Over the last year, we’ve made quite a view trips either directly to, or through Virginia. Since Interstate 81 happens to be one of the most traveled routes on our trips, I thought I’d share some of our favorite stops along the way. Check them out below!
Shenandoah National Park
For many, this may be more a destination than a detour, but it doesn’t have to be. If you budget an extra few hours, you can drive along Skyline drive through part of Shenandoah instead of taking I-81. If you’re up for a short hike, check out this one on Stony Man Trail. If you’re interested in additional hikes or lodging, here’s an overview of how to spend a day in Shenandoah National Park.
I remember coming here as a kid and being amazed by how beautiful the caverns were. I thought surely as an adult that they wouldn’t be as great as I remembered, but I was wrong. This place is stunning. With the purchase of a ticket into the caverns you also get, The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and Toy Town Junction. I’ve only visited the Heritage Village since I enjoy history and older buildings. Depending what you plan to do here, it could take anywhere from 1.5 to 4 or so hours.
On two of our trips this last year, we’ve made a pit stop in Staunton. It is an adorable little town with a lot of history. During one trip, we stayed at the Blackburn Inn & Conference Center and on another, we walked around town where we picked up a coffee and stopped at a tap house for lunch. Our favorite places to stop are below!
- Reunion Bakery + Espresso
- Shenandoah Pizza + Taphouse
- Blackburn Inn & Conference Center
Natural Bridge is a 215 tall natural bridge carved out by the river below. It’s pretty steep to get from visitor center down to the bottom but worth it to see this bridge up close. There’s also a few hiking trails in the area if you want to extend time here. I’d plan for 1-2 hours depending how much hiking you want to do. It’s a great place to get outside and stretch your legs on a long drive.
I had never heard of Draper Village before heading down I81. We saw a sign along the highway, I did a quick Google search and we detoured to this wonderful place. It has a mercantile which includes a coffee shop and cafe inside as well as a small kitchenwares store. There’s four different themed shops on site and my favorite one had a combination of outdoorsy and unique gifts. We spent about an hour there but you could spend more or less time depending on if you sit down for a meal.
This town is known for a few things. It grew initially as it was a town along The Great Road which pioneers used to travel through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s also where the trailhead for the Virginia Creeper Trail is.
When we visited Abingdon earlier in the year, it was a very rainy day and quite chilly. We picked up takeout from Bonefire Smokehouse for lunch was and had a BBQ picnic in the car after visiting a few shops downtown. We barely scratched the surface of things to do in the area, but below are a few of our favorites. I got the softest sweatshirt at Abingdon General store and we loved the barbecue.
- Bonefire Smokehouse
- Zephyr Antiques
- Abingdon General Store
Bristol’s known as the birthplace of country music. It”s also very well known for it’s main street, State Street. The middle of the street has plaques on the yellow line where you can stand in Tennessee on one side and Virginia on the other. We didn’t spend as much time in this town as it was a stop along our way to another destination, but this would be a great place to get out and take the iconic picture of being in two states at once while also checking out some of the history of the birthplace of country music.
That’s all, so if you know of any other worthwhile stops off I-81 please share them in the comments below!