A Day or More in Walkable Downtown Lexington
Fifty minutes north of Roanoke, two hours west of Richmond, and a far less crowded version of historic Charlottesville, downtown Lexington is home to locally-owned boutiques and gift shops, farm-to-table dining, and elegantly refashioned historic accommodations. It's an ideal day trip, weekend getaway, or even a week-long escape. And all of downtown is a walkable delight!
When you arrive into town, make the Visitor Center your first stop. You will be greeted with warm Southern hospitality and equipped with a walking map, good directions, and parking tips.
It's no secret that Lexington is a hotbed of Southern history. Heck, both Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson lived and are buried here. Jackson was a professor at Virginia Military Institute and Lee's name is reflected in our local liberal arts college, Washington & Lee University. These two men are not the beginning or the end of history in Lexington, however. As you travel down our sidewalks, larger grey bricks will undoubtedly catch your eye. Take time to learn about some of our other "Righteous & Rascals of Rockbridge" through these quick hits.
To explore more, head to the University Chapel & Museum, Stonewall Jackson House, Miller's House Museum, VMI Museum, or the Rockbridge Historical Society. From these you'll not only get local history, but also information from World War II, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and westward migration.
For a narrated overview of town, choose one or both of these awesome options: Lexington Carriage Company horse-drawn carriage tours (pictured) or Haunting Tales: Lexington's Ghost Tour. While some of the information may overlap, the experiences are vastly different and equally informative.
It's vital to know that in Lexington, every store is not the same. You won't find the same products in more than one store, which means every store is worth your attention.
You may have heard that the "cutest darn store ever" resides in Lexington. Yes, Pumpkinseeds is perfectly situated on the corner of Main and Washington Streets and offers quirky gifts, ladies apparel, baby gifts, jewelry, soaps, lotions, and more. More ladies apparel and shoes are available at Pappagallo. For men's wear and ladies casual comfort, check out Alvin-Dennis and Walkabout Outfitter, which is also the locally-owned outdoor recreation store.
Country decor, local souvenirs, candles, alumni and veteran gear, and fine gifts and jewelry can be found at Shenandoah Attic & Victorian Parlour. Jams, jellies, peanuts, and wine are available in a separate nook while a clearance loft draws those looking for a bargain.
You don't know what you don't know, and that's where Ladles & Linens comes in. It's Lexington's favorite kitchen store! You'll find a wide range of cutlery, gadgets, towels, soaps, and beautiful dishes, knives, and cookware.
Sugar Maple Trading Company is one of Lexington's newest shops, and it fits in so well with its fun center-of-the-store tree, eclectic gifts, jewelry, flavors, and cool man corner. What's a man corner? It's where you find beard and grooming essentials, like those made right here in Lexington by Fable Beard Co.
Lexington's farm-to-table dining establishments offer menus reflective of whatever is fresh from the farm. The list of restaurants sourcing local ingredients continues to grow and includes Chef George Huger's Southern Inn Restaurant, Haywood's, TAPS, Bistro on Main, Pure Eats, and Heliotrope Brewery.
Authentic Italian and killer craft cocktails can be found at Juniper Lounge, tucked onto the second floor of The Gin Hotel and overlooking Main Street. It's the place to be any sunny afternoon or evening in Lexington.
Sate your Greek craving at Niko's Grille, your sushi hankering at Matsumoto Sushi, and your Thai urge at Napa Thai.
Splurge on a craft cocktail at TAPS and then head across the street to Haywood's for piano bar tunes and an excellent dinner menu.
To go where the locals go, head to Macado's or The Palms, both known for great menus and their bar atmosphere.
Large groups and patio lovers will want to check out Tonic. Their robust menu, full bar, and incredible wine selection ensures there's something to please everyone in your party.
For the sweet tooth, head to Sweet Things for homemade ice cream, Cocoa Mill for handmade truffles, Pronto Gelateria for handcrafted gelato, or Sweet Treats Bakery for a fresh slice of pie.
As the sun sets, the dining crowd grows and the night sparks to life with live entertainment at various venues through town on various days. You'll find local musicians playing original music at The Palms on Thursdays; karaoke, a DJ, or local musicians at Salerno's Wood Fired Pizza & Tap House on Fridays and Saturdays; regional artists performing at Brew Ridge Taps on Saturdays; and local pianists tickling the keys at Haywood's just any ol' time.
The First Friday of each month is a time to peruse our art galleries, where coincidentally, local musicians gather to hype the vibe. On warm evenings, the party spills onto the sidewalks and the entire city comes alive. It's an electric feeling that beckons you linger a while.
For a variety of theater productions, concerts, and ballets, consider the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts your go-to. The schedule is filled with performances from Washington & Lee University faculty and students, as well as local and traveling entertainment.
During the summer months, put Lime Kiln Theater at the top of your Lexington to-do list. Virginia's premier outdoor music venue is indeed an old lime kiln. Nationally-known artists like Turnpike Troubadours, Mandolin Orange, Bruce Hornsby, and others are frequent favorites.
ARTS & ANTIQUES
Lexington is a haven for artists and art galleries. You’ll find an incredible selection of handcrafted pieces, from jewelry and stained glass to paintings and sculptures. Most of the galleries are cooperatives featuring many artists’ works for sale.
For a great mix of artisans, head to Artists in Cahoots and Cabell Gallery, both on Washington Street. If pottery is your thing, you'll want to make a beeline for Earth, Fire & Spirit Pottery where a family of potters craft new wares using generations' old glaze recipes.
For antiques, glance over the carefully curated collections at Yesterday Once More.
There's plenty of nostalgia, charm, history, and warmth to a red brick town like Lexington. Our architecture is mostly untouched and our storefronts gleam with both fresh ideas and fetching products. If you only spend the day promenading to take it all in, you've spent the day well. We'll see you soon!