The adventures are vast around Emory & Henry College…Growing up in this area my entire life, I can say with full confidence that there is always something to do around Emory & Henry College.
This is because I have taken the time to go somewhere else other than Macados, hiked up a massive mountain, and listened to a local babble about the history of the area. And for what? For an adventure! Treasures await you at every corner: new and old favorite foods at small local restaurants, jaw–dropping views at the top of mountains, and lifetime friendships with the very unique people of Southwest Virginia. You have to be willing to try something new; you have to be willing to go on an adventure.
Michael and I decided to put together a list of the top 10 things to do around Emory & Henry. Though you may not agree with our list, there are so many other attractions, restaurants, and parks near Emory & Henry that could fit your top 10. If you do end up exploring one of our suggestions, please comment with your thoughts. We are challenging you to explore some new places this year, make your own top 10 list, and have fun!
Backbone Rock is located right past Damascus heading towards Tennessee. This park offers excellent hiking, swimming, camping, bouldering, and rock climbing. Visitors can climb to the top of the monumental rock or slide down the natural water slide for free! Backbone also boasts having the “world’s shortest tunnel.”
For an excellent movie going experience, Park Place Drive–In theater in Marion is the place to be! Opened in 1954, Park Place Drive In is one of only seven drive–ins still opened in Virginia. It boasts new releases of hit movies while also having an ice cream parlor, an arcade, mini–golf, and even batting cages! However, if you don’t feel like sitting in your car to watch a movie or the weather is awful, head on over to Abingdon Cinemall, the premier movie theater in Abingdon that features a sound system designed by George Lucus! The cinemall shows the newest blockbusters in addition to Arts Array films. Every movie in the Arts Array Film Series is free if you bring your student ID, but don’t forget all movies at the cinemall are cheaper on Discount Tuesdays.
Located in the Meadowview Town Square, the Harvest Table offers live music and a full menu that consists of only locally grown foods. All of the food is grown at the Harvest Table farm owned by Steven Hopp, husband of the NY Times bestselling author, Barbara Kingsolver. The restaurant embodies the home-grown ideals laid out in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. After a great meal, you can visit the general store next door.
Located in Abingdon, this breathtaking lake offers great fishing and boating. Additionally, you can embark on some unique and secluded rock climbing routes or hike the numerous trails that snake through parts of Jefferson National Forest. The ten–mile hike from Hidden Valley to the Channels, a Virginia Natural Area Preserve, is a highlight. The Channels is an impressive labyrinth of sandstone boulders that is a must–see for all who visit the area!
The world’s fastest 1/2 mile track offers two races a year for NASCAR fans. Many Emory & Henry clubs, sports teams, and organizations work the races each year to fundraise. However, Bristol Motor Speedway also offers events throughout the year to non–racing fans. Speedway In Lights, “the South’s largest light show,” starts around November every year; you can head down to the speedway to ice skate, drive on the track, and see the holiday lights. Additionally, Bristol Motor Speedway will be the sight of the 2016 Battle at Bristol college football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
The last train to run on the sight of the present day Creeper Trail was in 1977. Now the former railroad line is a 34 mile–long trail that stretches from Abingdon to Whitetop Mountain on the North Carolina/Virginia border. This trail, a recent inductee into the Rail–Trail Hall of Fame, is great for running, biking, horseback riding, and sight–seeing. Riders can easily finish the trail in a day, but don’t miss out on the fantastic swimming holes that are just off from the trail. Furthermore, the Creeper Trail intersects with the world famous Appalachian Trail! Shuttles to Whitetop Mountain and bike rentals are available throughout the town of Damascus.
This old hardware store has been converted into a deluxe barbecue restaurant that is a favorite to many Emory & Henry students. What makes this barbecue restaurant so unique? Bone Fire features a famous sauce bar where customers can go pick from one of their many well–known barbecue sauces from gigantic glass dispensers. Don’t forget to try the mouthwatering loaded nachos and cornbread fritters in addition to the BBQ!
Hungry Mother is located in Marion, and it is an incredibly beautiful state park that is perfect for any kind of outdoor activity you can think of. The running and biking trails surround a magnificent lake that is excellent for swimming and kayaking. One of the more strenuous hikes is the steep climb up to Molly’s Knob, but the overlook at the 3270 ft. summit is considered one of Virginia’s best. Hungry Mother is also an excellent place to have a picnic or just go for a day to soak up some sun on the lake’s beach.
The Barter Theater, the state theater of Virginia and a world–famous performing arts venue, has a unique history. When it was first opened in 1933, customers could bring food instead of money to “barter” for a ticket! During the Great Depression, this was very helpful to locals, and the Barter Theater became a big hit in Abingdon. Although the times have changed, at least once a year, the Barter Theater will still accept food in exchange for a ticket. The theater frequently features a number of well known plays such as “My Fair Lady,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Mary Poppins.” Also, be sure to grab a bite to eat before or after your show. The Political Dogs restaurant, located in Barter Theater Stage II across the street from the main stage, features clever politically–themed gourmet hotdogs that make for a fun and unique dining experience.
Have your cameras out and ready at Grayson Highlands! Although it’s about a forty–five minute drive away from Emory & Henry, there is a reason it’s at #1; you will not be disappointed. This 4,822 acre park has beautiful hiking trails containing several breathtaking viewpoints that make for endless exploration. It is also a premier spot to boulder and observe wild ponies. At certain points during the year, the park has superb areas to go blueberry picking. Finally, the world–famous Appalachian Trail (AT) that stretches from Maine to Georgia runs through Grayson Highlands State Park. If you’re looking for a weekend hike or camping trip on the AT, Grayson Highlands offers some excellent opportunities.
BY: Jake Caudill ’18 + Michael LoGrande ’18