Best Places to Live

Abingdon, VA

Population: 8,143
Photo: Paige Barbush/Virginia Intermont College

The Virginia Highlands Festival originated on the front porch of the Martha Washington Inn in 1949, and still showcases the beauty, history and cultural amenities of Abingdon, VA.

During this 10-day festival, Appalachian artisans and craftsmen, food vendors, performers, and history reenactors fill the city's historic downtown streets. Abingdon residents take pride in the city's many downtown buildings that date to the 1800s, which helped the city earn a spot on our Top 10 Cities for Historic Preservation list.

Reenactors help tell the stories of how settlers made this area their home and about Abingdon's role in the Civil War. Guided hikes, bike rides and kayak trips introduce visitors to the natural beauty of Southeast Virginia.

"Our town's rich local history is explored with reenactments, walking tours and lectures," says Becky Caldwell, festival producer. "Local authors are encouraged and developed through workshops and performances as part of our creative writing series. There is a festival event happening at every cultural institution in Abingdon."

Community organizations use the Virginia Highlands Festival to highlight their causes, raise money and celebrate the work they've done through events. Examples of this include the Kazim Shrine Temple Parade, a classic film festival held at the Abingdon Cinemall and a luncheon at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The historic Barter Theatre presents a series of dance, theater, storytelling and musical performances throughout the festival.

When: August

What: More than 100 artists and crafters, food vendors, 20 bands, reenactments, hikes, walking tours, film festival, live theater performances, 5k run, writing workshops

Cost: Free, but there are fees for some activities and events

Average Attendance: 200,000

Find out what Abingdon area hiking trail made our list of 10 Great Hikes.