From the magnificent Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway, to the quaint streets of historic downtown, to the shores of Smith Mountain Lake – Bedford offers outdoor adventure and historical treasures, making it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or your next vacation destination! In 2019, Smithsonian Magazine named it one of the “15 Best Small Towns to Visit”!
Bedford is home to the National D-Day Memorial, a deeply moving tribute to the American and Allied forces that fought in the largest amphibious invasion of all time. The Memorial overlooks the community that suffered the greatest loss per capita of any in the United States. The Memorial is an outdoor facility and open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. for self-guided tours. Admission fees apply.
Historic downtown Bedford offers a variety of art galleries, shops, antiques, and restaurants that are within walking distance of each other in an atmosphere of 19th Century buildings. You might find gold at the town’s first craft brewery, Beale’s, which is also located downtown. Its flagship beer is Beale’s Gold and the taproom is themed after the legend of Beale’s Treasure, which is supposedly buried somewhere in Bedford County. Beale’s has a full-service restaurant, indoor and outdoor seating, and special limited beer releases throughout the year.
Two-hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson retired from public life and began to spend time at his private retreat, Poplar Forest, located in the eastern part of Bedford County. Named as one of Virginia’s top 10 attractions by readers of USA Today, Poplar Forest was built in a grove of poplar trees, and the octagonal house offers great insight into the private side of this Founding Father. Guided tours are available and advance tickets are required. After your tour, stop by Apocalypse Ale Works and enjoy a large selection of local craft beer. Jefferson, among many other things, was also a beer brewer, and would definitely approve! Apocalypse offers indoor and outdoor seating, and hard seltzer is on tap in several fruitful flavors.
Bedford County has more mileage along the Blue Ridge Parkway than any county in Virginia. With multiple exits from the Parkway into Bedford, it is easy to explore local wineries, apple and peach orchards, local artisan studios, as well as 25+ trails for hiking, biking, wildlife, and horseback riding. Head to the Peaks of Otter, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and choose from seven different hiking trails, ranging from easy to more difficult. Sharp Top is the most popular with 1.5 miles to the summit and offering impressive 360-degree views. Choose Johnson Farm Trail to explore a 1850s mountain farmhouse, or the Fallingwater Cascades Trail for waterfalls featuring a 260 feet drop. There is also camping, a picnic area, restaurant and lakefront lodge. The Peaks of Otter Lodge is the only hotel located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia!
Bedford County Parks and Recreation manages four county parks (plus a new one coming soon), which includes more than 30 miles of multiuse trails, a bike park, more than 90 holes of disc golf, fitness stations, and a skate park. Bedford’s trail systems and events are making an impact reaching up and down the East Coast. Bedford Trails/BCPR is part of the IMBA Virginia’s Blue Ridge Silver Ride Center designation. Bedford is also starting to be recognized for its disc golf. The newest course, which will officially open in 2021, was co-designed by 5x World Champion Disc Golfer Paul McBeth. Follow Bedford Disc Golf for more information and updates.
Smith Mountain Lake, offering 500+ miles of shoreline, makes up Bedford’s southern border, and is a great place to visit no matter the season! Bring your camping and fishing gear, kayak, or boat, and enjoy the many outdoor amenities offered by Smith Mountain Lake State Park. There is also a fishing pier, boat rentals and a public beach area (seasonal).
No road trip through Bedford would be complete without stopping at one of our five wineries! Peaks of Otter Winery is a six-generation family farm offering dozens of fruit-of-the farm wines, with names like “Grandma’s Apple Pie”, “Chocolate Cherry Bomb”, and “Kiss the Devil”. Don’t miss the apple cider donuts made on site, visiting with the farm animals, and the many photo opportunities, including a Virginia LOVEworks!
You will need more than a day to experience it all, so be sure to check out the many different lodging options that Bedford has to offer. The Bedford Area Welcome Center is the ideal location to get information on local businesses and attractions, featuring brochures, maps, and travel publications for not only Bedford, but also the surrounding area. There is also a gift store, free Wi-Fi, firefighter exhibit, small theater, and a picnic area. The building is fully accessible and parking spaces are available for motor coaches and campers. There are three RV hook-ups and an electric car charging station, including Tesla. Be sure to snap a photo with our LOVE sign for the perfect photo souvenir of your trip!
Cover photo: Smith Mountain Lake, photo by Micah Pick