15 Best Things to Do in Bedford, VA

Best Things to Do in Bedford, VA
Buddy Phillips / shutterstock.com

Welcome to Bedford, Virginia!

Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this charming town is where I live.

It's got the charm of small-town living with a unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventures.

Whether you're a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Bedford offers something that will pique your interest.

Allow me to guide you through some of the best things to do in Bedford, Virginia.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Spend a Tranquil Afternoon at the National D-Day Memorial

Daytime view of the National D-Day Memorial
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The mountain air is calm and crisp as I walk among the grand arch and thoughtful displays that make up the National D-day Memorial.

Situated beautifully in the lap of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this place has been my go-to spot for serene contemplation and tranquility.

I'm here so often it feels as if the stone and granite have absorbed some of my own stories.

The contrast of the peaceful surroundings against the historical significance of this place never fails to invoke a deep sense of gratitude and reverence for the brave soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in one of the most pivotal battles of World War II.

I often join the free guided tours for a deeper understanding of the memorial.

On one such tour, I had the pleasure of being guided by a Korean War veteran.

A sculpture at National D-Day Memorial
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The layers of history he could add to the experience were invaluable.

Yet, the National D-day Memorial isn't teeming with tourists despite its historical significance.

It's often quiet, interrupted only by the occasional school field trip.

However, this doesn't disrupt the peaceful ambiance; instead, it's a heartening sight, seeing the younger generation learning about the sacrifices made by what we often call the greatest generation.

The memorial isn’t just a sad space. It also features beautiful gardens and a reflecting pool, perfect for a peaceful afternoon stroll.

But it's not just the beauty of the place that draws me in.

The knowledge and sense of respect that the memorial instills keep me coming back.

It is a continual reminder of the high price paid for the freedom we now enjoy.

Sculptures at National D-Day Memorial
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Take a Personal Journey Through the Bedford Boys Tribute Center

Living here in Bedford, you can't help but feel a deep-seated connection to history.

Numerous brave young men from our town, known as the 'Bedford Boys,' left their homes and families to fight on the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

That's why I find myself frequently visiting the Bedford Boys Tribute Center, a place that offers a profound and personal insight into the lives of these brave local heroes.

Every visit to this place is always a fantastic experience.

With his incredible knowledge and passion, the docent takes you on a journey back in time.

Through his stories, you connect the grainy television and photo images of those nameless men landing and dying on Normandy's beaches with real human beings with real lives, families, and personalities.

In these moments, the sacrifices made by these men become tangible, and they transition from historical figures to real individuals.

One of the highlights of this place is the chance to meet the wonderful couple who spearheaded setting up the museum.

Their warmth, love for history, and passion for honoring the heroism of the Bedford Boys are genuinely inspiring.

You can't help but feel immense gratitude towards them for bridging the gap between the past and the present.

The exhibits and displays at the Bedford Boys Tribute Center are authentic and captivating.

They bring to life the Bedford Boys' stories, childhood, personalities, and quirks.

Experience the Tranquility of Claytor Nature Center

Just a stone's throw away from my doorstep, the Claytor Nature Center never captivates me.

Each time I step onto those trails, I feel the world's clamor dissipating, replaced by the gentle whisper of the Big Otter River coursing through the center.

It's an inexplicable magnetism that keeps drawing me back.

Every hike is an adventure, a journey into the heart of nature that always leaves me awe-struck.

Towering rock formations lining the river, interspersed with majestic boulders submerged beneath the crystal clear water, are a sight to behold.

The trails along the river's edge and the narrow boardwalk that navigates the floodplains all lead you into the arms of nature's enchanting splendor.

It's not only about the landscapes; it's the serenity that envelops you, the only soundtrack being the melodious chirping of birds and the harmonious gushing of the river.

The nature center itself is a gem tucked away amidst this lush greenery.

While I don't frequently visit on Sundays, the trails are compelling enough to make each trip worthwhile.

And yes, there is an entry fee of $10, but when you experience its tranquility and beauty, you'd agree it's a small price to pay for a slice of paradise.

Another highlight of the Claytor Nature Center is the breathtaking view of the Peaks of Otter.

Standing there, witnessing the magnificent spectacle, I feel a part of something larger beyond comprehension.

Spend a Day at the Historic Avenel House

Front view of the Historic Avenel House
LeeG7144, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can't grow up in Bedford, as I have, without hearing the tales of the Avenel House, our local treasure.

The house that was once known as the town's haunted mansion is now a spectacular venue that has grown into a cherished symbol of our community's history and charm.

Just one visit to this enchanting place, and you'll likely fall in love, just as I did.

