Take a trip to Penhook, Virginia to experience the charm of the Old South combined with the ambiance of a modern tourist-friendly getaway destination. Home to approximately 800 permanent residents, Penhook is nestled against the southern shore of Smith Mountain Lake, where families and empty-nesters alike can enjoy fun, sun, and some of the most beautiful scenery the Piedmont area has to offer. Book a stay at a vacation rental in Penhook today. Here are 15 of the top things to try while you’re visiting the quaint community of Penhook.
1. Visit the Booker T. Washington Museum, Hardy
Across the lake from your vacation rental in Penhook, in the little Roanoke suburb of Hardy, visitors can absorb the rich history of Virginia at the Booker T. Washington museum. The site, which is located in a period-accurate restored house, is free to the public and features guided tours for visitors.
2. Tour a Confederate General’s House, Hardy
While you’re still in Hardy, be sure to swing by Jubal Early’s home. This historic residence has been lovingly preserved and offers free admission to families who want to get a glimpse of the life of this famous Civil War general. Guided tours are available on Sundays, so it’s an ideal spot for families looking for something to do after brunch.
3. Visit a Historic Farm
The Blue Ridge Farm Museum, in Ferrum, is a rare historical treat. This farm was first built in the 18th century, and it remains in something close to its original condition for visitors see how ordinary Virginians lived near the time of the Revolution. Authentic log construction and a historically accurate crop layout immerse visitors in an absorbing experience of Virginia’s long history.
4. Visit the National D-Day Memorial, Bedford
Across the lake, in Bedford, you and your family can visit the United States’ National D-Day Memorial. This serene locale is designed to express America’s respect and sense of loss for those who fought and died on June 6, 1944. Educational exhibits are on display around the site, and veterans of the Great Crusade may sometimes be found who can tell their story to interested young people.
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5. Enjoy Smith Mountain Lake State Park
Penhook is located in the beautiful Smith Mountain Lake State Park, and so it’s convenient to outdoor recreational facilities. The state campground is set up for RV traffic, as well as for more adventurous campers with tents and bedrolls. Common areas provide space for meals and games with the kids.
6. Take a Hike
Because it’s located in a state park, Penhook is crisscrossed by miles of excellent hiking trails. Climb the high trails to get a breathtaking view of the lake, or stroll down into the heavily wooded paths to spot deer and other wildlife native to the area. Be sure to bring a camera; in spring the flowers bloom all over and make a great wallpaper for your computer.
7. Take a Boat Onto the Lake
North of the lake, in the small community of Moneta, you can rent a boat by the hour or by the day at Bridgewater Marina. Take the boat out on the lake and enjoy a fun day with the family as you cruise the still, clear water of the high mountain lake. A license is required for fishing, which you can get on short notice, but even without a rod and reel you can still swim and enjoy the sight of water birds skimming fish from the water nearby.
8. Go Four-Wheeling
If you have an ATV, or if you’re interested in renting one locally, you and your family can enjoy a long, scenic ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some sections of this 400-mile trail are well paved, while others are as rough as they were in pioneer days. Be sure to pack a lunch before leaving your vacation rental – your adventure may take you pretty far from the nearest restaurant.
9. Enjoy High Culture
If you find yourself a few miles northwest of Penhook, in the urban bustle of Roanoke, you and your family can enjoy the cultural hotspot of the Taubman Museum of Modern Art. Featuring many rooms full of modern paintings and exciting statuary in every common space, this museum offers gifts, tours, and memories that will last a lifetime.
10. Ponder the History of Pinball
The Smith Mountain area is home to a museum dedicated to one of the greatest games ever. The Pinball Museum, in Roanoke, has lots of fun games and activities for the kids, as well as informational exhibits that will fascinate adults who grew up playing one of the best arcade games yet devised.
11. Jog Through Nature
Leave your vacation rental in Penhook, lace up your running shoes, and hit the Roanoke Valley Greenway, a smoothly paved trail that’s perfect for joggers and bicyclists. Shrouded by native magnolias and willow trees, this gorgeous trail stays cool in the summer and welcomes locals and tourists alike. Fishing is permitted in certain areas, so it’s good to check before you head out.
12. Learn About Beer
The Penhook area is home to three breweries, and the larger area around Smith Mountain has been a thriving craft spirits producer since the days of George Washington. Many companies offer tours of these breweries, and every one of them strikes a balance between educational content about brewing and the chemistry of beer, and lots of free tasting.
13. Tour the Avoca Museum, Altavista
Altavista is just a few miles from Penhook, and the Avoca Museum more than justifies the short drive. This gorgeous Queen Anne-style plantation house is kept in immaculate condition as a reconstructed 18th-century farm estate. The working kitchen features regular demonstrations of authentic Colonial-era cooking methods, while the attached arboretum makes a restful place to take a break while the kids run loose in the large grassy yards.
14. Visit a Cozy Zoo
Mill Mountain Zoo is within bicycling distance of your vacation rental in Penhook, and it offers a unique experience that even seasoned zoo aficionados will find charming. Operating on a relatively small plot of land, this zoo eschews the more exotic animals that draw crowds to big-city animal sanctuaries and instead focuses on local fauna, such as wild cats and lake birds. Kids can feed the animals, and the grounds boast a miniature train ride for families that need a break from walking for a while.
15. Learn About the Origin of Common Idioms at the Mill
Take a walking tour of Mount Airy Roller Mill, and you’ll learn about more than milling grain. So much of America’s history has involved farmers standing around and waiting for their flour to be ready that mills such as this have shaped the English language. Take the kids and watch as mill workers demonstrate the origins of the phrases: “grist for the mill,” “rule of thumb,” and “daily grind.” The educational value is through the roof, and separate outdoor areas make a great play place for kids whose brains are full for the day.
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