With its proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and its rich civil war history, there are many things to do in Lexington, Virginia.
Although we are from northern Virginia, we have many connections with Lexington that keeping bringing us back. Scott grew up in Lexington, and we were married in Buena Vista. We still have family in the area and visit about 6 times a year. We know a thing or two when it comes to hidden gems and things to do in the area.
Let’s explore the best things to do and see in Lexington Virginia and the surrounding Rockbridge County.
- Best Things to do in Lexington, Virginia
- 1. Hull’s Drive-in
- 2. Boxerwood Nature Center
- 3. Ben Salem Wayside
- 4. Kids Playce
- 5. Lexington Virginia Carriage Tours
- 6. Chessie Trail
- 7. Lexington Ghost Tours
- 8. Lexington Vineyards, Breweries, or Cideries
- 9. Explore the historic grounds of VMI and W&L
- 10. Award-Winning Coffee at Roadmap Coffeeworks
- 11. Shop Downtown Lexington
- 12. Miller’s House Museum
- 13. The Haunted Poor House Tunnel
- More Things to do Near Lexington
- 14. the Natural Bridge
- 15. Natural Bridge Caverns
- 16. Pink Cadillac Diner
- 17. Tantivy Farms Lavender Fields
- 18. Virginia Gold Pear Orchard
- 19. Virginia Safari Park
- 20. Wade’s Mill
- 21. Panther Falls
- 22. Layne’s Country Store
- 23. the Blue Ridge Parkway
- 24. Natural Bridge Station
- 25. Dinosaur Kingdom
- 26. Glen Maury Park
- 27. the old courthouse jail at the Buena Vista Public Library
- 28. Tubing along the Upper James River
- 29. Statons Creek Falls
- Where to Stay in Lexington, Virginia
- Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Lexington, Virginia
Best Things to do in Lexington, Virginia
1. Hull’s Drive-in
Hull’s Drive-In is a Lexington staple and an adventure not to be missed. Built in 1950, Hull’s is the first community-owned non-profit drive-in theater in America. Since it’s opening, volunteers from the local community have donated time and money to preserve and operate the landmark.
Locals come here to catch one or both of the nightly featured movies while dining on greasy yet delicious concessions like hamburgers, popcorn, and mozzarella sticks. Whether you watch the movie inside a car, on a lawn chair, or on a picnic blanket is completely up to you. Whichever you choose, we would recommend coming early to pick out a good spot.
*This is a seasonal attraction so check the website to verify hours of operation
2. Boxerwood Nature Center
The Boxerwood Nature Center is a hidden gem that deserves a spot on your Lexington itinerary, especially if you have an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. This 15 acre woodland is filled with vibrant gardens, winding trails, and interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages.
For the kids, Boxwood has a charming “fairy forest” and an award-winning “play trail”. There is also the “giant chair”, a whimsical piece of art and picturesque photo op with the Blue Ridge Mountains as the background. Not only is Boxerwood Nature Center family-friendly, it is also one of the best free things to do in Lexington!
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3. Ben Salem Wayside
Canal boats would use the Ben Salem Lock back in the late 1800’s. The ruins now serve as a popular picnic area with areas for wading, swimming, and fishing.
It is located along Midland Trail, paralleling the Maury River. Its easy access make it one of the most popular spots for locals to gather in the summer. Additionally, it is considered one of the most kid-friendly fishing opportunities in Rockbridge County. Make sure to come early if you want to find parking.
4. Kids Playce
If you are looking for more family-friendly activities in Lexington, specifically for the 8 and under age range, check out Kids Playce. This large wooden playground has castle-like towers, bridges and nooks and crannies to explore.
This park is tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the corner of Wallace St. and Taylor St. We truly only knew about this park because Scott grew up here!
5. Lexington Virginia Carriage Tours
Home to the final resting place of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Lexington is a hub for civil war history. With museums, cemeteries, plantations, and historic college campuses, Lexington is a walk in time through history.
The Lexington Carriage Company provides rest for weary feet, by offering a horse-drawn carriage tour of all the important things to see in Lexington Va. The company describes it as an “intriguing way to explore the 19th-century town, slowed to the pace and rhythm of hoof-beats.”
**This is a seasonal attraction so check the website to verify hours of operation
6. Chessie Trail
The Chessie Trail is a 7-mile public walking trail extending from Lexington to Buena Vista. The trail is well maintained with a relatively flat grade. It follows along the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad with views of the serene Maury River.
Although the Chessie Trail is dog-friendly, the trail passes through private property including active cattle farms. Don’t be surprised if you come face to face with a herd of cows. Be sure that your dog is leashed.
