18 Ways for Women To Feel “Wow, Really!” in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia

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View of tree-covered mountains and water, between the Blue Ridge and Applachian mountains near Blacksburg VA.
Life between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains means grand vistas appear all the time. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Plenty of pleasant things to do in southwest Virginia, but two towns in particular give the “wow” factor to vacation days.

Blacksburg and Christiansburg are north and south of each other, nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. The New River, with its valley, flows here.

Sound pretty? They are. But Mother Earth’s not the only wow.

You can’t tell where science starts and art takes over. Or where art inspires technology. Or why new ideas and start-up businesses pop up a lot.  

Virginia Tech mascots appear around Blacksburg and on campus, artist visions of the Hokie personality.
Virginia Tech mascots appear around Blacksburg and on campus, artist visions of the Hokie personality. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

One’s a university town, home to Virginia Tech. Go Hokies! That’s Blacksburg.

The other’s smaller, neighborly, proud of providing world-class playground opportunities for children with mobility and sensory challenges, and grand athletic areas for everybody in their families. That’s Christiansburg.    

Maybe straddling the Eastern Continental Divide has something to do with so much innovation. After all, if rivers can change the direction of their flow—isn’t anything possible?

Read More: Top Family Resorts in Virginia

Who Combines Art and Science?

This sense of newness, the never-thought-about-it-like-that, and the “who’d think a small town would have all this” reaction might reflect the local creative technology.

Shape that around notions of service, helping community and neighbors. Service is the Virginia Tech Hokies motto.

You can’t visit the Center for Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) in Blacksburg like you would a museum, to learn what’s up. Only a few labs have glass fronts to peer in and watch innovation happening.

Stone wall with trees behind and blue sky with clouds above, on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg.
Count on stones and flowers all over the Virginia Tech campus. The University owns two quarries and the stone structures are handsome. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

But you can do like CECE Executive Director Dr. John Provo does: “Listen for things in the places you walk, the places you go. People are talking about ideas.”

Provo and his colleague Elli Travis match people and their ideas with non-profit organizations or businesses, communities or remote hybrid workers so results can flourish.    

SheBuysTravel Tip: Notice the special touches, or surprises most places. Add them up in your mind to recognize the effects of this creativity/technology influence.

Hiking trail through wooded area next to water on the Huckleberry connection between Christiansburg and Blacksburg.
Trails can be smooth or natural, crossing trickles of streams or heading uphill on the Huckleberry connection between Christiansburg and Blacksburg. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Hiking, Walking, Playing Outside

Montgomery is the county for finding all the things to do in Blacksburg and Christiansburg.

They blend with a southwest Virginia region known as the New River Valley.  And that’s curious since the river named New is considered one of the oldest in the world. Cool fact when tubing it from New River Junction.

Blacksburg is Virginia’s second largest town, and Christiansburg its fourth. Interesting choosing travel plans to consider towns versus cities, right?

Huckleberry Trail

The 15 miles (and maybe a little bit more) of the Huckleberry Trail invites plenty of in-nature experiences, but also connects Blacksburg and Christiansburg to each other, should you want a long walk.

Huckleberry is paved, and the trail connects to other paved and natural surfaces with equally great names like Stone Cutter’s Hollow Trails, Coal Mining Heritage Park, Poverty Creek Trail System, Gateway Trail, Brush Mountain Park and McDonald Hollow Trail Network.

They add up to 60 connected miles.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Pick up a Huckleberry Trail map to zero in on the walking/hiking/strollng/biking options. It’s detailed.  

Wayfinding sign indicating the Joe Pye Trail as 'more difficult' in the Jefferson National Forest.
Count on some advice in the Jefferson National Forest, knowing which way to go. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Jefferson National Forest

Southwest Virginia is the home of the Jefferson National Forest, and it connects to the George Washington National Forest for a whopping 1,664,110 acres in Virginia with more in West Virginia and Kentucky.

I walked a mile of it around a handsome pond, and then another mile veering off into the woods through rhododendron canopies.

View of wooded hills reflecting in water below a blue sky near Blacksburg, Virginia.
Hard to know which is prettier: reflections or the mountains themselves, pond paths along the edge of the forest. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Pandapas Pond

Pandapas is the pond’s name, honoring the man who cleared and groomed the space around the eight-acre pond for his employees. Now the U. S. Forest Service takes care of things.

People were fishing, or just gazing across the big pond. Closer looking is fun at the smaller pond, with its many water lilies and turtles. Sure looked like mussels at the edges too.

Todd Priest with the Poverty Creek Trail Coalition told me about the Cooperator’s Committee. What a great name! They’re volunteers who love the woods and trails and help keep them welcoming for the rest of us.

