A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the view-packed town of Lynchburg, Virginia, is shrouded in history and natural beauty. Just a two-hour drive from Greensboro and Winston-Salem, this “City

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the view-packed town of Lynchburg, Virginia, is shrouded in history and natural beauty. Just a two-hour drive from Greensboro and Winston-Salem, this “City

A Scavenger Hunt for Lynchburg’s Secrets

Just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the view-packed town of Lynchburg, Virginia, is shrouded in history and natural beauty. Just a two-hour drive from Greensboro and Winston-Salem, this “City of Seven Hills” is the perfect destination for an overnight adventure for those looking to brush up on their history, all in the great outdoors.

To uncover the secrets hidden in these hills, join us for a scavenger hunt through four of Lynchburg’s most storied destinations. We’ll point you to can’t-miss landmarks and the best spots for photo ops.

Destination No. 1: A Resting Place

Here’s your clue: What started in 1806 with one acre of land donated by Lynchburg’s founder has now grown into a 27-acre home for four goats, five museums, and more than 425 rose bushes — the largest collection of antique roses in the state. Nearly 20,000 people are buried here, the oldest municipal cemetery in Virginia that is still in use.

Located in the heart of Lynchburg, the list of superlatives describing the Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum goes on to include its distinction as the most-visited historic site in the city. Start your visit at the cemetery’s oldest section, The First Acre, a resting place for most of the city’s original residents. Headstones mark the graves of early mayors, enslaved residents, soldiers from Revolutionary times to World War I, and prominent local African-Americans from the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras.

As you walk down the lawn’s gentle slope into the Early Memorial Shrub Garden, look for pillars from Lynchburg’s old Dunbar High School, where many of Lynchburg’s notable African-American residents, who later established Lynchburg’s first black schools, businesses, and churches, attended.

Then check out the grave of Blind Billy, an enslaved man who was beloved locally and recognized nationally for his enchanting fife music. Also look for the gracefully kneeling angel monument, with its head bowed in remembrance of a toddler who was laid to rest in 1909.

A replica of Lynchburg’s first hospital is also housed at the history park. Short for the House of Pestilence Medical Museum, the small white-frame Pest House building houses original medical implements, including an 1860s hypodermic needle, clinical thermometer, and chloroform mask.

The Pest House museum at the Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum photograph by City of Lynchburg, VA

Before you go, take your kids by the train station, originally built in the late 1800s and moved to the cemetery to house a small museum. It’s a fitting location, as thousands of the people buried in Old City Cemetery died working on the railroad. The little Station House museum is filled with furnishings representative of the World War I era, with audio messages sharing the importance of Lynchburg’s earliest railroads.

And on your way back to your car, don’t forget to wave to the cemetery’s celebrity twin goats, Sampson and Baxter, who, along with their companions, Oreo and Morris, keep kudzu at bay.


Destination No. 2: Fit for a President

Here’s your clue: Unique in design, this grand villa — considered its designer’s architectural masterpiece — was regularly visited by the country’s first secretary of state, second vice president, and third president. 

Nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest was designed by Jefferson during his second term as president. While the president kept busy at Monticello, his primary residence, during retirement Jefferson took respite at Poplar Forest three to four times a year.

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest home photograph by City of Lynchburg, VA

Poplar Forest is an easy 20-minute drive from Lynchburg; just hop on U.S. 29 Business South and take it to Forest, Virginia. Once you’re there, arrange for a guided tour through the rooms Jefferson retreated to from 1809 until 1823, often with his granddaughters. The home’s one original fireplace is located in the east bed chamber, also known as “the girl’s room.

After the tour, you can venture to the home’s lower level, used as sleeping quarters for the enslaved and paid workers, including Burwell Colbert, Jefferson’s enslaved manservant. You can also wander through its Wing of Offices and into the surrounding landscape at your own pace. The grounds include a walled ornamental garden, restoration workshop, archaeology lab, and the “ghost structure,” a modern building frame showing the size and location of an actual dwelling for enslaved people during Jefferson’s time. “The house and property are being restored back to their Jefferson-era appearance giving visitors a unique chance to see exactly how the house is constructed and watch the restoration unfold,” says Mary Massie, Manager of Programs and Education.


