City Escapes

Staunton, Norfolk and Lynchburg offer history, ocean views and some of the best theaters in Virginia.

By Anne Elsea

Don’t you ever just want to go to a city without the traffic and high cost of well, everything? These places exist in Virginia and they are much closer than you might think. Staunton, Norfolk and Lynchburg offer history, ocean views and some of the best theaters in Virginia.


Photo Courtesy of Blackfriars Playhouse

For those who haven’t traveled that far down Route 81, it’s pronounced “Stan-ten” and it’s a cultural hub in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. The downtown area is well established, and the streets are spread among hills and trees. Staunton attracts visitors year round, but summer is the perfect time to lazily walk through downtown and cool off in the art galleries. Your kids might have visited the American Shakespeare Center on school field trips, and it’s so entertaining that they will probably want to go again.

I highly recommend getting the special flavor at Klines Dairy Bar on Greenville Avenue when you need a break from hitting the pavement. Staunton is also close to U.Va. and JMU so you can bring your high school-age son or daughter with you to scope out schools.

2 hours and 18 minutes from Fairfax

Places to Visit:






Known for its Navy base, Norfolk has some breathtaking views of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. This city is fun for young boys who love ships because the Battleship Wisconsin (one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the Navy) is permanently parked in the harbor. For foodies, the Norfolk Food tours show tourists what real eastern-shore Virginia food tastes like. You can tour Granby St., historic Ghent St. and even the Virginia Beach Boardwalk food shops. For a romantic summer date night, try planning a Norfolk trip during a festival at Town Point Park, in the heart of downtown on the Elizabeth River Harbor. Upcoming festivals include the AT&T Summer BrewFest (July 12), the 31st Annual Norfolk Jazz Festival (July 19) and A Mid-Summer Fantasy in the Park (July 26).

3 hours and 10 minutes from Fairfax

Places to Visit:

  • Town Point Park | 112 W. Main St.
  • Battleship Wisconsin | 1 Waterside Drive
  • Norfolk Food Tours | Multiple locations
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden | 6700 Azalea Garden Road
  • D’Art Center | 208 East Main St.





Thomas Jefferson once called Lynchburg “The most interesting spot in the state.” It’s certainly changed since Jefferson’s time but it has kept its historical charm. To get a local’s perspection of the historic city, you can take a walking tour where you will see Gothic, Colonial Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Stick style homes. In downtown, every Lynchburg visitor should walk through the Old City Cemetery and gardens off Taylor Street and through the Lynchburg Community Market for some local food. For college-aged kids there are many charming schools in Lynchburg too that are worth a walk through including Sweet Briar College, Lynchburg College and Liberty University. For children there is the Amazement Square within the Rightmire Children’s Museum. A hands-on museum where kids can create and learn about art while mom and dad sneak off to Dish, a tapas restaurant.

3 hours and 16 minutes from Fairfax

Places to Visit: