Destinations along I-81 in VA/TN?
May 25, 2005 5:17 AM   Subscribe

In a few days we will be driving from Atlanta up to Maryland for a family reunion and then driving back. For the drive up we'll go the usual well-worn 85-95 route since we need to get it done in one day. On the way back we're spending two days, so we plan to drive down 81 in western Virginia and eastern Tennessee, right along the Appalachians. Recommendations for place to stop? At some point we'll probably get off I-81 and drive parallel to it on the Blue Ridge Skyway or something. Where's a good place to overnight just north of the VA/TN border? Target audience: overeducated misanthropic hipsters, no kids.
posted by intermod to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can swing it, stop by the Green Valley Book Fair. So many books, so little money. Harrisonburg (Exit 245) and Staunton (Exit 240ish) are great little places to stop in as well.
posted by cajo at 5:47 AM on May 25, 2005

Harrisonburg isn't exactly "little" (and not really near the TN border at all), but it's nice, in its own college-town sorta way. :^)

Route 11 is a pleasant alternative to 81 for some of your trip. It's kind of the same as route 1 is to 95... without the nightmares.

Handy resource.
posted by Witty at 6:27 AM on May 25, 2005

I'd suggest going down 29, at least as far as Charlottesville, at which point you could then go over to 81 via 64. I nearly always take 29 when I go from DC to Charlotte, NC--66 out of DC, 29 through Greenesboro, NC, then 85 to Charlotte. It's a pretty drive, not much traffic, failry direct, and some nice small towns along the way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:41 AM on May 25, 2005

Blacksburg is a nice little college town; I also know friends who stay the night in Wytheville while on the AT. Bristol isn't much besides a big racetrack.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 6:50 AM on May 25, 2005

I highly recommend Skyline Drive / Shenandoah National Park. The views are incredible if you have nice weather, and sometimes even if you don't.

Another scenic place to visit in that part of Virginia is Smith Mountain Lake. It's a little ways off of I81, but worth the visit.
posted by geeky at 6:54 AM on May 25, 2005

It's a bit out of your way, but if you have the time, and you want to see one of the most incongruous things ever, I highly recommend stopping by Yogaville, an ashram of glittering pink that sits, thoroughly inappropriately, in a clearing near a bend in the James River. An utterly out-of-place place. Hipsters would love it!

Travel information here.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:12 AM on May 25, 2005

Abingdon VA has a nice historic district. The area reminds me of the Kentucky Bluegrass region.

And it's near the Virginia Creeper trail, an old mountain railway converted to bike trail. You can ride up and back down, or get a shuttle service and just coast all the way back down. The trail is very scenic, following a mountain stream.
posted by jjj606 at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2005

Another vote for the Green Valley Bookfair. I was able to spend many hours there at a time on the weekends when it was open.

I would not recommend using 11 as an alternative to 81. There are traffic lights and "small town traffic" every few miles. Maybe that's your thing, but I could never deal with it.

Skyline Drive is very nice. And if you're looking for a cool town to walk around, I'd recommend Staunton over Harrisonburg.
posted by schustafa at 7:30 AM on May 25, 2005

Oh, and an alternative to taking 85 though SC is SC11. You get on around Gaffney, then get off just over the GA/SC border. It's been quite a few years since I've done that, but I remember it's being a lovely drive.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:53 AM on May 25, 2005

I dunno if you eat BBQ, but no trip through NE Tennessee should be completed without a stop at Dixie BBQ in Johnson City, TN.

The ribs are pretty damn good, but it's the pulled pork that really does it for me. Some of the best I've ever had.
posted by dersins at 9:12 AM on May 25, 2005

You should definitely check out the Blue Ridge Parkway. It starts in Virginia in the Shenandoah National Park and runs down to the Great Smokies in North Carolina. It is beautiful anytime of the year, but, especially in the fall.
posted by trbrts at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2005

Oh, definitely, definitely the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We stayed in a log cabin in Meadows of Dan, Va., right off the BRP. Beautiful place. The guy who owns it is a custom log cabin builder. You should probably call or e-mail him (contact info in the previous link) to see if he is still renting his guest house; he may have sold and moved it by now. If that doesn't pan out, there's also a fancier lookin' place here in the same area, but one that I have no experience with.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:34 AM on May 25, 2005

You may already know this, and it's likely not a disincentive, but be forewarned that the Blue Ridge Parkway is slow-going, with speed limits of 35 or 45 most of the way. These limits are enforced fairly stringently.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:57 AM on May 25, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the excellent comments (too many good ones to mark any as "best"). I'll chew up some paper on the printer at work and take them on the road ...
posted by intermod at 8:13 PM on May 25, 2005

My parents live at Smith Mountain Lake and I can vouch for it being VERY beautiful. If you've got the cash, the "Autumn Haze" at the LoveStone Inn is very nice.

Off of the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our favorite VA winerys, Chateau Morrisette. Fun tasting, excellent food in the restaurant, beautiful view.
posted by jeanmari at 6:40 AM on May 26, 2005

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