For those interested in a quaint historical city, Lexington, VA hits that target. Large universities, historical landmarks, outdoor escapes, and tasty restaurants are just a few of the exciting activities awaiting guests. This small town of about seven thousand is home to a rich history and local culture that is often celebrated and sometimes controversial. Restoration projects are always underway, bringing Southern history back to life through community efforts.
1.George C. Marshall Museum
© George C. Marshall Museum
Another well-known name in military history, George C. Marshall received a Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan, which helped stabilize the European economy after WWII. The George C. Marshall Foundation includes a research library and the museum, which houses several exhibits showcasing Marshall’s contributions and life. There are five main exhibit areas, with an additional area set up for special rotating exhibits that focus on military and war topics. Along with letters and photos, some key artifacts to check out include the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal, the Nobel Peace Prize medal, and Marshall’s Mother’s dress.
P.O. Box 1600, Lexington, VA 14450, Phone: 540-463-7103
2.Lee Chapel and Museum
© Lee Chapel and Museum
As part of Washington and Lee University, Lee Chapel is the burial place of General Robert E. Lee. Because of this, it is a National Historic Landmark and a great point of interest for tourists. The chapel, once-and-now, named Grace Episcopal Church was where Lee and his family attended church during his Presidency of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University). Lee’s family and favorite horse, Traveller, are also buried here on church grounds. In the basement of the church, a museum looks at the history of the university and houses Lee’s preserved office.
11-17 Letcher Avenue, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-458-8768
3.Washington and Lee University
© Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University has changed names several times over the years. Since its founding in 1749 as Augusta Academy, its name has changed four times, finally settling on a name that recognizes two men who greatly affected the college: George Washington and Robert E. Lee. In 1972, parts of the college were named Historic Landmarks – only the third college in the nation with this distinction. Today’s guests can visit the college and some of the landmarks, such as Lee Chapel and Lee’s home, which was built to his specifications. In all, over 325 acres house the university’s buildings and residencies.
204 West Washington Street, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-458-8710
4.Virginia Military Institute
While not as well-known as Annapolis, Virginia Military Institute was the first state-supported military school in the nation. Founded in 1839, today’s students receive liberal arts undergraduate degrees while training for service. Many people of note passed through the doors, including famous general Stonewall Jackson, who taught at the school until the Civil War called him away, and alum WWII General George Patton. During the school season, available tours can be scheduled with one of the current cadets and leaves from the VMI Museum. Guests can peruse through the 15,000 artifacts and chronicles at the library.
319 Letcher Avenue, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-464-7211
5.Stonewall Jackson House
This house is the only one that Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson ever owned. In 1979, the museum restored the home to its formers glory, including period-style furniture to match the era. Tours revolve around Jackson’s life prior to the Civil War, including his domestic life and his tenure as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute. A garden beside the home grows herbs, flowers, and vegetables that Jackson’s wife, Mary Anna, would have grown. Admission to the gift shop and garden is free, though a small fee is required for a general admission ticket to view the home.
319 Letcher Avenue, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-464-7211
6.Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company
© Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company
The slogan for Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company is “slow by nature.” This is because they take their time when brewing the beers and lagers at their brewing company. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company was founded by Steve and Heidi Crandall after a trip to the Alps. Using German brewing techniques, Devil’s Backbone beers have won World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival prestige. To go with the eight core lagers, seasonal and specialty creations are available. During Oktoberfest, patrons can purchase the O’Fest Lager. Specialty brews, like Bright (the tangerine sparkling ale) and Hibiscus Hard Lemonade, are available.
50 Northwind Lane, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-817-6080
7.Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop
Another National Historic Landmark in Lexington, the Cyrus McCormick Farm was the home and workshop of inventor Cyrus McCormick. McCormick, credited with creating the mechanical reaper, owned 532 acres of land. Today, the museum, which consists of eight remaining buildings, stands on five of those acres. In 1954, the home was donated by the McCormick family to Virginia Polytechnical Institute for an agricultural landmark. For free, guests can visit the farm and take in the history of the farm and McCormick’s daily life by looking at the blacksmith shop, grist mill, smokehouse, schoolroom, slave and housekeepers’ quarters, carriage house, and of course, the main manor.
