Why This Virginia Town Is Called “The Fried Chicken Capital of the World”

Gordonsville, Virginia, celebrates annually the role that fried chicken has had in the towns history
Gordonsville, Virginia, celebrates annually the role that fried chicken has had in the town's history | © Brian Chan / Unsplash
Joanna Marsh

Back in the late 1800s, the small town of Gordonsville, Virginia, became known as the “Fried Chicken Capital of the World.” It celebrates this claim to fame by hosting an annual fried chicken festival, usually on the third Saturday of May.

Loved by over 40s
- embed -

The History of Fried Chicken in Gordonsville

Gordonsville’s fame as the world’s fried chicken capital can be traced back to the 1840s when the town became a stop on the railroad. Gordonsville benefited from the business and visitors that the Virginia Central Railroad and Alexandria Railroad brought into town. It saw thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers pass through its streets. One of the town’s buildings served as a Civil War hospital, and it later became a hospital for newly freed slaves during the Reconstruction period.

Following the Civil War, the railroad continued to shape Gordonsville’s identity. The town remained as a rail stop even when ownership transferred to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. And the townsfolk of Gordonsville—specifically, the women from Gordonsville’s African-American community—saw an opportunity and seized it. That’s when the chicken crossed the [rail]road.

To make money, the women sold fried chicken to rail passengers. When passenger trains stopped at the town, the women, who later became known as “chicken vendors,” would balance plates of fried chicken on their heads and serve the passengers by passing the fried chicken to them through open railcar windows. This continued as late as around 1914. Even when passenger trains started using dining cars and no longer had food come in through the open windows, the town of Gordonsville would have chicken ready for the dining cars to pick up.

- embed -

What to Expect at the Chicken Festival

While passenger trains no longer stop at Gordonsville, the town sought to commemorate its infamy as “the chicken leg center of the universe” by hosting an annual festival. The highlight of the festival is a fried chicken cook-off, with the top three winners getting small cash prizes, along with bragging rights.

But this small-town festival in central Virginia is not just about food. In 2017, Gordonsville added a 5K race to the festivities so that visitors could burn some calories preemptively. The festival, held on the fairgrounds of the Gordonsville Fire Department, also features a wine garden, a pie contest, craft and artisan vendors, face painting and bounce houses for the kiddos, and live entertainment.

After the Festival

If you need to take a break from eating chicken, then check out the Civil War museum in town. The Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel is the town building that served the wounded of the Civil War before it became a hospital for newly freed slaves.

Gordonsville is also about 18 miles (28.9 kilometers) northeast of Charlottesville, and the Barboursville and Horton Vineyards are nearby.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.