WISE (Town): Wise, Virginia is a town in the beautiful mountains of Southwest Virginia. Wise is a town with a rich history and is fast becoming a leader in lifestyle, technology and education in the Commonwealth of Virginia while maintaining a quiet, small town environment.
Wise is the economic and cultural heart of Wise County with a strong university presence. Rich architecture, natural beauty, traditional mountain values and friendly locals wait to greet you with an eclectic mix of unique restaurants and shops.
Located high on the Appalachian Plateau in the far corner of southwestern Virginia, at 2,684 feet above sea level, Wise is situated in a lovely, lush, mountainous area blessed by an abundance of natural, scenic, and historic resources. Unlike the tilted upthrusts of the land to the East, the Plateau sandstone is layered horizontally, as is evident in the road cuts and occasional high-walls which remain from the early days of surface mining. It was in this sandstone that seams of coal were discovered in the 1800’s, and that high-quality coal changed forever the course of history for the Town of Wise and the surrounding areas. Many of the fine houses built during the economic boom that followed, still line the Main Street.
As the county seat for Wise County, the Town of Wise has also become a commercial and legal center. However, it still maintains its small town charm and friendliness and offers the visitor a unique dining and shopping experience including a gourmet coffee shop, a restaurant
with banquet facilities and civil war decor, several lounges, a ladies boutique, spa services, and a showcase featuring the works of over 50 local artisans and craftsmen. Mountain Rose Vineyard, only six miles from downtown, has converted land mined for coal into a lush vineyard featuring wine tasting, sales, and tours. In addition, Pro-Art, Appalachian Children’s Theatre and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise regularly bring outstanding concerts, plays, performances, and lecturers to the area. The regional library system is headquartered in Wise and houses an impressive art gallery. The Wise County Historical Society archives many documents which facilitate genealogical and historical; research.
Formerly known as Clinch Valley College, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise grew out of the commitment of individuals who sought to bring the benefits of higher education to the coalfields of southwestern Virginia. Now over fifty years old, the College is home to more than 1900 students and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the top ten liberal arts colleges in the entire United States. The influence of these culturally diverse students and faculty from all over the world on the community is profound. The work of a well known researcher, author from UVA Wise, Dr. Brent Kennedy, to examine and establish the ethnic background of a group of people settled in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and labeled “Melungeons” led to many cultural exchanges with various locales in Turkey and to the development of a sister city relationship between the Town of Wise and Cesme, Turkey.
Camp Bethel is located on 160 acres of woodland one mile from Wise and offers guest lodging in rustic log cabins, tent camping, or RV spaces at Whispering Pines. Activities include camping, hiking, canoeing, volleyball, indoor basketball, softball, and paintball. Organized programs for retreats and wilderness adventure camps are also available. Canoeing, hiking, and fishing can also be found at Bear Creek Reservoir, a beautiful lake which is also the Town’s water supply.
The second full weekend each October, thousands flock to downtown Wise for the Wise County Famous Fall Fling. This arts and crafts festival provides a venue for regional artisans and features authentic mountain food and music.
Only one hour west of Abingdon, and just off Route 58 and US 23, Wise is indeed … the place to be.
©Tim & Angel Cox