Fun Things to Do in Natural Bridge, VA
Searching for the best things to do in Natural Bridge, VA? Natural Bridge is home to two major Virginia tourist attractions: The Caverns at Natural Bridge and Natural Bridge State Park. This region is also the place to find wonderful things to do in Virginia. When you enjoy lodging at the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel, you can take advantage of all the many things to do in Natural Bridge, VA, and the surrounding Virginia Shenandoah Valley. Learn more about fantastic Virginia Getaways to Natural Bridge, including vacation packages, Virginia craft beer festivals, history , and outdoor excursions.
Virginia’s Rockbridge County is a hot spot to shop small, with options ranging from antiques to unique boutiques in downtown Lexington. Visitors also enjoy the experience of delectable dining throughout including The Colonial Dining Room and The Red Fox Tavern. Tastings at local vineyards and craft breweries is a must. Our nearby favorites are Great Valley Farm Brewery, Devils Backbone Outpost Brewery and Tap Room, and Rockbridge Vineyards. Visitors have access to the great outdoors to enjoy our mountains, waterways, and enticing arts and local historic interpretation.
Click below to learn how you can receive our free comprehensive Vacation Guide to Natural Bridge, VA with a locals insight into the best places to go, things to do, and must-see attractions.
Natural Bridge Vacation Guide
Natural Bridge State Park
Distance from hotel: 0.0 miles
Natural Bridge is Virginia’s newest state park. The park is one of the oldest tourist destinations in the United States. This popular tourist attraction is located in the community of Rockbridge County. The Bridge has been included in several “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” lists, mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It has also been designated a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Bridge Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for kids ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are free.
Gates are open from 8: a.m. until dusk.
The Caverns at Natural Bridge
The Caverns at Natural Bridge were discovered just before the turn of the 20th century and became available to the public in 1977. Open seasonally March through November, visitors enjoying the Natural Bridge Caverns tour descend more than 34 stories deep within the Earth to get to the magnificent, natural display. While underground, tourists can explore the Natural Bridge Caverns and view their many special features, including structures such as the Colossal Dome room. This room is an enormous, dome-shaped element that was created over thousands of years. Visitors will also see Mirror Lake, the Well Room, and the stalactites and stalagmites that grow from the Canyon Room.
Natural Bridge Zoo
Distance from hotel: 1.3 Miles
Open mid-March through early December, the Natural Bridge Zoo is privately owned and offers a petting zoo and close encounters tours with some of their visitors’ favorite residents! Feed a lemur, visit with the new babies, get close with the big cats, and more.
Dinosaur Kingdom II
OPENING MAY 16! We will be open 10 am-6 pm May 16 & 17 and then open daily 10 am-6 pm beginning May 23! Experience a wooded, walking adventure of the wildest, weirdest, craziest dinosaur park the Washington Post has called Amazing! Brilliant! Hilarious! This is definitely not your father’s dinosaur park!
Virginia Safari Park
Distance from hotel: 5.1 Miles
Virginia’s only drive-thru zoo is our neighbor! Drive your own vehicle through the 180-acre park or hop aboard the tractor-drawn wagon for an even more intriguing experience. As if getting up close and personal with free-roaming animals weren’t exciting enough, the aviary, giraffe-feeding station, petting area, and kangaroo walk-about are additional must-sees.
Virginia Gold Orchard
Distance from hotel: 5.0 Miles
Located eight minutes up the road, Virginia Gold Orchard is a family-run farm dedicated to growing the very best tasting Asian pears.
Established in 1990 by Paul and Youngsuk Estabrook, the orchard currently consists of about 2,000 Asian pear trees. Every fall they harvest up to 16 different varieties of Asian pears, each one ripening at a different time.
Halcyon Days Cider Company
Distance from hotel: 4.6 Miles
Halcyon Days Cider Co. is a hands-on, family-owned and operated small farm and cidery. Halcyon Days have blended their deep respect for traditional methods with newly refined techniques to create their small batch cider production. As their name suggests, their aim is to return to a simpler time infused with calm and happiness.
Stop in for a flight. Call for hours of operation - 540-291-1340
Great Valley Farm Brewery & Winery
Distance from hotel: 5.2 Miles
Rockbridge County’s newest brewery is also a member of the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. Producing small-batch craft beer, Great Valley Farm Brewery sits on 27 picturesque acres with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.
Stop in for a flight Wednesday through Sunday.