The Avenel House is a marvel with its stunning architecture and well-maintained grounds that breathe life into our town's history.

It has become a top choice for hosting intimate gatherings and family events.

Facade of the Historic Avenel House
LeeG7144, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a photographer, I will never forget capturing the essence of our beloved Avenel on a fall day.

The vibrant blend of colors against the elegant backdrop of the house is simply breathtaking.

But the Avenel House is more than just a pretty picture.

It's also a hotspot for those seeking a touch of the supernatural.

I've often heard tales of people experiencing strange occurrences, making it a thrilling spot for intrepid investigators and curious ghost hunters.

Make Falling Creek Park Your Home Away From Home

Do you know that beautiful feeling of fresh grass tickling your feet?

You can find that at Falling Creek Park, where I've considered my 'outdoor living room' for many years.

It is vast and open, offering plenty of space to run, walk, and play to your heart's content.

The playground is a delightful spot for the young, while the public bathrooms and multiple dining spots make it incredibly convenient.

Ample tables mean you can even bring along a feast for a picnic.

Not to forget, the park is punctuated with exercise modules along the walking path that makes for a unique workout experience amid nature's beauty.

The park maintenance is top-notch, with neatly trimmed grass and regular trash collection.

Oh, and did I mention the fantastic Frisbee golf course?

It's brilliantly laid out and makes for a thrilling game, whether you're an avid player or a curious newbie.

The breeze at Falling Creek Park is an experience in itself.

It's soothing, especially when you're sitting along the slope.

The park is generous with parking space, so no worries about finding a spot for your car.

It's also dog-friendly if you want to bring your furry friend along.

Take an Enchanting Journey through Time at Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library

Exterior of Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library
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Every year, when the crisp air of autumn begins to chill the mornings, my son's anticipation soars.

His excitement is not for the coming festivities of Halloween or even Christmas but for the transformation of the top floor of the Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library.

The magic that unfolds there is beyond words: a sprawling, intricate model train display equally captivating for adults and children alike.

The museum itself is a treasure trove of historical artifacts.

I remember the awe I felt when I took a couple of vases to them for display, hand painted by Native Americans in the 1800s.

The intricate detailing and rich cultural heritage encapsulated in those vases were mirrored throughout the museum, making every visit an enriching experience.

Enjoy a Leisurely Weekend at Peaks of Otter Winery

There's something genuinely unique about spending a lazy weekend afternoon at the Peaks of Otter Winery.

The warm and welcoming staff make you feel like family when you enter the door.

Tasting a flight of 8 wine samples is a pleasure for the palate.

I enjoy the freedom to choose the wines I want to sample, and trust me. Their selection doesn't disappoint.

If you're a fan of sweet wine, like me, you're in for a treat.

The cherry cheesecake, twisted tangerine, and strawberry reserves are highly recommended!

While savoring the wines, a cozy ambiance invites you to kick back and relax.

Board games and books litter the premises for anyone looking to enjoy a laid-back afternoon.

And if that wasn't enough, there's also a selection of mouthwatering local produce like jams, salsa, sauces, pickled veggies, and local honey you can take home.

The winery doubles as a country store and is conveniently located next to an orchard.

I often feed the animals on a sunny afternoon, making the most of the tranquil setting.

Whether participating in the fun wine tastings, picking peaches and apples, or attending one of the many festivals and special events, there's always something to do here.

Pay a Nostalgic Visit to Liberty Station

There's something profoundly magical about the Liberty Station, like stepping back in time and enjoying a meal in the grandeur of an old train station.

The restored Norfolk and Southern train station, nestled in the heart of Bedford, is a testament to the past, preserved in the present.

When you set foot in Liberty Station, you are transported back to yesteryears, surrounded by nostalgic terminal decor that adds a unique charm to the place.

The uniqueness of Liberty Station doesn't just stop at the ambiance.

Their menu boasts a delicious array of American comfort fare that you'll be hard-pressed to choose from.

For instance, the Pepper Jack fried cheese sticks are a must-try; they come with a raspberry almond sauce that melts in your mouth and makes you crave more.

Another favorite is their entrée salads - the Almonds Joy Chicken Salad and the Sweet Potato Salad were both big hits.

But what takes the cake at Liberty Station are their cheesecakes.

Every time I visit, I leave room for their delicious cheesecake – it's fantastic and worth trying.

The food at Liberty Station is always fresh, with flavors that tantalize your taste buds.

Enjoy a Local's Take on Beale's Brewery

Exterior of Beale's Brewery
Buddy Phillips / Shutterstock.com

Now, if you're anything like me, a perfect Sunday afternoon involves a cold pint, some hearty grub, and a laid-back atmosphere.

