#LOVEstaunton

#LOVEstaunton

Wands Up: How to Make the Most of the 2019 Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival

For the past three years, Staunton has played host to the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival, a home-grown fan festival celebrating J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series as well as all things magical and mystical. On September 27-29, join thousands of seriously excited fans for themed shopping, dining, performances and hands-on activities for all ages … Continue reading Wands Up: How to Make the Most of the 2019 Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival

For the past three years, Staunton has played host to the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival, a home-grown fan festival celebrating J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series as well as all things magical and mystical. On September 27-29, join thousands of seriously excited fans for themed shopping, dining, performances and hands-on activities for all ages as 11 blocks of our historic downtown is transformed into an enchanted village.

First Things First

  • Select your highlights from the schedule and grab a map of the event. Make a note of parking, restroom, and if necessary, changing and breastfeeding facilities. 
  • Make arrangements to leave your non-service pets at home. The festival is noisy and crowded — not the best environment for fur buddies.
  • Plan your costume. While costumes aren’t necessary, they’re definitely encouraged. Look here to see some examples from last year. A children’s costume parade is planned for Saturday at 12:30 at Sunspots Pavilion. The adult version of the event kicks off at 7 p.m.
  • Check the weather. Pack sunscreen and sunglasses or an umbrella. Many of the events take place outside. 
  • Plan to stay hydrated. Bring your water bottle to fill up on the go at the Aguamente Filling Station (provided by Sutton’s Home Inspections), located behind Suntrust Bank.
  • Bring your portable phone charger: all those videos and selfies you’ll be taking will drain your battery. Be sure to post and tag them with #qcmm2018 and #lovestaunton.
  • If you’re traveling with others, plan a meeting place.

What to Do

The QCMM festival lineup includes tarot readings, wand-making and deuling demonstrations, English teas, festival-themed escape room fun, henna tattoos, shopping (from wizard gear to unique gifts and food items, and even props from past performances at Blackfriars), selfie stops, scavenger hunts using the Traipse app, wizard house sorting, crafting, quidditch matches, ghost tours, a live owl show, dance instructions, family-friendly dance parties, a 5K race, a fire circus, festival VIP’s arrival by train, and performances and lectures at the Blackfriars, and much, much more. We guarantee you’ll have plenty of things to keep you busy! Some events at QCMM are ticketed, but many are free. 

Here are more details and a full schedule of events.

Where to Stay

Staunton boasts hotels, motels, B&Bs, and small inns, located both in the downtown area and a short drive away. Click here for a list. Lodging fills quickly, so reserve your home base ASAP.

How to Get Around

Several streets in downtown Staunton will be closed to traffic during the weekend festival, so wear comfortable shoes and plan to do some walking. Limited parking will be available on the streets and public lots outside the immediate downtown area, but it will fill quickly. Alternatively, the festival will run shuttle buses on 9:30 a.m to 9 p.m Saturday from the Federated Auto Parts parking lot located at 795 Statler Boulevard. Include hours Street closings will be available on the Waze app.

What to Eat

Check out special festival food and drink like Bubbly Dragon Brew at Laughing Bird Pho and Butter Beer at Baja Bean, cake pops and flights at The Book Dragon. Downtown Staunton has a number of fine restaurants and many will offer festival specials. Plan accordingly as lines may be long during peak festival hours. Here’s a list of Staunton restaurants.

What Else to Do

If you need a bit of a break from the magic, reconnect with the natural world: Try an easy area hike with kids. Or if you want the backstory on all those cool, Victorian buildings that form the backdrop for QCMM, learn the real history of Beverley Street in Explore Staunton on Foot: Beverley District. Stop by the Visitor Center, 35 S. New Street, for a walking tour brochure. 

Staunton’s Silver Linings: What to Do on Rainy Days

Is a sudden thunderstorm threatening to put a damper on your Staunton plans? Don’t beat yourself up asking “water” we going to do in the rain, because Staunton looks good in clouds, too! Check out these surefire remedies for cabin fever. Eyeball Some Art Explore the rotating exhibits of art and history at Staunton Augusta … Continue reading Staunton’s Silver Linings: What to Do on Rainy Days

Is a sudden thunderstorm threatening to put a damper on your Staunton plans? Don’t beat yourself up asking “water” we going to do in the rain, because Staunton looks good in clouds, too! Check out these surefire remedies for cabin fever.

Eyeball Some Art

Explore the rotating exhibits of art and history at Staunton Augusta Arts Center, located in the historic R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. The Beverley Street Studio School Gallery and Co-ART Gallery host multiple exhibits of fine local art each year. For more art, visit Mary Baldwin University’s Hunt Gallery. The art ranges from “abstract to classical, reflecting a wide variety of media and artistic intentions.” If you’re hankering for a chance to do your own creative work, Hygge Craft offers both classes and creative space and materials for independent work.