Twin River Outfitters
Distance from hotel: 11.8 Miles
A day on the river will do you good, and Twin River Outfitters is nearby to help. Rent a canoe, kayak, or tube for a leisurely fishing, floating, or paddling trip. Guided trips and moonlight paddles are also available.
Virginia Military Institute
Distance from hotel: 13.6 miles
Located just 20 minutes from the VMI campus, the hotel is an ideal choice for family, friends, alumni, and those attending on-campus events. When you visit, seek out Jackson Memorial Hall to tour the VMI Museum. Outside nearby stands Moses Ezekiel’s statue, “Virginia Mourning Her Dead.”
Washington & Lee University
Distance from hotel: 14 miles
Located just 20 minutes from the Washington & Lee campus, the hotel is an ideal choice for family, friends, alumni, and those attending on-campus events. No visit to W&L is complete without a visit to Lee Chapel. Be sure to leave a penny at Traveller’s gravesite.
Virginia Horse Center
Distance from hotel: 16.2 miles
The Virginia Horse Center stands at the forefront of Virginia’s $1.2B equine economy. The Natural Bridge Historic Hotel and Conference Center is delighted to work in partnership to encourage tourism and accomplish our shared missions in recreation, education, and preservation.
VHCF boasts 600+ acres of picturesque grounds that hold a 4,000 seat coliseum, eight barns to accommodate 1,200 horses, 19 show rings, cross-country, and combined carriage driving courses and campgrounds, and offers full catering and café services. The VHCF also hosts many non-equine events such as dog shows, BMX, agriculture programs, and the Rockbridge Regional Fair & Farm Show.
Every weekend offers a variety of opportunities for competitors and spectators alike! Check their calendar of events for a complete schedule.
For more Travel information, please consult these recommended sites:
Lexington and the Rockbridge Area Tourism Virginia Tourism Corporation Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Virginia State Parks
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THE 10 BEST Things to Do Near Natural Bridge State Park, VA
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Free & Cheap Things to Do in Natural Bridge, VA
- The list below includes 39 free or cheap things to do in or near Natural Bridge, Virginia, including 50 different types of inexpensive activities like Specialty Museums, Family Fun Center, Caverns & Caves and Gardens.
- From Butterflies at the Bridge to Virginia Safari Park, there are a variety of budget-friendly attractions in Natural Bridge and in nearby cities within 25 miles like Lexington , Bedford and Lynchburg .
Butterflies at the Bridge
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Top 10 Things to Do in Natural Bridge, VA
In North America , United States , Virginia by Erik @ DIY Travel HQ September 11, 2022 Leave a Comment
Get ready to spend a weekend enjoying all the fun things to do in Natural Bridge, VA with kids. Find out all the unique and family friendly attractions inside!
Things to Do in Natural Bridge, VA
When we were planning our Virginia road trip, we knew we wanted to stop at Natural Bridge State Park. It wasn’t until we started researching nearby attractions that we realized how many amazing things to do in Natural Bridge, VA existed.
Most of them are weather dependent so try to pick a pleasant weekend. They range from a few attractions on the Blue Ridge Parkway, sampling beer and cider, feeding wildlife, exploring natural wonders, and other roadside diversions.
The best part is that everything is family friendly! What are you waiting for?
Top 15 Things to Do in Lexington, Virginia
Many of the things to do in Lexington, VA are derived from the existence of Washington and Lee University, and Virginia Military Institute. Find out how these two schools shaped the town!
1. Natural Bridge State Park
The Natural Bridge stands 215 feet above the surrounding gorge carved out by Cedar Creek, and was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although you can explore Natural Bridge State Park more thoroughly, it takes five minutes to see the main attraction. It is also possible to visit the living history Native American Monacan Village and 30 foot Lace Falls on the Cedar Creek Trail.
The Natural Bridge is accessed from a flight of stairs at the visitor center. Don’t miss the small museum on the lower level to learn more about the local history. There is also a light show sporadically throughout the year.
- Entrance Fee: $9
- Hours: 9 am – dusk
2. Virginia Safari Park
Virginia Safari Park is how I remember Six Flags Great Adventure Safari as a kid, before they mandated that everyone has to take a company safari jeep instead of personal vehicles. It is great to know that you can still pack your family into a car and get within arm’s reach of many beautiful animals.
You can actually do even better at Virginia Safari Park as many animals will stick their heads through rolled down windows to get the buckets of food inside the car. It is amazing having the animals inside your own car, but also amusing watching it happen to vehicles around you as well.
