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Lynchburg activities for college students

There are a lot of free activities to enjoy in Lynchburg and across Central Virginia, including a panorama view of Lynchburg from the gazebo above Liberty University
There are a lot of free activities to enjoy in Lynchburg and across Central Virginia, including a panorama view of Lynchburg from the gazebo above Liberty University
Sandy Wallace

A new college year has begun, bringing college students from across the country and around the world to Lynchburg, Va. One of the best things about Lynchburg is the relatively small size compared to larger cities. You can usually get from any point in Lynchburg to any other point in Lynchburg in 15 to 20 minutes.

Lynchburg, known as the Hill City, offers a variety of activities and events for people of all ages to enjoy
Sandy Wallace

Central Virginia is home to several colleges and universities. The biggest three in Lynchburg are Liberty University, Lynchburg College and Randolph College. In addition, Virginia University of Lynchburg and Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg and Sweet Briar College near Amherst offer a great college experience to many students.

Whether you're a new student or a returning student, there's plenty to enjoy off campus. Liberty University students live on campus and in nearly every neighborhood in Lynchburg. More than 13,800 students are studying at LU this year, the most ever. This number includes more than 7,700 living on campus.

The 525 first-year students at Lynchburg College were out in the community recently, performing community service with 18 local nonprofit organizations. Volunteerism is a way of life at LC and many of the students have volunteered before attending college. With 2,800 undergraduates and graduate students, Lynchburg College students will make a difference in our community.

There aren't as many students at Randolph College as LU and LC, but Randolph students come to Lynchburg from around the world, including 36 states and 20 countries. After more than a century as Randolph-Macon Woman's College, RC changed its name and went coed in 2007.

Here are some family-friendly places to visit and things to do in Lynchburg. Explore Lynchburg with a group of friends or take your parents and family around town when they come to visit.

Sometimes it seems that all of the college students in town must be on Wards Road, the busiest road in Lynchburg. Wards Road is home to Walmart, Target and several shopping areas with stores of every variety. Wards Road also offers a variety of restaurants from McDonald's, Wendy's and Cook-Out to Panera Bread, Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden. Many of the local restaurants accept college bucks so pick your favorite food and find a new local restaurant.

River Ridge Mall can be accessed from either Wards Road or Candlers Mountain Road. The mall contains anchor stores JC Penney, Belk and Macy's as well as Aeropostale, American Eagle, PacSun, Spencer Gifts and other favorites of college students. River Ridge is also home to the Regal Cinema with 14 movie screens and Planet Fitness, a great place to work out.

There's much more to explore in Lynchburg than the retail areas on Wards Road and Candlers Mountain Road. Lynchburg offers a lot of outdoor opportunities with many parks and trails. Percival's Island Natural Area offers shaded walking, hiking and biking paths at the edge of the James River. Ivy Creek Park offers a small man-made lake for fishing and boating with an ADA accessible trail to enjoy nature up close.

Riverside Park offers tennis and basketball courts, a sprayground play area, an ADA accessible play area and hiking trails that overlook the James River. At Peaks View Park, you'll find baseball, softball, and soccer fields, basketball and volleyball courts, hiking and mountain biking trails and an 18-hole disc golf course. In addition to these parks, Lynchburg is also home to Miller Park, located on Park Avenue, and a variety of neighborhood parks and natural areas. Find out more about our parks and trails at LynchburgVa.gov.

Favorite trails for hiking, biking and running in Lynchburg include the Blackwater Creek Trail and trails on Candler's Mountain near Liberty University. You can see a panorama view of Lynchburg from the gazebo above the LU monogram. Just follow the gravel road behind Snowflex and take a short hike to the top of the mountain. Whether you prefer paved trails or heading deep into the woods, there's a trail with your name on it waiting for you. Serious hikers can travel less than an hour from Lynchburg to enjoy hiking the Appalachian Trail. You can also enjoy a beautiful drive any day on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Runners will quickly feel at home here in the Hill City. Riverside Runners on Rivermont Avenue and The Aid Station in Wyndhurst can outfit you for all of your running needs. The Virginia 10 Miler is a Lynchburg running tradition. The 10 Miler celebrates its 41st year in Lynchburg on Sept. 27, 2014, welcoming 4,000 runners, including many elite runners from all over the world.

Downtown Lynchburg, Rivermont Avenue and Boonsboro Road offer many small boutique shops with a variety of goods. There's a Farmers Market downtown with hand-crafted items and well as locally grown produce. Discover downtown Lynchburg at night from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 12. Get!Downtown is downtown Lynchburg's welcome to area college students. Grab a friend and Get!Downtown.

Be sure to check out the Keys for the Hill City public art project, five pianos painted by art students at Heritage, E.C. Glass, Brookville, VES and Jefferson Forest high schools. The pianos are on display in downtown Lynchburg through September for anyone to play and enjoy.

The five beautifully painted pianos are on display outside downtown Main Street businesses. You'll find The Beatles piano, painted by Heritage High School students on display outside The Galleria. The piano painted by E.C. Glass students is at The Bank of the James. At Schewel Furniture, you'll find a piano painted by students at Jefferson Forest. Brookville students painted the piano located at The Parlor Ballroom. Students from Virginia Episcopal School painted the piano located at Telitha Spa. All five are working, in-tune pianos.

The Lynchburg Visitor Center on 12th Street is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Pick up a free city map and brochures about things to do in Lynchburg and Central Virginia. You can also find Lynchburg and Virginia souvenirs at the Visitor Center.

Heat up your Friday nights with Friday Salsa Dance Night at the Dance Theatre of Lynchburg, located at 722 Commerce Street in downtown Lynchburg. A beginner lesson begins at 9 p.m. with social dancing from 10 p.m. to midnight.

If you love art, be sure to check out the 42nd Annual Lynchburg Art Festival, held on the grounds of E.C. Glass High School on Memorial Avenue. More than 100 artists will be represented at the festival, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 13. Up the street, Day in the Park will be held the same day at Miller Park on Park Avenue, featuring family-friendly activities, live music, food and lots of booths with information about services in the area.

The Lynchburg area is home to many wineries and breweries. Those age 21 and up can sample nearly 100 craft beers and lagers and some of the finest Virginia wines at the Lynchburg Beer & Wine Festival on Sept. 20. The event will be held at Lynchburg City Stadium from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to beer and wine, there will be vendor foods available for purchase.

You'll find information about many local events at DiscoverLynchburg.org. Although your college campuses offer a lot to do, come on out into town and explore. You'll be surprised at all the adventures waiting for you in Lynchburg.