Take a Break from Netflix

A rainy day is a perfect excuse to watch a play or a movie. Amp up the culture factor with a performance of one of Shakespeare’s hits at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Weekday shows start in the evening, but daytime options are available on the weekends. Is a movie and a beer more your speed? The Visulite airs the latest movies and lets you relax with a glass of wine or craft beer.

Find the Bottom of Your Glass

When downpours make you thirsty, get a sense of Staunton’s local wine offerings at the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room. Hang out with friends at Yelping Dog, for a wide selection of wines from around the world. Redbeard Brewing Company and Shenandoah Valley Brewing both offer delicious craft beer right in Staunton’s downtown. Skipping Rock Beer Co. is just a short drive away and you can spend the afternoon enjoying your brew over a board game or two.

Roll the Dice

Speaking of games, if the sound of raindrops makes you eager to roll dice, Staunton has lots of options to get your game on. To purchase a game to take back to your place, try Pufferbellies for family games or the Dragon’s Hoard for strategy games. Alternately, cure your cabin fever with bowling at Staunton Lanes, a collaborative breakout puzzle at Crack the Code Escape Room, a game of pool or darts at Bricks, or a trip to Video Zone arcade at the Staunton Mall.

Embrace Something with Memories

The Factory Antique Mall in Verona is the largest in the country. Spend your rainy afternoon browsing acres of antiques, jewelry, toys and other items sure to evoke memories of another era. 17 E. Beverley Antiques boast two floors of goodies, from furniture, fine jewelry, and art, to retro clothing and accessories. Continue the hunt at Staunton Antiques Center, three floors bursting with vintage furniture, housewares, and clothing, as well as contemporary work by local artists.

Score Something New

Staunton has dozens of cool shops offering unique gifts and items. If you’re looking for something uniquely Virginian, check out The Sparrow’s Nest, which features jewelry, clothing, art, decor, and more from local artists and farms. Jude’s: A Fine Emporium carries gifts for all members of the family as well as pets.  Light up your tastebuds at Staunton Olive Oil Company where you’ll find premium olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and the local herbs and spices to complement them. If books are what you’re into, check out Staunton’s newest bookstore, The Book Dragon, which carries new and used books for the entire family. Click here to read our post on Staunton’s other great independent booksellers.

Biteseeing Staunton’s Queen City Sweep Food Tour

Discover why Staunton is a cultural and culinary destination! Biteseeing Staunton’s Queen City Sweep guided walking tour is a wonderful way to fill an early afternoon — and it’s far more interesting than lunch at Applebee’s. For a culinary journey and a tour of Staunton’s architecture and history, book your tour today. Bridgett Beasley, owner-operator … Continue reading Biteseeing Staunton’s Queen City Sweep Food Tour

Discover why Staunton is a cultural and culinary destination! Biteseeing Staunton’s Queen City Sweep guided walking tour is a wonderful way to fill an early afternoon — and it’s far more interesting than lunch at Applebee’s. For a culinary journey and a tour of Staunton’s architecture and history, book your tour today.

Bridgett Beasley, owner-operator of Biteseeing Staunton, is a foodie who really loves food tours. After her move to Staunton a few years ago, she was delighted by both Staunton’s walkability and the depth of its food scene. The idea behind the Queen City Sweep is to get hungry people to move beyond chain restaurants and even Beverley Street to discover locally owned gems that are a little farther afield. This particular adventure lets food tourists experience both the Beverley and the Wharf Historic Districts and catch a peep into the Newtown District. 

The tours run in all weather, but the day we toured was sunny and cool for August. We parked at the trolley hub and met Bridgett on the porch of Olde Staunton Inn. After a brief tour of the lovely public rooms of the Inn, we chatted and walked to our first destination. Restaurants on the tour may vary.

What I loved about the food tour:

  • Bridgett was extremely personable and knowledgeable about the cuisine and backgrounds of the restaurateurs. She was a blast to hang out with, and I felt really comfortable with her.
  • The tour operated efficiently and smoothly. At each stop our plates arrived as soon as we settled.
  • The amount of food seemed appropriate for the tour. I’m a big eater and I felt satisfied, but not overstuffed.
  • The tour included some exercise and some Staunton sights and history. Bridgett has modifications in mind for those who might struggle climbing steep hills.
  • With advance notice, Biteseeing Staunton accommodates vegetarian and gluten-free diets. Just ask!

Gloria’s Pupuseria

Gloria’s Pupuseria is a homey and welcoming place. We enjoyed a tasting plate of El Salvadoran fare and the amazing flavor and history of the pupusa, which people have been devouring for at least 1,500 years. Pupusas are cornmeal flatbreads stuffed with cheese and meat. People have been loving them so long that they’ve even been discovered in the ruins of Joya de Cerén, the “El Salvadoran Pompei.” Beer and wine are available for separate purchase.

Chicano Boy Taco

We sat inside at Chicano Boy Taco (but there’s also a patio) to devour delicious soft tacos made with handmade tortillas and three special sauces. You’re going to want to invest in a tortilla press after this meal. Beer is available for separate purchase. The walk from Chicano Boy to Beverley Street is full of history. We saw sites where sinkholes appeared in the early part of the 20th Century and the streets laid bare by “urban renewal” in the 60s. We also walked by two churches boasting original Tiffany windows.

Staunton Olive Oil Company

Staunton Olive Oil Company provides a fun way to rest between courses. We wandered the store sampling olive oils and balsamic vinegars and making important-seeming notes on clipboards. We learned the difference between fused and infused oils and got suggestions about good pairings. Oils and vinegars are available for purchase.

Yelping Dog Wine

The walk down Beverley Street takes you past a number of T.J. Collins-designed buildings. What’s cool is that for the 20 years Collins was active in Staunton around the turn of the century, he designed in a variety of styles, including Gothic, Beaux Arts, and Moorish Revival. He also had the means to import materials from far away. Consequently, downtown Staunton has an eclectic main street. We cozied up at a table in Yelping Dog Wine, talked about architecture and real estate, and gnoshed on a cheese and fruit plate. Wine is not included at this stop, but you can purchase it separately.

Réunion Bakery & Espresso

Réunion Bakery & Espresso makes one tray of canelé a day and I got to have one. They only make one tray a day because this tasty crusted custard, made first in French convents, is a ton of work and requires ages to season the mold with butter and beeswax. It was delicious, and Réunion is a terrific place to meet and chat with friends. 

Wright’s Dairy Rite

By the time I walked to Wright’s Dairy Rite, I was hungry again. I enjoyed an egg salad slider and some of Wright’s famous hand-dipped, made-to-order onion rings. We sat outside and talked about the history of the Blackburn Inn property across the road, but we could have sat inside and delighted in the classic-Staunton diner ambiance.

Paris Cake Company

To get to the Paris Cake Company, we walked over Sears Hill and the pedestrian footbridge over the railroad tracks. The Wharf District has a fascinating history that includes train wrecks, fires, brothels and patent medicine scammers. We sat in the charming lobby of the Paris Cake Company, perused photo albums of wedding cake inspiration and savored a decadent deconstructed peanut butter mousse.

Ox-Eye Tasting Room

The final stop on the tour was the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room. While the actual vineyard sits outside of town, the tasting room is located in a historic T.J. Collins structure, originally used to weigh railroad cargo. We tasted both white and red wines, and we learned how the grapes are grown and harvested. Additional wine is available by the glass or bottle for purchase.

Before you go

  • The menus may vary as the restaurants showcase their best seasonal offerings.
  • Tours run on Saturdays, May – October. Tours last about 3.5 hours and can accommodate up to 12 guests.
  • Purchase advanced tickets at biteseeingstaunton.com.
  • Tours occur rain or shine and involve walking. Wear weather-appropriate gear and comfortable shoes.

 

Beyond Airbnb: Staunton’s Alternative Rentals

Staunton offers lots of choices of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnb properties, and now visitors have another option. Gibson’s Warehouse and Staunton Stays offer all the luxuries and amenities expected by seasoned travelers. This includes long and short-term rentals, uniquely decorated units, and private kitchens and living spaces. Best of all, both alternative rental … Continue reading Beyond Airbnb: Staunton’s Alternative Rentals

Staunton offers lots of choices of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnb properties, and now visitors have another option. Gibson’s Warehouse and Staunton Stays offer all the luxuries and amenities expected by seasoned travelers. This includes long and short-term rentals, uniquely decorated units, and private kitchens and living spaces. Best of all, both alternative rental spaces are located in walkable downtown Staunton, allowing visitors immediate access to the city’s best amenities.

Gibson’s Warehouse  

Gibson’s Warehouse is a four-suite loft lodging in a T.J. Collins-designed warehouse in Staunton’s Wharf District. Designed in 1905, the historic building originally stored hay, fertilizer, and farm equipment. After renovations, it’s the epitome of comfort and industrial cool. Additionally, its location is close to dining, shopping, entertainment, and the farmers’ market. It’s easy to explore downtown Staunton on foot! 

Each private suite offers a full-sized and fully-equipped kitchen, modern bath, living space, and a king-sized bed. The units also boast tall ceilings with visible rafters, large windows, wood floors and areas of exposed brick. Enjoy complimentary wifi and a treat basket. There is also a common space in the lobby with seating areas so guests can mingle and socialize. No pets or smoking.

Staunton Stays

Staunton Stays is a four-suite boutique hotel in a beautifully renovated Victorian house. Each plush suite has a different theme. All four suites offer full kitchens, modern bathrooms, living quarters, and access to a laundry room. Begin with a complimentary bottle of wine and basket of snacks before you cook a meal in your private kitchen or walk to a restaurant. All four suites offer queen-sized beds and a sofa bed. No pets or smoking.

  • The Shenandoah Suite is luxuriously appointed and decorated to represent the “Shenandoah Valley’s incomparable beauty and nostalgia.” You’ll find unique, farmhouse-chic furniture incorporating materials like sewing machines and barn wood.
  • The elegant Bons Amis Suite is decorated with comfy furniture and French-themed accents. This private, upper-level suite looks out over Staunton.
  • The Serendipity Suite is both comfortable and quirky. The space is located on the first floor and includes dreamy colors, cushy furniture, inspirational messages, and whimsical decor.
  • The decor in The Bohemian Suite includes bikes, butterflies, and original artwork. It will appeal to your inner artist. Bright with bold colors sure to inspire your imagination, the space offers several comfortable lounging and dining options.

Plan Your “Nest” Adventure: Birdwatching in Staunton

Staunton offers visitors a wealth of birdwatching opportunities. Eagle eyes will be rewarded in both our parks and residential areas. Venture into the countryside for even more chances to experience avian habitats and the Shenandoah Valley’s incredible scenery. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’re working on your big year, these Staunton-area hotspots are a good … Continue reading Plan Your “Nest” Adventure: Birdwatching in Staunton

Staunton offers visitors a wealth of birdwatching opportunities. Eagle eyes will be rewarded in both our parks and residential areas. Venture into the countryside for even more chances to experience avian habitats and the Shenandoah Valley’s incredible scenery. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’re working on your big year, these Staunton-area hotspots are a good place to get started.

Bell’s Lane

Staunton’s top birding spot is Bell’s Lane, a quiet two-mile paved road that winds through farmland. Traffic is light and the road is recognized by locals as a site for runners, bikers, and birders. Birdwatchers on ebird have reported seeing 208 species plus more at the ponds. Sightings include warblers, orioles, hawks, and waterfowl, If you’re into owling, you might be able to catch glimpse of screech, great-horned, and short-eared owls here. The southern end of Bells Lane supports a kiosk where birders note recent sightings.

Montgomery Hall Park

Made up of open fields and wooded areas, Montgomery Hall Park boasts 99 reported species. The park is usually private and several miles of hiking/mountain bike trails wind through it. Woodpeckers, flycatchers, and yellow-billed cuckoos. Look for warblers and vireos during migration periods.

Betsy Bell Wilderness

Betsy Bell Wilderness is Staunton’s best-kept secret when it comes to natural areas within the city limits. It’s a little hard to find, but once there, you’ll enjoy a nice hike and the chance to see 95 different reported forest-dwelling species, including hawks, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. This is also a good location to spot warblers and other neotropical migrants in the spring and fall.

Gypsy Hill Park

Gypsy Hill Park is best known for the bandstand, the playground, and ballfields. But it’s also a good spot to view song birds. The duck pond includes both wild and domestic ducks and geese. If you’re walking or jogging before dawn, you might hear a screech owl. A half mile away, scenic Thornrose Cemetery offers 43 species, lovely views, and a nice place for a walk.

Sanger’s Lane

Just outside of Staunton city limits, find Sanger’s Lane. This quiet country road winds through open farmland, wetland, and woods. Birders have identified 46 species like the great blue heron rookery. This is a good site for songbirds and owls.

Augusta Springs Wetlands

Visitors to Augusta Springs Wetlands report more than 150 species. According to the Augusta Bird Club, phoebes, green herons, kingfishers, yellowthroats, and red-shouldered hawks are among the species that can be found here. Be on the lookout for butterflies, salamanders, and other small creatures. The wetlands consists of a handicap-accessible loop trail with entrances to a more extensive trail network in the national forest.

Natural Chimneys 

Birdwatchers visiting Natural Chimneys Park report sightings of 102 species. This small park offers both open fields and wooded trails. You’ll also enjoy seeing the tall limestone rock formations that rise up like a castle. Entrance fee applies.

Shenandoah National Park

The southern end of Shenandoah National Park is a 25-minute drive from Staunton. Take advantage of the miles of trails and scenic overlooks in this extensive mountain forest habitat. More than 190 species have been identified nesting or migrating here. Entrance fee applies.

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

172 bird species have been reported at Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, but the real stars are the raptors. Volunteers gather near the Inn at Afton, located just off I-64 for the fall migration. They collect data on the hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and osprey that pass through from August-November.

For more on the local ornithological community and organized and social opportunities to bird, travel, and promote wildlife conservation, check out the Augusta Bird Club. Started in 1966, the club now has over 100 members.

