Famous for its natural beauty and historical sites, the beautiful Shenandoah Valley also features rich arts and culture, an abundance of locally crafted beverages, and countless opportunities for outdoor recreation, all wrapped in genuine Virginia hospitality.
At Staunton, you will discover a charming small Virginia town with a wealth of character. The city’s downtown is home to a vibrant arts and music scene, a sizzling reputation for local food and dining, and a cool array of independent shops and galleries clustered along the historic main street. Staunton also provides the perfect setting for exciting outdoor adventures and scenic drives, combined with world-class theater and fascinating museums.
A must-see attraction while in Staunton is the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, the only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre in the world. Shakespeare’s original Blackfriars Theatre was housed in a 13th-century monastery; it burned in the 1666 Great Fire of London. After years of research and hard work, the Staunton Blackfriars Playhouse was built in 2001. Since then, it has been showing year-round performances of Shakespeare’s plays and contemporary works, hailed by The Washington Post as “shamelessly entertaining.”
The Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia tells the story of the thousands of people who migrated to colonial America, and of the life they created here for themselves and their descendants. These pioneers came to America during the 1600 and 1700s. Many were farmers and rural craftsmen set in motion by changing conditions in their homelands and drawn to the American colonies by opportunities for a better life. Others came as unwilling captives to work on farms and plantations. The museum has moved or reproduced examples of traditional rural buildings from England, Germany, Ireland, West Africa, and America and engages the public at these exhibits with a combination of interpretive signage and living history demonstrations.
The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum tells the story of America’s 28th President, born in Staunton in 1856. On-site, visitors can explore the President’s birthplace, known as the “Manse”; a museum that explores the life and times of Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924); the Research Library, and a gift shop. The President’s restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow Limousine is a highlight of the museum, which offers programs for all ages.
Exploring Staunton is hungry work. When it’s time for a meal break, head to The Shack. Tiny in size but definitely not in taste, The Shack serves the best products from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and surrounding area. Renowned chef Ian Boden has earned two James Beard nominations and a top-ranking of Three Stars from the Washington Post. His modern cooking style combines his Jewish eastern European roots with the traditions of the region. Discover more about Chef Boden and The Shack.
Waynesboro. located at the intersection of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian Trail, this charming town is a great home base for outdoor adventure, whether your tastes run toward biking, hiking, and scenic drives, or paddling and fly fishing in the trout-stocked waters of the South River. Waynesboro’s walkable downtown features the renovated vaudeville-era Wayne Theatre set among shops, art galleries, and restaurants peppered with murals from the annual Virginia Street Arts Festival. Waynesboro boasts three breweries, all of which are part of the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.
One of only two urban trout fisheries in the state of Virginia, Waynesboro’s South River winds its way through the historic downtown and offers anglers trophy-sized trout. Local fly shops, guides, and annual fishing events make this town a fisherman’s haven. Catch more information on fishing on the South River.
The newly renovated Iris Inn is a great place to lay your head in Waynesboro. This gorgeous 19-acre Blue Ridge Mountain getaway provides incredible views in a relaxing setting. Featuring the main inn and spectacular cabins, the Iris Inn is built to include the personal touches of a bed and breakfast combined with the amenities and high-end services of a boutique hotel.
For a unique craft beverage experience, head to Blue Ridge Bucha for some certified organic kombucha made from pure Blue Ridge Mountain water. It is infused with the finest organic and fair-trade ingredients to create refreshing and unique flavors. Every part of the process – from brewing to bottling to flavoring – is done completely by hand. In 2010, Blue Ridge Bucha was founded with a specific mission: to make delicious, handcrafted kombucha in a refillable bottle. To date, over one million bottles have been saved! Discover more about kombucha – both the non-alcoholic and Blue Ridge versions with a little more punch.
If you are not afraid of adventure (or the dark!), you have a chance for an excursion in the Blue Ridge Tunnel. The Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark beneath Rockfish Gap, Va., was recently dedicated after 18 years of planning and restoration. Known as the longest railroad tunnel in North America when it was completed in 1858, the nearly mile-long route through Afton Mountain is now a pedestrian trail that connects to existing trail systems in central Virginia. Flashlights are definitely required. Take a peak inside the Blue Ridge Tunnel and you’ll see why you need a light!
Head south to Lexington and Rockbridge County, the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley. Here visitors have fast and easy access to Lexington’s “big backyard” – 100,000 acres of public forests, parks, recreation areas, and two rivers where outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels can hike, bike, paddle, fish, and camp. Lined with historic buildings, farm-to-table eateries, bright galleries, and inviting boutiques, downtown Lexington can be explored with a relaxing carriage ride or on foot. For a good night’s sleep in a historic and luxurious setting, check in to The Georges, a winner of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2020.
No visit to Lexington is complete without a stop at Wade’s Mill. Founded in 1750, Wade’s Mill is Virginia’s oldest continuously operating commercial grist mill. Today, its tradition continues with one miller stone grinding premium grains fresh to order. The Mill’s whole grain products are 100% natural, with no additives, preservatives, or bleaches. They are served at select restaurants and hotels throughout Virginia and can be purchased at Wade’s Mill gift shop or online As you wind up your day, don’t miss a stop at one of Virginia’s most famous landmarks, the majestic Natural Bridge State Park. Natural Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and in 2016 became Virginia’s 37th state park. The spectacular 215-foot-tall Natural Bridge consists of horizontal limestone strata and is the remains of the roof of a cave or tunnel through which Cedar Creek once flowed. In addition to the stunning bridge, this state park features seven miles of hiking trails, including Cedar Creek Trail which leads visitors under the bridge to the Monacan Indian Village, and Lace Falls with its 30-foot cascade. The park also recently became Virginia’s fifth official Dark Sky Park – making it not only a great place to spend the day but also the night! A vacation to Virginia is all about discovering what you love.