A Taste of the Extraordinary

Appomattox Court House barn in the National Historic Park

Heritage, natural beauty, food, and wine abound in Central Virginia. It’s a showplace for all things fun. One place not to miss is Lynchburg, Virginia. You’ll have to have a plan of action and be watchful of your time, but with a little care, a few days spent in this location promises a big return.

Lynchburg is a college town. It’s compact and easy to get around in. You can feel it the minute you drive out of the airport. Randolph College, Lynchburg College, Virginia University of Lynchburg, and Liberty University all have a huge influence on activities, concerts, plays, lecture series, and art shows.

Poplar Forest reflects a casual Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest is a must-see, along with the Museum of the Confederacy, LeoGrande Winery, and the fabulous nightclub Jimmy’s on the James. I spent two days in this town and loved every minute. Here are my recommendations for the ultimate 48-hour Lynchburg tour.

Craddock Terry Boutique Hotel

Stay at the Craddock Hotel and Conference Center. It’s located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the James River in central Lynchburg. You’ll giggle when welcomed by a big red shoe, and being met by “Buster Brown,” the hotel’s canine mascot, is a real treat. What was once a turn-of-the-century shoe factory is now a very cool boutique hotel.

Buster Brown welcomes all guests at the Craddock Terry Hotel

Paying tribute to its origins, the décor is accented with historical artifacts from the heyday of the Craddock-Terry Shoe Corporation, and guests enjoy shoe-themed amenities including in-room complimentary continental breakfast served in an old-fashioned wooden shoeshine box. Shoes, fun, and puppies? Certainly every lady’s dream hotel.

Stop for lunch and Southern hospitality at the Babcock House

If you love good food, there’s plenty of that to go around. If you’re thinking lunch, the Babcock House is a local favorite.

Babcock House cobb salad

It is the perfect place for lunch and a great introduction to Southern hospitality and cuisine. It is also a bed and breakfast inn and restaurant. Located in historic Appomattox, it’s just minutes from the Appomattox Court House National Park and the Museum of the Confederacy. Or, you can try the Liberty Station, a restored station house.

Liberty Station is a great stop for a Southern style lunch

Train buffs will love its rich and colorful background showcasing the history of the building and of the Bedford area.

Southern-style catfish at Liberty Station

The American (with lots of Southern choices) menu is created with the best ingredients available. Make SURE you try the fried green tomatoes and one of the daily cheesecake selections. Heaven.

Depot Grille Southern-style ribs and chicken

Dinnertime can be fun, casual or nightclub-like. Depot Grille is located on Lynchburg’s historic riverfront. Whatever you crave, it has it: fresh fish, great steaks, seafood, and pasta dishes. From crab legs to buffalo burgers, there is something on the menu for everyone. The railroad antiques and the charm of the old N&W Depot building make the perfect setting for a casual “big food” dining experience. Killer desserts. Or consider Jimmy’s on the James. It was by far my favorite eatery of the trip. This hybrid of nightclub and supper club is a real find.

Great nightlife and delicious food guaranteed at Jimmy's on the James

Billed as a Southern American bistro and speakeasy, it features an intimate club atmosphere, excellent food, creative drinks, and a song or two (think Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Dean Martin all rolled into one) courtesy of owner Jim Dudley on the baby grand. Enjoy yourself. I did.

Old City Cemetery & Arboretum

In terms of activities – the sky is the limit. History Buffs will be forever changed after visits to nearby Appomattox Court House National Park , the Museum of the Confederacy, Old City Cemetery and the National D-Day Memorial.

Appomattox Court House in the National Historic Park

Dramatic and touching sculptures at the National D-Day Memorial

All are spectacular. All bring history to life in a very special way. All have amazing events that keep locals and visitors in touch with the essence of who and what each attraction represents. Bring flat shoes, a sun hat, and a camera. Check the individual websites for event info, hours, and fees.

High-stakes snowboarding at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre

For those who love a challenge, Liberty College has created an activity center for students, locals and visitors. The Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre is located on top of Liberty University’s tranquil 5,000-acre mountain. It features “Snowflex,” a synthetic material designed to simulate the slip and grip of snow. It’s the country’s only Snowflex facility. It allows for year-round skiing, snowboarding and tubing. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes and a two-story lodge. Definitely worth a visit. And yes, Snowflex does a great job at imitating snow-like conditions.

And finally – my favorite activity and the reason I originally came to Central Virginia – wine! I had read that Travel and Leisure magazine’s Bruce Schoenfeld proclaimed Virginia as one of five up-and-coming wine regions (along with areas of Chile, Italy, Spain and New Zealand). According to Schoenfeld, Virginia “…should be on the must-visit list of any adventurous wine traveler.” That sounded like a must-visit to me.

Wines have won national and international recognition for their unique taste. Virginia’s terroir – those special characteristics of the land that affect wine –ultimately help create wines stylistically between those of California and Europe that go particularly well with food. Virginia Viognier appears to be on its way to being one of Virginia’s most notable wines. Also getting national recognition are Virginia Cabernet Franc and Virginia’s native Norton.

Time dictated just one winery stop, but it was beautiful one. LeoGrande Vineyards and Winery is a must see. The tasting room is located within a larger farm complex. Don’t be surprised to see sheep, goats, and other farm animals as well as lush vineyards.

LeoGrande Vineyard & Winery's mascot goat welcome guests

The tasting room provides an opportunity to sample 12+ wines – from reds to whites to blends to desserts.

Owner Norman LeoGrande shares his wonderful wines

We were served by owner Norman LeoGrande. He is zealous and knowledgeable about wine and truly exemplified Virginia hospitality. LeoGrande Winery is located only 12 minutes from Lynchburg. Tasting fee is $4 and includes the glass. The Roaring White, a sweet blend of Vidal Blanc, and Niagara Grapes was tasty, as well as the Norton and Cab Franc.

The grounds are beautiful. Take time to grab a glass of wine and sit out on the patio or in the colorful anorak chairs and take in one part of the exploding Virginia wine scene.

Toasting Southern hospitality and good times at LeoGrande Vineyards & Winery

Did that. Loved it. A perfect way to end my tour and toast a 48-hour tour of Southern history and hospitality.