 

Looking for Your Next Vino Vacay? “Wine” Down in Staunton

Virginians have been making wine for 250 years, but recently our wine business has gained national attention for its award-winning wines. Virginia had only six vineyards in 1979; today it boasts 312! Nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Staunton offers scenery and culture. It’s also a great home base for a wine vacation.  Places to … Continue reading Looking for Your Next Vino Vacay? “Wine” Down in Staunton

Virginians have been making wine for 250 years, but recently our wine business has gained national attention for its award-winning wines. Virginia had only six vineyards in 1979; today it boasts 312! Nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Staunton offers scenery and culture. It’s also a great home base for a wine vacation. 

Places to Try It

Yelping Dog / 9 E. Beverley Street

Yelping Dog is perfectly suited for dropping in (and staying a while) when you’re visiting downtown Staunton. Spoil yourself with a glass of wine or choose a bottle from the 1,500+ selections hailing from both nearby vineyards and around the world. Hungry? Enjoy a gourmet cheese platter to share with friends or indulge in one of Yelping Dog’s incredible grilled cheese creations. 

Hours: Tues-Thurs: 11-9, Fri-Sat: 11-10, Sun: noon-6

Ox-Eye Vineyards / 44 Middlebrook Avenue

Check out the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room tucked into a historic T.J. Collins building in Staunton’s Wharf district. Just steps away from the Staunton Farmers’ Market, you can enjoy a noontime tasting or a glass after a morning of shopping. Or, enjoy a drink at Ox-Eye before visiting one of the many restaurants within easy walking distance. This wine stop also boasts an upstairs art gallery. 

Hours: Mon-Thurs: noon-6, Fri: noon-7, Sat: 10-7, Sun: noon-5

Barren Ridge Vineyards / 984 Barren Ridge Road, Fishersville, VA

There’s a reason that Barren Ridge Vineyards is such a popular destination: the incredible wine and the incredible view. Enjoy a tasting of Barren Ridge’s best, then follow it up with a glass or bottle. Plan to pack a picnic or snacks. This vineyard is child and dog-friendly. Check the schedule for live music and other fun events like races and the annual 4th of July Pork and Cork.

Hours: Sun: 1-6, Mon-Wed: 11-6,  Thurs-Sat: 11-9.  

Pompei Lounge / 23 E Beverley Street

While not strictly a wine destination, The Pompei Lounge deserves a place on this list because of the atmosphere. Choose from a variety of seating areas including two exterior spaces: a balcony overlooking Beverley Street and providing incredible views of the city and an outdoor terrace that often hosts live music and events. Enjoy wine, beer, or cocktails, and order food from the Emilio’s kitchen.

Hours: Tues: 5-midnight, Wed-Sat: 5-2 a.m.

Places to Buy It

The Wine Cellar / 8 Byers Street

For a carefully curated selection of wines, visit The Wine Cellar. Besides wine, the Wine Cellar also sells craft beer, Santiago chocolates, and other gourmet foods. Check the event schedule for complimentary Friday night tastings. After 20 years, this shop is under new ownership. Look for changes in the coming months. 

Hours: 11-6

Nu-Beginning Farm The Store / 221 North Lewis Street

Nu-Beginning Farm The Store offers Virginia wine, craft beer, and cider for sale along with homemade items and baked goods. Stop in to dine or shop at this micro-restaurant and grocery specializing in local products.

Summer Hours: Mon – Sat 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Cranberries / 7 South New Street

Try Cranberries for lunch, to grab some treats from their grocery section, and to buy your favorite natural and bulk products. Cranberries also sells local beer and wine, including wines from Crosskeys Vineyards and Barren Ridge Vineyards.

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

Other Area Vineyards Within Easy Driving Distance of Staunton

If you’re using Staunton as your home base, but want to visit some vineyards that are a little further afield, try Rockbridge Vineyard, Bluestone Vineyard, Cross Keys Vineyards, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Veritas Vineyard & Winery, or Marceline Vineyards.

Planning Ahead

Don’t forget to make plans to attend February’s annual Winter Wine Festival at the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel. June brings the annual Shenandoah Valley Wine and Jazz Festival at the Frontier Culture Museum.

4th of July Happenings: 2019

Staunton combines a small-town vibe with some serious entertainment this 4th of July. Get your red, white, and blue on at one of these fun events. Happy Birthday America Wednesday, July 3 starting at 6:30 pm Thursday, July 4 starting at 7:30 am Gypsy Hill Park Bring the family to Gypsy Hill Park this Independence … Continue reading 4th of July Happenings: 2019

Staunton combines a small-town vibe with some serious entertainment this 4th of July. Get your red, white, and blue on at one of these fun events.

Happy Birthday America

Wednesday, July 3 starting at 6:30 pm

Thursday, July 4 starting at 7:30 am

Gypsy Hill Park

Bring the family to Gypsy Hill Park this Independence Day for the free, family-friendly Happy Birthday America. The party starts on July 3rd with entertainment and a vesper service. Things will get going 7:30 a.m. on July 4th with the Firecracker 5K. Snag a spot along the park loop parade route for the Happy Birthday America Parade at 10 a.m. Spend the afternoon enjoying concessions, playing in community baseball games, and listening to the Stonewall Brigade Band. Look for music by local artists starting at 5 p.m. The headline performance by homegrown country group Wilson Fairchild joined by The Malpass Brothers will get underway at 7:30. This performance promises to be high energy and entertaining. Stick around after the concert for fireworks starting at approximately 10 p.m.!  See the complete schedule.

