27 Fantastic Things to do in Lynchburg, Virginia - Happy To Be Virginia (2024)

Welcome to Lynchburg!

No, not the one with the bourbon: Lynchburg, Virginia.

Known as the Hill City, Lynchburg is a green city full of outdoor spaces, rich culture, and American history.

Named for John Lynch, who crossed the James River in 1757, Lynchburg’s history is long and varied.

It boasts five colleges and universities, a thriving arts scene and 40 miles of urban trails to explore.

You’re also within reach of some of Virginia’s great National Parks, so make sure you pack your hiking boots too!

Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities, music and theatrical performances, or art and history, you’ll find them in abundance on our list of things to do in Lynchburg!

Hey! Looking for more expert Virginia guides? Check these out!

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  • 23 Fun Things to Do in Harrisonburg, Virginia

1. Anne Spencer House and Public Garden

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Walk in the footsteps of Anne Spencer, renowned Civil Rights leader and poet of the Harlem Renaissance, at her house in Lynchburg.

Spencer lived in the house from 1903 through 1975 with her husband Edward.

You’ll have to make an appointment to tour the house, lovingly restored to reflect Spencer’s appreciation for eclectic colour combinations.

Tours are run by Spencer’s granddaughter, which is a lovely connection.

The beautiful garden, with its fountains and private spaces, is always open, free of charge, and offers insight into the inspiration for many of Spencer’s poems.

Be sure to check out Anne Spencer’s studio, or writing cottage, in the garden – something that all writers aspire to!

It’s called ‘Edan Kraal’ – a mash-up of Edward, Anne and ‘Kraal’ the Afrikaans word for corral!

2. Academy Center of the Arts

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The Center is a hive of Lynchburg activities!

From theatre to art classes, exhibitions to performances, the Academy Center of the Arts is a jewel in the crown of Lynchburg’s downtown.

Want to catch a show?

Check out the listings and see what’s on at the Joy & Lynch Christian Warehouse Theatre when you’re in town.

There could be professional or community performances, speakers and comedians, or dance and music recitals.

Perhaps you’re feeling creative?

Look no further – whatever skill you want to explore chances are there’s a class run at the Center.

Catering for all ages and abilities, get your hands dirty with a pottery throwdown, or break out the watercolors and create your impression of the stunning Virginian scenery.

3. Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

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Take the opportunity to visit Thomas Jefferson’s self-designed holiday home!

Though not as famous as Monticello, Poplar Forest is a great place to visit on your Lynchburg sightseeing tour.

Thomas and Martha Jefferson inherited the tobacco plantation from Martha’s father in 1773, and once Jefferson’s presidency ended, he spent a lot more time at the retreat indulging “in the life of the mind”.

Check out the octagonal-shaped house – unusual for the period, and not entirely practical! The ornamental landscaping was also designed by the multi-talented Jefferson!

Now a National Historic Landmark, Poplar Forest is in mid-restoration, but slowly but surely the NFP that owns the plantation is restoring everything to Jefferson’s own design.

This makes it perfect for repeat visits every time you’re in the area!

4. The Maier Museum of Art

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Head over to one of Lynchburg’s five universities, Randolph College, and pay a visit to The Maier Museum of Art.

Used to store the art collection of the National Gallery during the Cold War, the Maier is now home to an impressive collection focused on American art.

This is another of the best things to do in Lynchburg that is worth a repeat visit – the Maier is quite small, but has a huge collection, so the displays rotate frequently!

Focusing on American Impressionism and 20th-century realism you can expect to see art from Georgia O’Keefe, John Sloan, Jacob Lawrence, Ben Shahn and many more.

As well as the permanent collection, on your visit check out what new or visiting exhibition they might have on.

Visit on a Monday and take part in Monday Meditation, to add some focus and zen to your trip.

5. Lynchburg Community Market

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Lynchburg Community Market is the third oldest farmers market in the country, opening in 1783!

Open Tuesday through Saturday, you’re best to visit this thriving market in downtown Lynchburg on a Saturday morning to get the very best of all the stalls and artisans.

All the farmers come from within 100-miles, meaning you can eat like a ‘localvore’ on your visit to Lynchburg!

Wander down to the Heritage Crafters Gallery and Artist Alley, the cooperative art space where you can browse an impressive array of Virginia-inspired art.

Whether you’re looking for food, gifts, jewelry, or art, there’s going to be something that catches your eye!

6. Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center

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There are plenty of places in Virginia where you can indulge in some high-adrenaline winter sports in, well, Winter! However, what if your trip isn’t in the snowy season?

Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center is the place for you!

Head on over as a family – there’s plenty to do for everyone.

Try your hand at skiing or snowboarding, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

Is skiing not your scene?

Check out the tubing runs or the Olympic trampoline, or grab your bikes and explore the 3,500-acres of trails around the mountain.

Adrenaline rush guaranteed!

7. Amazement Square

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Do you struggle to get your kids to learn outside of school?

Amazement Square Children’s Museum is designed to make learning into one big game!

The kind of place that we wish had existed when we were younger, Amazement Square is safely one of the most fun things to do in Lynchburg if you have kids.

Explore the four floors of interactive and hands-on exhibits in the museum, encouraging creative play from all visitors.

Create rainstorms, float down the river on a boat, you can even paint on the walls! (Yes, really!)

Best of all, for the more adventurous kids, running through the center of the building is the Amazement Tower – an indoor play structure that runs through the whole height of the building with slides, ladders, tunnels and even a zip-line!

Can big kids play too please?!

8. Cheers to the Weekend

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If you’re visiting Lynchburg in the Summer you need to take part in the summertime tradition of Cheers to the Weekend!

Every weekend evening from late July through August, Downtown Lynchburg is bustling with activity and humming with music, starting with an outdoor concert at Riverfront Park.

The line-up for the festival changes each year, but it’s good to know that the soundtrack to your summer trip to Lynchburg is taken care of!

9. Presbyterian Cemetery Twin Towers Memorial

There are actually a couple of cemeteries on our list of things to see in Lynchburg, which may strike you as odd, but there’s no better way of getting in with the history of a place.

The Presbyterian Cemetery has a particular draw – the touching tribute to 9/11 by local artist Adrian Gagesteyn.

Having grown up in New Jersey, Gagesteyn had seen the Twin Towers being constructed and watched in horror with the world as they collapsed on September 11th 2001.

His Twin Towers Memorial was completed in 2008, and the 8-foot structures in a peaceful corner of the cemetery are the perfect place to visit for some quiet contemplation.

10. Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum

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The Old City Cemetery is so much more than a cemetery! It’s also a 27-acre public garden and ‘history park’, with five museums that tell the stories of Lynchburg’s population through the years.

Try the wonderfully named Pest House Medical Museum which shows conditions in a Civil War Quarantine hospital (hint: conditions weren’t great).

Or visit the Mourning Museum to find out about mourning customs through the ages.

Hearse House and Caretakers Museum houses an original horse-drawn hearse from 1900, and Station House Museum tells the story of local railroad history.

Once you’ve made your way around the museums (or avoided them if they’re too niche for your tastes!), explore the Confederate Section of the cemetery, or find out about the significant African American history.

The cemetery is also home to an arboretum of historic plants, including a large selection of roses.

Visit in the Spring and make sure you check out the Antique Rose Festival, which runs April through May.

11. Point of Honor

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In the 21st century, we take to social media to settle (and make) arguments. Back in the 19th century, duals were the order of the day.

Of course, depending on where you were, duals were either illegal or frowned upon, so gentlemen had to leave the city limits to find a place or point of honor to settle the score.

And that is how Point of Honor got its name!

Take a tour around Lynchburg’s most famous historic house to learn more facts about the former plantation house and grounds.

The 4-acre site isn’t fenced in so visit at any time and take in the stunning view over Downtown Lynchburg and the James River.

12. Old Sandusky House and Museum

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There is so much Civil War history around Lynchburg, not least because of the Battle of Lynchburg.

Old Sandusky is a federal-style home built in 1808 and it served as Union HQ for General Hunter during that battle.

The barn was also used as a hospital for the wounded.

The House is being restored to the 1864 period to tie in with this part of its history.

Book on to a tour of the house and museum to really make the most of everything this fascinating site has to offer.

13. South River Meeting House

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Close to the Sandusky House is the South River Meeting House, a historic Quaker meeting house.

The city of Lynchburg was founded by Quakers, and the original meeting house was erected in 1757 when Sarah Lynch gave 2-acres of land.

By 1791, the founder of Lynchburg John Lynch had given further acreage and the stone building was built.