The experience is not cheap when you factor in per person admission and feed bucket purchases, but it is definitely an unforgettable moment. Try not to skimp on the animal feed as that is what takes the experience to the next level. You can also come back through the same day for free.
When you finish with the large drive-thru enclosure full of friendly animals, head over to the walking zoo. Here you will get the chance to see predators, and feed giraffes and birds as well.
- Admission: Adults $26.95; Children $18.95
- Animal Feed: $5 per bucket, $3 for goat feed, $2 per Budgie food stick, $5 romaine lettuce for giraffe
- Hours: Vary by season, but at least 9 am – 5 pm March thru November with gates closing at 4 pm
3. Caverns at Natural Bridge
Although kids may enjoy Caverns at Natural Bridge, there are far better caves in the United States and around the world. We recommend Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. If you still choose to visit, get the combo ticket with National Bridge State Park.
On the 45 minute Caverns at Natural Bridge tour expect to descend 34 stories to the Colossal Dome Room. Other attractions include Mirror Lake, Well Room, and Canyon Room.
The tour guides are friendly and do a good job highlighting unique cave formations. Don’t forget a light jacket since it is a constant 54 degrees once inside.
- Admission: Adults $19, Children $12
- Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily during the summer; shoulder season closes at 5 pm; last tour is 1 hour prior to closing
4. Halycon Days Cider
Visit Halycon Days Cider if you need to balance all the outdoor things to do in Natural Bridge, VA with a burst of flavor that will excite your taste buds. There are over 20 ciders on tap in the restored 1860’s log cabin! If you can’t decide on just one, try four samples on an $8 flight.
All the ciders are made from 100% Virginia apples. You can take a tour of 50 apple varieties on the 1.7 mile Apple Orchard Labyrinth that is comprised of over 2,000 trees. The path takes you through the history of apple introduction from Central Asia to America.
The ciders average 7% alcohol by volume so stop by the tasting room prior to walking the Apple Orchard Labyrinth. You can also take a cider filled plastic cup for your exploration, or bottles for the road.
- Hours: 12 pm – 7 pm Wednesday through Saturday; 12 pm – 6 pm Sunday
5. Dinosaur Kingdom II
Mark Cline is the creator of Dinosaur Kingdom II , and Foamhenge that was recently relocated from the Natural Bridge area. To the uninitiated, Dinosaur Kingdom II tells the role dinosaurs played during the Civil War.
This is a roadside attraction that stretches the realm of reality, but is so unbelievable that it makes it enjoyable. Definitely add this to your list of things to do in Natural Bridge, VA with kids. There are so many photo opportunities and chances to adlib your own story that you will be talking about your experience for years.
- Admission: Adults $17; Children $14
- Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily during the summer; 10 am – 6 pm weekends only during the shoulder season
6. Great Valley Farm Brewery
Another great spot to get your drink on in a pleasant environment is Great Valley Farm Brewery . The tap room is on the smaller side, but there is ample space outside with amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A flight of four samples is $9 so you can try all eight beers on tap with a second flight, or if you visit with your partner. Great Valley Farm Brewery currently only sells growlers to go, but may be adding production in the future. They specialize in Belgian style ales, but offer a wide assortment that changes week to week.
It is also possible to sample wine grown from grapes located on their relatively new 27 acre farm. When planning your visit, check their events schedule and stop by when there are food trucks and music for an even better experience.
- Hours: 12 pm – 7 pm Wednesday and Thursday; 12 pm – 8 pm Friday and Saturday; 12 pm – 6 pm Sunday
7. Natural Bridge Zoo
The private Natural Bridge Zoo is not good value when compared to nearby Virginia Safari Park. Both the zoo, cages, and enclosures are small overall and not worth the price of admission compared to larger city zoos.
The highlight for kids is being able to feed several animals including giraffes, llamas, deer, and camels. The Natural Bridge Zoo also offers elephant rides.
- Admission: Adults $20; Children $14
- Elephant Ride: $15-20 per person (minimum 2 people)
- Hours: 10 am – 5 or 6 pm March through November, with an extra hour on weekends
8. Devil’s Marbleyard
The Devil’s Marbleyard hike is located on the slopes of Blue Ridge Mountain and offers a unique vantage point among Shenandoah Valley hikes . Drive east on back roads until you reach the small pull-off for Belfast Trail on Maps.me .