Independence Day Celebration

Thursday, July 4 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Frontier Culture Museum

Learn about our area’s history while enjoying the 4th of July at the Frontier Culture Museum’s  Independence Day Celebration. Living history interpreters will give demonstrations and lead hands-on activities. Check out a reading of the Declaration of Independence and follow it up by entering a melon seed spitting contest. Other historic activities and games include baking demonstrations, sack races, two-man sawing, pie eating contests, and much, much more. Rick’s BBQ and Smiley’s Ice Cream will be on site selling concessions if you get hungry. Entrance to the museum on July 4 is pay what you will.

11th Annual Pork and Cork

Thursday, July 4 from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Barren Ridge Vineyards

Visit Barren Ridge Vineyards for the 11th annual Pork and Cork. The vineyard will open to the public at 11 a.m. Music starts at 1 p.m. and continues through the night. Listen to the sounds of Jimmy O, Timeless, Sound Machine, and more. The barbecue feast by Valley Pig Pickin’ will be ready to eat at 5 p.m. Sip wine and enjoy the sunset.  A fireworks show concludes the evening. Tickets are required after 4 p.m. *Due to fireworks, dogs are not allowed to attend this event.*

Heifetz Festival of Concerts: Stars of Tomorrow

Thursday, July 4, 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Heifetz Festival of Concerts: Stars of Tomorrow

Francis Auditorium at Mary Baldwin University

If you’d like to spend the evening of the 4th treating your ears to something special, buy a ticket for Stars of Tomorrow. Part of the annual Heifetz Festival of Concerts, the Stars of Tomorrow series showcases the work of Heifetz students, faculty, and alumni artists in residence.

Free Stuff to Do for Kids, 2019

Long summer days are here and kids are looking for things to do. We’ve rounded up a list of free family-friendly activities in Staunton that will keep the dreaded “I’m boreds” at bay. Save this for future reference; we’re sure you’ll look to it as a resource for a while to come. Artsy Things Enjoy … Continue reading Free Stuff to Do for Kids, 2019

Long summer days are here and kids are looking for things to do. We’ve rounded up a list of free family-friendly activities in Staunton that will keep the dreaded “I’m boreds” at bay. Save this for future reference; we’re sure you’ll look to it as a resource for a while to come.

Artsy Things

Enjoy the art gallery experience and support local artists at the Co-Art Gallery and the Artisans Loft. Visit the R.R. Smith Center for history and rotating exhibits. Mary Baldwin University hosts several exhibits tin its Hunt Gallery each academic year. Check out the Blue Star Parent Tool Kit for great ideas to get your kids interacting with what they see during a visit to a museum or gallery.

One of the coolest demonstrations you’ll ever see is glassblowing, and you can see it everyday in Staunton at Sunspots Studios! Watch the masters seemingly turn glass into wax as they form big bubbles bound for a life of beauty.

Outdoorsy Things

Gypsy Hill Park

214-acre Gypsy Hill Park has a skate park (for BMX, inline, scooters, and skateboards), the Gypsy Express Mini Train (almost free; $1 per person), the duck pond, Lake Tams for fishing, and of course, playgrounds. Don’t miss Family Nite Flix hosted by Staunton Parks and Recreation. Also, visit the bandstand Monday – Thursday nights for live music, including the Stonewall Brigade Band, Praise in the Park, bluegrass, and jazz.

Montgomery Hall Park

Montgomery Hall Park is 148 acres and includes miles of looping hiking and mountain biking trails. It’s also home to the award-winning natural playground, Nature Ridge. Designed for imaginative play, Nature Ridge has a mud kitchen, rock quarry, pirate ship, tunnel, chimes, and an elevated sand pit accessible to children of all abilities. This park’s amenities are rounded out with a traditional playground, disc golf course, tennis and basketball courts, and a pool.

Treasure Hunting

Do you have a little explorer on your hands? Feed the sense of adventure and mystery when you geocache in our parks or downtown. Learn more about the process and fun of geocaching, then locate our area caches to get started. You can also explore by foot using the free app, Traipse! Traipse takes you on an adventure that is half historic tour and half scavenger hunt. You can Traipse anytime, with whomever you want, in places like downtown Staunton, Gypsy Hill Park, and the campus of Mary Baldwin University.

