Three locations to explore along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Martha Stegar

Floyd, Va., is a prime spot for impromptu musical entertainment.

As the air warms, more travelers will head for the Blue Ridge Parkway, where spring color rivals that of fall once mountain laurel, redbud, and dogwood buds burst.

If you’re headed there, you’ll enjoy discovering the downtown renaissance in Lynchburg, Va., a 25-minute drive from the parkway at Milepost 63.7.

Historic structures now house a diverse selection of restaurants, shops, and attractions, which foster a lively urban scene of galleries, theaters, and music venues. You don’t have to be culinary-focused to enjoy exploring the area’s wineries, breweries, and meadery.

“People often come here because they have a child in one of our five area colleges or universities,” says Alison Chadbourne, Lynchburg Visitor Center manager. “But once they come to the visitor center, they’re surprised at the diversity of things to do.”

Situated along the scenic James River, the city lies in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which means outstanding vistas and outdoor recreation opportunities. Lynchburg is part of the James River Heritage Trail System, with five paved trails and myriad earthen, single-track trails.

Floyd, Va., is a prime spot for impromptu musical entertainment.
Floyd, Va., is a prime spot for impromptu musical entertainment.

Insider’s tip: The local Appalachian Trail Club rates the activity level for its hikes at nbatc.org/hikingschedule.htm.

For a peek at private Lynchburg homes and gardens on April 21, check out Virginia’s Historic Garden Week at vagardenweek.org/main/tourdetails?id=250. The Lynchburg Music Festival, April 23, celebrates the Central Virginia region for a day of shared festivities around music, arts, and food.

Two June events — the James River Wine & Music Festival, June 11, and the James River Batteau Festival, June 18–25 — center on Lynchburg’s waterfront. But, the city’s inland attractions, the award-winning Amazement Square children’s museum, Point of Honor historic residence, and Lynchburg Museum in the Old Courthouse, hold the interests of visitors, too.

Floyd is more than music

About two hours down the parkway from Lynchburg, Floyd County can tickle your senses in many ways.

Floyd’s music jams might have put the county on the map years ago, but the nearly 40 miles of parkway bordering it (the most of any Virginia county) offers productive land that makes agritourism a natural here. To celebrate one of the greatest healing plants of spring — the dandelion — Spikenard

Farm Honeybee Sanctuary stages Dandelion Day on April 16. While the bees are loading up on nectar and pollen after winter, visitors take a tour and enjoy a warm baguette with a cup of dandelion tea with honey.

Mother’s Day weekend, May 6–7, features a plant sale and special program.

Mountain Song Herbals features a personal-health program on April 16, while Riverstone Organic Farm — which sells meat, as well as veggies — holds a class the same day on growing and preserving wild leeks.

Galax has plenty of outdoor activities, but the Rex Theater is a symbol of the town’s musical heritage.
Galax has plenty of outdoor activities, but the Rex Theater is a symbol of the town’s musical heritage.

To wash down the food tastings, head for the small Villa Appalaccia Winery — which reopens April 2 and focuses on Italian wines — or one of Virginia’s largest wineries, Chateau Morrisette. Just off the parkway, Chateau Morissette offers its wine, a farm-to-table restaurant, and two open houses the last two weekends of April.

To be on top of what’s new, don’t miss Five Mile Mountain Distillery, which opened in March as a micro-distiller of moonshine in the traditional copper still over an open flame — the county’s first since Prohibition. Foggy Ridge Cider, near Milepost 174, is just over Floyd’s county line in Carroll County, with regular tastings and music events.

Before leaving Floyd, don’t miss the extensive display of fine and functional artworks at Jacksonville Center for the Arts. April classes range from pressure canning, bread making, and herb drying, to blacksmithing, beginning guitar, and basket weaving.

Two Floyd County women conceived YogaJam, a Labor Day weekend event that includes yoga classes, music, hikes, fun, and meditation.
(floydyogajam.net)

Get outdoors in Galax

An hour’s drive farther southwest on Route 221 will find you in Galax. The town’s old-time and bluegrass music along the Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail reminds us of a time when we entertained ourselves, not only with traditional music, arts, and crafts, but also in the great outdoors.

The area, dotted by blue hills and green valleys, is home to New River Trail State Park, the 57-mile linear park following an abandoned railroad right-of-way. Running parallel to scenic and historic New River for 39 miles, the park passes through Galax and neighboring Carroll County, plus three other counties. The trail’s gentle slope makes it ideal for all ages to hike, bike, and ride horseback.

Varied attractions in the park make it analogous to a Monopoly board. There are two tunnels, three major bridges, nearly 30 smaller bridges and trestles, Chestnut Creek, the New River, and a historic shot tower used more than 200 years ago to make ammunition.

Insider’s tip: Only hikers may access Shot Tower area. A parking fee is required.

For travelers who enjoy camping where they can see the stars clearly at night and hear nocturnal wildlife calls, the park’s four primitive campgrounds — in different locations with different types of sites — are a dream.

Campers keep coming back for Galax’s offerings, as well as those of the park. They take art, craft, or music classes at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts and they enjoy hand-clapping, foot-stomping good times at Barr’s Fiddle Shop, the Galax Recreation Center, and the Blue Ridge Music Center. Plus, there are the performances at the Rex Theater and the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention, the oldest event of its kind in the nation.

Learn more:

Floyd Co. Tourism: visitfloydva.com

Galax Tourism: visitgalax.com

Lynchburg Tourism: discoverlynchburg.com

More about the parkway:

You can learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway and destinations along its route by contacting:

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway Association, blueridgeparkway.org. This site includes an interactive map organized by mile markers.
  • National Park Service, nps.gov/blri.

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