Lexington, Virginia

Baltimore Sun reporter

Go here: Lexington, a city with many historical sights and national forests, wildlife areas, and parks, is a small community nestled in the valley of Shenandoah Valley. It was built at the intersection of the main north/south route through the valley and the route west. It is a discreetly restored, predominantly brick, mostly 19th-century town of around 7,000. Church steeples dominate the skyline. And the two institutions of higher learning, Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute, bring a steady stream of world-class cultural events to town. About 190 miles from Washington and 180 from Richmond, this quiet city's tourism is ever growing because of their efforts to improve the downtown area and preserve their wildlife and historic buildings.

Stay here: Spend the your nights at the historic Hampton Inn Col Alto, 410 East Nelson St, Lexington, VA 24450; 540-463-2223. This 19th century mansion was built in 1827 and rests on 7 acres of land and is only walking distance from downtown Lexington. It is has the old feel with a modern twist as it has renovated rooms for your comfort. The double bed rooms range start at around $139 per night.

Eat here: Southern Inn Restaurant, 37 South Main St, Lexington, Va. 24450; 540-463-3012. This restaurant has been going strong for 75 years. They include locally grown food in their dishes as well as the best of Virginia's wine. Their bakery, located in the restaurant offers fresh baked goods for their customers. It is opened seven days a week and seating is available by reservation.

Don't miss this: The Virginia Military Institute, America's oldest state supported military college. On the campus is a museum with collections of war paraphernalia, sculptures, paintings and more. There is also a library that contains archives of historical text and art work for public viewing. Nearby natural Bridge offers a 215-foot-high natural stone bridge with walking trails to caves and waterfalls. There are also caverns, an Indian village, wax museum, toy museum and other attractions.

Get there: By car, Lexington is about 225 miles south of Baltimore. Take Interstate 95 to Interstate 66 W to Interstate 81, where the majority of the ride takes place.

For more information, contact the Lexington Visiting Center: 540-463-3777; lexingtonvirginia.com.

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