#LOVEstaunton

#LOVEstaunton

It’s All Downhill from Staunton! Nearby Winter Adventures

Situated perfectly in the Valley, Staunton’s an easy drive to several resorts that specialize in winter downhill activities. What better way to spend a winter weekend than getting a workout on the slopes and then following it up with a night out in Staunton’s vibrant downtown? See below for places to stay and things to … Continue reading It’s All Downhill from Staunton! Nearby Winter Adventures

Situated perfectly in the Valley, Staunton’s an easy drive to several resorts that specialize in winter downhill activities. What better way to spend a winter weekend than getting a workout on the slopes and then following it up with a night out in Staunton’s vibrant downtown? See below for places to stay and things to do once you warm up from the slopes.

Massanutten Resort

40 minutes from Staunton

Ski day and night on Massanutten Resort’s 12 ski trails, which are suitable for a variety of ability levels. Lessons are available at Massanutten’s terrain-based learning area. There’s also a freestyle area on the slopes, 16 lanes of snow tubing, and ice skating on a 5,000-square foot rink. If you want to warm up away from the slopes, check out Massanutten’s indoor waterpark.

Wintergreen Ski Resort

40 minutes from Staunton

Wintergreen Ski Resort is a four-season resort located in the Blue Ridge Mountains that features skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing in the winter. It offers 24 slopes and trails to appeal to all ability levels. Want to improve? Sign up for group or individual lessons. To reduce time waiting, Wintergreen boasts two high-speed 6-pack chairlifts and Radio Frequency Identification Devices that operate like EZ-Passes for the ski slopes.

Bryce Mountain Resort

1 hour and 10 minutes from Staunton

Bryce Mountain Resort is a four-season resort in the Allegheny foothills that offers skiing, snowboarding, and lessons in the winter. There are 8 slopes that can be accessed by ski lifts as well as a dedicated area for beginners with carpet lifts. Beginners ages 8 and up can book lessons with the Horst Locher Snowsports School. Three 800-foot snow tubing lanes and an ice skating rink round out the fun.

The Omni Homestead Resort

1 hour and 20 minutes from Staunton

The Omni Homestead Resort is located southwest of Staunton. It has nine downhill ski runs that are perfect for various abilities. The resort also boasts an Olympic-size ice rink. The resort has been recognized as “one of the top Beginner Friendly and Family Friendly ski resorts in the Southeast in the 2017-18 Best in Snow Awards.” Lessons are available for ages four and older.

stay in staunton 

Once your day on the slopes is complete, head back to your home base of Staunton. Choose from our elegant properties steeped in history, cozy B&Bs or one of our hip hotels. 

 

historic hotels

charming b&Bs

hip new hotels


Why not have a drink at one of our
wine bars or craft breweries? We can also recommend some great fireplaces for toasting your toes. Dine in style at one of our downtown restaurants that run the gamut from fine farm-to-table dining, comfort food, and everything in between. After dinner, make sure to catch a Shakespeare show at the Blackfriars Playhouse or a movie at the Visulite.

Comfort Food

Swimsuit season is still ages from now, so why not drown your winter blues in meat, or pasta, or cheese, or pizza, or a combination of all of the above? Or if you’re someone who takes comfort in more abstract terms, like “good for me,” or “tastes like home,” you’ll find that, too. While tastes … Continue reading Comfort Food

Swimsuit season is still ages from now, so why not drown your winter blues in meat, or pasta, or cheese, or pizza, or a combination of all of the above? Or if you’re someone who takes comfort in more abstract terms, like “good for me,” or “tastes like home,” you’ll find that, too. While tastes in comfort food may differ, Staunton has something to comfort every taste.

You’re Craving Soup

When soup is what calls to warm your belly and soul, stop by Snapdragon Pho and enjoy a nutritious bowl of broth and noodles seasoned and adorned with your favorite add ons. It’s also soup season at Stable Craft Brewery, so if you’re in the mood for a beautiful drive through the countryside, plan to enjoy soup, a sandwich, and a pint.

You’re Jonesing for Meat

Located in Staunton’s old train depot, The Depot Grille serves all kinds of comfort food (including seafood, steak, sandwiches, and pasta). A steak sizzler on potatoes is a stand-out menu item. Another good bet from their specials menu is a grilled-to-order, hand-cut, prime New York strip served with peppercorn brandy cream sauce. If you’re more of a chicken aficionado, make room for the chicken tender Parmesan, made with penne pasta topped with crispy chicken tenders doused in marinara, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

You Want Something Southern (and Kinda Fancy)

The Shack offers an ever-changing menu, but it is always locally sourced and inspired by the best kind of Southern cuisine. Recent offerings included grilled pork loin with fermented sweet potato grits, fried apples & minuna, and porcini and lardo gravy. They also serve one of the best burgers in the state!

