The best things to do in Bedford to experience the rich history and natural beauty of the area including national monuments, museums, shops and restaurants, and even a founding father’s home.
The Town of Bedford, Virginia is in Bedford County and is filled with both history and natural beauty. Whether you are a looking to enjoy the outdoors, learn some of the local history, or spend some leisure time dining and shopping there is something for you in the historic town of Bedford.
Where to Stay
Bedford is host to several bed and breakfasts as well as many hotels. You can also find plenty of options on Airbnb or VRBO. If you aren’t a local there are so many options, the hardest decision will be which good one to use.
- Peaks of Otter Lodge – This is the best option if you want to visit the area and see the most natural beauty. If you are really feeling the call of nature you can instead stay at the campground.
- The Forget-Me-Not B&B – This small bed and breakfast is a great option for couples that want to be pampered.
- Vanquility Acres Inn – You can find a suite or cottage in this beautiful natural setting just a few minutes outside of town.
- Peaks Street Charmer – This is a good choice for a cozy house where you and your family can spread out a little.
- The Landing at North Shore – If you are hoping to enjoy Smith Mountain Lake this is a great choice. The room even comes with a couple kayaks!
- Super 8 by Wyndham – Sometimes you just want a room to sleep and shower in and there is nothing wrong with that, no fuss no frills.
Things to do
Bedford may be a small town, but there’s a surprising number of things for visitors to do here. We’ve been to Bedford more times than we can count and we are still finding new ways to enjoy the town.
Exploring in Centertown
Downtown Bedford, or Centertown as they call it, is the hub for the town and it’s a great place to start your journey. One of the first things you’ll notice are the small flags on the light poles. You can find descriptions of Bedford’s favored sons and daughters throughout history.
This civic pride is a theme that shows up over and over throughout the history of the town. Another thing to consider is stopping by the Bedford Area Welcome Center to gather further information and some local tips.
There are a few great shops for browsing in Centertown full of anything from antiques to local crafts. These are the easiest shops to walk to from E. Main Street:
- Adams Clocks Repair – You can find all kinds of clocks for sale or stop by to see their clock museum.
- Needful Things Antique Mall – There are three stories of antiques and crafts in the antique mall.
- Bell Treasures – Visitors will find a familiar antique fare in this pleasant shop.
- BVA Mercantile – You can find very unique hand crafted furniture made from reclaimed wood at BVA.
Taking in the History
Bedford is old by American standards. In the late 1700s a few years after America declared independence from Britain, the small village was formed and took on the name Liberty. The community has remained ever since.
When considering the history, there are two periods that loom largest. The first was around the founding of the town, when Thomas Jefferson built a home in the historic community. The second was in the early twentieth century during the D-Day invasion.
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Poplar Forest is Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful summer home. The octagonal building which Jefferson designed is impressive, but even more so when you consider how homes were constructed in the early 1800s.
The other thing I feel compelled to mention is that the foundation that manages the property has made an effort to highlight ALL the people that lived on the property. I felt pulled in different directions on our visit. On the one hand feeling impressed by one of our founding fathers. Also anguish that people were held in bondage at this place.
You can purchase a ticket to do a self-guided tour the home and grounds.
The National D-Day Memorial
The National D-Day Memorial marks the other pivotal moment in Bedford’s history. The memorial stands in Bedford because the town suffered the greatest loss of life per capita for the entire country during World War II on D-Day, when the invasion of Normandy began on Omaha Beach.
The memorial was dedicated in 2001 and is one of the most sobering places I’ve ever been to. Surrounding the property are beautiful views of distant mountains, but it is a place of reverence that I believe everyone that can, should visit.
You can purchase a joint ticket to visit both Poplar Forest and the D-Day Memorial and save a little. If you only have time to visit one, we suggest the D-Day Memorial.
The Bedford Boys Tribute Center
The couple that created this museum were moved to tell the story of the community during WWII. The museum is housed in the old Green’s Drug Store, the location where the community received the telegrams alerting them to their loved one’s fates after D-Day. It’s no longer a drug store but they thought it fitting to keep the historic name.