Take a guided tour to learn more about the Quakers’ lives, faith and legacy, living in a time so at odds with their faith.

The tours are free but need reservations.

They’re worth booking though as they are conducted by a costumed, and very knowledgeable, historical interpreter!

You can also do a self-guided tour.

14. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

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This involves a trip outside of the city, but as it’s only 20 miles away and has huge historical importance, we think it still belongs on our list of Lynchburg things to do!

As anyone who knows their Civil War history will tell you, Appomattox Court House is where General Lee surrendered to General Grant.

You can pack a lot into a day trip here, with guided tours, original artifacts from the surrender (General Lee’s pencil for one!), and Living History exhibits in Summer/Fall.

Kids might like the ever-popular Junior Ranger Program: pick up a workbook for the tour of the park.

Complete it on your way around and receive a parole pass, a Junior Ranger badge, and a set of Appomattox trading cards!

15. American Civil War Museum

Combine your trip to the Courthouse with a visit to the American Civil War Museum, also in Appomattox.

Explore the lives of soldiers in the Confederate Army, and learn about enslaved and free Black Americans and civilians.

You’ll see some great artifacts, including General Lee’s coat and sword from the surrender.

If you don’t have a lot of knowledge about the Civil War, or perhaps you’re visiting from further away, it’s a great place to go to learn a bit more about Virginia’s place in that dark period of time.

Check out the temporary exhibitions for a little bit of extra history when you visit!

16. Rise Up Climbing

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Let’s head back to Lynchburg and spice things up with a little bit of rock climbing!

Virginia has got some great outdoor rock climbing, but if you’re not a pro or if the weather isn’t right, Rise Up is one of the most popular things to do in Lynchburg,

Try out the different walls, from beginner to advanced levels.

Ask the instructors for assistance if you need it – they’re super helpful, and can give you lessons if you book in advance.

If you’re already a confident climber, there’s a bouldering wall where you can self-belay, but don’t worry that isn’t compulsory on your first time!

A lot of fun whether you’re climbing solo, out on a date, or looking for something that the whole family can enjoy!

17. Blackwater Creek Trail

From indoor activity to getting outside and enjoying the beautiful Virginian outdoors!

Head to the Blackwater Creek Trail if you need some fresh air or want to enjoy the scenery.

This is one of the most popular trails in the city and is one of the top things to do in Lynchburg if you like getting out and about outdoors.

Named for the meandering river that it follows, the Blackwater Creek trail was built on an abandoned railway bed.

Don’t worry about it being too long; at only 3-miles, the trail won’t leave you too exhausted!

And because it’s paved it’s ideal for visitors with access needs.

Go for a jog or hike, or even hire a bike from one of the city’s rentals.

However you choose to explore the trail, you’re guaranteed some awesome views, including a waterfall and an abandoned railroad tunnel!

18. Percival’s Island Natural Area

While you’re on the Blackwater Creek Trail you can also hop over the James River via a bridge onto Percival’s Island!

The natural area is Downtown and is one of the great outdoor things to see in Lynchburg.

If you need a place of calm and tranquility to come to then this is the perfect space for you.

The James River is always in the background, with many species of animals and waterfowl making the river and island their home.

Bring a picnic and soak up the sense of the outdoors, without leaving the city.

19. Batteau Ride

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Let’s stay on the river for the water trip with a difference!

Originally designed in 1775 as a way to transport cargo, the James River Batteau has a flat bottom perfect for negotiating the shallow waters of the Upper James River and the tributaries that flow into it.

Take an aquatic adventure on an accurate replica of a Batteau, and see if you can spot river birds and wildlife whilst learning all about the history of the river.

Prefer something a little more high-energy?

Hire a paddleboard, kayak or canoe! There are even half-day guided paddle tours that will take you for a ‘walk’ on the wild side.

You might even spot otters and beavers hard at work!

20. Lynchburg Museum and Monument Terrace

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This is one of those places where you go for the amazing views, and stay for the excellent little museum!

You’ll find the Lynchburg Museum in the Old Court House, where you can take a trip through time and see the history of Lynchburg and Central Virginia from the First People to the present day.

This is actually a great way to start your trip to the city, so perhaps move this up to first on your list of stuff to do in Lynchburg!

The Old Court House is located at the top of Monument Terrace, an impressive 139-step staircase that commemorates citizens of Lynchburg who fought and died in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and modern-day conflicts.

