(UPDATED AUGUST 2022) A trip to Lynchburg left me wondering why I had not been there sooner. This “town of hills” has so many cool things to see and do that I had difficulty taking it all in due to my limited time frame. You’ll love everything from unique hotels to delectable food and designer shoes to Civil War sites! Here are the 17 top things to do in Lynchburg, Virginia.
1. Sink You Teeth Into Delicious Eats
We will start with my favorite subject: food. The food in Lynchburg is seriously dynamite! I recommend My Dog Duke’s Diner for classic Southern fares, such as Short Rib Grilled Cheese sandwiches, Reubens, Mac and cheese (with truffled cream), and a boatload of waffles.
Waffle choices include everything from cream cheese icing to pineapple, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts. They also make a killer Reuben sandwich. Breakfast is served all day at My Dog Duke’s—an attractive offering for any restaurant.
2. Tour the Maier Museum of Art
The Maier Museum of Art is a welcome surprise located at Randolph College. Impressionists and realist artists make up the collection at the Maier with temporary/permanent collections and exhibits from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
Admire works of art by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, James Audubon, and Mary Cassatt, to name a few. Admission is free.
3. See a Concert or Performing Arts Production
Lynchburg’s Academy Center for the Arts has been the city’s premier venue for over 110 years. The theater closed in 1958 and sat dormant for 60 years until it was nursed back to its grandeur and reopened in December 2018.
Decorated with a beautiful mural of Virginia culture, the center of Lynchburg’s cultural and community activities occur at the Academy Center for the Arts. Upcoming shows to look forward to in late 2020 are Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Price is Right Live, and Ailey II.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the capital of Virginia was relocated to Lynchburg in 1865 for a short time when Richmond fell to the Union forces?
4. Eat Cinnful Rolls
Cinn City Gourmet Buns & Beignets create tasty treats, and you’ll be hooked from one sinfully delicous smell. Choose from cool cinnamon bun creations like Blueberry Lemonade, Birthday Cake, or the Lumberjack (with bacon, maple frosting, and cinnamon apples).
You can also design the buns with your choice of frosting, drizzle or sauce, and toppings. Pair your sweet treats with a hot or cold coffee beverage, milkshake, or smoothie. This new cinnamon roll trend will inevitably replace the gourmet donut and cupcake shops around the country.
5. Play at Amazement Square
Amazement Square is full of engaging hands-on exhibits, four stories of climbing and play spaces, slides, zip lines, and learning opportunities. Exhibitions include taking a mini-batteau boat down the James River on a 40-foot long diorama, exploring the housing and daily life of the Native Americans, building structures with a crane, and discovering life on a farm by harvesting and selling crops, and milking “Milky” the cow.
Other fun spaces include Kaleidoscope Gallery, Bee in the Know, and Shipwreck Cove.
6. Pay Respects at Old City Cemetery
Dubbed the oldest municipal cemetery in Virginia (1806) and still in use today, this massive property houses the graves of around 20,000 people, including European immigrants, tobacco factory workers, and Confederate soldiers who died in military hospitals.
In a separate Confederate section are 2,200 graves from soldiers before 1925 who reside in 14 states. The Old City Cemetery (a 27-acre public garden) is also great for walking, hiking, or getting your Fitbit steps in. It is a Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and has a fantastic rose garden.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Lynchburg has oodles of 19th-century Queen Anne-style mansions and enormous homes due to the tobacco tycoons and the large influx of doctors and lawyers residing there?
7. Take Photos at Courthouse Hill and Monument Terrace
Monument Terrace and Courthouse Hill are both photo-worthy on their own, but they are at a high vantage point for showing how hilly Lynchburg truly is. The Terrace is Lynchburg’s war memorial with a particular emphasis on paying tribute to the veterans of the wars (Civil, Spanish-American, and World Wars, through modern-day). A series of statues and monuments line the 132 steps to the top at the base of the Lynchburg Museum in the Old Court House.
8. Visit the Craddock Terry Hotel
The Craddock Terry Shoe Company warehouse and showroom, one of the biggest shoe manufacturers in the country for its time, have been converted into unique properties. One is the Craddock Terry Hotel, decorated with vintage shoes and a huge red heel smack dab in front of the downtown property.
The stylish 44-room boutique hotel serves European-style continental breakfast delivered straight to your room in a “fashionable” way and many other amenities. Check out the distinctive dining choices at the Waterstone Pizza or Shoemakers American Grill, voted one of the best places to eat in Lynchburg. Be sure to say hello to Penny Loafer (the adorable hotel mascot), who can tell you about the hotel’s Pampered Pet Package.
9. Have a Proper British Tea
The Ploughcroft Tea Room is a pleasant find in downtown Lynchburg. Here, you can have a proper afternoon tea with various tea selections, pastries, finger sandwiches, and scones.
Food choices range from homemade soups to chicken salads and Scotch eggs to Cornish pastry. I saw people of all ages enjoying the fancy yet casual tea room that was as charming as could be. Treat yourself to an afternoon of royal proportions with the afternoon tea options, or you may order from the à la carte menu.