There are a few stream crossings, but the trail is easy to follow and not too strenuous until you reach the Devil’s Marbleyard. It is only at the rock slide that the hike becomes more challenging and the majority of 170 meters in elevation change occurs.
Although the U.S. is a relatively safe country for travel, medical costs are high so if you’re an international visitor we recommend purchasing travel insurance before any trip. We’ve been using World Nomads through 80+ countries over the past 12 years and have been really happy with their coverage and services.
Although you can scramble over the boulders early on, the thinning trail keeps running alongside Devil’s Marbleyard on the right hand side. I left the trail too early and spent considerably more time reaching the top.
There are outstanding views from the top and just above the group of stranded trees amidst the boulders. Go back along the same path. You can then return for other things to do in Natural Bridge, VA, or slowly drive along the dirt road until you reach the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Duration: 1-3 Hours
9. Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway traverses the Blue Ridge Mountains in both Virginia and North Carolina. Most of the highlights are in the North Carolina section, but we discovered several things to do in Natural Bridge, VA on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The beauty of all the attractions are that they are either quick lookouts, or short trails just off the road. Our favorite viewpoint was Thunder Ridge Overlook.
10. Peaks of Otter
The Peaks of Otter are the last big attraction on the Blue Ridge Parkway before you reach Roanoke, Virginia. We originally thought we could drive to the top of Sharp Top Mountain, but they block the entrance road with a swing gate. Anyone looking to climb the final stairs to the top will have to walk all the way up.
We had a tight schedule during our visit, and enjoyed our stroll around Peaks of Otter Lake instead. There are nice views from the top, but not drastically different than many of the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks. Parking is available at the Peaks of Otter Recreation Area.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission if you click on a link and purchase something that we’ve recommended, at no extra cost to you.
Updated September 2022
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The 15 Best Things to Do in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA
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Located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, about halfway between Roanoke and Waynesboro, Lexington VA is a small college town with a rich history dating back to the American Revolution.
Lexington is part of Rockbridge County , which is home to the Natural Bridge (once owned by Thomas Jefferson), Washington & Lee University (one of the oldest colleges in the US), the Cyrus McCormick Farm (where the mechanical reaper was invented), and countless other sites of historical importance.
But Downtown Lexington is also home to an array of fantastic farm-to-table restaurants , trendy clothing boutiques, quirky gift shops, and hip art galleries .
The town is situated at the intersection of two historic routes (U.S. Route 11 and U.S. Route 60) and two modern highways (Interstate 64 and Interstate 81), with the Blue Ridge Parkway just 11 miles away.
So it makes a great base for exploring the heart of the Shenandoah Valley region.
Read on for our guide to the best things to do in Lexington VA (and nearby Natural Bridge VA), from state parks and historic sites to waterfalls , hiking trails , and quirky roadside attractions.
READ MORE: The Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in Virginia
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Lexington va & natural bridge va guide.
- Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Explore Downtown Lexington VA
- Hike to Crabtree Falls VA
- Lexington Carriage Company Historical Tour
- Oak Grove Cemetery
- Sample Lexington Restaurants
- Stonewall Jackson House
- University Chapel & Galleries
- Tour the VMI Museum
- Wade’s Mill
- Visit Statons Creek Falls
- Caverns at Natural Bridge
- Dinosaur Kingdom II
- Natural Bridge State Park
- Virginia Safari Park
READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Towns in Virginia to Visit
The Best Things to Do in Lexington VA
1. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
Located 11 miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Lexington VA offers accessibility to the world-renowned scenic route, while also providing an array of attractions and activities in town.
Some of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks near Lexington include the Chimney Rock Mountain Overlook (Milepost 44.9), Bluff Mountain Overlook (MP 52.8), View Rice Mountain (MP 53.6), and the Otter Lake Overlook (MP 63.1), which offers lovely reflections when the fall colors are peaking.
Popular Blue Ridge Parkway hikes nearby include the 0.3-mile Indian Gap Trail (MP 47.5), which offers great views of seasonal wildflowers ; the 3.5-mile Otter Creek Trail (MP 60.8), which begins at the Otter Creek Campground; and the short trails at the James River Overlook (MP 63.6).
There aren’t many Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls in this area. But there is a lovely cascade on the backside of Otter Lake, the twin streams of Wigwam Falls at the Yankee Horse Ridge Overlook (MP 34), and the stunning Crabtree Falls is just 6.3 miles off the BRP at Milepost 27.
