Lynchburg, VA is best known as the home of several major universities in Virginia, but the city has much more to offer.
In Lynchburg, you can discover historic homes and landmarks, museums, churches, and centuries-old cemeteries.
And because the city is situated along the James River and on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s also a great place to explore the great outdoors.
The city is located in Central Virginia, on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s about 68 miles southwest of Charlottesville, 113 miles west of Richmond, and 164 miles southwest of Northern Virginia.
(Top photo courtesy Thomas Jefferson Poplar Forest.)
23 Best Things to Do in Lynchburg, VA
Whether you want to learn more about the rich history of Lynchburg and the surrounding region, go skiing in the summer, or discover Thomas Jefferson’s private retreat, Lynchburg has something for just about everyone.
Below are some of my top recommendations for the best things to do in Lynchburg.
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Many people have probably visited Thomas Jefferson’s primary residence, Monticello, in Charlottesville.
However, fewer people probably know that the founding father has a personal retreat in Lynchburg, called Poplar Forest.
Back in the 1800s, Jefferson would spend time out of the public spotlight at the estate, where he loved reading and studying.
Today, Poplar Forest gives you a chance to travel back in time and see firsthand what it was like to live in Virginia more than 200 years ago.
There are currently docent-guided and self-guided tours, which give you the chance to explore the ornate architecture of the plantation, as well as the beautiful grounds.
The site also features many tributes honoring the free and enslaved laborers who worked at the plantation.
During your stay, you will also get a chance to see artifacts from the time period, and hear stories about the life and times of Jefferson and the enslaved people who lived and worked at Poplar Forest.
Point of Honor
Point of Honor is another major historic site in Lynchburg. The home dates back to the mid-1700s and sits on the land of the Monacan Indian people.
When you visit, you get a unique opportunity to travel through time to see and learn how the property changed through the centuries.
There are also artifacts and exhibits honoring the native Monacan people and enslaved people who lived there over the centuries.
Point of Honor got its name due to the many duels that were fought on its grounds. It has beautiful hilltop views of the James River.
Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum
Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum is another important historic site in Lynchburg. It is one of the most intact house museums in America.
The vibrant red home belonged to Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer. It has the distinction of being on the Virginia Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, the home received many remarkable African American guests, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
You can learn even more about the life and times of Anne Spencer by visiting the museum.
The home itself is filled with artifacts from Anne Spencer’s life, including photographs, clothing, furniture, and more.
Beyond the home, you can also explore the beautiful gardens outside.
Monument Terrace is a striking set of 139 steps that lead up from Church Street to Court Street.
Along the steps, there are statues and monuments commemorating those who fought and died in major wars, including the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, and Vietnam War.
At the bottom of the stairs, you don’t want to miss the famous doughboy statue.
At the top of the stone stairs, you’ll find the prominent Court House Museum.
The Lynchburg Museum is naturally one of the best places to learn about the history of the city.
The museum has featured exhibits on topics such as Commemorating 100 Years of the 19th Amendment, Lynchburg’s Military Service, medicine, art and artisans, and Lynchburg culture, pastimes, and entertainment.
The museum also includes artifacts and documents from the Civil War. You can also look up genealogy records in the museum’s database.
Historic Sandusky is yet another major historic home in Lynchburg. It dates back over 200 years. During the Civil War, it served as the Union Headquarters during the Battle of Lynchburg.
The home has been restored to its condition during the years 1850 to 1870.
Please note that guided tours of the home are only available by appointment, or you can take a self-guided tour of the outside grounds.
Archaeological excavations continue to take place on the property and have unearthed Civil War artifacts such as artillery shells, letters, photographs, and more.
Presbyterian Cemetery Twin Towers Memorial
The Presbyterian Cemetery Twin Towers Memorial is a special tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11.
The twin tower metallic statues are located in the historic Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg. The cemetery itself is a beautiful and tranquil setting that is open to the public.
You can also book a guided tour by appointment to learn more about the history of the place.
Legacy Museum of African American History
The Legacy Museum of African American History is dedicated to celebrating the history, heritage, and culture of African Americans in Lynchburg and the surrounding areas.
The museum began as a project sponsored by the NAACP. It is located in a 100-year-old home that was renovated as part of the Legacy Project.
Past exhibits have included topics as diverse as Black Education in Central Virginia, African American Medicine and Health, African American Life in Central Virginia During and After the Civil War, Jim Crow in Central Virginia, and many other important historical events.
Old City Cemetery
Old City Cemetery is one of the top places to visit in Lynchburg. The historic cemetery dates all the way back to 1806.
The cemetery is actually the oldest municipal cemetery in Virginia still in use and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The property features 27 acres of gardens that include over 600 trees and the largest collection of antique roses in Virginia.
