Lynchburg has stood in the shadow of its cooler Virginia cousins, like Charlottesville and Richmond, for decades. But with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, and an expanding foodie scene, the newly reinvigorated Hill City is on the radar as a weekend destination.
A lot of resources and work have gone into revitalizing the city’s historic downtown and as a result, Lynchburg now has a nice mix of restaurants, locally owned shopping, boutique hotels, and a city trail system.
Those who visit for a little relaxation, a pinch of culture, and a slice of the outdoors leave pleasantly surprised. So, if you’re interested in checking out the city this fall, here is a little primer for your trip.
Claim your reservation at the Craddock Terry Hotel, nestled in the center of downtown. Built in 1905 on the edge of the James River, the hotel was once the Craddock Terry Shoe Company, a cornerstone of Lynchburg’s industrial success and the fifth largest shoe company in the world. The building was restored and converted to a luxury hotel in 2007, but the owners made sure to tip their hat to the olden days; hotel guests enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast delivered to their room in a wooden shoeshine box.
The nine-foot-tall windows, exposed ceiling beams, and original brick lend a rustic charm to the 44 guest rooms. Dogs are welcome, with a live-in wire fox terrier named Penny Loafer as a greeter.
Once settled, it’s a quick jaunt to No. 7 Rooftop Bar, a sweet spot for sweeping views of the city, where you can watch the sunset with a glass of wine or craft cocktail. Open until midnight, you can lounge on the patio, cozy up to the firepit, or hang out at either the indoor or outdoor bar. If you’re craving a snack, the meatballs with a kicky fire-roasted tomato sauce, or the fried oysters with roasted red pepper aioli won’t disappoint. A full bar menu will satisfy heartier appetites.
After your in-room breakfast, hop in the car and head to Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, a 10-minute drive away. Snowflex, a patented artificial surface, makes it possible to ski, snowboard, and tube year-round. You can rent all necessary equipment, and even receive lessons. If you’re a wreck on skis, try a run on an inflatable tube, which will give you a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the way down.
After you’ve worked up an appetite on the slopes, head to the locals’ midday spot, The Farm Basket. Try any of the chef’s specials, like the ratatouille wrap, the sesame noodles, or the fan-favorite chicken salad. The sides go beyond the typical chip fare, with tomato aspic, quinoa salad, or homemade soup among the choices. Browse the connected shop for a locally sourced, upscale, curated gift selection.
After lunch, head to the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College for an impressive collection of works by American artists from the 19th through 21st centuries, including visionaries like Georgia O’Keeffe, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase. History buffs can gab with the curator about its past. During the Cold War, the museum served as a safe place to store artwork from the National Gallery of Art in case Washington, D.C., was bombed.
If you have a sweet tooth, or just want a something cool to post on social media, head over to The Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar, where the treats are art you can eat. Try the Heart of Virginia, which features strawberry and cake batter ice cream topped with a Virginia-shaped sugar cookie and whipped cream.
After indulging, head back to the Craddock Terry and lace up your walking shoes to burn some calories. Across the street, over the picturesque James River via a restored railroad pedestrian bridge, is Percival’s Island Natural Area and the RiverWalk trail. The island is about 1.5 miles long, and the old railroad bed is a paved, scenic walking/biking trail that spans its length. If you prefer to pedal, rent a bike at Bikes Unlimited.
After a day exploring the city, stay close to home base by eating at Craddock Terry’s restaurant, Shoemakers American Grille. Or venture to Isabella’s Italian Trattoria for upscale fare that frequently tops the locals’ list of best restaurants.
And if you aren’t ready to fall down by this point, hit up the bar at Skyline. Located atop the Virginian Hotel, it is the perfect spot for a nightcap and a stunning look at the city from a new angle.
Call the reception desk and tell them you’ll pass on the in-room breakfast, because you’re heading to Grey’s, where you can brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (reservations are recommended due to limited seating). The menu changes with the season, but brunch staples like French toast, pancakes, and omelets are cooked to perfection.
Afterward, take a walking tour of the Rivermont Historic District and admire the varied architectural styles in Lynchburg’s largest historic area. It will leave you with some nice images as you head out of town.
And if after a weekend like this, you find yourself pondering a move to Lynchburg, we would not blame you.