READ MORE: The Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hotels & Cabin Rentals
2. Explore Downtown Lexington VA
You don’t have to be a hardcore history buff to get a kick out of exploring downtown Lexington VA, but it certainly helps.
The city of Lexington was established by the Virginia Assembly in 1777, and named for the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord (which marked the beginning of the American Revolution).
The small town was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1796, and it was bombarded during the Civil War by Union troops led by General David Hunter. Both Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are buried there.
Lexington is home to two historic colleges. Virginia Military Institute (established in 1839) was America’s first state military college, while Washington & Lee University (founded in 1749 as Augusta Academy) is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States.
As a result, downtown Lexington is a unique blend of historic and modern, with the hip shops and trendy restaurants you’d expect from a college town, and lots of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s an exceptionally walkable area, but we found the best way to get insight into the history was to take a guided horse carriage tour, which we’ll discuss below.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Roanoke VA
3. Hike the Crabtree Falls Trail
Though it’s often confused with the Crabtree Falls near Little Switzerland NC , this popular waterfall in Montebello VA is easily one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Virginia mountains.
Located 6 miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 27, Crabtree Falls VA is the highest of all vertical-drop cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi. So it’s well worth making the 30-mile drive from Lexington.
The first overlook is just a few hundred feet from the parking lot on a gently sloped, well-maintained trail. But you’re really missing out if you don’t hike the entire 3-mile, moderately strenuous trail.
There are a total of 5 overlooks, 5 major cascades, and several smaller cascades that make up the 1200-foot waterfall, with spectacular views of the Tye River Valley once you reach the top.
From there you can continue another 1.2 miles to Crabtree Meadows, which is an amazing place for an afternoon picnic before hiking back down to the the parking lot.
READ MORE: Tips for Tackling the McAfee Knob Hike Near Roanoke, Virginia
4. Lexington Carriage Company Historical Tour
Lexington has a total land area of just 2.5 square miles, and the heart of Historic Downtown Lexington is essentially just 16 square blocks.
But while Downtown Lexington is incredibly easy to explore on foot, the Lexington Carriage Company’s Historical Tours are a great way to learn about the 350-year history of this unique mountain town .
Offered daily from April 1 through October 31, the tours depart across the road from the Lexington Visitor Center at 106 E. Washington St. This is also a great place to get tips and a map of Downtown Lexington.
The slow clip-clop of the horses’ hooves will take you back in time as your guide regales you with stories of the area’s Revolutionary War, Civil War, and early 20th century history .
Sites covered along the way include many of our picks for the best things to do in Lexington VA, including the VMI and Washington & Lee campuses, Stonewall Jackson House, Lee Chapel, and Oak Grove Cemetery, as well as a gorgeous residential district dating from the 1820s to the 1880s.
READ MORE: Camping, Hiking & Wild Horses in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA
5. Oak Grove Cemetery
Originally known as the Presbyterian Cemetery (which dates back to 1789), this Downtown Lexington cemetery was renamed the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in 1949.
But the Lexington City Council voted unanimously to change the name again in 2020, due to the divisive nature of having it named after the controversial Confederate general (who was buried there in 1863).
The name change came after the rise of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. And it happened despite a petition in opposition of the change, which garnered around 7,000 signatures.
Still, Jackson’s grave and statue remain in the historic cemetery, as do the remains of some 144 Confederate veterans, two Virginia Governors, and Margaret Junkin Preston (a.k.a. the “Poet Laureate of the Confederacy”).
Free maps for a self-guided walking tour through the cemetery are available via the Historic Lexington website .
READ MORE: The Best Christmas Tree Farms in Virginia
6. Sample Lexington Restaurants
Rockbridge County’s culinary offerings aren’t as diverse as some of the larger Blue Ridge Mountain towns we’ve visited, such as Asheville and Roanoke .
But the restaurants in Lexington do offer a nice balance of upscale foodie-friendly fare and more budget-friendly options that appeal to the town’s nearly 4,000 college students.
The best Lexington restaurants tap into the abundance of farm-to-table ingredients grown in the area, such as grits and grains from historic Wade’s Mill in Raphine, meats from Seven Hills Farm in Lynchburg, and maple syrup from Puffenbarger’s Sugar Orchard .
Our favorite upscale restaurants in Lexington included the chef-driven cuisine at Haywood’s Piano Bar & Grill (part of The Georges Inn), the intimate elegance of Bistro On Main , and classic Southern favorites found at the ever-popular Southern Inn .
