This riverfront town in the Blue Ridge foothills is full of surprises.
Advertisement
Lynchburg, Virginia Skyline
Credit: Getty Images

Nestled in the footprint of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the James River, Lynchburg, Virginia, claims its breathtaking environs as just one of its many charms. Situated about halfway between Roanoke to the southwest and Charlottesville to the northeast, the City of Seven Hills (so called for the peaks that surround it) could answer to any number of monikers based on its multitude of attributes—seven historic districts, a colorful art scene, and diverse food and drink destinations, to name a few. It's a place that beckons year-round, sparkling under snow in the winter, dazzling in green in the spring and summer, and set ablaze with red and gold leaves in the fall. But no matter when you visit, you'll find there are plenty of ways to stay busy (or take it easy, if that's what you're after) in this central Virginia haven. Here, we've rounded up 12 of the best things to do in Lynchburg.

Explore Downtown

The best way to experience the heart of the city is on foot. Climb the terraced plazas that ascend from Church to Court Street to take in Lynchburg's best views—and score a heart-pumping workout on the way up. Scavenge for treasures at L. Oppleman, one of the region's oldest pawnshops; thumb through records at RiverView Vinyl; and shop pieces made by survivors of human trafficking and homelessness at Mosaic Collective. On Saturdays, pop by the Lynchburg Community Market (one of the oldest of its kind in the nation!) to sample local produce or pick up souvenirs made by local craftspeople.

Soak Up History

Founded in 1786, the city's history is like the mountain air, blanketing every inch of the place. Don't miss Pierce Street Renaissance Historic District, which was home to a number of African American leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum anchors the area and pays tribute to the Harlem Renaissance poet who once called it home; her granddaughter Shaun Spencer-Hester now acts as the executive director and curator of the museum and gardens, which are open to the public for tours. West of town, venture to Thomas Jefferson's retreat, Poplar Forest, where archeological research continues to inform the site's interpretation, which works to honor the enslaved people who lived and worked there.

Hit the Trails

Rent a bike or walk the Blackwater Creek Trail, a three-mile rail trail that meanders through urban forest and over the James River; explore Liberty Mountain Trail System, which encompasses 50 miles of mountain biking and walking paths; or stroll the Riverwalk, which runs the length of downtown before crossing over to Percival's Island Natural Area, where you can birdwatch or fish.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Founded in 1806, Old City Cemetery is, perhaps paradoxically, one of the town's liveliest haunts. Beyond being a site of remembrance for nearly 20,000 people, its 27 acres are home to five museums; an array of heirloom and native plants; and more than 425 varieties of antique roses, the largest public collection of the flowers in the state. The blooms are celebrated each year with the Annual Antique Rose Festival, which runs from May 'til June.

Paddle the River

Experience Lynchburg from the water by renting a canoe or kayak from James River Adventures. You can also charter a float in a period-correct replica of a James River Batteau, a flat-bottomed vessel originally designed as a cargo boat.

Entertain Your Kids

Housed in a Civil War-era building that once served as an infirmary, children's museum Amazement Square is just one example of the city's deft maneuvering of past and present. The museum's four floors of interactive programming range from a Native American gallery that celebrates the Monacan people who first settled the area, to a live exhibition about bees and beekeeping. Its focus on accessibility, regardless of a child's ability or a family's socioeconomic background, earned it a 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the country's highest honor for such institutions.

Wet Your Whistle

Sample local brews at Starr Hill, the second oldest craft brewery in Virginia; do-gooders should order The Love, a light wheat beer that gives back to Lynchburg charities. Oenophiles can get their fix at family-owned Peaks of Otter Winery, Virginia's first all-fruit vintner, in nearby Bedford.

Hunt for Murals

Downtown Lynchburg is home to a respectable collection of public art, ranging from mosaics to sculptures, and you can experience the best of it in the James River Art & Culture District. See if you can find all the pieces listed here.

Play in the Snow… Year-Round

For much of the South, the fluffy white stuff is a bit of an anomaly even in the colder months, but Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center's artificial slopes guarantee skiing, tubing, and sledding regardless of the weather.

Eat From-Scratch Pie

Technically, Woodruff's Pies is in Monroe, about 12 miles down the road from Lynchburg, but sweets lovers will tell you it's worth the trip. In 1998, Angela Scott reopened what was once her parents' country store as a café and bakery. Don't miss the apple pie.

Revel in School Spirit

Lynchburg is home to a handful of colleges and universities. Stroll Randolph's campus for a peek at one of the most "green," sustainability-focused colleges in the country; explore 50 miles of biking and walking trails via the Liberty Mountain Trail System; and cheer on the Hornets at a University of Lynchburg basketball game.

Go for a Drive

Load up the car and head 30 minutes out of town to experience one of the South's most spectacularly scenic drives. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which spans 470 miles and connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, is at its most glorious in the fall, when red and amber foliage lights up the views.