Lynchburg, Virginia is a diverse historic city and in just under three hours drive from Raleigh, NC, I had the wonderful pleasure of going there this past 4th of July weekend for a mother-daughter getaway. No passport needed. Many of you who follow our blog live here on the east coast and may have heard the tagline: “Virginia is for Lovers.” Well, it’s also great for families, old and young alike and has much to offer all types of vacationers!
We started the weekend by checking into the historic Craddock Terry Hotel, a hotel renovated from a shoe factory dating from the late 1800s. Located directly on the James river, the Craddock Terry Shoe Co. was the fifth largest shoe manufacturer in the world and immediately became the backbone of Lynchburg’s commercial success. The hotel is beautiful and during renovations great pains were taken to preserve original wood beam ceilings, brick and stone exterior walls and nine foot windows which afford sweeping views of the riverfront. The ending result is a modern first-class facility with an unsurpassed level of luxury and service.
As a result of the thriving shoe factory, tobacco factories and other business ventures of the time, Lynchburg became the second wealthiest city in the nation per capita income at the turn of the century. Remnants of affluence remain in the colorful downtown area where 21st century residents still live in mansions where the movers and shakers of the city once drank mint juleps with neighbors on sprawling front porches and basked in their fortunes. Our itinerary included slow drives through these areas and admiring historic architecture. Two homes were of special interest on our itinerary: The Anne Spencer House and Point of Honor, a home carefully restored to preserve the elegant designs popularized by 19th century America. www.pointofhonor.org
Anne Spencer was an American poet and active participant in the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance period, and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour of her home and garden led by her own granddaughter, Shaun Spencer-Hester. The restoration of Anne Spencer’s garden was adopted as a project by Hillside Garden Club in September 1983 by looking at old photographs and going by family memories. Many of the bulbs, flowers, and shrubs and all of the roses are Anne Spencer’s own plants from the 1930s. www.annespencermuseum.com
We enjoyed Independence Day events such as music, dancing, historical entertainment and storytelling on the lawn of Thomas Jefferson’s second home at Poplar Forest. We also had a guided tour of his home, a National Historic Landmark, where Jefferson himself designed the octagonal house during his second term as President.
Lynchburg is also home to the oldest public cemetery still in use today. Established in 1806, we meandered the Old City Cemetery & Arboretum located on over 27 acres covered with a nationally recognized collection of antique roses, native and heirloom plants. There’s also a “history park” containing a village of five small interactive museums telling the stories of the over 17,000 buried there. This is one of the busiest and most popular attractions in the city receiving more than 33,000 visitors annually!
The variety of food we enjoyed on our tour was not a disappointment. The northern contemporary Italian cuisine we ate at Isabella’s Trattoria, a family-owned neighborhood restaurant, was superb in flavor as well as atmosphere. We savored delicious bacon and spinach breakfast souffles from Lorriane Bakery while strolling around the Lynchburg Community Market which has been offering local produce and serving the public for nearly 230 years. At another local favorite, Magnolia Foods, we picked up a picnic lunch of creative sandwiches, salads, homemade cookies and hard cider. Not wanting to leave our hotel, we were able to simply take an elevator downstairs to the adjoined Waterstone Pizza where we shared a scrumptious large BBQ chicken pizza. Gaining a few pounds was simply part of the fun!
This is just a tiny sample of all there is to do in this vibrant and historical city. Lynchburg offers loads of Southern hospitality to everyone wanting a unique staycation travel experience within a day’s drive of a variety of eastern cities. We truly enjoyed this weekend getaway and are certain to be back soon!