Much like the college town of Boone NC , Lexington’s more affordable restaurants also offer excellent options. Don’t miss the breakfast sandwiches and donuts at Pure Eats , the delectable desserts of the Sweet Treats Bakery , and the burgers and retro kitsch of the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge.
READ MORE: The Best Restaurants in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA for Foodies
7. Stonewall Jackson House
Stonewall Jackson is arguably the most divisive leader of the Confederacy.
He’s revered in some circles for his military strategy and devotion to the “ Lost Cause ,” but widely reviled for his enslavement of Africans and his role in a seditious insurrection that left more than 700,000 Americans dead.
In the name of racial justice, his great-great-grandsons successfully urged the city of Richmond VA to remove its Stonewall Jackson monument in 2017. And in 2020, the Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors voted to remove its prominent statue of Jackson after allegations of racism at the state-supported military school.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that the Stonewall Jackson House Museum (which is part of VMI’s Museum System) focuses more on his life as a professor, church leader, businessman, and community leader in the decade before the Civil War, when he lived in Lexington and taught at VMI.
Tours of the historic home are offered on the hour and half-hour, with the last tour of the day starting at 4PM. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $7 for kids ages 6 to 17. Kids under 6 and VMI cadets and staff are free.
READ MORE: The Appalachian Culture & History of the Blue Ridge Mountains
8. University Chapel & Museum
Established in 1749 as Augusta Academy, Washington & Lee University was later renamed after George Washington (who made an enormous contribution in 1796) and Confederate General Robert E. Lee (who served as president of the college for five years until his death in 1870).
But just as Stonewall Jackson’s name was removed from Oak Grove Cemetery in 2020, this landmark was renamed from Lee Chapel by the university’s board of trustees in 2021.
The university discontinued a school holiday known as “Founders Day,” which was held on Lee’s birthday, and announced a complete redesign of the chapel and museum in order to, “restore its unadorned design and physically separate the auditorium from the Lee family crypt and Lee memorial sculpture.
The chapel, which opened in 1868, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places . The museum was installed in the basement in 1928.
The museum includes an exhibition on the university’s history, a changing exhibition gallery, and a museum shop. Visitors can also see Lee’s 1870 president’s office and Edward Valentine’s Recumbent Lee statue.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Lakes in the Virginia Mountains
9. Tour the VMI Museum
Created in 1856 with the acceptance of a Revolutionary War musket, the VMI Museum was the first public museum in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
A must-see for anyone interested in the 183-year history of Virginia Military Institute, the museum is home to some 15,000 artifacts of US military history.
Many of the museum’s exhibits relate to famous alumni and/or staff, including the mounted hide of Stonewall Jackson’s favorite horse, a VMI belt worn by WWII General George Patton, and seven Medals of Honor.
There’s also an impressive antique firearm collection assembled by Henry M. Stewart Jr. (VMI Class of 1935) over the course of 50 years, many of which are one-of-a-kind or the only surviving example of its type.
The total collection includes over 800 pieces, and includes the air rifle carried by Lewis and Clark during their 1803 Northwest Expedition.
Visitors interested in taking a free 40- to 50-minute, cadet-guided walking tour of the historic VMI Post can gather in the lobby of the VMI Museum (2nd floor, Memorial Hall) at 12 noon daily.
READ MORE: Things to Do at Center In The Square in Downtown Roanoke VA
10. Wade’s Mill
Located about 19 miles north of Lexington in Raphine VA, Wade’s Mill is the oldest operating commercial grist mill in the state of Virginia.
It was built in 1750 by Scots-Irish immigrant Joseph Kennedy, who called it “Captain Kennedy’s Mill.” The name changed after the grist mill was purchased by the Wade family in 1882.
Now included on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, Wade’s Mill offers three floors of historic milling equipment, museum displays, gardens , and picnic areas.
But it’s not just a historical landmark! Wade’s Mill still stone-grinds premium and heirloom grains into 100% natural, preservative-free flours, grits, cornmeals, and specialty mixes, which are available in the Mill Shop and from their online store.
This 272-year-old Virginia attraction offers free admission and is open Thursday to Sunday from April to mid-December. But note that the waterwheel and historic equipment only run on Saturdays and Sundays.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)
11. Visit Statons Creek Falls
Best things to do in natural bridge va.
12. The Caverns at Natural Bridge
Though not quite as expansive as Luray Caverns in Luray VA or Grand Caverns just north of Waynesboro VA , the Caverns at Natural Bridge are still worthy of a visit for anyone making day trips to the area.
