Summer Fun | Create Your Own Hometown Getaway
There’s no place like home … but sometimes, it’s nice to venture beyond your own digs and deck, whether for adventure or just for someone else to do the dishes. If you’ve got a free day or are enjoying a staycation, there’s plenty to do this summer in our hometown and the surrounding areas. From simple pleasures to day trips, attractions like zipline and skydive, working up a sweat to kicking back, getting wet to keeping it cool, we’ve got you covered in the Hill City and beyond.
Hiking and biking
In the summer, a morning hike or bike ride offers the best opportunity for activity while avoiding the heat and the chance for afternoon thunderstorms. With so many variations of e-bike on offer, brands like Wisper are keen to make sure they have a suitable model for everyone. The James River Heritage Trail system contains miles of walking, biking and hiking trails, many of them interconnected. Together they offer scenic views of Blackwater Creek, the James River, downtown Lynchburg, Percival’s Island, and various wooded and natural areas. Several trails are paved, while others are dirt and gravel. Make it a half-day or more by renting bicycles at Bikes Unlimited (1312 Jefferson Street) and having lunch at a nearby restaurant. Trail maps, parking, and complete information can be found through the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation website (lynchburgparksandrec.com). Here are some trails worth checking out:
Riverside Park (2238 Rivermont Avenue) is a 49-acre recreation area and home to the Alpine Trail which, as its name suggests, is a steep one-mile trail with views on the James River. The trail isn’t suitable for bikes, strollers or small children, but older kids may enjoy the challenge, and can cool off afterwards at the park’s sprayground, which features water spouts and dump buckets.
Blackwater Creek Natural Area offers multiple scenic trails. Blackwater Creek Trail has multiple entrances (1720 Langhorne Road, 340 East Randolph Place, Jefferson and 8th Streets, and 2525 Linkhorne Drive) and is a three-mile paved path that follows the creek and old train tracks. It connects to Riverwalk Trail, Point of Honor Trail, Creekside Trail and the Awareness Garden. Many of the trails are forested and have further trail spurs and connectors to discover.
Riverwalk Trail features over five miles of paved trail, and picks up where Blackwater Creek Trail leaves off at the top of Jefferson Street. The trail goes through Riverfront Park and downtown Lynchburg before crossing a bridge to Percival’s Island. From there you can traverse the length of the island and continue over a bridge on the far side into Amherst County.
If you’re looking to make a splash, our area is full of opportunities. James River Adventures (150 Rocky Hill Road, Madison Heights) provides five-hour kayak paddle trips with shuttle service, as well as guided hour-long batteau excursions (batteaux are traditional flat-bottomed boats designed to navigate rocky shallows) through the downtown section of the James.
Holliday Lake State Park (2759 State Park Road, Appomattox) is within an hour’s drive and has a 119-acre lake where visitors can fish for largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill (freshwater fishing license required). Swim at the sandy beach, sailing and rent kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, SUPs and fishing boats. There are six hiking trails, including the 6.7-mile Lakeshore Trail, as well as the self-guided Sunfish Aquatic Trail, where boaters use a brochure map to discover points of interest. Weekly cabin and camping rentals are available up to 11 months in advance; within 30 days, two-night stays can be booked. And if you have children sailing with you then the Gill sailing boots are easily the best option.
James River Runners (10092 Hatton Ferry Road, Scottsville) offers a relaxing threemile tube trip, as well as three- and nine-mile canoeing, sailing, kayaking and rafting trips. There’s also a 21-mile overnight camping option for experienced paddlers. Anglers can get tips on finding smallmouth bass, catfish and panfish along the way. Fishermen should have a look at these good value commercial fishing boats for sale.
Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s largest freshwater lake, with its own state park and two public beaches. Smith Mountain Lake Community Park (1482 Parkway Avenue, Moneta) is the smaller of the two beaches, featuring a fishing pier, kayak and canoe launch, picnic shelters and tables, restrooms, playground, and seasonal swimming when lifeguards are present. Admission is $3 per person. The beach at Smith Mountain State Park (1235 State Park Road, Huddleston) is a 500-foot beach featuring a concession stand, picnic pavilion and bathhouse. Boat rentals (including kayaks, paddleboats, jet skis and pontoons) are also available. For those not staying at the state park, there’s a $7 vehicle admission fee to the park, and $3 per person beach admission.
There are also various boat rental companies where you can find tritoons, deckboats, fishing boats, wave runners and more. Check out Bridgewater Marina & Boat Rentals (16410 Booker T Washington Highway, Moneta), Smith Mountain Lake Boat Rentals (3553 Trading Post Road, Huddleston), and Westlake Boat Rentals (2050 Morewood Road, Hardy).
Lynchburg has the unusual distinction of offering year-round skiing, snowboarding, tubing and sledding opportunities at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre (4000 Candlers Mountain Road). Okay, there’s no snow, but there are artificial slopes that will put the wind in your hair. Equipment rentals and lessons are also available.
Sip and savor
Relax under starry skies at a rooftop bar. The aptly named No. 7 Rooftop Bar (1208 Commerce Street) is located above the Parkview on the Bluff condos. It offers indoor and terrace seating overlooking the Bluffwalk and James River, along with cocktails, snacks, sandwiches and more.
Skyline Rooftop Bar & Grille (712 Church Street) sits atop The Virginian Hotel, and also has indoor and terrace seating, with charming cityscape views. A varied menu and craft cocktails make this bar a must-visit.