National Parks and Forests

Staunton is only a short drive from Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest which are filled with hikes and other outdoor recreation. Click here for our post on good area hikes for beginners. Entrance fees may apply but the National Park Service does offer fee-free days see the schedule

Fun Things

Movies

Visulite Cinemas has booked their summer 2019 Kids’ Series. Films will play Tuesday – Friday and shows are pay what you will. Films at Legacy Theaters Kids’ Summer Film Quest cost only $1.

Story Time

Do you have an avid reader on your hands? Drop into the Staunton Public Library for story time or one of the cool summer programs planned while the kids are out of school.

Toy Store

Pop in to play at Pufferbellies, the largest independently owned toy store in the Shenandoah Valley. Kids are actually allowed to play while you shop, and you can help your kids build their Christmas wish list.

Bowling

Staunton Lanes is a member of the Kids Bowl Free program that allows your children to bowl two free games every day all summer long at the bowling alley initially chosen at the time of registration.

Historic Things

Tour the Town

History buff families with eager-to-learn children will appreciate a good walking tour with a knowledgeable guide. The Historic Staunton Foundation offers such tours for free every Saturday.

Discover Staunton by Trolley. It’s not free, but it only costs 25 cents per rider. Visit area attractions like the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Gypsy Hill Park and several of Staunton’s historic districts. The Green route runs every 30 minutes.

Trains & Firetrucks

Does your family love trains? Visit the historic train station and Sears Hill Bridge. You’ll see the tracks – and Staunton – from above. For an awesome display of model train layouts and railroad art, head to the Augusta County Railroad Museum in the Staunton Mall. The museum is open Fridays from 5 – 8 pm and Saturdays from 1 – 5 pm.

And if your obsession leans toward fire trucks, you’ll like the Staunton Fire Station, where you can see JUMBO, the oldest motorized fire engine in Virginia and the only remaining 1911 Robinson fire engine. 

Free Stuff to Do for Adults: 2019

What’s better than a trip to Staunton? Finding free things do do while you visit, of course! Here’s a list of fun (and frugal) activities for grownups. Artsy Things Beverley Street Studio School Gallery & Co-Art Gallery The Beverley Street Studio School Gallery hosts seven annual exhibits, which are open to the public seven days … Continue reading Free Stuff to Do for Adults: 2019

What’s better than a trip to Staunton? Finding free things do do while you visit, of course! Here’s a list of fun (and frugal) activities for grownups.

Artsy Things

Beverley Street Studio School Gallery & Co-Art Gallery

The Beverley Street Studio School Gallery hosts seven annual exhibits, which are open to the public seven days a week. Enjoy the work of 40+ local artists in the Valley’s largest cooperative gallery, the Co-ART Gallery, which is housed in a connecting space.

Hunt Gallery

Mary Baldwin University hosts five professional exhibits in its Hunt Gallery each academic year. The art ranges from “abstract to classical, reflecting a wide variety of media and artistic intentions.”

Gallery at Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room

If you stop in at Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room, located in a T.J Collins-designed building in historic downtown, make sure you head upstairs for a look at the gallery, which is free to the public and offers several shows each year.

Artisans Loft

Located in a 2,000-sf. loft about the Staunton Antiques Center, the Artisans Loft celebrates the work of local artists with four juried shows each year.

Staunton Augusta Arts Center

The Staunton Augusta Arts Center is located in the historic R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. Peruse the galleries Monday through Saturday to check out the rotating exhibits, which change every six weeks.

Sunspots Studios

Have you ever seen glass blown at Sunspots Studios? It’s free to watch and demos are offered daily until 4 p.m.

Heifetz Institute

Fans of chamber music should check out the Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts schedule for free offerings.

Staunton Music Festival

Several events at the Staunton Music Festival are free and open to the public. This 10-day chamber music festival opens on August 16 and represents 600 years of music.

 

Historic Things

Trinity Episcopal Church

The Louis Comfort Tiffany windows at Trinity Episcopal Church are always a draw, and you can visit the church for free to see them. Learn more about the windows and plan your visit.

For more about the surrounding area, visit Staunton Architecture: Newtown Historic District.

Thornrose Cemetery

Thornrose Cemetery is a good place for a walk to experience human and architectural history. It’s the final resting place of more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers from five area battlefields. The various statues and landscaping are worth your attention as well. Check out our walking tour of Thornrose Cemetery.

Historic Staunton Foundation Guided Tour

A free guided tour of Staunton’s notable buildings and historic districts is offered every Saturday – May through October. Connect with the Historic Staunton Foundation to join in.

Outdoorsy Things

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Parks

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Parks are open to the public from dawn until dusk. Hike the nature trails and appreciate the expansive views of Staunton and the surrounding area. Be sure to bring your camera to capture wildlife!

Gypsy Hill Park

Some people love the duck pond at Gypsy Hill Park. Others appreciate the fishing lake or dog park. Bring your inlines, your BMX, or your skateboard to thrill onlookers with your mad tricks at the skatepark. During the summer, the bandstand hosts free summer concerts. Concerts feature a different genre each night and include the Stonewall Brigade Band on Monday, Praise in the Park on Tuesday, Bluegrass in the Park on Wednesday, and Jazz in the Park on Thursday.