Something Fried has Your Name on It

BLU Point Seafood has you covered with fresh fish and seafood battered and fried into golden deliciousness. Looking for something traditional? Their Fish n’ Chips features New England Haddock (served with fries and coleslaw), it’s fresh and tastes like something that should have a fancier name. Or if you’re looking to do some sampling, get a seafood basket served with your choice of fried shrimp, oysters, whole belly clams, bay scallops or haddock.

Mmmm. How About “Old Fashioned”?


Do you find comfort in tradition? In Americana? If so, Wright’s Dairy Rite is right up your alley and it’s a crowd pleaser. This burger joint dates back to the 1950s and you can either eat inside or have your food delivered to your car. Follow your classic burger and fries combo with something delicious from their ice cream menu. People come from all over to taste the banana shake! 

You’re carb loading 


In the mood for fresh pasta? Newtown Baking is known for their bread by day but in the evenings this popular breakfast spot turns into a pizzeria cranking out wood-fired pizzas and carb-craving pasta with specials every week. 

Want a deep plate of cheesy, chickeny deliciousness with a little bit of a kick to make it interesting? Try the Cajun Chicken Fettuccine at Mill Street Grill. Everything about this restaurant is comforting, from the cozy basement location, to the generous portions, to the three types of bread baked into a terracotta pot they give you at the beginning of your meal.

Take the family to Shenandoah Pizza for gourmet pizzas with local names like Sherwood Avenue and ShenanArts. Try the Virginia Vineyard sprinkled with red grapes, rosemary and gorgonzola. The interesting blend of toppings was featured in Forbes and is delicious we might add!

11 Kid-Friendly Winter Ideas

To some adults winter might signal a time to snuggle up with a book or a favorite streaming service; however, most kids don’t know the meaning of “slow down.” Here’s how to thrill the gang if you’re in Staunton during snow season. Learn about the Past The Frontier Culture Museum is open all year long … Continue reading 11 Kid-Friendly Winter Ideas

To some adults winter might signal a time to snuggle up with a book or a favorite streaming service; however, most kids don’t know the meaning of “slow down.” Here’s how to thrill the gang if you’re in Staunton during snow season.

Learn about the Past

The Frontier Culture Museum is open all year long because life doesn’t stop on the farm. Families will love checking out living farm history and seeing what cold-weather activities kept our ancestors busy. The museum includes both indoor and outdoor spaces, and you can catch a ride on a golf cart whenever little feet get too tired to take another step.

Ice Skating

If you’re sick of practicing your quadruple axles on that frozen puddle, you need to get to an ice rink, pronto. Generations Park in Bridgewater is only 30 minutes away and offers daily ice skating and “limited” skate rental through the first weekend in March.

Ride Your Sled

Staunton has no shortage of hills, and if there’s snow on the ground during your visit, try out some of our slopes. Our picks? Try Montgomery Hall Park or Gypsy Hill Park. Need a sled? 

Appreciate the Views

One thing we love about winter is how far you can see with the leaves off the trees. For some great winter views (and a chance to stretch your muscles and get your heart pumping), hike from the Wharf parking lot, across Sears Hill Bridge to Woodrow Park. Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness also has some great winter views from a pair of overlooks that can be reached by hiking or by car.

Spot Wildlife

Just 20 minutes out of town, Augusta Springs Wetlands offers a great way to get some exercise and spot some wildlife at the same time. Best of all, much of the ¾-mile main loop trail is boardwalk, so your shoes won’t get crazy muddy!

Tube at Massanutten

You’ll have to drive a little to get to Massanutten Resort, but believe us, if your family likes to ski, it’s worth it. You’re into tubing, you say? Well, this resort offers snow tubing with more than a dozen lanes, a 120-foot vertical drop, and a lift to get back to the top. If snow just isn’t your thing, you can take your tube skills indoors to the Massanutten Water Park where you’ll splash, slide, and float your way to a terrific time.