It’s a steep climb, but worth it to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers, and for the inspiring view of Downtown Lynchburg and the James River at the top.

21. Riverviews Artspace Craddock-Terry Gallery

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The Lynchburg riverfront has had a bit of a facelift in recent years, with many of the old warehouses being turned into multi-use spaces.

One such is RIverviews Artspace, where you’ll find galleries, art shops, and artist studios.

You’ll find fashion designers side by side with abstract artists, photographers and ceramicists!

If you head to The Craddock-Terry Gallery you’ll find contemporary artists of regional, national and international acclaim.

The exhibits are always free, as the Artspace want to promote art to everyone.

Visit on the first Friday of every month for ‘First Fridays’, when the galleries and studios are open until 8pm and have special events!

22. Riverside Park

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If you’re visiting Lynchburg with family, Riverside Park is a great place to come for a fun day out.

Little ones will love the playground, sensory wall, and the Sprayground that’s open in Summer!

While older children (and adults!) have tennis and basketball courts to play on.

Hike the first hiking trail in the city, the Alpine Trail, which gives you spectacular views over the James River.

Also located at the park is The Miller-Claytor House, Lynchburg’s only remaining 18th-century townhouse. Apparently, Thomas Jefferson proved to the skeptical owner that tomatoes weren’t poisonous by eating one!

Thank goodness he was right, or American history might have been very different!

The garden is open to the public all year round, and the house can be opened by appointment.

23. National D-Day Memorial

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You’ll have to head out of town for this next stop. Situated 28 miles away in Bedford, Virginia, the National D-Day Memorial is a striking monument to the Allied forces who participated in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Whether or not you had family involved with World War Two and the Normandy Invasions, this is an interesting, emotive and impressive monument to visit.

The memorial complex covers 50-acres with the Blue Ridge Mountains providing a stunning natural backdrop.

Read the names of soldiers on the 44-foot tall arch at the heart of the complex, and wonder at the water features that symbolize the path of the soldiers on the beaches.

Where some places it’s appropriate to take a self-guided tour, for this special place an official tour is definitely recommended.

The knowledgeable guides will answer all of your questions about D-Day and its significance for American and World History.

24. Opera on the James

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If you happen to be visiting when Opera on the James are in season, do make sure you go to see a show!

Opera on the James is part of the bustling music scene that has sprung up in Lynchburg in recent years, so if opera isn’t to your taste you’re bound to find something that is!

They perform in the Academy Arts Center, providing anyone who loves opera with all the drama, romance and epic arias they could desire!

If this sounds up your street, then check them out on your visit.

Recent performances have included The Barber of Seville, La Traviata, and Tosca.

25. Irvington Spring Farm

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Would you like to find 3-acres of cut flowers and native gardens right in the city center?

If so then you’re in luck! Irvington Spring Farm offers just that.

This is one of the more low-key Lynchburg attractions, but one that’s very much worth the hype!

Visit for the self-serve flower cooler, which is stocked with bunches of flowers, mixed bouquets and posies for mason jars. It works on an honor system, which is rather nice in this day and age!

As well as providing flowers for events, and relaxing farm stays, they offer courses and classes about flower arranging, growing flowers sustainably, and flower therapy.

These sell out quickly, so once you know when you’re visiting check to see what’s on!

Visit from March through October to wander through the fields of this hidden gem.

26. SeaQuest Lynchburg

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Another one for your family trip to Lynchburg, SeaQuest is an ever-popular attraction for kids and grown-ups of all ages!

Go for an adventure through rainforests, deserts and the oceans all without leaving the city.

Book an activity that gives you the opportunity to interact with some fantastic creatures such as sloths, otters, and porcupines. You can even snorkel with stingrays!

27. Legacy Museum of African American History

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An important addition to the museums of Lynchburg, the Legacy Museum opened in 2000.

Visit to view their rotating exhibitions on local African American culture, from the first arrivals up to more recent history.

If you visit during Black History Month you’ll be sure to find special events occurring.

Check out the painting hanging in the stairwell of the museum.

It’s by Ann van de Graaf and depicts local people and places associated with the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and 70s.

The museum holds one exhibition at a time and the current (at time of writing) exhibit is ‘The Development of An Athlete: Framing Sports Through Race, Gender, Perseverance and Community’.

27 Fantastic Things to do in Lynchburg, Virginia - Happy To Be Virginia (2024)
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