7. Lexington Ghost Tours
From the artist Mark Cline, creator of kooky attractions like Foamhenge and Dinosaur Kingdom, comes one of Lexington’s most popular nightly attractions, the Haunting Tales Ghost Tours. Professional tour guides will take you through dark streets and alleys, and into the heart of the famous Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetary.
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8. Lexington Vineyards, Breweries, or Cideries
There are numerous locations to imbibe a drink or two in the area. The popular Devil’s Backbone Brewery has an outpost in Lexington where you can enjoy a pint on the large outdoor deck overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Other nearby spots include Heliotrope in downtown Lexington
If you venture a bit farther you’ll find Ecco Adesso Vineyards in Fairfield, Rockbridge Vineyard and Brewery in Raphine, and Halcyon Days Cider Co. and Great Valley Farm Brewery & Winery in Natural Bridge. Jump Mountain Vineyard and Lexington Valley Vineyard are in Rockbridge Baths.
9. Explore the historic grounds of VMI and W&L
After your horse-drawn carriage tour with the Lexington Carriage company, set out on foot and explore the historic grounds of VMI (the Virginia Military Institute) and W&L (Washington and Lee).
W&L was founded in 1749, and is the 9th oldest college campus in the nation, while VMI was founded in 1839 and is the first state-supported military college in the nation. Located adjacent to one another, visitors are welcome to walk through the beautifully constructed campuses, while exploring historic buildings, chapels, and museums.
One of the more interesting attractions in Lexington is house at the VMI Museum. It is there that you will find Little Sorrel, the stuffed hide of Stonewall Jackson’s beloved horse.
10. Award-Winning Coffee at Roadmap Coffeeworks
Roadmap Coffeeworks, formerly known as Lexington Coffee Roasters, is an award-winning coffee roaster located in Lexington. Forbes included Roadmap on its list of the “12 Best Coffee Roasters in the US”, and USA Today recognized them for “some of America’s best coffee“.
Visit the tasting room to sample Roadmap’s full selection. If you are short on time, simply pass through the drive-through where you can choose from a selection of coffee and expresso drinks.
11. Shop Downtown Lexington
Downtown Lexington is very walkable with several blocks of charming shops, restaurants, and store fronts.
For shopping we recommend stopping into Downtown Books, Pappagallo and Pumpkinseeds Boutique. For quick bites we recommend trying Sweet Treats Bakery for their desserts, and Pure-Eats for their locally-sourced burgers.
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12. Miller’s House Museum
Miller’s House serves as a transportation museum, celebrating the industrial and transportation history of the region.
The museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1-4pm, April through late November. Admission is free.
13. The Haunted Poor House Tunnel
The Poor House Road Tunnel has drawn the attention of paranormal investigators and thrill-seekers due to its tragic reputation and consequent hauntings. The tunnel was built in the early 1900’s as part of a railway connecting Staunton and Lexington.
During the early 20th century, it became the site of several lynchings followed by a number of alleged murders. Visitors report seeing ghostly shadows on the tunnel walls and hearing disembodied voices calling out “come on, come on”.
Others report the appearance of hand prints on cars, and fog mysteriously appearing in photographs when there was none at the time of the picture.
More Things to do Near Lexington
14. the Natural Bridge
Rising 215 feet (66m) high and 90 feet wide (27m), the Natural Bridge is a wonder to see and is often included on the list of Seven Natural Wonders of the Modern World.
This bridge was once the sacred site of the Native American Monacan tribes and was later rediscovered by frontiersmen in the mid-1700s.
It is said that George Washington came to the site as a young surveyor years before he would become America’s first president. So impressed by the location, Washington carved his initials “G.W.” into the wall of the bridge.
In addition to the natural limestone archway, the state park also includes several walking trails which take you past diverse flora and fauna, a recreation of Monacan Native American housing, and the 30 foot tall (9.1m) Lace Falls.
15. Natural Bridge Caverns
Visiting the Natural Bridge Caverns will take you into a subterranean wonderland, where limestone formations twist and turn like an underground maze. You’ll be amazed wandering through these caves 34 stories below the surface. Guided tours generally last about 45 minutes and begin every 60 minutes.
If you are planning to visit multiple Natural Bridge attractions, consider purchasing the Natural Bridge Two-Night Adventure Package. This special package includes:
- Two-night stay at the historic Natural Bridge Hotel for two adults and two children.
- Complimentary breakfast for all each morning.
- Four tickets to the Caverns at Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Natural Bridge Zoo, and Dinosaur Kingdom II.
16. Pink Cadillac Diner
The Natural Bridge and Natural Caverns are certainly some of the more popular things to do in Natural Bridge, Virginia, however if you are looking for something a bit more quirky head over to the Pink Cadillac Diner. If you are driving along Route 11, you can’t miss this bright pink Elvis themed diner with its iconic pink Cadillac parked out front.