Solve a Mystery

Do you have junior detectives in your clan? Park your Mystery Machine and exercise your minds at Crack the Code Escape Room. You’ll work with a group to decipher clues and (hopefully) escape your locked room in under an hour. Pick from four themes with varying difficulty including The Dark Mage’s Rise and Steampunk City.

Bowl Your Heart Out

When the weather gets cold, people who are looking for indoor excitement go bowling. It’s the most fun you’ll have in rental shoes. Staunton Lanes offers lanes with bumpers and special ball aimers for the game’s youngest fans. There’s also a snack bar stocked with all your favorites.

Catch a Movie

Staunton has two movie theaters. The Visulite is located downtown and shows the latest films. Bonus: Mom and dad can enjoy a glass of beer or wine while they watch.  Legacy Theaters is located in the Staunton Mall and shows second-run movies. All shows cost $3!

Find a New Game

Top off a terrific day by treating your family to a trip to Pufferbellies Toys and Books. You’ll find delights for all ages, including books, games, art supplies, and building toys. The carefully curated collection is designed for inventive and imaginative play and should be enough to keep you occupied until spring weather returns.

Sip Hot Cocoa

After that full day, you’re probably tired and hungry. Give your tummy some love with lunch and some delicious hot cocoa at Cranberry’s Eatery & Grocery. 

 

A Day in the Life of Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was our 28th president. While he lived elsewhere for much of his life, he was born on December 28, 1856 in Staunton and spent his early youth here. The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library still stands and is a gem if you’re into history. Open year-round, it consists of a house, library, gardens, … Continue reading A Day in the Life of Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was our 28th president. While he lived elsewhere for much of his life, he was born on December 28, 1856 in Staunton and spent his early youth here. The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library still stands and is a gem if you’re into history. Open year-round, it consists of a house, library, gardens, and gift shop.

Make sure to visit the museum’s newest exhibit, Protesting the President, which explores “the many issues that President Woodrow Wilson faced while running the country and how those issues still resonate today.” 

What was Wilson known for?

Woodrow Wilson became president on March 4, 1913. He held office for eight years and guided the country through WWI. According to UVA’s Millercenter.org, his purpose was “to cleanse, to reconsider, to restore, to correct the evil without impairing the good, to purify and humanize every process of our common life without weakening or sentimentalizing it.”

Wilson became the first U.S. president to visit Europe while holding office. He went to France for the peace negotiations at the end of WWI.

What is the history of the house?

The Woodrow Wilson birthplace is a Greek Revival manse. A manse is the term for the home of a Presbyterian minister.

How was Staunton different when he lived here?

Born on December 28, 1856, Woodrow Wilson lived in Staunton until 1858. This was before the Civil War, and at that point, slavery was legal. During the war, Wilson’s mother tended wounded Confederate soldiers. Wilson’s views on race and his support of segregation have sparked controversy. The museum offers a special tour about the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked in the manse.

Women couldn’t vote. Though Wilson was on the wrong side of other civil rights debates, he actively supported women’s right to vote and his support helped ratify the 19th Amendment.

There were no cars when Wilson lived in Staunton. In fact, even in 1913, cars were a new thing. Though Wilson became a car enthusiast, he arrived at his inauguration in a horse-drawn carriage! Fun fact: A Wilson impersonator can be spotted riding in his 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine in Staunton’s Happy Birthday, America parade every July 4th.

The railroad arrived in Staunton in the 1850s, making the town a vital hub of “communication and commerce.” The Wharf district would have been bustling as workers raced to unload cargo from trains and store it in Staunton’s warehouses. Staunton’s population in the 1850s was 4,000, making it one of the largest towns in the Shenandoah Valley. It supported more than 80 businesses, including banks, hotels, and factories.

Wilson got no screen time as a child – TV didn’t exist yet – but he made up for it as an adult. In 1915, he received a projector as a gift and was said to watch movies for up to five hours a day.

What can you expect if you go to the museum?

Tours of the museum’s manse offer a glimpse into what life was like when Wilson lived there. You’ll see period furnishings and family treasures. The museum’s seven galleries include “Wilson’s early years, his eventful presidency, suffrage, prohibition and World War I.” Visitors can check out Wilson’s 1919 Pierce-Arrow and tour the beautiful terraced gardens.