128 Cyrus McCormick Circle, Raphine, VA 24472, Phone: 540-377-2255
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8.Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Gardens
For those visitors who wish to spend time outdoors, a stroll through the Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Gardens arboretum is a good start. Over 15 acres, guests can view local and exotic shrub and tree species. But the garden is about more than highlighting plants, the people at Boxerwood have initiated projects to enrich the soil, manage clean water, restore lost habitats to animals, and aid in pollination. All programs use the mission to reduce our carbon footprints and to repair what has already been harmed. Kids are encouraged to get dirty on play trails, and adults can sit in on a workshop or symposium.
963 Ross Road, Lexington, VA, Phone: 540-463-2967
9.Lime Kiln Theater
© Lime Kiln Theater
For those seeking entertainment, the Lime Kiln Theater offers several concerts and plays throughout the summer months. Visiting groups put on plays, such as Sleeping Beauty or a Shakespearean drama. Local and popular bands put on shows in an intimate setting to give viewers a special experience found nowhere else in Virginia. Though a season pass can be bought in advance, tickets for single shows are available for pre-purchase and at the door. Planning ahead guarantees the shows will not be sold out. Lime Kiln Theater is a non-profit, so all proceeds and donations go to the maintenance and upgrade of this unique outdoor theater.
607 Borden Road, Lexington, VA 24450
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10.Chessie Nature Trail
Guests can take a stroll through the Chessie Nature Trail, a 7-mile path that connects Lexington to Buena Vista, VA. Originally part of the C & O railway system, the old railbed and Maury River guide visitors along the path as it winds through farmland, forests, and open fields. At one point, the railroad bridge was removed, so hikers need to take a small detour from the trail to cross the river. The Virginia Military Institute often uses the trail for practice marches and a 5K puts marathoners on the trail annually. Along with people, hikers can see everything from minks to bald eagles. At the Buena Vista trailhead, guests find great fishing waters, including trout and bass.
Lexington, VA 24450
© Southern Inn
A fire in 2010 nearly burnt the Southern Inn Restaurant to the ground. Originally established in 1932, the new owners updated the restaurant with modern conveniences while maintaining the old charm of the building. Today’s patrons can visit during brunch, lunch, or dinner hours for tasty dishes. While brunch showcases morning delights, like French toast and eggs benedict, dinner is when customers find truly unique edibles. Some samplings include a grilled salmon club, roasted duck breast, lamb meatballs, and a lentil & quinoa salad. For the sweet tooth, fun desserts, like the mango coconut bread pudding and Grand Marnier crème brulee, can conclude your meal.
37 S. Main Street, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-463-3612
12.Muchacho Alegre Mexican
© Muchacho Alegre Mexican
Northern states, like Virginia, do not often offer much Mexican cuisine. This is why Muchacho Alegre Mexican is a rare treat in Lexington. Open seven days a week, patrons find authentic food that brings Mexican culture to America. Muchacho Alegre offers weekly specials to get customers trying different dishes each day. Fajitas, enchiladas, quesadilla rellena, taquitos, and other familiar menu items are made fresh with the meat of your choosing. Those just craving a quick bite might consider one of the Mexican soups or Mexican desserts, like tres leches, xangos, or churros. Patrons can top off the meal with a Mexican soda or cocktail from the bar.
2813 N Lee Highway, Lexington, VA 24450, Phone: 540-464-1732
12 Best Things to Do in Lexington, VA
- George C. Marshall Museum, Photo: George C. Marshall Museum
- Lee Chapel and Museum, Photo: Lee Chapel and Museum
- Washington and Lee University, Photo: Washington and Lee University
- Virginia Military Institute, Photo: pamela_d_mcadams/stock.adobe.com
- Stonewall Jackson House, Photo: Chico/stock.adobe.com
- Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, Photo: Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company
- Cyrus McCormick Farm and Workshop, Photo: alexpolo/stock.adobe.com
- Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Gardens, Photo: innazagorulko/stock.adobe.com
- Lime Kiln Theater, Photo: Lime Kiln Theater
- Chessie Nature Trail, Photo: jure/stock.adobe.com
- Southern Inn, Photo: Southern Inn
- Muchacho Alegre Mexican, Photo: Muchacho Alegre Mexican
- Cover Photo: ablokhin/stock.adobe.com