The food is cheap and greasy, but it sure hits the spot after a long day of exploring Lexington and Natural Bridge.
17. Tantivy Farms Lavender Fields
Tantivy Lavender Farm is located on 54 acres of land in Northern Rockbridge County. The farm is open from April to December and offers many things to do including picnics, wreath making workshops, mini photo sessions, and lavender yoga.
The gift shop sells all things lavender including plants, soaps, salve, simple syrup, and even lavender ice cream.
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18. Virginia Gold Pear Orchard
There is only one Virginia orchard that truly specializes in growing pears and it is located right here outside of Lexington. The Virginia Gold Pear Orchard is a small family-run farm with over 5,000 Asian pear trees consisting of 16 different varieties. They also sell locally cultivated honey, hand-pressed Apple Cider Vinegar, and Asian Pear Marmalade.
During your visit, also check out the Ramulose Ridge Vineyards tasting room located on property adjacent to the farm store.
In the summer, visitors can enjoy the U-pick flower field filled with amazing seasonal blooms. The flower field is open from May to November (depending on the season).
19. Virginia Safari Park
Virginia Safari Park is a one-of-a-kind experience to interact with a variety of animals, including elk, buffalo, ostriches, and llamas.
Drive through the 180-acre enclosure where you can observe free-roaming animals frolic about, play in mud puddles, and sunbathe. Many will come up to your window for a bite to eat from your food bucket (which is provided at the front gate for a nominal cost).
The park also has a walk-through “village” which includes spider monkeys, penguins, kangaroos, and opportunities to hand-feed giraffes and goats.
Be sure not to miss the Budgie Aviary on your way out. This large enclosed area is home to about 200 Australian Budgie birds who are eager to flock to your arm, shoulder, or even the top of your head. Visitors can purchase a “Budgie stick” at the front gate to feed these little guys.
20. Wade’s Mill
Founded in 1750, Wade’s Mill is Virginia’s oldest continuously operating grist mill. Until this day, Wade’s Mill continues to continues as a small and humble operation with one miller stone-grinding premium grains.
Visitors are welcome to explore the three flour grist mill, and wander around the property’s gardens and picnic areas. Don’t leave without taking home some of the freshly ground wheat flour or stone-ground heirloom grits.
If you are looking for a hotel near Lexington and enjoy interesting places to stay, Wade’s Mill has a charming, rustic School Teacher’s Cabin available for rent. Originally built in 1820, this historic Virginia cabin has been renovated with modern AC/heating and appliances for a more comfortable stay.
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21. Panther Falls
Panther Falls is a great kid-friendly trail with a spectacular payoff. The .4 mile trail ends in a 10 foot waterfall and swimming hole. There are ample flat rocks around the falls which are ideal for a packed lunch or picnic.
Few people outside of locals know about this short waterfall trail making it truly a hidden gem.
22. Layne’s Country Store
If you are visiting Lexington and looking for some locally made gifts, you have two visit Layne’s Country store. This roadside store has been a local staple since 1954 offering Virginia ham, Virginia peanuts, Virginia wines and moonshines, and so much more.
23. the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway, which extends from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina, attracts thousands of visitors every year. Along the 269-mile stretch, the speed limit is set at 45 mph and large trucks are prohibited from driving on the parkway. This helps to ensure that visitors can enjoy a slow drive along the ridge while taking in the beautiful vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding valleys.
With an entrance to the parkway both in Buena Vista (Humphrey’s Gap) and Natural Bridge (Otter Creek), there are 2 nearby options for hopping onto the parkway for an afternoon drive.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best scenic routes for viewing fall foliage in Virginia.
*The parkway is subject to harsh weather conditions so be sure to check the website for closures.
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24. Natural Bridge Station
We discovered this gem completely on accident while exploring the area. Following Lloyd Tolley Rd. toward the James River, the road rounds about a curve opening up to a property that transports you back in time.
An old-school gas pump and general store is the first building you pass. Situated next door is an old hotel, ice cream parlor, and pub. The entire strip of vintage buildings is dotted with classic cars from the ’50s. The most surprising thing about this property is that it is not a commercial business.
We had the luck of meeting the property owner who was outside working on a restored step-side pickup. He explained that he had spent decades as a collector. In his retirement, he purchased this property and assembled his collection as a hobby.
He invited us into the general store which is set up as an exact replica of one that you would have seen in the 1950s. The kitchen and ice cream parlor is fully stocked with furniture, lighting, and appliances of the time. The level of detail and historical accuracy is so incredibly impressive. As mentioned, the property is not generally open to the public, but the road is. Therefore, you are free to drive right up to the strip of vintage shops and snap a picture or two.