And that's precisely what I found at Beale's.

The place is tucked away in an old warehouse, giving it a relaxed, industrial chic vibe.

Arriving on a sunny day, the place was buzzing.

I waded into the crowd and snagged a spot at an open picnic table.

It felt like the whole community was here, laughing, chatting, and enjoying the live music.

There was a natural family feel, full of friendly faces and good-natured banter.

Signage of Beale's Brewery
Buddy Phillips / Shutterstock.com

I decided to dive into a flight of their brews.

The variety was impressive, with six brews ranging from fruity to stout.

For instance, the Razzle Dazzle, Peach Tea, and Brunch Stout particularly hit the spot.

What's a good beer without some delicious grub?

I ordered the Hawkeye - a pulled chicken with a tangy Buffalo flavor.

My partner chose The Classic Burger. One bite and our eyes lit up.

Spend the Day at Johnson's Orchard

Who doesn't enjoy life's simple pleasures, like biting into a fresh, crunchy apple?

Well, let me tell you, I've found the place that provides exactly that and much more right in my hometown.

Nestled in the heart of Virginia, you'll stumble upon Johnson's Orchard, a destination that has become a regular haunt for me and my family.

As the leaves turn, Johnson's Orchard becomes a hub of activity every autumn.

It's not just about the apple picking (although that alone is worth the visit) but about the whole experience.

From their delectable apple cider donuts to a wine selection that will please even the most discerning palate, there's something in store for everyone.

My kids, in particular, love the petting zoo.

Seeing their faces light up as they interact with the adorable animals is a joy.

But it's not just about the kids; the beautiful scenery provides an ideal backdrop for a peaceful weekend retreat.

As you stroll through the orchard, you are surrounded by vibrant flowers and can pick your fresh apples straight from the tree.

Enjoy Morning Hikes and Lakeside Views at Peaks of Otter Lodge

Exterior of Peaks of Otter Lodge
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The Peaks of Otter Lodge is my favorite destination for a quick weekend getaway.

For example, the relaxed setting of the lodge, with its pared-down rooms and restaurant offering stunning lake views, is perfect for nature lovers like me.

After a long day of hiking, there's nothing better than to sink into a comfortable bed and fall asleep to the sounds of nature.

One of my favorite parts of the room is the balcony.

Scenic views at Peaks of Otter Lodge
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

It overlooks the beautiful Abbot Lake and provides a relaxing space to enjoy morning coffee.

There's also a restaurant at the lodge where you can enjoy a meal while enjoying the breathtaking lake views.

However, the real highlight of Peaks of Otter Lodge is the abundance of nature.

There's nothing like taking a stroll around the lake early in the morning or hiking on the nearby trails to get up close to the local wildlife.

There's always something to marvel at, from the various birds, fish, and squirrels to the occasional sighting of bears and snakes.

Moreover, the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains surround the lodge, and the views are spectacular.

Celebrate the Holidays in Bedford Historic District

Every year, the festive spirit takes over Bedford Historic District and it's a sight to behold.

As you stroll down Main Street, vendors line up with Christmas items.

The closed-off section is a sensory delight - the aroma of popcorn, hot chocolate, and apple cider fills the air.

Also, there's food everywhere, such as sliders, hot dogs & fries, waffles, gingerbread cookies, and cupcakes.

Delicious treats to keep your belly full as you enjoy the festivities.

Moreover, the DJ, dressed in a festive Christmas suit, did a fantastic job.

After the energetic and finely costumed Dance Troupe ended their routine, I couldn't help but wish for the music to start up again.

Take a Journey Through Time at Big Otter Mill

Exterior of Big Otter Mill
LeeG7144, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the treasures of our town is tucked away on the outskirts of Bedford - the Big Otter Mill.

You wouldn't believe the transformation this old mill has undergone.

I remember seeing it in its initial stages, all worn and deteriorated.

But seeing it now, beautifully restored, standing proud and tall, is truly a sight.

An afternoon visit to the readily accessible Mill is easy.

It's an outdoor experience that doesn't pose a problem because the surroundings are stunning.

The sound of water flowing by is the perfect backdrop for a quiet, meditative stroll.

But what truly stirs my heart is the dedication of the team working on this historic project.

They're ensuring that all the original parts of the mill are preserved and raising funds to make the mill operational again, just like it was in its glory days.

Final Thoughts

The charm of Bedford, Virginia, lies not just in its historic sites or breathtaking landscapes but in the countless ways you can engage with both.

Each day here offers a new opportunity to discover a different facet of this gem of a town.

Life in Bedford, Virginia, is genuinely a delightful blend of history, nature, and culture.

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