By Logan Ward
July 16, 2020
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Shopping local is one of the pleasures of living in this small Virginia town.
Courtesy Chris Weisler/Lexington & Rockbridge County Area tourism

Although it’s small, this Shenandoah Valley burg has big appeal, starting with its postcard-perfect Main Street. Even on a gray December day a few years ago, the white church steeples and historic brick buildings twinkling with lights and fellowship sold Valerie and John Thomas. After a five-year search for a new home as they wound down two decades in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, the empty nesters chose Lexington. It checked all the boxes.

Topping the list was walkability. “We were tired of getting into the car to go buy a quart of milk,” John says. “We bought an old home in the center of town and are two or three blocks from banking, restaurants, church, civic activities, museums, and two college campuses.”

Lexington is a mountain town with a river running through it. The Maury River spills down from Goshen Pass and burbles past the back of both Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The broader James River isn’t far away. Also nearby are the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Downtown Lexington has become a haven for farm-to-table dining. Set off down the country roads near town, and you’ll find wineries and historic villages that once served as stagecoach stops. Snowshoe Mountain, with some of the best skiing conditions on the East Coast, is 100 miles away. The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, 50 miles down I-81, offers about 40 scheduled flights per day.  

For the Thomases, a strong sense of community was a major draw. “There’s a certain energy about Lexington that’s hard to pin down, but you can feel it when you’re here,” Valerie says. “It’s very friendly. People wave to you. They hang out on front porches.”

“We like the energy of the college students,” John adds. He said that last year, the community embraced his idea to invite Georgetown University’s Muslim chaplain, Imam Yahya Hendi, to town for a series of talks. “The VMI cadets cheered him,” he says. “Lexington welcomes new ideas. This is a do-it-yourself town.”