These Photos Will Have You Dreaming of Christmas in Staunton

Staunton may have a small footprint, but she has the unique culture of a much larger city. From performances to food to family fun, here are 10 photos that will have you dreaming of spending this – and every – holiday in the Queen City. Holiday Performances at the American Shakespeare Center Light up a … Continue reading These Photos Will Have You Dreaming of Christmas in Staunton

Staunton may have a small footprint, but she has the unique culture of a much larger city. From performances to food to family fun, here are 10 photos that will have you dreaming of spending this – and every – holiday in the Queen City.

Holiday Performances at the American Shakespeare Center

Light up a long winter’s night with a stellar performance at the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Art for Gifts

If you want to get someone on your list a unique, thoughtful gift, Staunton Augusta Art Center’s annual Art for Gifts ought to be your first stop.

Downtown all Lighted up

Take a walk down Beverley Street to see the Victorian architecture gussied up for the holidays.

Local Goodies

From cookies to chocolates to specialty cupcakes, Staunton’s treat scene will have your sweet tooth singing “Joy to the World!”

Holiday SPirit in Gypsy HIll Park

Stay toasty in your car as you enjoy the festive displays set up around the loop at Gypsy Hill Park.

Staunton Wearing White

Take some historic architecture or beautiful scenery…add a sprinkle of snow…

Staunton’s Finest Eats and Drinks

Staunton may be small, but the food scene is huge. Check out what we have to offer.

Staunton hotels dressed up

 All dressed up for the holiday season, Staunton’s hotels and B&B’s are a sight to see!

 

Friends and Family in an Igloo

Stable Craft Brewing offers cool igloos to keep you toasty on a cold winter’s night.

10 Things You Must Do in Staunton this Holiday Season

Staunton lights up and shines for the holidays, and our calendar is already bursting with treats this year, including music, shopping, historical tours, and even a chance or two to see Santa! Make plans now to explore Staunton’s holiday music, events and entertainment this holiday season.  Taste The Best of OUr Culinary Scene From a … Continue reading 10 Things You Must Do in Staunton this Holiday Season

Staunton lights up and shines for the holidays, and our calendar is already bursting with treats this year, including music, shopping, historical tours, and even a chance or two to see Santa! Make plans now to explore Staunton’s holiday music, events and entertainment this holiday season. 

Taste The Best of OUr Culinary Scene

From a holiday tea to oysters at BLU Point Seafood’s raw bar, to Christmas dinner at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center, to a Biteseeing Staunton tour, our town bursts with culinary delights. Check your favorite restaurant for holiday specials.

enjoy the Historic Staunton Foundation’s 47th Annual Holiday House Tour

Hundreds of visitors will flock to Staunton’s popular Historic Staunton Foundation’s Holiday House Tour to celebrate Staunton’s architecture and holiday decor. This year, five beautifully restored private homes in Staunton’s Gospel Hill Historic District will be showcased and discussed. Saturday, December 7, 5-8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8, 1-5 p.m. 

Applaud a Live Performance at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse

December 4-January 1: For information on showtimes and tickets, visit the American Shakespeare Center.

  • A Christmas Carol – Join Marley, the three Christmas ghosts, the Cratchits, and Tiny Tim – they’re all back to take Scrooge on the ride of his money-grubbing life.
  • Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) – Ring in the holidays with this fast-paced Christmas journey through all of your favorite holiday classics! Be prepared for a whirlwind of laughter, carols, and joy as you experience the Holiday Spirit like never before.

Relax to Beautiful Music

Fill your holidays with beautiful music by attending Advent Lessons and Carols at Trinity Episcopal Church. Trinity’s traditional candlelight service, sung by the Trinity Choirs, interweaves scripture, carols, and choral music. Music for organ, choir, and congregation. Sunday, December 8, 5 p.m

More public music follows on January 5, 2020 with Trinity’s Playing of the Merry Organ with Friends.

Score Unique Gifts in Our Downtown

Don’t head to the shopping center! Enjoy seeing Staunton’s walkable downtown dressed for the holidays. You can count on finding special and unique gifts for everyone on your list in our downtown boutiques and artisan shops. Mark your calendar for:

  • Small Business Saturday Walk off your Thanksgiving calories, make a dent in your holiday shopping, and support local businesses while you’re doing it? It’s a win-win-win at Staunton’s annual Small Business Saturday. Our downtown shops are filled with great deals and holiday cheer and many merchants will be offering discounts and refreshments. Saturday, November 30, 9 am – 7 pm
  • Art for Gifts in the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. This annual, juried holiday market highlights the handmade fine art and crafts by 60 Virginia artists and artisans. November 15 – December 31, Extended gallery hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 1-4 p.m.
  • Blow Your Own Ornament at Sunspots. Aspiring glassblowers ages 7+ can huff and puff and create a piece of original art for their tree or window by blowing an ornament at Sunspots Studios

Gaze into the Lights in Gypsy Hill Park

Make time to enjoy the 14th annual Celebration of Holiday Lights in Gypsy Hill Park. Local churches, community organizations, businesses, and individuals design and erect festive displays along the entire 1.3-mile loop every year. The celebration “focuses on strong community values that all can enjoy regardless of age, background or religion.” The display is free to the public and best viewed from a car. The park will shine brightly from November 25 – January 1.

