A Culinary Tour of “The Ham Capital of the World” Smithfield, Virginia

April 09, 2019

Restaurant in Smithfield and Isle of Wight County

One day won't be enough to take in the culinary delights waiting for you in the "Ham Capital of the World." Enjoy two days savoring our small-town's charming dining, shopping and attractions - and don't miss seeing our treasure - the world's oldest ham!

Smithfield and Isle of Wight County are as old as Virginia itself, having been first colonized in 1634. Located on the banks of the Pagan River, and lying on the opposite shore of the James River, across from Jamestown, the area was soon discovered by Captain John Smith and other early settlers.

Smithfield was incorporated in 1752 by Arthur Smith IV, but soon became a town of industry with four plants devoted to the art of curing the world famous “Smithfield Ham.” Today, it still earns its title as "The Ham Capital of the World," with the world's largest pork-processing company, Smithfield Foods making its corporate headquarters in Smithfield.

DAY 1:

Porcine Parade in Downtown Smithfield

Why not begin with the area's hot breakfast spot, the Cockeyed Rooster Cafe, located just outside of the historic district. Then head to the Visitor Center - also home to the Arts Center @ 319 - offering tourist information, a gallery/gift shop and the chance to chat with resident artists.

While there, pick up a Walking Tour map and a brochure on Smithfield's Porcine Parade - eight life-size statues of market hogs, painted by local artists to reflect the art and culture of the region. The town also boasts the largest collection of George Lundeen bronze statues in the U.S., depicting such notables as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the much-loved Valentine Couple.

Further down Main Street is the Isle of Wight County Museum, with its overview of the county’s history featuring a life-size smokehouse, the oldest peanut, and and the world's oldest ham (1902), an example of Smithfield’s famous ham curing process.

Next, begin your Walking Tour of the Historic District (pick up a map at the Visitor Center) with over 50 historic buildings, including the 1750 Ise of Wight Courthouse, modeled after the Capitol Building in Colonial Williamsburg, and the Schoolhouse Museum, an African-American Museum built in 1932. Take a break for lunch at Taste of Smithfield and pick up some genuine Smithfield Ham products as souvenirs!

After lunch head out of town to Darden’s Country Store, where visitors can tour the family’s smokehouse and farm. Peruse hanging hams, side meat, country cheese, barbeque and peanuts. Darden's has been a family-run operation since 1952.

Finish your day with a riverfront dinner at Smithfield Station, followed by one of our local concerts or events, or a class at the Arts Center.

DAY 2:

Captain Chuck a Mucks, Smithfield VA

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Cafe in town, or grab a morning treat at Cure Coffeehouse to take with you on a stroll through Windsor Castle Park.

If time, take in one of our many historic attractions such as Historic Saint Luke's Church and Museum (c1638), Virginia's oldest church or Isle of Wight County's two earthenworks forts, Fort Boykin Historic Park which dates back to 1632 and Historic Fort Huger, a strategic Civil War fort. Both are located along the banks of the lovely James River.

Have lunch riverside at Captain Chuck-a-Muck’s in the village of Rescue. Then head back into town to browse the unique shops and galleries of Smithfield’s historic district.

Finish your visit to Smithfield & Isle of Wight County with dinner at the historic Smithfield Inn. For dessert, try the Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor, a favorite for over 30 years, or stroll down to the boardwalk at the Smithfield Station to drop into Pagan River Wine Merchants for a nightcap as you enjoy the sunset over the Pagan River. Wharf Hill Brewing Co. or Summerwind Vineyard and Bon Vivant Wine & Brew (both located just outside of town offer wine and beer options as well.

Why not plan your trip around our many local events and concerts including: Smithfield's award-winning Farmers Market, the Friday night Summer Concert Series, Smithfield Music Concerts, or the “Sundays at Four” Chamber Concert Series? Smithfield VA Events offers three boutique special events each year as well: Smithfield Wine & Brew Fest, BOB Fest & 8K Chilly Bob Roadrace ("Beach Music, Oysters & Beer"), and the Smithfield Bacon, Bourbon & Beach Fest.

Sign up for our "Where the Locals Go" e-newsletter to stay informed of all the special events taking place in the area.

All attractions listed are free with the exception of Historic St. Luke's Church which charges a nominal fee.

Custom tours can be arranged. For further information or ideas to personalize your itinerary, contact the Visitor Center at 757.357.5182, Toll Free at 800.365.9339 or via email to: kmountjoy@isleofwightus.net.