Monument Terrace provides an unusual view of downtown Lynchburg, which is situated on a series of hills along the James River.
“As you are climbing and looking up, you see the Lynchburg Museum,” said Denise Jackson, sales manager for the Lynchburg Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. “If you turn and look back, you see our fountain in the middle of the James River at the bottom of the iconic 9th Street corridor.”
The 139-step staircase from Church Street to Court Street honors Lynchburg residents who have fought in America’s wars.
The Lynchburg Museum, located in the historic former courthouse, has extensive exhibits about the history of the city and the Virginia Piedmont.
There is easy access to the river from downtown, where visitors can rent canoes or kayaks, or get free bicycles for a jaunt on a hiking and biking trail that goes through downtown.
“Blackwater Creek trail takes you onto Percivals Island in the James River, through an old stone railroad tunnel and past a waterfall as it meanders through the city,” said Jackson.
Jackson said a lot of renovation is under way in downtown, which has an eclectic mix of shops, specialty stores and restaurants, such as Shoemakers American Grille in the Craddock Terry Hotel, a boutique hotel located in a former shoe factory.
“Breakfast is served in a shoe box,” she said.
The Riverfront Park area features a pavilion for outdoor concerts, and the Academy of Fine Arts has performance space and art galleries.
The year-round Community Market, which dates to the 18th century, is a popular place to buy fresh vegetables and Virginia handmade crafts.
Downtown Hampton is a mix of historic 19th-century structures and gleaming modern buildings that house some of the city’s major tourist attractions.
“We have several major attractions, such as the Virginia Air and Space Center, right on the downtown waterfront,” said Ryan LaFata, media relations manager for Hampton Convention and Tourism. “There is the Hampton History Museum and the carousel right beside the space center.”
The covered carousel, which was at nearby Buckroe Beach in the 1920s, was restored and moved to the waterfront in the early 1990s. The operational carousel still has its original music.
The modernistic Virginia Air and Space Center has large galleries dealing with planes and space travel — its artifacts include the Apollo 12 capsule — while the Hampton History Museum’s nine galleries trace more than 400 years of regional history.
Cobblestone streets along Queens Way run in front of 19th-century buildings, several of which house restaurants. St. John’s Church is a 17th-century church that features a stained-glass window that depicts the baptism of Pocahontas.
“There are quite a few restaurants,” said LaFata. “There is a tap house with 130 beers, fine dining, seafood and Japanese.”
The shops in the area sell clothing, home decor, antiques, flowers, stationary and photography, and there’s a fine-art gallery and a gift shop with Virginia products.
The downtown waterfront is also the site of several festivals and special events such as the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival, June 2-3, which this year will be part of OpSail 2012 Virginia, a gathering of tall ships, sea and air parades and other festivities in Hampton Roads June 6-12.
The tall ships that are part of OpSail 2012 will also visit New Orleans, New York, Baltimore, Boston and New London, Conn., between April and July.