A charming, tucked-away college town, Lynchburg is probably best known as home to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Since it's also the home of Lynchburg College, Randolph Macon Woman's College and the nearby Sweet Briar College, the area enjoys a steady influx of young people. You won't find the energy of a Charlottesville, but there are plenty of outdoor destinations for nature lovers, and be sure to check out the James River Batteau Festival in October.

Thomas Jefferson designed and built his beloved retreat, Poplar Forest, near Lynchburg during his second presidential term. The house is an octagon, Jefferson's favorite shape, and consists of octagonal rooms set around a central skylit room. It's the perfect expression of the Enlightenment—symmetry and balance in a rational context. Poplar Forest is seen by modern architects as one of the first purely American architectural expressions. Although borrowing the best design concepts from Western civilization, it also uses elements that are seen as Virginian in character.

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