10. See the Point of Honor
Point of Honor is a beautiful Federal-style historic home originally belonging to one of Lynchburg’s most prominent citizens, Dr. George Cabell. It is now a city museum. See what life was like in the early 1800s as you tour the impressive grounds with views of the James River and decorated rooms with period antiques that mimic the era in which it was first used.
Point of Honor is on the National Register of Historic Places. I found it noteworthy that Dr. Cabell was personal friends with Thomas Jefferson and the personal physician to patriot Patrick Henry.
11. Sip Cocktails at Grey’s
Grey’s is a local, popular eatery that is always packed. The list of hand-crafted cocktails is most impressive, while the food (which changes daily) is superb. Enjoy farm-to-table chef-inspired creations (vegan and vegetarian options, too) that will delight your taste buds.
I tried the braised chicken breast Nachos (greens, white cheddar, radish, salsa verde), house-made burrata with sourdough bread, and a daily special with fried green tomato, pulled pork, and fresh peaches, amongst other tasty additions. All three dishes were “off the hook” fresh and delicious! Locals say Grey’s has the best brunch in town.
12. Check Off Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Twenty minutes west of Lynchburg brings you to Poplar Forest. It was Thomas Jefferson’s self-designed plantation retreat home for many years. Poplar Forest is also where Jefferson worked on his landscape and architectural designs. He also made many beloved memories with his grandchildren at Poplar Forest.
Poplar Forest was also the first octagonal house built in the county and opened to the public in 1986. Much of the property is currently undergoing architectural restoration and excavation. I highly recommend the complete tour and a visit to the well-stocked gift shop.
13. Cool Off at the Riverside Park Sprayground
Kids will love the Riverside Park Sprayground, where they can keep cool during summer in the fun waterworks. Dumping buckets and spraying frogs will be two of their favorite features. There is also an extensive playground for kids only steps away. Riverside Park Sprayground is a great place for the kids to run and play while the adults sit back and take a breather or simply snap pictures.
Parents should bring a towel and perhaps a fold-out chair to Riverside Park to make their watch more enjoyable. Don’t miss the transportation exhibit in the park, which has a train locomotive, caboose, and then the hull of a boat.
14. Chow Down at Market at Main
This downtown eatery is a retro diner as well as a trendy hotspot found in an attractive historic building. Choose from a flight of pancakes (sweet potato, corncake, and buttermilk) for breakfast or perhaps Green Eggs and Ham. I chose Market at Main’s Eggs Virginia, a play on my favorite Eggs Benedict, with Virginia sage sausage patties replacing the Canadian bacon. It was perfection!
Market at Main also serves a delectable lunch with fried green tomatoes, wings, burgers, soups, salads, and sandwiches. Eat at the old-school lunch counter instead of a table if you prefer.
15. Stay at a Luxury Hotel
Found in the perfect downtown location, walkable to most attractions, is the Virginian Hotel. Enjoy a luxurious boutique hotel stay in a historic hotel (circa 1913) that offers a gorgeous lobby, top-notch restaurant, quick cafe, and eloquent library. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the colossal marble bathroom with a powerful shower and excellent lighting was the highlight of my stay. Other noteworthy amenities include free WiFi, a mini-fridge, and a Keurig® coffeemaker.
Don’t miss The Skyline Grill, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar offering creative cocktails, fire pits, tapas and flatbreads, and excellent views, or The William & Henry, an exceptional fine dining restaurant. Menu suggestions include the Campfire S’more Martini, Signature Cuts for two steaks, and decadent Apple Brown Betty for dessert.
16. Take a Selfie with the Virginia Love Collection
As mentioned above in #8, the red high heel is placed perfectly in front of the Craddock Terry Hotel. It is one of the 150 roadside public “LOVE” artwork displays celebrating the successful “Virginia is for Lovers” 50th birthday. I found this to be the coolest one in the LOVEworks display yet! Richmond advertising firm Martin & Woltz Inc. (now The Martin Agency) created the catchy slogan in 1969.
17. Buy Shoes!
You won’t believe your luck when you enter the MustHaveShoes shoe store in Lynchburg, Virginia. This designer shoe warehouse is the only place to buy these fashion footwear brands outside of online sales and a few select stores, such as Nordstrom. The highly reduced prices and other bargains are too good to believe. I walked out with four new pairs of shoes, and I’m not even a shoe fanatic! Some brands they sell are Naked Feet, Nicole, Madeline, and OTBT.
Lynchburg, Virginia: A Fun-Filled Town To Discover
Our visit to downtown Lynchburg, Virginia (and surrounding areas) was so much fun. I’d recommend this town at the Eastern foothills of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains for anyone wanting to explore Civil War history, foodie adventures, or a prevalent arts and culture scene.
Thanks to the Lynchburg CVB for hosting my visit and all expenses. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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