Spend your daylight hours poking around Galax stores – or sweating on a bike.
Across from the Farmer's Market on Main Street, try the Rooftop of Virginia craft shop for items made in the area. Move south on Main from one craft/antique/gift store or art gallery to the next.
Golden Gallery is in the process of expanding onto Main from an enormous warehouse in an alley behind Carroll Street. It's owned by Erwin and Angelika Klee, antique dealers in Breckenheim, Germany, who are relocating to Galax. Every three or four months, they ship a 40-foot container of antiques here – massive Bavarian wooden tables, tableware, the works. It is one of the largest emporiums for continental antiques in the Mid-Atlantic, and attracts dealers from Atlanta, New York and places in between.
Also unusual: Bearly A Memory, a Main Street store that specializes in collectible/expensive German-made Steiff teddy bears. Bearly owner Chuck Steffes is a major national Steiff distributor – about 90 percent of his business is via Internet. His Steiff on the Mountain festival (Oct. 10-12) is a fund-raiser that draws dealers and collectors to town when fall colors are prime.
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The Downtown Farmer's Market is the start of the New River Trail State Park, a rails-to-trails must-bike: It's an abandoned rail bed that crosses three major bridges, goes through a pair of tunnels and has several pull-over attractions along its 57-mile length.
No bike? Visit Ice House Bikes, on Depot Street, where 30 percent of Doug Hines' business is renting two-wheelers to tourists. Doesn't cost much – $5 per hour, $24 for a whole day – and he runs a shuttle that'll pick you up in Foster Falls: That 28-miler is one of the trail's most popular half-day rides. Also big: the 18-mile ride to Fries. The trail is easy – the rail bed only has a 2-degree incline.
On the horizon are the Oct. 11 Tour de Grayson (in adjoining Grayson County) and the Oct. 18 Fall Foliage ride to Fries via the New River Trail. It drew close to 300 cyclists last year.
Galax has a sizable mountain-bike community, and its volunteers worked with the government to build an 8.5-mile single-track trail in nearby Matthews State Forest. Work up a sweat: It has 1,700 feet of elevation changes. Greg Edwards, a 46-year-old mail carrier who helped develop the project, says his record time there is just under 50 minutes; when doing the circuit for enjoyment, it takes him about an hour and a half. John Bordsen