The Old City Cemetery is also a popular wedding venue and it hosts regular events, such as concerts, Wine & Roses Garden Parties, and Evening Roses Tours.
You can also book a guided tour by appointment, which can include a Civil War history tour, African American history tour, a horticulture tour, and more.
Pest House Medical Museum
Pest House Medical Museum is located in the Old Cemetery. The name Pest House is short for Pestilence House.
The home served as Lynchburg’s first hospital and dates back to the early 1800s. Residents who contracted diseases such as smallpox or measles were quarantined at the hospital.
During the Civil War, Pest House served as a quarantine hospital for Confederate soldiers.
The house was originally located elsewhere in Lynchburg, but it was relocated to the Old City Cemetery in 1987.
Today, visitors can get a glimpse into how a small hospital operated during the 1800s, including the medical equipment that was used.
Some of the items on display include an operating table, “poison chest,” “asthma chair,” an 1860s hypodermic needle, a thermometer, and a chloroform mask.
Percival’s Island Natural Area
Percival’s Island Natural Area is a perfect natural oasis in the middle of downtown Lynchburg. It is located in the middle of the James River, and features a paved trail that runs down the middle of the island.
Visitors can bike, walk, or run along the trail, which is located along a former railroad river bed.
The island also features many areas with water access to the James River. Fishing is permitted according to state regulations.
The island features lovely views of the river and surrounding green spaces. It’s also a great place to spot wildlife, including herons and other waterfowl.
If you love trails and the outdoors, then the Riverwalk Trail is definitely a place you’ll want to explore.
The trail passes through the historic downtown district in Lynchburg, and so it’s a great way to see some of the main downtown attractions (including Amazement Square and Riverviews Artspace.)
The trail then takes you to Percival’s Island for a lovely oasis-like escape from the city.
The paved trail is about 5.7 miles long (out-and-back) and is popular for walkers, bicyclists, and runners.
Ivy Creek Park
Ivy Creek Park is another great outdoor space in Lynchburg. It features Clemmons Lake, nature trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more.
Visitors can go kayaking or canoeing on the lake, or go fishing from the pier. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at the park during the summer months from June through the end of August.
When you visit, you may spot some of the ducks, geese, and turtles that make the lake habitat their home.
Blackwater Creek Natural Area
Blackwater Creek Natural Area is another peaceful oasis within the heart of Lynchburg.
It surrounds Blackwater Creek and features trails through forest, hills, and stream valleys.
Blackwater Creek Trail runs along the edge of the natural area and along the creek. The three-mile trail is paved and perfect for runners, walkers, or cyclists.
Creek trails are some of my favorites to walk along and explore because they provide a serene backdrop and soundscape of cascading water.
The trail connects with the Riverwalk Trail and passes through forest areas within the city.
Maier Museum of Art at Randolph Macon College
For art lovers, the Maier Museum of Art is a top destination in Lynchburg.
The museum celebrates American art from the 19th century to the present. They have an extensive collection of American Impressionism and 20th-century realism.
Some of the major artists on display include Georgia O’Keefe, Winslow Homer, and Mary Cassatt.
The museum has free admission.
Academy Center of the Arts
Academy Center of the Arts is your destination for performing arts in Lynchburg. They present a wide variety of programming throughout the year, ranging from classical, to dance, folk, and even magic.
Some examples of performances include the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra, Ben Folds, and the Vienna Light Orchestra.
You can find a full calendar of upcoming events online.
Riverviews Art Space
Riverviews Art Space is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art in historic downtown Lynchburg. The space is located in a renovated riverfront warehouse.
Riverviews features a variety of different art forms, including paintings, sculptures, visual mixed media, photography, and film.
When you visit, not only will you get a chance to see some thought-provoking and inventive contemporary artwork on display, but you’ll also get a chance to see artist studio spaces where painters, photographers, and graphic artists are creating their next great works.
The space also hosts regular events showcasing art, including literary events.
Lynchburg Community Market
I love going to farmers’ markets on the weekend! The Lynchburg Community Market dates all the way back to 1783, which makes it one of the oldest in the country, so it’s definitely one that you’ll want to check out when you’re in town!
The community market is your place to find fresh, locally sourced produce, coffee and tea, preserves, baked goods, art, soap, and much more.
The market features a wide selection of vendors from local farms and stores, such as the Evergreen Lavender Farm, Grains of Sense Coffee Roastery & Tea Gallery, and Earthen Vessel Homewares, to name just a few.
The Lynchburg Community Market is conveniently located in downtown Lynchburg, on the corner of 12th Street and Main Street.