This is a day place, not overnight camping, and there’s a small building with a toilet.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The path around the pond is easy walking but gravel, not paved, so be sure the baby stroller wheels are suitable.

Trails to follow into the forest have alert markers when the terrain gets more challenging. I turned around to head back at the Joe Pye Weed sign.  

Read More: Don’t-Miss State Parks in Virginia

Enclosed seating area in the Christiansburg Huckleberry Park for families who have children with special needs.
The Christiansburg Huckleberry Park made sure local families–and visitors–would find playground equipment suitable for kids with all sorts of special needs. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Christiansburg Huckleberry Park and Its Big Heart

Who thinks about the kids with special needs when the others are having fun on a playground? Christiansburg, Virginia, and its parks and recreation organizers, that’s who.

Population 23,000, this fourth-largest Virginia town, prepared to welcome families whose children could play more fully with specific playground options.

Like the roller slide – safe for kids with cochlear implants! And a more calming sensory experience for others too, explains Brad Epperley, director of Parks and Recreation.

Wheelchairs- called mobility devices in Huckleberry Park, roll safely into the Wave Rock N Raft. It’s sort of a carriage, and also a swing, and two kids in their devices can fit securely (with six others) and let their imaginations soar.

Orange archway over colorful numbered area below - an interactive musical experience at the Christiansburg Huckleberry Park.
Extensive research led to interactive musical experiences at the Christiansburg Huckleberry Park for all the members of a family. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Inclusive play is a phrase Epperley uses lots. The Yalp Sona is a bright orange arch over a big pad and music is activated with touch.

Swing chairs have harnesses that give stability to kids with limited upper-body strength and a merry-go-round supports four seated and four standing riders, facing center toward each other to turn the wheel together.

Epperley knows a lot about active and passive play too, after years of research to build this park, just opened in 2024.

A 40-yard-dash lane records speeds electronically and families or friends can challenge each other in real time. Folks healing from injuries or surgeries can put physical therapy lessons in play on equipment at Huckleberry.

And dogs big and small play in different double-gated spaces…with antimicrobial turf that’s soft. Water fountains have a ground level section for the dogs.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Kids with special needs and their families might want to drill down to all the details about Huckleberry Park and decide just how long their vacation in Christiansburg should be.

Eating in Innovative Blacksburg

Chalkboard list of Egyptian-Lerbanese lattes and coffees near Blacksburg, Virginia.
Pastries are as pretty as this sign of alluring Egyptian-Lebanese drinks. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Halwa Egyptian Bakery

Breakfast can be a pastry of spinach, feta, zatar and potatoes, big enough to share. Dessert any time of day could be baklava at the downtown Blacksburg Egyptian bakery named Halwa.

That means dessert and also beautiful in Arabic so owner, and pastry chef, Karmen Jeorge told me. Peer past the pastry counter into the kitchen, and she’s likely to catch your eye and explain the ingredients.

Because this southwest Virginia town is so walkable, go more than once for a Lebanese coffee infused with pistachio and rose water.

Downtown Blacksburg offers Baha-style experiences in taco, burrito and big bowl dining.
Downtown Blacksburg offers Baha-style experiences in taco, burrito and big bowl dining. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Cabo Fish Taco

Grilled lemon ahi tuna competed with soy ginger shrimp tacos when I ordered lunch at Cabo Fish Taco in downtown Blacksburg.

My tablemates on a gracious patio chose the honey wasabi tuna burrito, and fajitas served in large bowls called “big swells.”

SheBuysTravel Tip: Select the avocado pasta salad for your side—sublime. If gluten is a concern, do know to ask your tofu not be breaded.

I knew I was in Virginia, but the flavors were so very Southern California or Coastal Baja Mexico. Plus, owner Gary Walker pointed out 13 specialty margaritas and the largest tequila menu in Virginia.

Mural showing horse and buggy in front of log cabin and older buildings in a tavern in downtown Blacksburg.
Tavern dining in downtown Blacksburg invites nostalgia of another era with murals filling the walls. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

The Blacksburg Tavern

This dinner experience is as much about the people as the tavern’s comfort-style foods served in bowls for the whole table.

Owner Daniel Riley’s expansive smile sets the tone for pleasure at the front door. Feels so genuine.

His great aunt’s murals filling the small foyer and some of the dining room walls carry more importance than the first glance of historical scenes.

She was 91 years old when she painted them in 2014! He refers to her as Aunt Ginny, but we’d remember her as Virginia McLaughlin.

Consider tipping a glass in her honor: Jim Beam and ginger ale it would be because she drank one every night until she died at age 98.