Another great way to view the lights is to attend Caroling in the Park. This Parks and Rec event includes caroling by local choirs, hot chocolate and cookies, bonfires, photographs with Santa, and hayrides that circle the park. The event is free, but it supports the Valley Mission, so donations are appreciated! December 21, 4-6 p.m.

Cheer for Your Neighbors at the Staunton Christmas Parade

Let the 2019 theme of “Small City, Bright Lights = Big Christmas” get you pumped for the holiday season at the annual Staunton Christmas Parade. Marching bands, holiday-themed floats, and local organizations march the route that winds through Staunton’s festive downtown. Make sure you stay until the end to catch a glimpse of parade marshals, Santa and Mrs. Claus! December 2, 7-9 p.m.

holiday high tea at the Frederick house

Happy holidays from your friends over at the Frederick House! This holiday season we are proud to be hosting yet another high tea benefiting Wendy’s Place Cat Rescue!

High tea is $10 and includes unlimited hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate as well as four courses of both savory and sweet finger foods. Guests who prefer only a hot beverage without the finger foods are invited to attend and pay a reduced rate of $2. December 7, 12-6 p.m.

Greet Santa at the Train Station and Ride the Winter Express Trolley

Father Christmas (the old school Santa of yesteryear) will arrive at the train station on the Buckingham Branch Railroad during Cherish Every Christmas. Parents will be able to treat the little ones to a ride of a lifetime aboard the Winter Express Trolley, where they’ll enjoy a ride, a reading of The Polar Express, and special treats from the Clocktower. Cherish Every Christmas also features horse and carriage rides, a tree lighting celebration, and a holiday sweater contest. December 7, 3-7 p.m.

Explore the Frontier Culture Museum By Lantern Light

The 2019 Lantern Tours at the Frontier Culture Museum bring historic holiday traditions to life and explore the changes that have happened over time. Visitors attending this popular event will tour the museum on foot and by horse-drawn wagon. They’ll see living history vignettes at the English, Irish, German, and American farms as well as a Mummer’s play. The tour will conclude with light refreshments and live music. Reservations required. December 13-15 and 20-23. 

8 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving (Without the Cleanup)

Have you been dreading the cleanup and possibly the calories of Thanksgiving this year? Want to avoid the Black Friday crowds? We’ve rounded up some places to dine away from home as well as alternative non-feasting activities to help you feel thankful this season. Enjoy a Grand Buffet Brunch at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel  If … Continue reading 8 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving (Without the Cleanup)

Have you been dreading the cleanup and possibly the calories of Thanksgiving this year? Want to avoid the Black Friday crowds? We’ve rounded up some places to dine away from home as well as alternative non-feasting activities to help you feel thankful this season.

Enjoy a Grand Buffet Brunch at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel 

If you want a grand buffet brunch this Thanksgiving, but want to avoid the recipe planning, the hours in the kitchen, and the dishpan hands, head over to the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center for a feast you’ll remember for years! Sample salads, seafood, decadent entrees, a carving station, and a dessert buffet, if you save any room. Reserve a seating from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Get Cozy with Your Family at Kathy’s

Winner of a Best in Virginia Award, Kathy’s Restaurant has been a Staunton institution since 1986. Kathy’s will be open all day on Thanksgiving and, after 11 a.m., you can order from a special holiday menu in addition to their regular menu of hometown favorites. And if you’d rather have the famous pancakes, you’re in luck – breakfast will be served all day.

Leave the Baking to the Professionals

Lighten your load and order a delectable pie from Firkin Pie. They have several options including a Thanksgiving pie with all the fixins’ inside! For those looking for more than just pie for dessert, try Paris Cake Company or Sweet Nana Cakes. You can’t go wrong with their plentiful options of cupcakes, cookies and cakes. And you’ll go gobble, gobble over Cocoa Mill Chocolates’s chocolate turkeys! Enjoy carving up these artisan chocolates. 

