If you’re looking for a fun, romantic and unique area for a date night, Abingdon, Va. may the place for you. This artsy small town is just a short drive from Northeast Tennessee — making it a perfect spot for locals and visitors alike. It’s full of hidden gems and history, and the cozy vibe makes it perfect for a date night, especially if you’re interested in history.
To start off our evening, my partner and I headed to the Abingdon Visitor’s Center, located just off Abingdon exit 14 on I-81. The center has all the info you’ll need about Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee attractions, but this particular visit was for the free historic walking tour map. The map guides you through the heart of downtown Abingdon as you visit numbered stops along the way. Each stop is located at a historic building, and there’s a little blurb written on the map about each one.
I know that history exploration may not sound like the most romantic date night, but when you combine it with Abingdon’s brick sidewalks and glimmering street lamps, it’s pure perfection. To get the most out of your time, take a few steps further down the street than the walking tour map calls, and visit even more local merchants along your way. There’s a thrift store and several specialty and antique stores to explore.
The end of the walking tour led us right to The Tavern, where we had reservations for dinner. According to the historic walking tour map, The Tavern is considered the oldest building in Abingdon, built in 1779. It used to be an inn for travelers, and boasts some pretty big names as far as visitors go — like President Andrew Jackson. The building has been used for several purposes throughout its centuries (yes, centuries) in Abingdon, but it’s currently a charming restaurant with some pretty amazing food.
Our server led us out to a cozy outdoor patio on the second floor of the building. We sipped on mojitos chosen from their extensive beverage menu, while we waited for our food.
For the main course, I ordered a New York strip steak and it was absolutely delicious. It was juicy, tender and cooked just right. The baked potato that accompanied the main course was simple, and it went so well with the flavors of the steak.
As if I wasn’t already in enough of a food coma, I decided to order the vanilla bean creme brulee. The sugar crust on top made a satisfying crack as I dug into it with my spoon. I probably would’ve ordered another, if my partner hadn’t been there to stop me — and if it hadn’t been time to head to Barter Theatre to see our show.
The historic Barter Theatre is probably the most notable attraction in Abingdon, and among the most popular theater venues in the Northeast Tennessee area. During our visit, we saw the hilarious Exit Laughing, described as a combination of The Golden Girls and Steel Magnolias.
Exit Laughing held my attention from the start. Between the razor-sharp wit of the leading ladies and moments that were so funny, I had tears in my eyes and was instantly hooked. Seeing the reactions of the audience members around me was almost as enjoyable as the show itself. It was absolute theatre magic.
If you want to continue the history theme for the evening, head up to the second floor of Barter Theatre during intermission. There’s a history exhibit up with pictures, puppets, and more. It’s a great way to spend the break between acts and learn even more about the historic town of Abingdon.
For the evening, we were transported into what felt like a simpler time. If you want a perfectly romantic evening with your partner, Abingdon is the spot for you. For more information about attractions, dining and shopping, check out www.visitabingdonvirginia.com.
Written by Makenna Arnold for Northeast Tennessee Tourism.