Individual entrees can be ordered from the menu, but most tables seemed to claim the group platters of fried chicken, tender brisket and meat loaf with bowls of beans, succotash and mashed potatoes. Gravy too of course. And biscuits and corn bread.

Don’t skip the blueberry pie.

Tavern food might be in Daniel Riley’s DNA since his Maryland ancestor Eliphaz Riley owned a tavern in the early 1700s.

Dinner only Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4:30-9 p.m.; open for lunch and dinner Fridays – Sundays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Distinctive pates and aromatic fish served in tins in the Blacksburg Wine Lab
Distinctive pates and aromatic fish served in tins should be a mandatory first course in the Blacksburg Wine Lab. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Blacksburg Wine Lab

Seems logical a town emphasizing technology and creativity partnerships would call a restaurant a “lab.”

Go here to expand the boundaries of what wine pairing means.

Restaurant owner John Boyer knows lots about terroir—the land and how it influences the grapes that mature into wine. He teaches wine geography to1500 students every spring,  online.

He and co-owner Katie Pritchard infuse this know-how into suggestions what to sip with which order from the ever-changing menu.

Why changing? For seasonal freshness, local breads, pates and spreads and fresh catch marinated in tins.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Order a board of those delicate tins for a new perspective on the familiar charcuterie board. The lab-trained server will know what wines to consider, and why.  

Creative light entrees seemed just right after my table of five shared the tinned fish, spreads, breads. Mushroom pita for me, Tasso ham grilled cheese for another, duck rillette for a third.

Arched portico with three triangle arches and supportive stone columns at The Inn at Virginia Tech.
The Inn at Virginia Tech, with 147 rooms and suites, is also a conference center. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Preston’s, Inn at Virginia Tech

Pause going in to this Inn because the stone pillars are so handsome. So are the ways the foods are plated.

The board of shaved ham, pimento cheese, flatbread and house chow chow is called a Hokie board here, instead of charcuterie. Crab hush puppies come with red aoli and the lemon honey ricotta is fresh.

Charcuterie with ham, egg, toast at the Inn at Virginia Tech's restaurant.
Attention to detail defines every serving in the Inn at Virginia Tech’s restaurant. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Preston’s sources ingredients close to campus so expect trout and grits, not shrimp. I wanted that especially for the pickled forest mushrooms on top.  

Iconic Virginia country ham fills club sandwiches and an entrée with local field peas.

The Inn’s rooms are comfortable, well appointed—with an expansive view of green space.

Wines and Brews

The letters 'L-O-V-E' painted in orange and red on rocks surrounding a seating area outside the Beliveau winemakers' Sugar Shack where wine tastings happen.
Virginia loves its LOVE signs and the Beliveau winemakers painted this outside their Sugar Shack where wine tastings happen. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Beliveau Farm: Winery, Brewery, Events, Lodging

The diverse terroir for Beliveau wines includes the breezes, as well as the land. That’s because Yvan and Joyce Beliveau fulfilled their lifelong vision of owning a winery with hilly land.

That makes the view of the  Blue Ridge Mountains stunning – while sipping wines in the Sugar Shack, so named for the maple trees nearby and syrup made at Beliveau.

“There’s always a little bit of a current,” Yvan says with his charming accent from Quebec. Breezes make all the difference in the distinctive grapes he can grow.

“At 2,300 feet, the air currents moderate the temperatures,” he says. Must also be good for lavender because the top of one rise is filled with lavender plants, and white iron benches to linger in the fragrance.

Specialty pizzas and cheese boards can be ordered, and all things lavender, plus pumpkin butter and grape jams in the gift shop.

The on-site bed and breakfast has five en-suite bedrooms, a three-course breakfast—and all those views of the 165-acre farm.

Lavender fields and benches under a cloudy blue sky at Beliveau Farm Winery.
Lavender fields add fragrance to acres of grapes growing nearby at Beliveau Farm Winery. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Eastern Divide Brewery

Lunch, dinner and the view all qualify as reasons to be here, even before the beer.

Floor-to-ceiling windows offer big views, softened with dozens of house plants! Not a usual brewery touch. Boxes of games fill other shelves—and there are no televisions.

Conversations encouraged.

What’s the Eastern Divide? A separation of the easterly Atlantic seaboard watershed and the westerly Gulf of Mexico watershed, from south of Lake Ontario to Florida.

It’s hydrologic – the waters flow different directions. North America has six of these drainage basin divides.

Craft Beer assortment with six options in a Montgomery County brewery.
Tasting an array of carefully crafted beer leads to playing board games too in some Montgomery County breweries. Sociable, neighborly the brew masters say. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Moon Hollow Brewing Company

Woman owned, this brewery. Find an array of non-alcoholic drinks too, and special events with yoga, stretching classes, a book club and crafts group.