Destination No. 3: Heroism on Display

Here’s your clue: This solemn location tells a story of valor and sacrifice with elements that include an English-style garden, an American general, and five French beaches.

Also near Lynchburg, make your next stop the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, which commemorates a pivotal battle in World War II, the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Beginning at Reynolds Garden and moving through the memorial, visitors can follow the planning stages of the invasion to the soldiers’ landing on Normandy’s beaches to the final victory. Many of the memorials’ components, such as the “Overlord” arch, were designed with symbolic meanings. Standing at 44 feet, 6 inches tall, the arch represents D-Day’s date — the sixth day of the sixth month of 1944. “Overlord” is the official name of the operation now known as D-Day, explains Angela Lynch, the memorial’s associate director of marketing. “The black and white stripes represent the alternating stripes that made Allied aircraft identifiable,” she says.

National D-Day Memorial Overlord photograph by City of Lynchburg, VA

As you meander through the memorial grounds, take note of the tile mosaic map of the D-Day landing on the ceiling above Eisenhower’s statue. Be sure to check out the granite Higgins Boat representing the landing crafts that transported Allied soldiers to the landing beaches. And don’t miss Le Monument aux Morts, a recasting of a French World War I memorial sculpture complete with the damage it sustained during World War II. There’s even an L-3 aircraft, restored to its original glory.

Perhaps most impactful are the names of the 4,415 Allied service members who died on June 6, 1944, recorded on the walls surrounding Gray Plaza. “Bedford is home to the National D-Day Memorial because of the unimaginable sacrifice made by this small community on D-Day,” explains Lynch. “Bedford lost 20 men on June 6, 1944, the largest known per-capita loss of any American community that day.”


Destination No. 4: A Heartfelt Sentiment

Here’s your clue: From Virginia’s coastline to its romantic Blue Ridge mountains, travelers can view more than 200 unique artistic interpretations of this one word. 

The LOVEworks program began when Virginia Tourism created the word LOVE in large white letters to display at different Virginia Welcome Centers. Inspired by the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan adopted by the state in 1969, these signs gained such popularity that local communities began to create their own LOVE letters to welcome travelers, show what the community is known for, or highlight attractions or activities in the area. 

Lynchburg LOVEworks at the trailhead for Percival’s Island photograph by City of Lynchburg, VA

While more than 200 LOVEworks signs are displayed throughout the state, the city of Lynchburg is home to five. Find them all in the following locations — each with its own reward.

  • From its perch on the banks of the James river, the red LOVEwork sign, which introduces visitors to the Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek trails system, highlights various ways to enjoy the trails — footprints on the “L” representing walking and hiking; spokes on the “O” for bike riding; two paddles making a “V”; and skateboard wheels adorning the “E.”
  • In front of the University of Lynchburg (formerly Lynchburg College), the red and white sign cleverly combines the college’s popular “LC LOVElogo”with LOVEwork, giving students and alum their new favorite photo op.
  • Madison House of the Arts, an underground arts space with a mission to bring the community together through art, music, and poetry, says it all with their sign constructed from a film reel, camera, paint brushes, and musical note.
  • The 2-D sign at Mama Crockett’s Cider Donuts is a clever outdoor mural celebrating the shop’s hot, made-to-order doughnuts, which are made with a batter that includes local, fresh-pressed apple cider.
  • In front of the Craddock Terry Hotel, an 8-foot-tall high-heeled shoe imprinted with red letters spelling LOVE pays tribute to the hotel’s former life as a shoe factory built in the early 1900s. Plus, the sculpture even has a seat inside, perfect for photos (and resting your own feet)!

This story was published on Sep 03, 2020

Lara Ivanitch

Lara Ivanitch is a freelance writer who resides in Raleigh.