There are hundreds of artifacts from pictures and letters, to a baseball uniform worn by one of the men prior to his service.
The D-Day memorial is somber and while the Bedford Boys Tribute Center honors the same period in history, it has a different feel. It is a place where the stories of the brave men and women still live.
There is a quote on one wall from George Patton, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God such men lived.”
Tickets are $5 and come with a tour. Once you’ve paid to visit the first time, you can enter the museum for free on future visits.
Bedford Museum and Genealogical Library
The Genealogical Museum’s mission is storing the history of the Bedford community. They feature exhibits on the second floor dedicated to the people that lived in the area from precolonial Native American history to the current day.
You can also visit the gift shop on the first floor of the museum. The museum does not charge for admission but they accept donations.
Where to Eat in Bedford Centertown
Bedford has some great local restaurants whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a super tasty snack. Some of these have historic significance and some are new awesome businesses.
- Liberty Station Restaurant – Liberty Station is built in an old train station and still has some of the trappings of the rail roots. The food is typical American fare and is open for lunch and dinner most days and is very affordable.
- Beale’s Beer – You can grab a tasty micro brew from Beale’s or a quick dinner.
- Benny Soldato’s – Benny’s is new to Bedford but not new to the larger area. They have delicious giant slices of pizza.
- Bridge Street Café – Bridge Street Café is a coffee shop with great coffee and great confections, it’s also on the same street as the Bedford Boys Museum.
Bedford is on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is in a great spot for outdoor activities. Whether you’re up for a tough hike or just want to stroll through pretty gardens, there are some amazing options for visitors to the area.
Clayton Outdoor Center – The Clayton Outdoor Center is a property managed by the University of Lynchburg and home to miles of hiking and even a few hard to find plant species.
In addition to the great trails, there is also a farm house donated by A. Boyd Clayton III with an envy inducing view of Sharp Top mountain.
You can expect to spend a couple hours here enjoying the trails, relaxing by the Big Otter river, or taking in the view. There is no entrance fee, but donations are welcome so they can fund their educational and conservation goals.
Peaks of Otter – This is one of the original recreation locations in the United States and one of the best stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are about half a dozen awesome hiking trails, a great restaurant, lodging, and a beautiful drive along the way.
Visiting Bedford and not visiting the Peaks of Otter, if you’ve never been, is a real missed opportunity. There is so much more to see than a few sentences can capture. We have several posts on the Peaks of Otter and suggest you read our guide to plan your visit.
Orchards – Visiting Johnson Orchard or Gross’ Orchard is a great way to take in part of the living community surrounding the Bedford area. Both orchards have great fresh produce and make incredible treats from their fruits. You can find events throughout the year at each. Johnson Orchard is also host to the Peaks of Otter Winery.
Nearby Day Trips
Smith Mountain Lake State Park – Smith Mountain Lake is a manmade body of water between Bedford and Franklin County. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can take in the rays on the sandy beach or take a dip in the water.
If you aren’t into sand or water, instead check out one of the 14 trails in the state park. The most popular trail is Turtle Island.
Booker T. Washington National Monument – Booker T Washington was born a slave, later freed, and is one of the most influential African Americans in our history. The monument documents his early life and later contribution to post Civil War society.
There is no cost for entry but you can schedule a guided tour. Tours must be scheduled by phone and the park recommends to do so as early as possible. Booker T. Washington National Monument participates in the Junior Ranger Program and you can find out what they cover on the NPS site.
Bedford Wine Trail – The Bedford Wine Trail is a collection of six different wineries. It will take more than one day to complete the entire wine trail and you need to visit some of the wineries on the weekend. If you complete it and have an official map you can turn it in at the welcome center for an official Bedford Wine Trail glass.
Blue Ridge Parkway – There are so many ways to enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of our favorite ways is to take in a beautiful sunset at one of the many overlooks after going for a long drive. Bedford is only about 15 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway and once you are there are endless adventures.
Visiting Virginia’s Blue Ridge and looking for things to do? We have you covered.