Discovered in the 1890s and opened to the public in 1977, the caverns extend 34 stories beneath the Earth’s surface, making this the deepest commercial cavern on the east coast.
Located just a few minutes by car (or a 15-minute walk) from Natural Bridge State Park, the Caverns offer guided tours that last about 45 minutes.
There are several noteworthy rooms you’ll visit along the way, including special features such as small mirrored “ lakes ” with reflected lights and the massive stalactites and stalagmites of the Canyon Room.
Tours generally start every hour on the hour, and admission ranges from $12 for kids ages 3 to 12 to $18 for adults, with a 10% discount for military members with ID.
READ MORE: The 7 Best Caves & Caverns in North Carolina
13. Dinosaur Kingdom II
From Goats On The Roof and the Expedition Bigfoot Museum in North Georgia to Mystery Hill in Blowing Rock NC , we love wacky roadside attractions as much as anyone.
But this Virginia dinosaur park in Natural Bridge is one of the weirdest ones we’ve ever visited. And it all starts with the entryway, where a Confederate solider fights a T-Rex atop a vintage railroad car.
The story behind the attraction is that it’s 1864, and Union General David Hunter has raided Lexington and is moving towards Lynchburg. Union scouts discover that their cannon fire has awakened prehistoric creatures that have been cryogenically hibernating in Natural Bridge VA for millions of years.
The Union Army decides to use the giant reptiles as “weapons of mass destruction against the South. But you will soon see that not everything goes as planned…”
In short, Dinosaur Kingdom II feels a bit like Jurassic Park on hallucinogenics. There are 30 fiberglass dinosaurs attacking Union soldiers, with a cameo by Abraham Lincoln and a gorilla wearing a cowboy hat.
Created in 2005 by local artist Mark Cline, the place is a weird, wild, one-of-a-kind experience!
READ MORE: Exploring the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke VA
14. Natural Bridge State Park
One of the most popular Virginia State Parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains , Natural Bridge State Park is located about 40 miles northeast of Roanoke and 13 miles south of Lexington.
It’s named after a 215-foot high limestone formation, which towers over a gorge that was carved out over the course of centuries by Cedar Creek.
Dedicated as one of Virginia’s newest state parks in 2016, the park has been listed as a US National Historic Landmark since 1988. George Washington once carved his initials in the famous rock, and Thomas Jefferson bought the property from King George III.
Recently recognized as an International Dark Sky Park , the state park offers 7 miles of easy hiking trails . But the best is the Cedar Creek Trail, which goes under the Natural Bridge, past a model Monacan Indian Village, and leads to Lace Falls (one of two waterfalls in the park).
Other fun activities here include fishing, having a picnic (there are numerous shelters), and a Children’s Discovery Area located just a short drive away from the Natural Bridge Visitor Center.
READ MORE: Visitor’s Guide to Camping & Hiking in Natural Bridge State Park, VA
15. Virginia Safari Park
Not to be confused with the Natural Bridge Zoo, the Virginia Safari Park is the only drive-through safari in Virginia. But the 180-acre property also includes a 10-acre walk-through section as well.
The experience starts at the ticket window, where you have the option of buying buckets of food for feeding the 1000+ free-roaming animals who call the safari park home.
Your best bet is to stock up heavily or be prepared to ration carefully, or you’ll run out of food less than halfway through (as we did).
Once you drive through the gates, be prepared for a gauntlet of alpacas, llamas, ostriches, deer, wildebeests, elk , antelope, bison, and more approaching any open windows in search of tasty handouts.
It can be a little overwhelming at first. But once you get past the initial rush of animals, you’ll see an incredible array of exotic species, from Japanese Sika deer and Bactrian camels to Himalayan yaks and African rhinos.
The walk-through section allows you get up close to goats, penguins, kangaroos, and giraffes. And if you buy food sticks for the budgies, there are great selfie opportunities like the one above!
READ MORE: Goats On The Roof: Family Friendly Fun Near Clayton GA
Lexington VA Cabin Rentals
Steeles Tavern Manor
With two colleges in the heart of town, there are plenty of hotels in Lexington VA to choose from. But if you want that “getting away from it all” feeling, head 17 minutes north to Steeles Tavern Manor .
Ranked #1 on TripAdvisor as the best Bed & Breakfast in Virginia , the 106-year-old manor house sits on 50 pastoral acres. The bucolic setting includes a spring-fed pond, meandering creek, in-ground pool, and beautiful views.