Montgomery Hall Park

Those who want a real workout will enjoy the mountain biking and hiking trails at hilly Montgomery Hall Park. If disc golf is more your style, tee up on the 18-hole course.

Tasty Things

The Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar hosts regular tastings. Sip some samples and then select a bottle of wine or beer from the newly expanded beer selection. The tastings are sometimes on Fridays and sometimes on Saturdays. Check Facebook for more info.

Staunton Olive Oil Company

If you enjoy cooking or are looking for a special gift, stop by Staunton Olive Oil Company’s tasting room for a cooking demonstration and to try their many varieties of infused and fused olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

Fun Stuff at Breweries

While you’re not going to get free beer or food while you visit, you can certainly take advantage of the many free activities hosted by our local breweries. Join the weekly trivia and karaoke at Redbeard Brewing. Skipping Rock Beer Co. hosts lots of live music and trivia games. Enjoy music, bingo and comedy nights at Bedlam Brewing. Queen City Brewing lets you listen to live music or take the stage yourself with open mic nights. Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company also hosts live music and events. If you’re planning to brewery hop, earn yourself a free t-shirt with Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail’s passport program!

If you are traveling with your family, click here for our post on free family adventures.

Train Those Legs: Six Staunton-Area Hiking Trails for Beginners

Whether you’re new to hiking or you’re hoping to get your kids to join you, Staunton has a number of hikes that are appropriate for beginners. You won’t be ready to thru-hike the A.T., but you’ll end up with strong legs and the peace of mind that comes with getting outside and breathing deeply of … Continue reading Train Those Legs: Six Staunton-Area Hiking Trails for Beginners

Whether you’re new to hiking or you’re hoping to get your kids to join you, Staunton has a number of hikes that are appropriate for beginners. You won’t be ready to thru-hike the A.T., but you’ll end up with strong legs and the peace of mind that comes with getting outside and breathing deeply of nature. I’ve personally done all of these hikes with my five-year-old to the tune of minimal complaining.

Montgomery Hall Park

Montgomery Hall Park is a great asset to Staunton. You can wander on the looping miles of wooded hiking trails and forget that you’re within city limits. Great for birders, you might also spot deer. This park is hilly, but the interconnected nature of the blazed trails make it possible to design a hike that suits your needs. It’s also easy to cut your hike short if it becomes too challenging for beginner (or tiny) legs. The trails are well maintained. There are no views or water features. Best for: walking with kids or leashed dogs, and birders. 

Betsy Bell Wilderness

Affectionately called “mountains,” Betsy Bell and Mary Gray rise above the city of Staunton and can be spotted from the distance as you approach town. The loop hike climbs and will get your heart pumping, but it’s not challenging and is good for beginners or children. Park in the designated parking area and hike up the gravel road to start. You’ll pass two overlooks that give great overhead views of Staunton. It’s fun to try to identify landmarks from a different perspective. This is a good spot to see deer and birds.

Sherando Lake

Sherando Lake Recreation Area offers several hiking trails, but our favorite is the trail that loops the lower lake. If you hike clockwise (go left from the parking area), you will cover the more difficult portions of the trail while your legs are fresh. This section has some short, but steep, ups and downs and edges a drop off in one section. At the halfway point, you’ll come to the spillway of the dam, which offers some interest and views. The second half of the hike is on a flat, wide trail. The loop concludes at the sandy beach by the swimming area and restrooms.

North River Gorge

The North River Gorge hike requires sitting in the car for a while, but is totally worth all the “are we there yets” when you arrive. The entire loop might take experienced hikers six hours, but you can hike about a mile and get to a scenic overlook if you take the turn for the Lookout Trail noted on the hike’s web page. This is a good turnaround spot. The hike has just enough up and down to get your heart pumping, offers great views of the river, and ends at a scenic overlook high above the valley. Oh, and there’s a swinging bridge and ruins of an old spring to explore.

Augusta Springs Wetlands

Augusta Springs Wetlands is a super hike for kids, beginners, or birders out for a stroll. Originally part of a turn-of-the-century resort, all that remains now are some foundations and random-looking stonework. The main loop trail is flat, mostly board-walked, and less than a mile long, but you can add on additional, more rugged, distance if you’re feeling up to it. Educational stations along the way tell of animals you might encounter.

White Rock Falls

Hikers who aren’t ready for the steep climb to Humpback Rocks might enjoy the hike to White Rock Falls from the Slacks overlook. You’ll descend just over a mile from the parkway to a pretty waterfall. The trail continues for a longer hike, but if you retrace your steps, your total will be 2.2 miles. The hike back out is steep, but there are some bridges to stomp over (and trolls to chase you if you’re lucky).