Just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lynchburg is about two hours from Richmond and a little over an hour from Roanoke or Charlottesville. The independent city sits on the banks of the James River, offering outdoor recreation, scenic views, and all sorts of things to do, from historic sites to family-friendly museums. Use this three-day vacation guide to plan a vacation to Lynchburg and discover the city’s charms for yourself!
Stay At: The Craddock Terry Hotel, with rooms starting around $130 per night, or The Virginian Hotel, with rooms starting around $120 per night. Rates can vary quite a bit at both hotels seasonally and are often less expensive during weekdays.
Once a shoe factory for a national brand, the turn-of-the-century brick building housing the Craddock Terry Hotel has been transformed into a fashionable boutique hotel. The 44 rooms in the hotel boast high, exposed beam ceilings, expansive windows that allow for plenty of natural light, and spacious layouts, with many rooms offering dramatic views of the James River or the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two award-winning restaurants, Shoemakers American Grille and Waterstone Fire Roasted Pizza, are located on-site, providing delicious fare just steps from your hotel room.
Photo Credit: John Bellenis
The recently renovated Virginian Hotel is another luxurious lodging option for guests in the Lynchburg area. Built in 1913, the hotel has been restored to its former glory and refreshed with all the modern amenities you expect in a high-end hotel. For food and drinks, the hotel has Marigold, a full cafe and bistro where you can pick up a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, depending on the time of day, William & Henry, an upscale steakhouse for fine dining, and Skyline, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar (and the only rooftop dining option in Downtown Lynchburg).
Photo Credit: Lindsey Hinkley Photography IG account:@lindseyhinkleyphoto
Arrive in Downtown Lynchburg and check into your hotel. If staying at the Craddock Terry, be sure to introduce yourself to Penny Loafer, the hotel’s resident pup, and also snap a photo in the hotel’s creative LOVEwork, a giant shoe that you can sit inside. Depending on your travel arrangements, you can choose from several activities to begin your Lynchburg explorations.
OPTION #1: If you have brought the entire family, consider walking over to Amazement Square, an interactive children’s museum that skillfully blends education and playtime into hours of fun. Four floors of hands-on exhibits encourage kids to get creative, and even parents will enjoy the vibrant displays. Plus, kids can expend their seemingly unlimited energy on Amazement Tower, the tallest indoor interactive climbing structure in the United States, built with tunnels, a glass elevator, and even a zipline.
OPTION #2: Outdoor enthusiasts can rent bikes from Bikes Unlimited and spend a few hours riding the Blackwater Creek Trail along the banks of the James River. This shaded, mostly-paved pathway runs about eight miles over bridges and through the woods, but the most incredible part of the ride is definitely the short section through Hollins Mill Tunnel, an old train tunnel; on hot days, you can feel the cool, refreshing air pouring out of the mountainside from at least 50 feet away. On the way back, ride by another of Lynchburg’s popular LOVEworks for a quick photo opp.
Photo Credit: John Henley
OPTION #3: Learn a little of the local history with a self-guided tour of Lynchburg. We recommend visiting Old City Cemetery, a registered historic landmark that has been a public burial ground since 1806. While visiting a cemetery on your vacation may seem a little odd, the site is packed with history and beauty, containing over 27 acres that are spotted with lush gardens, touching monuments, and historically significant museums. During the summer, you can purchase rare antique rose varietals from the Cemetery Center, a beautiful memento to carry home from your visit to Lynchburg.
Another interesting site for history lovers is Point of Honor, a restored Federal-style mansion that overlooks the James River and dates back to 1815.
Head back to your hotel and get ready for dinner. While there are many options within walking distance of both the Craddock Terry and the Virginian, we opted for El Jefe Taqueria Garaje, a laid-back tequila bar known for their array of simple yet tasty tacos and their fresh, made-to-order margaritas. When the weather is nice, grab a seat on the back patio and enjoy your cocktail with a beautiful view of Lynchburg’s Bluffwalk and the James River.
After dinner, catch a Friday night show at The Academy Center of the Arts. The historic theater originally opened back in 1905, but after years of sitting vacant, the theater was restored and finally reopened in December 2018. You can catch live shows almost every weekend, including popular plays, symphony orchestra performances, magic shows, and cult-classic movie screenings. Check the calendar to see what’s on stage during your visit.