“Healthy living, moderate drinking” suits owner/brewer Hannah Lester who says non-alcoholic beer tastes ever so much better than it used to.

“Sophisticated for all ages,” she says, are the non-alcoholic drinks of many colors and styles at Moon Hollow. Of course, her brewing also features many with alcohol.

Cattle graze in a fenced field adjoining the outdoor patio, and mural-size art sets a mood inside and out.

Moon Hollow’s mural fills a wall in the room set off from the main gathering space. Tall table and long-legged chairs in this spot.
Moon Hollow’s mural fills a wall in the room set off from the main gathering space. Tall table and long-legged chairs in this spot. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Iron Tree Brewing, Christiansburg

Iron Tree passed the taste test: home brew served at a wedding and the friends all approved! Now Seth Locklear and his wife balance professional beer making with parenting three little daughters, and welcoming neighborhood residents to mingle.

“Come in to Iron Tree as strangers and leave as community friends,” he observes over and over.

Native plants spilling beyond neatly groomed walkways feature artist signage in the Christiansburg garden connected to the Montgomery Museum of Art & History.
Native plants spilling beyond neatly groomed walkways feature artist signage in the Christiansburg garden connected to the Montgomery Museum of Art & History. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Gardens of Christiansburg and Blacksburg

Montgomery Museum of Art & History Garden, Christiansburg

The Museum moved to downtown but the acres of native plants continues, tended by loving volunteer hands.  Just walk up and in, hoping one of the master gardeners is there for extra insight.

Paths are clear, pollinators buzzing and the abundance of plants for every season is astounding.

Gardener Beth Umberger pointed out the brick walkways which pay homage to the town’s history: Chilhowie patterned bricks, made from 1880-1910.

Chairs, benches, hammock stands – all invitations at Hahn Horticulture Garden to linger.
Chairs, benches, hammock stands – all invitations at Hahn Horticulture Garden to linger. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Hahn Horticultural Garden, Blacksburg

Linger in this six-acre space on the Virginia Tech campus. Flowers, trees, shrubs, lighting, water features are all lovely. . . and chairs of interesting sizes and shapes are scattered about, to encourage musing and gazing.

Students and neighborhood gardeners learn here; visitors stroll and adore. The sculpture of a garden sprite named “Maid in the Mud” is attributed to architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Gardens as Art is a university class—wishing one of those students would move across the street, in my daily view.

What’s particularly special are the distinctly different garden sections: canopy of maple trees and open meadow of pollinator-welcoming plants. Stream with koi and aquatic plants and edible garden. Benches under a wisteria arbor and waters gurgling through a small cavern.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Pack a fold-up hammock to go here; racks provided. Luxurious travel nap breathing in the scents in Hahn Horticulture Garden.

Stone waterfall with yellow flowers growing in the front at the Hahn Horticulture Garden.
Hahn Horticulture Garden feels like rooms of gardens, one flowing into the other with many personalities. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Theaters Near Virginia Tech

Access to performing arts on a holiday often takes planning ahead for tickets. The two places to check in Blacksburg are Moss Arts Center and the Lyric Theater.

The Lyric looks like it did in 1930 when marvel of marvels, talking films were shown.

Today, Executive Director Seth Davis also oversees music performances, book clubs for kids with related films, an international film festival and a rural films festival.

First-run movies – $6-8 ticket price.

The Moss Arts Center is a big place, with the kinds of technology to support dance, music, theater with the most specific needs.

Expect innovation here along with familiar internationally known performers. Virginia Tech students study here, and that means all disciplines. Art and technology, hand in glove, remember?

Hope to find student works in one of the two art galleries. They’re just as likely to be science majors as art, representing theory or discovery in creative ways.

View through the arch made of real books at Old New River Books in Christiansburg.
Old New River Books in Christiansburg with its arch of real books has fun with its name: the local river’s named New and the books are all old. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Books and Antiques in Christiansburg

Browsing might be daunting given the sheer number of volumes in the Old New River Books store. But since they’re lined up in an interesting array of equally old furniture, it’s fun to search.

Also, the booksellers seem to delight in the challenge: “Tell me what you’re interested in, and I’ll show you where that is” is a mantra.

The other half of this three-story1905 building near the train station is Cambria Antiques.

Christine Tibbetts believes family travel is shared discovery — almost like having a secret among generations who travel together. The matriarch of a big blended clan with many adventuresome traveling members, she is a classically-trained journalist. Christine handled PR and marketing accounts for four decades, specializing in tourism, the arts, education, politics and community development.  She builds travel features with depth interviews and abundant musing to uncover the soul of each place.
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