Country roads link small towns and quiet villages across Rockbridge County. In the past, some of these places were no more than stagecoach stops while others were bustling commercial hubs beside the James and Maury Rivers. These communities today are inviting places to stop and stretch your legs during a drive, a paddle, or a bike ride.
For 200 years the junction of Main and Washington Streets has been the busiest spot in town. In the 1700s Main Street was part of the Great Wagon Road and was often jammed with horses and wagons. Three courthouses have anchored the southeast corner, and the Alexander-Withrow House (home of The Georges), on the opposite corner, dates from 1789.
Lined with historic buildings, farm-to-table restaurants, bright galleries, and welcoming boutiques, downtown Lexington is easy to love. And with red brick sidewalks tying it all together, it's also easy to explore on foot. But there's something a little offbeat bubbling beneath the red-brick façade. Scots-Irish feistiness? A hippie soul?
With power lines hidden underground, historic architecture, and Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute in view, downtown Lexington looks much as it did in the 1860s. The museums and cultural events on the two campuses are open to the public, offering world class speakers and entertainment. Two stylish hotels – The Georges and the Gin Hotel – overlook Main Street. Their restaurants – Haywood's, TAPS, and the Juniper Lounge – energize the downtown dining scene.
The welcome sign on the way into town sets the tone for this scrappy city: "Welcome to Buena Vista. 6002 Happy Citizens and 3 Old Grouches." The phrase was coined by a 1970s businessman as a humorous response to bickering citizens. Today, to be one of the grouches is considered an honor and a place of distinction. But everyone else? They love the proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the beauty of the Maury River in Glen Maury Park, and the stately profile of Southern Virginia University. A new downtown mural (133 W 21st St) celebrates local citizens and the surrounding natural scenery.
How best to enjoy downtown? Hop onto the 2 ½ mile River Walk and look for kayakers and migrating birds. Or stroll up to the campus of SVU. Buena Vista is also an Appalachian Trail Community, so thru-hikers should descend for a hearty sit-down lunch – Italian, Mexican, or BBQ – at a downtown restaurant.
River, Mountain, and Valley Towns
Rockbridge County is dotted with inviting small towns. From the historic homes of Brownsburg to the trailside hospitality of Glasgow, from the scenic farms of Raphine to the sleepy charms of Fairfield and Rockbridge Baths, these communities are beautiful places to stop and stretch your legs during a drive, a paddle, or a bike ride.