25. Dinosaur Kingdom
From the same creator as Foam Hedge, comes the wacky yet entertaining road-side attraction Dinosaur Kingdom II. This “theme park” combines civil war history with prehistoric creatures where you might see Abe Lincoln lassoing a Pteranodon or Stonewall Jackson battling a spinosaurus.
While admittedly cheesy, Dinosaur Kingdom is an entertaining adventure to remember.
*This is a seasonal attraction so check the website to verify hours of operation
26. Glen Maury Park
Did you know there is an 18-hole golf course right outside of Lexington? The Glen Maury Park not only has golfing, but a campground, swimming pool, skate park, and playground.
If you take the road all the way to the top of the property, you’ll find a double decker pavilion overlooking historic Buena Vista. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic and enjoy the scenic view.
On your way out, don’t forget to grab an ice cream from Holy Cow, a little red barn ice cream stand.
27. the old courthouse jail at the Buena Vista Public Library
Few people know that the Buena Vista Public Library has a block of dark abandoned jail cells hidden away. The building was built in 1890 as a courthouse, complete with numerous holding cells. When the library occupied the building in 1971, they renovated the front portion but left the holding cells as they were. There is now only a large door separating the bright and renovated library from the dark and dusty block of cells.
We discovered this hidden piece of history when we attended a trivia night at the very same library. The librarian told us about the history of the building and the jail cells where an officer named Matt Beard was murdered years ago.
They invited us to take a look behind the locked door so we agreed. With no working lights in that portion of the building, we explored the cells with only the light of our phones.
This is not generally open to the public, but if you ask nicely they might let you take a peek.
28. Tubing along the Upper James River
The James River flows 348 miles from the Appalachian mountains, through the capital city of Richmond, and out to the Chesapeake Bay. Twin River Outfitters offer kayak, canoe, and tubing trips along the James River. The tubing trip is generally 1.5 miles long. Depending on the time of day, you may even be able to tube the river more than once.
Twin River Outfitters provide the river tube, life jackets, upriver shuttle, and a safety orientation. Participants must be at least 6 years old.
29. Statons Creek Falls
No hike is required to see this cascading waterfall! Statons Creek Falls is one of the lesser known waterfalls in the George Washington National Park.
From Lexington and Buena Vista, continue east along Lexington turnpike. You will pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway before turning left onto Pedlar River Rd. In about 2.2 miles, you will see the top of the falls to the right. There is a small parking area on the left of the road.
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Where to Stay in Lexington, Virginia
The Gin Hotel (formerly the Robert E. Lee Hotel) is Lexington’s premier boutique hotel. Built in 1926 and located along Lexington’s historic Main Street, the Gin Hotel has become a recognizable landmark. The vibe of the hotel can be described as classic art-deco combined with elements of modern luxury. In room, guests will enjoy cozy linens and high ceilings. Around the property, guests are treated to additional amenities such as complimentary deluxe breakfast and coffee all day.
Stonegate is a cozy 5-bedroom bed and breakfast located just a few blocks away from Lexington’s historic downtown. The property is decorated in a Victorian style with rich colors, beautiful patterns, and detailed accents. It is truly one of the most beautiful hotels in Lexington.
(Our Unique Stay Pick) South River Highlands is a stunning property just south of Lexington in Buena Vista, Virginia. Located on a 250 acre farm with incredible bucolic views, it is an ideal location to escape and relax. The property is a popular retreat for those practicing yoga and meditation. The authentic log cabins are also ideal for those seeking a romantic getaway.
The lodge and newly restored dairy barn are open to large groups seeking an intimate getaway surrounded by the sights and sounds of the country. Scott and I fell in love with this venue and decided to host our wedding at South River Highlands. We have since stayed in 3 of the 5 cabins on the property and have every intention of returning again. These are truly the best cabins in Lexington, VA.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Lexington, Virginia
What is Lexington VA known for?
Lexington Virginia is known as a historical and cultural hub in the Shenandoah Valley. It is home to two historic colleges, Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. The town exudes southern charm mixed with historical landmarks, picturesque landscapes, and a vibrant downtown.
Is downtown Lexington walkable?
Yes, downtown Lexington, Virginia, is highly walkable! Its compact size and layout make it perfect for exploring on foot. The downtown area features sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly streets, allowing easy access to various shops, restaurants, historic sites, and local attractions. Street parking and free parking lots are available.
Is Lexington VA in the Shenandoah Valley?
This picturesque town is nestled within the Shenandoah Valley region, surrounded by the natural beauty of the valley and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.