Adrive around Virginia's Lynchburg area links history from Thomas Jefferson's era to the end of the Civil War to June 6, 1944.

Lynchburg, which traces its beginnings to a ferry established by John Lynch in 1757, is the site of Poplar Forest, an octagonal brick villa that was the third president's home when he visited his working plantations in Bedford County.

"It is the most valuable of my possessions," Jefferson wrote of Poplar Forest, one of two homes that he designed for himself. It's about 50 miles from the other, Monticello in Charlottesville.

The Palladian-style house is simpler than Monticello but incorporates Jefferson's attention to detail, including two privies that mirror the brick octagonal shape of the main building.

Poplar Forest (off Route 460, north on Route 811, east on Route 661; 434-525-1806; www.poplarforest.org) is undergoing restoration. Displays and guided tours given from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, April through November, outline plantation life and the renovation.

Living-history programs are presented in the summer at nearby Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (three miles northeast of Appomattox on Route 24; 434-352-8987), the site of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. The generals signed the surrender documents in the parlor of Wilmer McLean's house.

It is said that the Civil War started in McLean's front yard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865. The First Battle of Bull Run was fought on the McLean farm on July 21, 1861. Wilmer McLean and his family moved from Manassas, Va., to Appomattox Court House to avoid the war. The war found them again in April 1865.

The original McLean house was razed in 1893. The National Park Service built a reconstruction on the site. A reconstructed courthouse, now a visitors center with a museum and an auditorium where audiovisual programs are shown every half-hour, is one of 27 buildings restored to their 1865 appearance.

The park and buildings are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Dec. 25.

In Bedford, the National D-Day Memorial (3 Overlord Circle, 800-351-3329; www.dday.org) pays tribute to the troops who on June 6, 1944, stormed the Normandy beaches during World War II.

Congress approved establishing the hilltop memorial in Bedford because the town of 3,200 lost 23 of its sons in the Normandy campaign, proportionally the nation's worst D-Day loss.

The monument, dedicated June 6, 2001, includes a Memorial Wall, English gardens, Victory Plaza and a gripping invasion tableau with sculptures of soldiers storming a beach while water erupts from a pool to simulate gunfire.

A 44 1/2 -foot-tall victory arch inscribed with the word Overlord, the name of the D-Day operation, is surrounded by flags from Allied nations that took part in the invasion. The names of servicemen killed on D-Day appear on two walls at the memorial (open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving, Dec. 25).

Lynchburg has several museums, including Amazement Square -- The Rightmire Children's Museum (27 Ninth St., 434-845-1888) and the Legacy Museum of African-American Heritage (403 Monroe St., 434-845-3455).

Where to eat

  • Charley's (707 Graves Mill Road, 434-237-5988): Burgers, ribs, fajitas, salads.

  • Isabella's Italian Trattoria (3225 Old Forest Road, 434-385-1660): Northern Italian.

  • Main St. Eatery & Catering Co. (907 Main St., 434-847-2526): Dishes include German fare.

    Getting there

    Interstate 70 west, south on U.S. 15 to U.S. 29 south through Charlottesville to Lynchburg.

    More information

    To find out more about the Lynchburg area, call 800- 732-5821 or visit www.discover lynchburg.org.