It’s open Tuesday through Saturday, 7 am to 2 pm.
Starr Hill Brewery on Main
If you love beer, you have to make a stop at Starr Hill Brewery on Main! Starr Hill is a homegrown Virginia brewery that is very popular in stores around the country!
Starr Hill has the distinction of being the second oldest craft brewery in Virginia.
They have multiple locations throughout the commonwealth, most notably in Charlottesville.
They have a big selection of brews on tap, including IPAs, American Pale Wheat, Belgian Tripel, and Imperial Stout, plus a Spicy Margarita Gose, and a chili lime Gose.
Pets are allowed outside, but not indoors.
Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center
With its prime location near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lynchburg is a great destination for snow lovers!
And if you wish that snow season was every season, then Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center is the place for you!
The popular spot features artificial ski slopes made from Snowflex, which means you can actually go skiing, snowboarding, or sledding all year long.
The center has equipment rentals plus lessons available too.
Even if you’re not as interested in winter sports, the center is still worth checking out just for the cool, wood-beamed lodge, and the amazing mountain sunsets.
Amazement Square is a great family destination in Lynchburg. This excellent children’s museum is located in the historic downtown area.
It features hands-on, interactive exhibits that give kids a chance to play, learn, and grow in a creative environment.
Some of the activities include creating a rainstorm to learn about the weather, learning about life on a farm, and paint the walls of the paint box!
Amazement Square also features an incredible indoor play space called Amazement Tower, which even has its own zip line!
Other exhibits let kids explore everything from art to music, to bees, to Native American culture, and much more.
If you love animals, then you’ll definitely need to add SeaQuest Lynchburg to your vacation list!
The aquarium has multiple interactive exhibits that give visitors a chance to feed Asian otters, interact with baby sloths, and even snorkel with stingrays.
Other exhibits give you a chance to see reptiles, beautiful tropical fish, sharks, tropical birds, porcupines, and much more.
You can also learn how to be a zookeeper by experiencing a day in the life of the people who work at SeaQuest.
Appomattox National Court House National Historic Park
A little further afield, Appomattox is a famous historic site that sits about 20 miles east of Lynchburg.
The courthouse at Appomattox served as the place where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant to end the Civil War in April 1865.
Today, the Appomattox Courthouse is a national historical park.
When you visit, you can get a chance to learn all about the history of this important event in American history, including the campaign that led up to it.
You’ll get a chance to see the McLean House, where the surrender actually took place, and see artifacts front the period.
You can learn about more of the best historic parks in Virginia.
Where to Stay in Lynchburg, VA
If you’re planning a trip to Lynchburg, you’ll find many great hotel options. Below are two of my top picks that are also conveniently close to historic downtown.
The Virginian Lynchburg Curio Collection
The Virginian Lynchburg Curio Collection is a gorgeous hotel with top amenities like a gym and beautiful outdoor terrace. It has a classic yet bright and airy decor. It’s also centrally located near many downtown attractions.
|🛏️ Book your stay at The Virginian Lynchburg Curio Collection by clicking here! 🛏️|
Craddock Terry Hotel
Craddock Terry Hotel is a cool and fun place to stay near downtown Lynchburg. It’s pet friendly and features a gym, bar, and restaurant. The building was once a shoe factory, which is why many of the rooms have an industrial brick design. It also features great outdoor spaces with a fire pit.
|🛏️ Book your stay at the Craddock Terry Hotel by clicking here! 🛏️|
FAQs About Lynchburg, VA
Before planning your next trip to Lynchburg, here are some additional facts about the city.
Is Lynchburg, VA worth visiting?
Yes, Lynchburg, VA is worth visiting. It has a large number of historic sites and museums, including the Anne Spencer House & Public Garden and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, which served as the Founding Father’s retreat.
The city is also located along the James River and near the Blue Ridge Mountains, which means there are many trails and nature areas to explore.
What is Lynchburg famous for?
Lynchburg is most famous as the home of multiple universities, including Central Virginia Community College Liberty University, Randolph College, the University of Lynchburg, and the Virginia University of Lynchburg.
It’s also famous for many historic sites, like the Anne Spencer House & Public Garden, and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.
What is a little-known fact about Lynchburg, VA?
Lynchburg was founded by a man named John Lynch in 1786.
Lynchburg is also known as the “City of Seven Hills.”
Is Lynchburg, VA a good place to raise a family?
Yes, Lynchburg, VA is a good place to raise a family. It has many great educational sites, like the children’s museum Amazement Square and SeaQuest Lynchburg. It also has great outdoor parks and trails like Percival’s Island Natural Area and Ivy Creek Park.
Learn about even more great things to do in Central Virginia!