Photo Credit: John Bellenis
If you’re still looking for entertainment after the performance, head to Skyline for late-night drinks and a moonlit view of Downtown Lynchburg.
Start off Saturday with breakfast at My Dog Duke’s Diner. The menu is a mix of classic Southern breakfast fare like chicken & waffles, a corned beef hash skillet, and crab benedict and inventive dishes such as the Mardi Gras french toast, topped with cream cheese icing, caramel drizzle, and sprinkles. Add a Duke’s cinnamon roll on the side for a special sweet treat.
Photo Credit: Star City Skycams, IG account: @starcityskycams
Walk off breakfast with a stroll towards the Lynchburg Community Market, one of the nation’s oldest city markets. Each Saturday throughout the year, you can shop the very best products made in and around Lynchburg, as the artisans and farmers gather to showcase their latest goods (If you come mid-week during warmer months, the market is open Wednesdays as well!).
Hop in the car and set your GPS for The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. This small community suffered the highest per capita losses during the World War II invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, and to honor their loss, the country awarded the monument site to the rural mountain town. With breathtaking natural landscapes surrounding the memorial, the site is a moving and beautiful tribute to the men who gave their life on that fateful day 75 years ago.
For lunch, travel about 15 miles up the road to Peaks of Otter Lodge Restaurant, where you can take in the spectacular views of Sharp Top Mountain and Abbott Lake out the expansive dining room windows while eating from the restaurant’s famed buffet (don’t miss out on the fried chicken, it is known for being some of the best in Virginia!).
Get a dose of Virginia’s world-renowned history at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest after your lunch. One of only two homes designed for personal use by the former U.S. President (and one he considered his architectural masterpiece), Poplar Forest was Jefferson’s quiet retreat, used as a place for self-reflection and personal creativity. After his presidency, Jefferson visited the retreat three or four times per year, staying for several months at a time to oversee planting and keep the estate running smoothly. The site is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is currently undergoing renovations to ensure its long-term preservation.
Back in Lynchburg, experience the thrill of the mountains year-round at the Liberty Mountain SnowFlex Centre! This winter park is open for riders during every season due to the innovative multi-layer material covering the mountain which mimics the effects of snow, allowing for speed, control, and endless fun. Not a skier or snowboarder? For just $13 an hour, guests of all ages can experience a thrill on three different tubing runs.
After a quick refresh back at the hotel, dine at RA Bistro, located just two blocks from The Craddock Terry Hotel. The restaurant serves seasonally-inspired American cuisine (and they also happen to have fantastic happy hour specials!) in a sophisticated yet casual space.
After a full day, sip a cocktail at your hotel bar for a relaxing end to your Saturday adventures.
Pack up the car and get an early breakfast from the Market on Main, a local favorite diner serving classic American fare.
Leave Lynchburg and drive to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, another notable site that is a must for visitors to the region. The park is the site of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, a monumental occasion that would mark the beginning of the end of the Civil War in the United States. Reenactors dressed in period costumes will tell you what was happening on that very day in 1865, but the park is largely a self-guided experience, allowing you to explore at your own leisure. Before leaving, stroll along the park’s idyllic trails as you imagine what it must have been like for soldiers gathering on the lands to end the grueling war.
Another can’t-miss historic site just down the road, The American Civil War Museum intertwines the stories of the Confederate State of America government, military, civilians, and the free and enslaved Black Americans that were a major part of the Civil War. The exhibits include many remarkable artifacts from the era, including General Lee’s sword and the uniform he wore to sign the surrender with Union General Grant.
Grab brunch at The Babcock House, a Southern-style restaurant housed in a quaint Victorian bed and breakfast. Dishes like corned beef hash, Belgian waffles piled high with fresh berries, cinnamon cream, and a homemade rhubarb maple syrup, and shrimp & grits create an irresistible menu that will make choosing a single entree difficult.
Before heading home, stroll through the small town of Appomattox, where you can grab a cup of coffee or a specialty latte at Baine’s Books & Coffee while you peruse a fantastic assortment of used books and vinyl records.
Looking for more travel ideas around Virginia? Below are a few more 72-hour guides to help you plan your next visit.