Here, in the parlor of Wilmer McLean's home 2 miles north of Appomattox, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, thus effectively ending the bitter Civil War. Today, the 20 or so houses, stores, courthouse, and tavern that made up the village then called Appomattox Court House have been restored by the National Park Service and are essential to any Civil War tour of Virginia. You will need at least 2 hours to visit the restored houses and walk the country lanes in the rural stillness where surrender took place. Start by picking up a map of the park and a self-guided tour booklet at the visitor center in the courthouse. Upstairs, a 15-minute slide presentation and museum exhibits include excerpts from the diaries and letters of Civil War soldiers. Allow at least 2 hours to do that and visit McLean's house, Clover Hill Tavern, Meeks' Store, the Woodson Law Office, the courthouse (totally reconstructed), the jail, and Kelly House. The Confederates laid down their arms and rolled up their battle flags on the now-restored road through the village. There's a full schedule of ranger programs during the summer.
Present-day town of Appomattox, 2 miles south of the park, has restaurants, budget motels, and bed-and-breakfasts. The Appomattox Visitor Center is in the old train station at 214 Main St. (tel. 877/258-4739 or 434/352-8999; www.tourappomattox.com). It's open daily from 9am to 5pm.