The 10 Best Things to Do in Galax VA (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 215)

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Located about 7 miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Galax VA is the epitome of the ideal small mountain town in Southwest Virginia.

Some of our favorite places to visit in Galax include a historic downtown area, beautiful natural surroundings, and outstanding live music venues.

The modern history of Galax VA is largely steeped in regional music (especially old-time music), with special attention to traditional instruments like the Scots-Irish fiddle and the African banjo.

But Galax attractions don’t stop at these musical influences.

There are great places to stay in Galax, and fun places to eat in Galax. There are also some great hiking trails near Galax, most of which are adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and New River.

This town is just 45 minutes away from our homestead in North Carolina, so we’ve visited numerous times. 

Read on for our guide to the best things to do in Galax VA, including all our favorite Galax restaurants, activities, and other must-sees!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Small Towns in Virginia to Visit

Best Galax VA Lodging Options

  1. Hampton Inn Galax (good value w/great breakfast & indoor pool)
  2. Galax Retreat w/ Wraparound Deck (2 bd, 2ba rental w/great view)
  3. Cozy Fries Escape (2 bd rental w/mountain & river views)
  4. Secluded Lakehouse, pet-friendly (4 bd, 3 ba rental, sleeps 14 w/canoe)

Best Things to Do in Galax VA Guide

  1. Attend the Old Fiddlers’ Convention
  2. Catch a Show at Rex Theater
  3. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway
  4. Hike or Bike at New River Trail State Park
  5. Jam at the Blue Ridge Music Center
  6. Stroll & Shop in Downtown Galax
  7. Take a Lesson at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts
  8. Travel the Crooked Road
  9. Try the Local Food Scene at Galax Restaurants
  10. Visit Local Vineyards

READ MORE: The 10 Best Virginia Mountain Resorts to Visit

bluegrass festival Virginia - Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention
Photo courtesy of Old Fiddlers Convention

1. Attend the Old Fiddlers’ Convention

601 S. Main St, Galax VA (276) 236-8541

Official Website

Of all my favorite Galax activities, none defines the town so perfectly as the Old Fiddlers’ Convention, which has been held there since 1935.

Every August, this internationally recognized music festival takes over the little town and turns it into an Appalachian music mecca.

There are band competitions, individual instrument competitions (for adults and kids), and lots of jamming nightly at the Virginia campgrounds.

Lots of attendees choose to camp, with spots available for around $100 on a first come, first served basis. Note that most Galax hotels will also fill up quickly, so book in advance! 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Virginia Music Festivals to Visit

Rex Concert venue Virginia
Photo courtesy of the Rex Theater

2. Catch a Show at the Rex Theater

111 East Grayson St, Galax VA (276) 236-0329

Official Website

The Rex Theater is another iconic destination for music lovers traveling through Southwest Virginia.

This venue opened in 1940 as the lone movie theater in the area, but it has since transitioned to a classic music venue for live performances.

They also host a weekly radio show here, Blue Ridge Backroads Live, which features old-time and bluegrass bands. It airs on Classic Country 98.1 FM, and is available on the internet.

For anyone visiting Galax, The Rex is really a must-see, whether you’re just stopping by to check out the historic site or actually scoring tickets for a show.

READ MORE: 10 Best Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit

VA Things to Do - Blue Ridge Music Center Sign on Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Music Center Sign on Blue Ridge Parkway photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway

VA-89 S, Galax VA (828) 348-3400

Official Website

Galax is just a few miles north of the intersection of US-89 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

From here, a cruise north can include visits to BRP highlights like the Blue Ridge Music Center (3 miles), Groundhog Meadow (27.4), and Mabry Mill (37 miles).

To the south, the Cumberland Knob Recreation Area is very near the intersection, while the Air Bellows Overlook and Doughton Park are a little further. The scenic views this way are top-notch!

Cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best ways to get into the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, both in the state of Virginia and North Carolina.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in Virginia

Best Virginia State Parks - New River Traill
New River Trail State Park Trestle

4. Hike or Bike at New River Trail State Park

W Stuart St, Galax VA (276) 699-6778

Official Website

I love New River Trail State Park, which is promoted as a great place for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding.

It’s a 57-mile long Virginia park that makes great use of an abandoned railroad route, and parallels the New River for over half of its length.

The park’s southern terminus is in the town of Galax. From there, it travels through four counties in Southwest VA, with several other access points along the way.

Features along the linear park include two tunnels, three major bridges, 30 small bridges/trestles, and Historic Shot Tower, which is another of Virginia’s award-winning state parks.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Virginia State Parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Music Center - The Band in the Breezeway
The Bluegrass Band at theBlue Ridge Music Center, photo by Emma Gallagher

5. Jam at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 213 , Galax VA (276) 236-5309

Official Website

Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 213, the Blue Ridge Music Center is another nod to the musical history and prowess of Galax, and the mountain towns and hamlets around it.

