Everyone loves a long weekend. But you know what would make one even better? Spending it with family in the New River Valley with an adventure in Montgomery County, VA.
In Montgomery County – along with its two largest towns Blacksburg and Christiansburg – families will discover a story crafted by the rich backgrounds and ideals of Montgomery County “locals” – the chefs, artisans, craftsmen (and women), the outdoorswomen (and men), the innovators, storytellers, educators, and the product developers – who are passionately loyal in their love for Montgomery County and the New River Valley.
With so much to do and so many ways to explore the region, planning a visit can seem overwhelming. So, we’ve mapped out the perfect 3-day itinerary for when you and your family are ready to Go to Town!
Day 1 – Arriving in the New River Valley
Your journey into Montgomery County is an attraction unto itself. All roads leading into the region meander through the Blue Ridge Mountains, along the New River (the country’s oldest river) and other breathtaking topography. The fall season in particular makes your trek into Montgomery County particularly pleasing as the vibrant colors of fall light up the skyline.
Upon arriving in town, fuel up with a quick lunch at Dude’s Drive In and show the kids what fast food was like in the good ol’ days. The staff at Dude’s will take your order car-side and, once your bevvy of sandwiches, fries and other diner specialties are ready, they’ll deliver it right to you. If you’re worried about the family truckster’s upholstery and if the weather is nice, there’s no rule that you have to eat in the vehicle, as there are several picnic benches available.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Jefferson National Forest, one of two forests (the other being Washington National Forest) that stretch across the entire state of Virginia, watched over by the beautiful Appalachians. Two thousand miles of hiking trails set among neo-tropical birds in the summer and a kaleidoscopic pallet of color during the crisp fall lend to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the region.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, try something new with a quick dinner at Buffalo and More before settling in for the night. Connie Hale, chef and owner of Buffalo and More, sources all of the restaurant’s buffalo meat from a nearby farm (which she also owns) to prepare local favorites like bison chili, buffalo brisket and a variety of burgers. She says visitors tell her that buffalo has a sweeter, richer taste than beef, and that many say buffalo meat tastes like what beef used to taste like. The restaurant also sources all its other proteins and produce from local farms lending to an authentic Montgomery County flavor experience.
Day 2 – Adventure Abounds
Kick off the day with a treat from Rt. 8 Donuts – home of the best donut in Virginia and one of the 50 best donut shops nationwide as rated by Mashed.com. Each morning, the owners start the process of making their donuts at 1 a.m., and their day doesn’t end until they’re sold out (which actually happens quite quickly so be sure to get there early)! Rt. 8 donuts offers more than 70 varieties of donuts including favorites like apple fritters, maple bacon and blueberry cake.
Start your day’s adventure with a visit to McCoy Falls, one of locals’ favorite spots along the New River for everything from leisurely sunbathing to thrilling water sports in the warmer months and breathtaking scenery in the fall and winter seasons. If you are visiting in the summer, be sure to check out New River Junction, a family-owned campground and recreational park which offers access to the wide, shallow riffles and clear, warm waters of the ancient New River. Visitors can rent tubes for the whole family (along with a tube for your cooler) and simply relax as they float down nearly one mile of calm water. For those seeking a bit more adventure, there is an optional 200 yards of exhilarating rapids at the end of the float.
Next, immerse yourself in the regional arts and culture at Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center (MAC), a thriving community of art and inspiration, where visitors have meaningful experiences enjoying arts of the highest caliber in all its forms. In addition to hosting exhibitions and performances from globally and locally celebrated artists, the MAC treats visitors to hands-on experiences, workshops with visiting artists, lectures and symposia, master classes, community celebrations and more. Inside of the MAC is The Cube, a one-of-a-kind black box theater used for research, performances and visual art.
While you’re in the area, fuel up with a meal at a locals’ favorite, The Blacksburg Tavern. Located in the oldest house, circa 1892, on Blacksburg’s Main Street and within the town’s original Sixteen Squares, The Blacksburg Tavern offers a traditional regional farmer’s menu, much like the original family who lived in this house would have prepared: chicken, beef, ham, vegetables, biscuits, apple butter, ice cream and cobbler. But you’ll truly know you’re in Montgomery County as The Blacksburg Tavern features Appalachian-style music and live performances where possible, while also showcasing art depicting local history and landscapes.
Day 2 – Alternate Indoor Adventure
Montgomery County and the New River Valley generally enjoy pleasant weather, but we do get the occasional rainy day. But fear not, because rainy days here are just an opportunity to explore the great indoors. If the weather doesn’t cooperate for the outdoor exploration described above, try these indoor activities instead.
Wonder Universe: A Children’s Museum is all about letting kids have fun, burn off a bit of energy and play while learning about topics ranging from arts to the environment. Given Montgomery County’s agricultural history, the museum’s “Farm to Table” exhibit lets kids plant, harvest and buy or sell produce, then prepare a fresh meal in the farm kitchen. Oh, and in case you have any upcoming visits to the dentist, the “Dental Office” exhibit lets children take on the roles of both patient and dentist, helping them understand what it takes to have healthy, pearly white chompers. Even the littlest of little ones can get in on the fun at “The Meadow,” featuring climbing structures and ride-ons to help teach motor skills.
Speaking of climbing, Crimpers Climbing Gym challenges kids and kids-at-heart of all ages to test their bravery and climbing skills in this local-favorite indoor climbing gym, perfect in case you happen to catch a rainy day, or just want to try something new and exciting! Also check out NRV Super Bowl, where you and your children will get giddy with excitement (no matter what age) to bowl, play arcade games, spin out on Spin Zone bumper cars, and even play a game of laser tag.
After the sun sets on your last full day in the New River Valley, treat the family to a classic movie-watching experience at Starlight Drive-In. The theater has been entertaining locals since 1953 with new and favorite films of the past, like Grease, ET as well as concert performances from some of the country’s most well-known musicians.
Day 3 – It’s Not Goodbye, but See You Again Soon
No one likes the last day of vacation, but a delicious breakfast from Gillie’s – a Blacksburg favorite specializing in vegetarian options – will help make the occasion a bit more palatable. You can’t go wrong with the Gillie’s Special (two eggs and signature potatoes), but feel free to let other menu items like the Banana Walnut French Toast or the Smoked Salmon Hash tempt your taste buds.
Before heading home, stop by Historic Smithfield, where families can discover the history of how Montgomery County was formed through the eyes of another family: the Preston Family. Established in the late 1700s as the home of William Preston, a political and military leader within the region, the house is one of the oldest in Southwest Virginia, and was once called a “plantation.”
Today, the home is opened for tours and is furnished as it would have been during the time the Preston family resided on the land. Visitors also can visit the museum located in the basement of the house, which includes displays of historic objects and Native American artifacts from Montgomery County’s Shannon site, the most famous Woodland Period site in the area.
Historic Smithfield also hosts classes showcasing how activities like yarn spinning and blacksmithing were done in the 1700s, so be sure to check out their events calendar to see if you can take a new skill home with you.
No matter the time of year you visit, ways to appreciate scenery, arts, nature and adventure with your family in Montgomery County are abundant. And even if you don’t get to see everything on your first visit, you’re always welcome back. So, go ahead. Go to Town!