After a sweltering summer, autumn’s vibrant colors and crisp air have rushed in, and the falling leaves from trees lining the James River are calling me back to Lynchburg.
I will never forget my first visit… I checked my GPS, perplexed, as I wound slowly through a sleepy industrial area. I had carefully researched my accommodations and directions to my destination – the upscale Craddock Terry Hotel. I was only minutes away, but I was seemingly in the middle of a quaint, quiet train yard. Then, after one more bend in the road, I saw it. Lush green space was broken up by the hotel’s historical brick building and large silos etched with branches. On the other side, I saw a trailhead leading to picturesque views of the James River. That trail is the first place I headed – a brisk walk is always welcome after a road trip!
One of my favorite memories from that trip was visiting Lynchburg Community Market, which features a permanent crafters gallery filled with a variety of artisan booths stuffed with handmade crafts and food items. Colorful baskets of flowers and fresh vegetables spill out of each space, manned by the eager folks who have worked so hard to grow and bring these items to market.
After a morning of outdoor fun, enjoy lunch at nearby Waterstone Pizza, known for its fire-roasted, hand-tossed pizza. If you can get past the scrumptious appetizer list, try my favorite pizza – The Italian. This upscale spot with an urban feel also has an impressive drink menu with specialty cocktails like Waterstone Sangria or their luscious Pomegranate Margarita.
Spending a day at Percival’s Island Natural Area is a must, with its generous share of colorful fall leaves, a variety of wildlife, and ever-changing river views. Rent a bike from Bikes Unlimited, or take a leisurely walk with a friend along the accessible, paved trails. I of course had to snap a photo in front of Lynchburg’s unique LOVEwork! It features shoe prints, bicycle wheels, canoe paddles, and skateboard wheels – all representative of activities that visitors frequently enjoy on the Blackwater Creek and RiverWalk trails winding through Riverfront Park and historic downtown Lynchburg.
Fall is a great season for fishing on the James River, according to Ethan Martin, owner of fishing specialty shop TaleTellers. The cooler temperatures lure fish out to seek food and most boaters are off the water, allowing open water, which fish prefer. The water is typically lower and clearer, which makes for interesting fly fishing – which TaleTellers teaches about in its free clinics. Massive musky are one trophy fish species that anglers target in the fall. “They’re not an easy fish to come by,” Ethan tells me, “but it’s all worth it when you get to hold one of these four-foot beasts.” James River Adventures also offers canoe and kayak rentals to get you a little closer to the water.
Bringing the kids? The award-winning Amazement Square Children’s Museum in historic downtown Lynchburg contains four floors of fun, all connected by Amazement Tower – the tallest indoor climbing structure in the United States! Kids (and the young at heart) love following the pathways and tunnels that lead them through hands-on exhibits focusing on the arts and humanities, culture, science, and technology.
On my to-do list for my next visit to Lynchburg – dinner at Grey’s on historic 5th Street, just blocks away from the James. After reading raving reviews that describe Grey’s as “fresh” and “unique”, I am eager to try their fried chicken, which everyone raves about.
Lynchburg offers activities and entertainment year-round, but if you’re a fall baby – like I am – fall on the James River is all about the outdoors!
Kari Smith is a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a child, writing poems and songs. In 2006, her dream became reality when she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to sing and record her own original compositions. She continued on to pursue writing magazine articles and blogs to chronicle and share her personal adventures and interests. Besides teaching music and performing in the Richmond, VA area, she also enjoys riding horses, raising goats and chickens, and gardening.
Find out more about Kari HERE