In our experience, this is THE place to learn about local musicians and sounds, with a fine museum and daily live music.

There’s also some fun hiking trails, and a huge outdoor amphitheater that pulls in powerhouse headliners every summer for its concert series.

Last year, I saw one of my favorite new musicians there (Sierra Ferrell), and the show was stupendous. My wife Emma and I spread out a blanket and had a lovely picnic while soaking in the sensational sounds.

READ MORE: 40 Facts About the History of the Banjo (From Africa to Appalachia)

Things to Do in Galax VA -shopping Chapters Bookshop
Chapters Bookshop in historic Downtown Galax , photo courtesy of Visit Galax

6. Stroll & Shop in Downtown Galax

Main St, Galax VA (276) 238-8130

Official Website

If you want a real small town experience, you need a proper, pedestrian-friendly downtown area to explore. And Galax has a great one!

In addition to the Rex Theater, historic Downtown Galax has a popular instrument store called Barr’s Fiddle Shop, antique shopping at Briar Patch Marketplace, and an awesome all-around stop in Chapters Bookshop.

Located in the old General Store, Galax Cakery is a popular favorite. Cozy Cabin and Mule Hell Trading Co are great for gifts like comfy candles and scrumptious handmade soaps.

The town is famous for its fine furniture.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Bedford VA (BRP MP 85.6–90.9)

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts Galax VA
Photo courtesy Chestnut Creek School of the Arts 

7. Take a Lesson at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts

100 N Main St, Galax VA (276) 236-3500

Official Website

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts aims to keep the cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia alive with classes on regional music, traditional crafts, and contemporary arts offered to all ability levels.

The school has a pottery studio, a woodworking studio, and a gift shop. Every October it hosts the Fall Into Art Festival, with artists’ booths and vendors.

CCSA also has exhibitions covering all manner of visual art, such as paintings, photography, youth art, and quilts.

The town of Galax also has several public art displays for visitors to enjoy, including a collection of painted 6-foot bass fiddles, a bench project, town banners, and a stage mural.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)

Virginia music - The Floyd Country Store Crooked Road
Photo courtesy of The Floyd Country Store

8. Travel the Crooked Road

One Heartwood Circle, Abingdon VA • (276) 492-2400 ext 2409

Official Website

Visiting the Rex Theater, Blue Ridge Music Center, and the Old Fiddlers’ Convention are all highlights of the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail in Galax.

But it’s worth noting that there are tons of other Crooked Road highlights relatively close by.

The Grayson County Old Time and Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention, the town of Independence, and the Historic 1908 Courthouse are to the west.

Fries Community is to the north, while the Lamsburg Welcome Center is to the southwest, and the Town of Hillsville is to the east.

All are well worth a visit for anyone interested in Appalachian music and culture!

READ MORE: 15 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples

Galax VA restaurants
Photo courtesy of Creek Bottom Brewing Company Tasting Room & Pub

9. Try the Local Food Scene at Galax Restaurants

Historic Downtown Galax, Galax VA (276) 238-8130

Official Website

There are plenty of independently-owned restaurants in Galax, and foodies will find several truly worth trying.

Aunt Bea’s is the local barbecue joint, as well as a classic diner that serves breakfast all day.

The Briar Patch Marketplace & Café offers breakfast classics, soups, salads, sandwiches, and a bevy of coffee options.

Other local favorites include the County Line Café for classic American cuisine, Creek Bottom Brewing Company for local craft beer, and The Galax Smokehouse for award-winning barbecue.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Restaurants in VA & NC

Mt Airy Restaurants NC - Old North State - Fish Hippie Wine
Old North State Fish Hippie Wine, photo by Emma Gallagher

10. Visit Local Vineyards

765 Round Peak Church Rd, Mt Airy NC (336) 352-5595

Official Website

Wine has become more and more popular in this region in recent years, and there are a few vineyards in and around Galax VA for oenophiles to visit.

Just across the NC border, Round Peak Vineyards has some interesting wines and ciders to try, as well as a stunning setting with views of the vineyard and a beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop.

Old North State is a little further south, on Main Street in Mt. Airy NC, offering tasting tours and a fantastic restaurant. The winery is located in an old hardware store building from the 1890s, so it’s a nice vintage (pun intended!) setting.

Other nearby Virginia Wineries to look into include Mt. Vale Vineyards and the West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery. -by Jonathon Engels; featured image of Briar Patch Marketplace courtesy of Visit Galax


Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.