Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley

Considered a “gateway” to the Shenandoah Valley, Bedford is about 135 miles west of Richmond.

“Bedford is a destination for all ages and is a great choice for a relaxing and fun vacation,” said Bedford County Director of Tourism Nicole Johnson.  “We love for visitors to make the Bedford Area Welcome Center their first stop when arriving.  Or if someone is planning a trip and needs more information, they can call us and we’d love to help.

“We just became Virginia Tourism Corporation’s newest location for a LOVE art sculpture,” Johnson added, “completely designed and produced by local students and truly one of a kind!”

(Inspired by the “Virginia is for Lovers” ad campaign, highly visible LOVE signs can be seen in many of Virginia’s popular tourist destinations, a result of localities partnering with Virginia Tourism Corporation.)

The variety of activities in Bedford rivals that of many larger towns. Johnson said, “One can experience a national tribute to our heroes at the National D-Day Memorial, walk in the steps of Thomas Jefferson at his Poplar Forest retreat, enjoy award-winning wines along the Bedford Wine Trail, shop our retail stores and art galleries in historic Centertown, choose from many locally-owned restaurants for a unique dining experience, and take a day to explore the many artisans and sites along the Bedford Artisan Trail.”

It surprises many visitors to find the D-Day Memorial in Bedford—but there is a compelling reason.  Bedford lost more citizens (per capita) in the Normandy invasion, than any other American community. Nineteen soldiers from Bedford, whose population in 1944 was about 3,200, were killed on D-Day, and three others died later in the Normandy campaign. The 88-acre memorial sees about 55,000 visitors a year; the June 6 anniversary of D-Day is of course a solemn and profoundly meaningful time to visit.

One thing Johnson stressed about Bedford is that, “A day isn’t enough to experience it all.  We’re proud to offer many unique overnight accommodations, from our mountain lodge at Peaks of Otter, to our bed & breakfasts, inns, and short term vacation home rentals scattered throughout the county, including at Smith Mountain Lake.  For the outdoor adventurers, there are numerous camping options.”

Peaks of Otter Lodge, easily accessible from I-81 or the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 86) offers 63 rooms, banquet and meeting facilities, and Blue Ridge Mountain scenery at its best.  A full service menu and a serene lake view make dining a pleasure, but a busy slate of events (like the Horse and Hound Wine Festival July 8) plus access to numerous hiking trails may keep you outside most of the day. And on Saturdays, between May 13 and October 29, book a ride on the wine shuttle for a trip to three nearby wineries.

Or you can tour the Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchards, the oldest fruit winery in Virginia, and sample many varieties of wine, plus jams, jellies cider, etc. in season. The majority of products are made from fruits grown right on this family farm.

Also on the culinary front, Johnson suggested, “There are several popular dining spots located within the footprint of our historic Centertown area.  I encourage folks to park in one of our free lots and walk through Centertown so as not to miss our unique storefronts and various dining options, all within easy walking distance.  Also in June we will welcome the town’s first craft brewery, Beale’s Brewery & BBQ, named after the famed treasure that legend indicates is buried somewhere in Bedford County.” (According to legend, between 1819 and 1821, Thomas J. Beale hid millions in gold and silver somewhere near Bedford, and left three coded documents relating to its location. Yet no one knows what happened to the treasure.)

There is also a thriving Farmer’s Market in Centertown, bursting with fruit, vegetables, breads, cheeses, plants, crafts, and more, all locally made or grown. It operates from May 2 to October 7 this year.

Johnson and her staff are eager to help you experience Bedford. She concluded, “I encourage visitors to see what Bedford has to offer, and let us help plan your next vacation or group gathering.  The Welcome Center and Department of Tourism can be reached at 1-877-HI-PEAKS or VisitBedford.com.

Banner photo at top courtesy of Bedford County Director of Tourism.