Lynchburg & Roanoke: So Much to Do in Our Own Backyard

It’s no secret that beautiful Smith Mountain Lake, nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is the ultimate place to be for breathtaking views and supreme relaxation. What makes it even better is that it is located just a hop, skip and jump away from Roanoke and Lynchburg, where you’re sure to find an abundance of nature, tons of places to eat and drink and unique shopping. Here’s a guide to planning your perfect day trip.

Photos Courtesy of the City of Lynchburg Office of Economic Development & Tourism

An entire day, or more, can be easily spent right by the James River in the downtown district of Lynchburg. With new businesses opening each year, there’s certainly no shortage of options. Start your day off right with a coffee at 5th Street Grind, then Batter Bar for Harajuku-style crepes or Market at Main for a more classic breakfast. 

Stroll along the Bluffwalk and enjoy the beautiful series of walkways and staircases between Jefferson and Commerce Streets, overlooking the James River. For a longer, more nature-filled walk, check out the James River Heritage Trail that includes the Blackwater Creek Trail, Point of Honor Trail and Percival’s Island Trail. You might also like a brisk jog up the stairs at Monument Terrace, an iconic spot leading to the Lynchburg Museum. 

If shopping is what you’re after, you’ll find several antique and estate stores as well as boutiques and specialty shops. Enchanted, RiverView Vinyl, Accents, Estates & Consignments, Estates Revisited, Shay’s, Spearman Artisanry and TaleTellers Fly Shop are just a handful of unique shops you’ll encounter. Be sure to also check out the Lynchburg Community Market, one of the nation’s oldest markets, home to more than 40 local vendors! 

Photo Courtesy of the City of Lynchburg Office of Economic Development & Tourism

Feeling hungry? Downtown Lynchburg is the place to be for foodies. New restaurants,, are continuously popping up and offer a great selection of cuisine that spans a variety of cultures and palates. From Al Ryan Mediterranean Cuisine to Cosmos Chicken & Waffles to Fratelli Italian Kitchen to El Mariachi, the options are endless. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, I highly recommend Shoemakers American Grill or William & Henry Steakhouse. If you have a sweet tooth, try Cinn City or Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats. 

There are also several fun spots for indulging in a pre- or post-dinner drink. Beer lovers can head to Three Roads Brewing Company or Starr Hill on Main. For a cozy and unique vibe, drop by Reserve Tasting Room & Lounge for a wine tasting or the newly reopened Glass House, a trendy gastro lounge. For some amazing views with outdoor seating and fire pits, head up to No. 7 Rooftop Bar or Skyline. Try the Water Dog or My Dog Duke’s Diner for pet-friendly dining and drinking. 

Amazement Square – an award-winning, hands-on museum – is a family favorite if you have little ones tagging along. Check out The Academy Center of the Arts to see if there are any performances happening during your visit. And don’t forget to walk down Art Alley for a perfect photo op. 

You can find a host of other special spots outside of the main downtown area. The Farm Basket has some of the cutest gifts as well as a café. Grab one of the best burgers in town at a local favorite, The Cavalier. Old City Cemetery, an extraordinary 27-acre public garden, is located in the heart of Lynchburg and sees more than 33,000 visitors annually. Venture over to Irvington Spring Farm, a cut flower farm that is open to the public, and take home a beautiful bouquet. SeaQuest, located in the newly-renovated River Ridge Mall, and Little Dickens and Givens Books on Lakeside Drive are great places to entertain kids for a little while. If you’re looking for good eats outside of downtown, try Milano’s, Isabella’s, Iron and Ale, The Flour District or The Dahlia. 

Nicknamed “Star City of the South,” Roanoke is home to a variety of attractions that offer something for everyone. The Mill Mountain Star, part of a 600-acre park, tops the list of most famous spots and is a great place to bring the whole family for a hike and picnic. Explore Park is another area that is perfect for families and outdoor activities. This 1,100-acre park features several trails, water activities, disc golf and Treetop Quest, which involves aerial obstacle courses and zip lines through the trees. 

Roanoke has its fair share of shopping as well, and you’ll find no shortage of local boutiques, antique shops and farmers markets. Historic Grandin Village – a must-do – is filled with independently-owned retail and dining establishments and is the perfect place to shop, eat and play. 

Historic Downtown Roanoke boasts Virginia’s oldest continuously operating open air market. While you’re in the area, check out Crafteria on Church Avenue – a makers market with food and goods from 250+ craftspeople. Nearby, the French Farmhouse is an adorable store that sells modern farmhouse home décor, lighting and more. 

Beer lovers will thrive here, as there are tons of breweries to choose from. A Few Old Goats Brewing, Big Lick Brewing Company and Twisted Track Brewpub are just a few. If wine is more your taste, pack a picnic, and check out Valhalla Vineyards where you can sip while taking in beautiful views. 1882 at The Pine Room in The Hotel Roanoke offers authentic pre-prohibition cocktails paired with modern-day mixology. 

Whether you’re looking for fine dining or Southern hospitality, the restaurant scene offers what you desire. With around 300 dining experiences to choose from, it’s impossible to list them all. 202 Social House features American classics in a relaxed, brick-lined setting. Alexander’s is an upscale option and has been voted best restaurant several times by various groups. Inka Grill Latin Fusion is a unique spot that would be perfect for lunch. 

Take a ride on the downtown trolley (which is free and runs Mondays-Fridays) to the Taubman Museum of Art, a work of art itself and worth a visit. It features art from around the world as well as local pieces, and it’s free!

Find more culture at the Center in the Square, which houses several museums, the Pinball Museum and Starcade, and an 8,000-gallon Living Reef Aquarium. 

Whether you’ve visited these cities countless times or are brand new to the area, both Lynchburg and Roanoke hold the perfect smorgasbord of activities with something for everyone to experience, making the ideal day-trip destinations for families, couples or friends.