Nothing says summer like a creamy frozen treat. Beat the heat with a classic cone or crazy concoction at one of these local businesses:
The Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar (18013 Forest Road, Forest) opened last February with the motto “Where calories don’t count.” As its name suggests, extravagant treats—sometimes piled high with cookies, donuts and waffles—are served in Mason jars. After a “U Gotta Be Puddin’ Me” banana pudding-themed dessert or a “Sweet Cheeses” strawberry cheesecake treat, we suggest an afternoon nap in a shady hammock.
MayLynn’s Creamery operates an ice cream trailer in the Boonsboro Shopping Center (4924 Boonsboro Road) plus a downtown storefront (1016 Jefferson Street). Offerings include shakes and floats, “stacked” sundaes (all the ingredients are stacked), dipped cones and frozen bananas, and rolled ice cream.
Rolled Cold Creamery (819 Main Street) serves rolled ice cream, including dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options. In addition to flavors like blueberry Earl Grey, honey lavender, and maple bacon, shakes, ice cream-topped waffles and “waffle tacos” stuffed with rolled ice cream are available.
Sipping local suds has never been better in the Hill City and beyond. The past few years have seen some promising new additions to the burgeoning beer scene, offering a range of flavors and experiences.
Starr Hill On Main (1300 Main Street) is one of six Virginia locations. The spacious and stylish downtown taproom has indoor seating plus an outdoor “parklet.”
Three Roads Brewing Company (1300 Court Street) is a sleek Farmville-based brewery housed in a former Ford showroom, with plenty of seating indoors and out.
Champion Brewery (1021 Main Street), an offshoot of the main Charlottesville location, opened last fall and has several indoor gathering areas, including a rear section with arcade games and dartboards.
Apocalypse Ale Works (1257 Burnbridge Road, Forest) offers climate-controlled seating for 110 patrons, a covered deck, beer garden, and food trucks on summer weekends.
Camp Trapezium Brewery (140 Union Mill Road, Amherst) opened last summer in the historic Amherst Milling Company, a 1890 white clapboard building situated on 100 acres. The brewery says much of its ingredients are grown and harvested on-site.
Beale’s Brewery (510 Grove Street, Bedford) is from the same folks as Trapezium Brewing, and is also housed in a historic building—in this case, a spacious woolen mill. Beale’s has the distinction of offering both beer and food on-site, serving Texasstyle barbecue, burgers and bar snacks.
Reserve Tasting Room & Lounge (1101 Jefferson Street, Suite 100) is the first of its kind in Lynchburg. The downtown tasting room serves Virginia wines along with wine from its own farm winery. Try a flight of wine, or purchase by the glass or bottle. Charcuterie, cheeses and bread are also on offer.
Lazy Days Winery (1351 N Amherst Highway, Amherst) is open for tastings every Friday through Sunday. Sangria Saturdays are held every first and third Saturday of the month, featuring live music.
Rebec Vineyard (2229 N Amherst Highway, Amherst) Founded in 1980, the 70-acre estate is open daily for tours and tastings. Guests can bring a blanket and picnic under the shade trees.
Lovingston Winery (885 Freshwater Cove Lane, Lovingston) This small-production vineyard is serious about quality, using gravity-flow production techniques and emphasizing Bordeaux varietals, along with Pinotage, South Africa’s “signature” variety. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday for tastings, tours and picnicking.
These are all great ideas for a wonderful afternoon, but if you wanted to spend a very special evening with the special someone then you may want to consider doing some romantic winery lodging.
If you’d like to venture further afield, Central Virginia provides easy day trip opportunities.
Thomas Jefferson built several of our region’s attractions. Poplar Forest (1542 Bateman Bridge Road, Forest) was used by Jefferson as a personal retreat and is open daily for docent- or self-guided tours. Monticello (931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville) was Jefferson’s primary plantation and his burial place. The 2,500-acre property includes the neoclassical home he designed, quarters of enslaved laborers, various outbuildings, and gardens. Several tour options are available; advance purchase recommended.
Jefferson also founded the University of Virginia, which features the iconic Rotunda and Academical Village. A trip to Charlottesville might include an historic property or two (James Monroe’s Highland and Michie Tavern are also in the vicinity) as well as a visit to the Downtown Mall, (East Main Street, Charlottesville), an eight-block pedestrian mall with over 120 shops and 30 restaurants. There’s also a free trolley that makes a loop between Market Street and UVA, for easy exploring.
Charlottesville is home to notable art collections, including the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (233 4th Street NW, Charlottesville) which is only two blocks from the Downtown Mall, and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, (400 Worrell Drive, Charlottesville), America’s only museum dedicated to Indigenous Australian art. For fantastical fun, The Looking Glass at IX Art Park (522 2nd Street SE, Suite D, Charlottesville), is an immersive exhibit with a kaleidoscopic cavern, enchanted forest, and tree house that kids are sure to enjoy.
Summer fun can be as simple as a bicycle ride and an ice cream cone, or an itinerary full of history and culture. No matter your preference, Central Virginia offers easy access to local escapes and attractions that will help you soak up all that the season has to offer. ✦
Blackwater Creek Natural Area, Breweries, Day trips, Downtown Mall, Hiking and biking, Holliday Lake State Park, Ice cream, Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Monticello, Poplar Forest, Riverside Park, Riverwalk, Smith Mountain Lake, Snowsports, University of Virginia, Watersports, Wineries