The Smith Mountain Lake region is teeming with historic treasures waiting to be explored. Plan a visit to these nearby attractions to get a fascinating and educational glimpse into past people, places and events that shaped the history of the region, state, nation and world.
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument is an expansive, interactive park dedicated to the famous African-American educator and statesmen who was born a slave in 1856 on what was then a 207-acre tobacco farm.
Part of the National Park Service, the park is located near Westlake Corner, and is free and open to the public year-round.
The park features a wide range of information on Washington, who is best known for establishing Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, the first college for African-Americans. Visitors can view a 15-minute documentary film at the visitor center then take a tour of the grounds, which include walking trails, a replica farm, garden area, out buildings and animals, including pigs, sheep, horses and chickens.
Rangers and volunteers organize several community events each year at BTW National Monument, including the popular Juneteenth Celebration, with living history demonstrations, guided tours, gospel music and more.
National D-Day Memorial
History buffs will treasure a trip to Bedford’s National D-Day Memorial, a powerful and moving tribute to the more than 4,000 Allied soldiers who lost their lives on June 6, 1944, in one of the most pivotal battles of World War II.
Known as D-Day, the invasion of the beaches of Normandy, France, took a brutal toll on the small, close-knit town of Bedford, located approximately 30 minutes northeast of Smith Mountain Lake. Nineteen citizen-soldiers, now known as the Bedford Boys, died that day, earning the town the somber distinction of suffering the nation’s highest per-capita D-Day loss.
The National D-Day Memorial, which was built in the late 1990s as a tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of all Allied Forces, sits majestically atop a hill on the outskirts of Bedford and offers sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Bedford Boys Tribute Center
In 2019, just prior to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Bedford Boys Tribute Center opened in downtown Bedford. The museum is located in renovated space that was once Green’s Drug Store, the spot where Western Union telegrams delivered the community’s devastating casualty reports nearly five weeks after D-Day.
A number of historical artifacts are on display at the tribute center, including personal effects and mementos on loan from families of the Bedford Boys, and a replica of the Western Union teletype station.
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Located near Lynchburg, Poplar Forest, the private retreat of Thomas Jefferson, includes lessons on the life and times of our nation’s third president. Enjoy the meticulous historical restoration of both the inside and outside of the house and uncover details about Jefferson and the free and enslaved people who formed the Poplar Forest community.
Smith Mountain Dam Visitor Center
Visit the Joseph H. Vipperman Visitor Center in Sandy Level for hands-on exhibits and audio/visuals that illustrate how the dam was built more than 50 years ago. It’s an enlightening excursion for all ages that also explains how hydroelectricity is generated here.
Blue Ridge Institute and Museum
Learn about the folk heritage of our region at the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum on the campus of nearby Ferrum College. The exhibition gallery hosts a permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits and virtual exhibits.
The Crooked Road
A 330-mile driving trail that begins in Rocky Mount, the Crooked Road winds through Southwest Virginia. It connects nine major venues and 60-plus affiliated venues and festivals that celebrate the region’s musical heritage.