In September 2022 Mom and I decided to take A Frugal Trip to Bedford, VA. This trip was planned before our big life changes that happened in August. I hoped a trip with tons of fresh air and new scenery would provide my mom and me with a nice breath of fresh air. I believe it did.
If you like to travel check out Visiting Mayberry on a Budget!
Appomattox National Park
This whole trip is about history, and since we were driving right by the place where Lee surrendered to Grant, we figured it would make a perfect stop on our drive. (To be clear, this is about an hour from Bedford, so if you swing in from a different direction, it won’t be on your way at all.) I’m a big Revolutionary War/Colonial Period buff, but I figured the Civil War might be interesting too.
This is Appomattox Courthouse. Where it turns out nothing important happened to help end the Civil War. They didn’t do anything in the Courthouse- they did it in a privately owned house at the other end of the village.
When you get there, you watch a short video that helps walk you through what Appomattox was like before the war, during the war, and after the war. Since much of this was new information for me, it was nice.
We are big fans of live interactions so we were delighted the Park Ranger was doing a presentation. It was excellent. I’m not a big fan of looking at battlefields, but he did a great job showing us behind him where events happened.
We walked around for a bit and looked at a few buildings but were sure to come back and listen to the reenactor that was there. Like the Park Ranger, this helped to picture what was happening on that important day.
This is the McLean house where Grant and Lee actually met. It was a private residence, and after Lee left, Confederate soldiers basically took everything out of it that could be used as memorabilia. Pretty much everything in the house is a reproduction, but it’s still amazing to see how everything was set up.
I would say give yourself about two hours, and you can do everything you need and more. I will be honest- it wasn’t overwhelmingly exciting. But it was free and on the way, so if you happen to go by, be sure to check it out. Also, if you happen to be a huge Civil War buff, I KNOW this would be on your must-do list.
When Thomas Jefferson married Martha Skelton, a big plot of land in Bedford was included in her dowry. In addition to the tobacco plantation there, Jefferson decided to build a small summer home/getaway for when life got crazy at Monticello. During the Revolution when the British drove him from Monticello in June 1781, he escaped with his family to Poplar Forest, staying in the only dwelling on the property, the overseer’s house.
After Jefferson’s death, his grandson inherited the house and land but sold it only a few years later as he had no interest in tobacco. In 1845, a fire destroyed the roof and interior, leaving only the basic shapes of the rooms, four chimneys, and the portico columns. Later families modified Jefferson’s villa retreat into a home more suitable to their needs. Finally, in 1984, the Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest was formed and purchased the house and 50 acres of land. Two years later, the house was opened to the public.
It has many of the same architectural aspects as Monticello, but it’s very different. And in 2022 it was a construction zone. You could see inside the walls, how the plastering is done and so much more about how it’s built. I will have to go back at some point to see it furnished!
But at the price point you see below it’s well worth the visit. And those dollars will help them further develop the house and move things forward. I will try to go back in five years or so and see how it has progressed.
National D-Day Memorial
The National D-Day Memorial was actually located right down the street from our AirBNB. And while the little town of Bedford, VA, might seem like a strange location, it actually has a rich history with the beaches in Normandy. During the recession, one of the best ways for young boys in Bedford to make money was to join the National Guard. The duty station was close, the pay was decent, and it gave their families some breathing room. So, in this tiny little town of 400 people, 30 young men joined. Then, they were incorporated into Company A, 116th Infantry, 29th Division.
Of the 40 men from Bedford who participated in the D-Day invasion 19 of them were dead by the end of the day on June 6, 1944. This means this small town had the greatest loss per capita on D-Day compared to any other location in the US. According to our tour guide, it meant that, at the time, New York City would have had to lose 46,000 men to have the same percentage. Because of this, when the memorial was being considered, Bedford fought to be its home.
The docents there do tours throughout the day, and our guide was exactly how you want a guide to be- obsessed with all things D-Day and WWII. The energy he brought was absolutely amazing. He fielded every question with ease, and you could tell he really loves the memorial. While he was knowledgeable about the international aspects of the war, he was also sure to tie in the local connections.
I don’t want to give too much information from the tour because I really believe if everyone has the chance they should visit. It was incredibly moving, and I still think about the things I learned almost every day. If you can please try to go see it yourself.
Bedford Boys Tribute Center
The Bedford Boys Tribute Center just opened in 2022. It is basically a small center built in the old drugstore that honors the lives and families of the boys who passed. It details the day the telegrams came in announcing the deaths and the challenges those who returned home faced.
This is obviously a passion project for the gentleman who led our tour. I hope that it continues to do well. This is a chance to really see how the war affected a small town.
Peaks of Otter
Mom and I have found that when we go on vacation, we tend to gravitate toward the mountains. Peaks of Otter is quite near Bedford, and the views are stunning. Peaks of Otter has a few hikes, but the most popular (at least in our research) is Sharp Top Mountain. Natural Bridge is quite close, as well as many other outdoor attractions for recreation.
The hike for Sharp Top Mountain is listed as “strenuous” on the internet. We have found that “medium” is about as tough as we like to go. But luckily Sharp Top has a shuttle that goes to .25 miles from the top for visitors.
You walk up, take in the views, and then have two options to go down. You can either hike the 1.5 miles or catch the shuttle back down.
We took the hike down and I am so glad we did. Hikers are generally friendly people, and we met many along with their very pups. It took us about 80 minutes to get down, and it was a good workout.
Peaks of Ottery Winery
Neither of us is a big drinker, but a local winery with an $8 tasting and lots of sweet wines caught our eye. The Peaks of Otter Winery is a little unassuming, but I highly recommend a visit. They have beautiful orchards with over 20 types of wine to choose from. Also, there is a drink called “Kiss the Devil” that apparently has a very strong effect on the drinker!
To give you an idea of the feel I asked where the restroom was. They said “building outside with the red roof. You can’t miss it.”
You can also buy fruit, YUMMY apple cider doughnuts and various other items. With the location not too far from Peaks of Otter it was practically on the way home!
They have a nice mix of dry, sweet and sparkling wine. They also sponsor lots of community events and the view is killer.
We took our food with us (part of the reason for the Airbnb), but we did eat out twice. Both were wonderful so I want to share.
In the Air BNB they left a book with the menus for local restaurants and Liberty Station caught my eye. It was in a beautiful historic railroad station, and it was the home of Harry’s Famous Cheesecakes. Looking at the menu, I saw quite a few vegetarian options I don’t usually see in a small town. Every single thing we had was completely delicious. Mom had the Asian Grilled Salmon Salad (she splurged), and I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli. For dessert, the waitress said the cheesecake was “very good,” but the peach cobbler was “amazing.” She did not mislead us.
After our hike at Sharp Top Mountain, we went and had lunch at the Peaks of Otter Lodge. Both of us are vegetarians, and we wanted to check out the vegetarian chili. It’s so rare to see on a menu. We also got the Peaks Cauliflower and side salads. Skip the Cauliflower- it’s not worth $9.00. But the chili and side salad were very good. After coming off the mountain, we were starving!
Overall this trip was pretty frugal for my mom and I for five days. I tried to break down what we spent for you except for souvenirs. I probably missed some bottles of water or other small purchases.
While we are on vacation I work, and we cook, so we prefer to have a two-bedroom place. We also have found that we will pay extra for two bathrooms as we enjoy our space. I think the final cost came to be about $160 a night. If it was a couple traveling that needed a one-bedroom, you could go cheaper.
Gas was about $3.12 a gallon during this trip
Appomattox National Park FREE
Poplar Forest and D-Day Memorial Combined Ticket $20 each
Bedford Boys Tribute Center $5 each
Sharp Top Shuttle $12 each
Groceries were about $40 as we took meals we usually eat and raided our own pantries.
Eating Out was $120. We went to some nicer places and had excellent service so tipped well.
Peaks of Otter Winery $16
A Frugal Chick’s Opinion
I highly recommend a visit to Bedford, VA. We picked the dates for this trip because there was a show at the Academy Theater in Lynchburg, VA we wanted to see. The theater is beautiful, and Lynchburg certainly has things to offer we did not check out. My mom and I both caught up on sleep and spent some relaxing time in nature. I think we could have done a three-day trip with this itinerary, but we spent that Saturday morning attending the fall festival in downtown Bedford to fill in the time.
Beautiful view from the Air BNB
Stunning historic theater in Lynchburg, VA
Soda just tastes better in glass
I’m not old enough to know what this is but my mom informs me it’s a cell phone attached to the wall
The views are amazing!