Owners Dana and Trey Tumminello are exquisite hosts who serve up the best breakfast we had in Rockbridge County. They source their ingredients directly from Shenandoah Valley farms and markets, with eggs from Redbud Ridge Farm, bacon from Buffalo Creek Farm, and grains from Wades Mill.
But as much as we loved the B&B itself, their Shenandoah Valley cabin rentals provided a more intimate and romantic experience. They have 5 cabins : We stayed in the pet-friendly Pond View Cabin, where we watched cows grazing in the pasture behind the pond while soaking in the hot tub and sipping coffee.
Though we only spent one night in the cabin, it’s a place we’ll gladly return to the next time we visit Lexington & Natural Bridge. –by Bret Love; lead image courtesy LexingtonVirginia.com
We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship.
Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore.
Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.
When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!
Bret and Mary
The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.
Virginia Safari Park
Virginia Safari Park 229 Safari Lane, Natural Bridge, VA 24578 Phone: (540) 291-3205 www.virginiasafaripark.com 180 Acre Drive-Thru Adventure featuring over 1,000 free roaming animals from around the world. Come feed, pet,…
Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge State Park 6477 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578 Phone: (540) 291-1326 www.dcr.virginia.gov Once owned by Thomas Jefferson and listed on the National Register of Historic Places,…
Natural Bridge Zoo
Natural Bridge Zoo 5784 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, VA 24578 Phone: (540) 291-2420 www.naturalbridgezoo.com Largest & most complete collection of animals in Virginia. Enjoy an African Elephant Ride, animal petting…
Caverns at Natural Bridge
Caverns at Natural Bridge 6313 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578 (540) 291-2482 www.naturalbridgeva.com Venture 34 stories below the earth's surface to see nature's magnificent underground landscape of dripstone,…
Dinosaur Kingdom II
Dinosaur Kingdom II 5784 S. Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, VA 24578 Phone: (540) 464-2253 dinosaurkingdomii.com It’s 1864. Them wacky Yankees is at it again! Tryin’ to use living dinosaurs as…
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Enewsletter, a getaway from the bridge to the ridge.
When you getaway to Natural Bridge , you’re treated to an array of outdoor opportunities, history, and old school family fun.
The obvious beginning to a Natural Bridge getaway is the iconic National Historic Landmark, the Natural Bridge itself . A walk along Cedar Creek at Natural Bridge State Park leads to the soaring limestone arch that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson and still bears the carved initials of George Washington, who once surveyed it. If there’s a selfie spot for day one, this is it! Seeing “the bridge” is just the beginning of your explorations. Follow the trail to discover the Monacan Indian Village and Lace Falls. Wrap up your Cedar Creek Trail walk with a lunch at the Archway Deli , then head to the Caverns at Natural Bridge , the deepest caverns on the East Coast! Cocktails, craft beer, and wine are all available with your dinner at Red Fox Tavern , located inside the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center. At dusk, wander back down to the Natural Bridge for a presentation of “The Drama of Creation”. Enjoy your overnight stay in the newly remodeled rooms of the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center or check into a nearby cabin at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Camp Resort .
Virginia Gold Orchard is an Asian pear farm, and you’re just in time for the harvest! Pay the Estabrook family a visit to secure a sack of fresh pairs before you climb aboard the tractor-drawn wagon at the Virginia Safari Park , Virginia’s only drive-thru zoo. Be sure to explore the aviary, feed the giraffes, and pet an animal or two before taking in the craft beer and scenic Blue Ridge Mountain views at neighboring Great Valley Farm Brewery . When you depart Natural Bridge, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway . The scenery and foliage are spectacular! If heading south toward Roanoke, you’ll see some of the area’s highest peaks (Thunder Ridge at MP 74.7 and Apple Orchard Mountain at MP 76.5). Enjoy lunch overlooking Abbott Lake at Peaks of Otter (MP 84-87), and take a walk around the lake for stunning photo opportunities. If you’re heading north toward I-64, stop at MP 8.8 for a quick leg-stretch at the Greenstone Parking Overlook, or at MP 5.8, the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center where costumed interpreters offer demonstrations at the mountain farm museum.
This getaway was submitted by the Natural Bridge of Virginia.
Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center 1-800-533-1410
Lexington & the Rockbridge Area Visitor Center 1-877-453-982
Lexington is located in the center of Rockbridge County in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia…
For over 100 years, the National Park Service has been preserving our national parks and ensuring…