historic properties, 3-course breakfasts served on fine china and crystal with silver service, and luxurious rooms with all the amenities, you’ll love Trinkle Mansion Bed & Breakfast as much as we did. Patti has put her heart and soul into this business, a dream-come-true venture she had wanted to do all her life, and her passion for what she does certainly shows. She and her husband Bernie have thought of every detail to make their guests feel welcome, and you won’t find a more characteristic (or photogenic property) than this one. Highly recommended!


For some local flavour (beyond just the excellent local craft beers served here), head to Seven Sisters Brewery. This community-focused craft brewery welcomes families, pets, and even nerdy Legomasters to a space where gourmet food truck snacks pair perfectly with games of corn hole and live music. Regulars have even made their own personalized ceramic beer mugs at the local Laurel Creek Pottery shop, which they keep on the Mug Club wall between visits.

Seven Sisters craft brewery Wytheville Virginia-2

If more upscale drinks are your thing, (emphasis on ‘up’), check out the Perch at the Bolling Wilson Hotel downtown. The rooftop patio on the top of this hotel is open in the warmer months and a perfect place to catch some sunset views with your sundowner!

The Perch rooftop at Bolling Wilson Hotel Wytheville Virginia

Wine and charcuterie anyone? Petals Wine Bar offers both, as well as gourmet paninis and other light lunch favourites, plus they host events with music, mimosas and even crafting. The gift shop has some pretty fun items, too.

Petals Wine Bar charcuterie platter Wytheville
Petals Wine Bar charcuterie platter Wytheville


Graze on Main is located in the Bolling Wilson Hotel on Main Street (hence the name) and is the #1 ranked restaurant in Wytheville. I can’t argue with that, after enjoying some of their upscale southern cuisine. Their elevated takes on shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes were delicious and the seasoned mashed potatoes are to die for. And it wouldn’t be the south without bourbon, so be sure to check out their selection of fine whiskeys, too. “When in Rome”, after all…

Bolling Wilson Hotel Wytheville Virginia
Graze on Main is in the Bolling Wilson Hotel Wytheville Virginia

Special thanks to Visit Wytheville who hosted Henk and I on our visit.

Jane with Hat Tanzania

Jane Canapini is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the North American Travel Journalists Association. She established in 2014 to share information and tips based on personal experience so her readers could get the most out of their travels.

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