Take a Drive Along the Skyline Drive and Eat Thanksgiving in Shenandoah National Park

There’s nothing like following the Skyline Drive along a ridge and looking at the Shenandoah Valley from above to make you feel thankful for being alive. Better yet, reserve your spot at Thanksgiving in Shenandoah National Park at Skyland, where you’ll enjoy a full traditional buffet in the beautiful dining room. If you can take your eyes off your food to take in the backdrop outside the huge windows, you’ll feel like you’re in the sky.

Explore Holiday Traditions at the Frontier Culture Museum

The Frontier Culture Museum stays open every day of the year, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Living history exhibits illustrate what life was really like for early settlers of the Shenandoah Valley. Not only will your family learn about the holiday traditions from costumed interpreters, but you’ll also see how hard people had to work in the pre-supermarket, pre-microwave, pre-dishwasher past to feed and clean up after themselves.

Tour Downtown Staunton with Traipse

Tour on your own time. Discover one of the “Best Main Streets in the USA,” (USA Today) with the free app,Traipse. Explore Staunton’s historic sites, architectural treasures, and awe-inspiring attractions on this tour/scavenger hunt in downtown Staunton. Choose from several tour options and go at your own pace.

Go Ice Skating at Generations Park

Dig your ice skates out of storage because the 2019 skating season at Generations Park in Bridgewater starts on Thanksgiving Day. What better way to usher in the season than practicing your axels, Salchows, or just trying to circle the rink without landing on your butt? Hours are 3-9 p.m. and rental skates are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Take a Hike

Though chilly, late November often brings excellent hiking weather. There’s nothing better for family togetherness than venturing outside, screen-free. Stretch your legs. Expand your lungs. Absorb vitamin D. Kick through some dry leaves. Take in the views. Take some photos. For some good trails, check out our list of area hikes for beginners.

Run a Race

You won’t feel any food guilt if you sign up for a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. The Valley Children’s Advocacy Center’s 8th Annual Club at Ironwood Turkey Trot heads off at 9 a.m. Sign up online or on the day of the race to run or walk this lovely golf course. Proceeds from the race support the Valley Children’s Advocacy Center.

A Day in the Life of Muralist Christy Baker

There’s no way you could miss the newest addition to downtown Staunton: the “You Belong Here” mural by artist Christy Baker. Vibrant, beautiful, and meaningful, its message encourages visitors and residents alike to come to Staunton and stay awhile. We got a chance to catch up with Christy, and she’s given us all kinds of … Continue reading A Day in the Life of Muralist Christy Baker

There’s no way you could miss the newest addition to downtown Staunton: the “You Belong Here” mural by artist Christy Baker. Vibrant, beautiful, and meaningful, its message encourages visitors and residents alike to come to Staunton and stay awhile. We got a chance to catch up with Christy, and she’s given us all kinds of insight into her artistic process, the daily schedule of someone in her line of work, and her thoughts on public ideas about people who make a career out of the arts. Read on to meet Christy.

 

Besides creating and painting murals, what kind of work do you do?

I founded a paint company called Good Bones Paint, a DIY-friendly, one-step furniture paint. It can be found locally at Augusta Paint in Staunton as well as over 40 dealers in the Southeast.

I also started and co-own an artistic finishing business in Charlottesville. Pigment is my main focus, and we have a 2,500-square foot professional paint studio/shop where we ‘re-fab’ furniture, cabinets, offer color consultation services, and more. All of our work is custom and client-specific. We work with architects, designers, home and business owners, and nonprofits.

I’m also a mom of two boys (plus two dogs and a flock of chickens!).

How did you get started?

I have been painting and making things since as far back as I can remember! I began large-scale work in high school. I started taking commissions as a teenager and then went on to art school in New York City.

Do you travel a lot or are you based mainly in a studio?

Most of my mural projects are within a hundred mile radius of my Charlottesville studio. I would say half of my time is ‘in the field’ and the other half is in the studio.

 

What percentage of your work is actually painting vs. bookkeeping, promotion, planning, etc.? 

I spend a lot of time on the logistics of running a business. I have three employees with Pigment, and one is a part-time office manager who handles the books. I am currently looking for an intern for social media assistance as that side of the business is probably my least favorite. Thankfully, I have a strong, enthusiastic client base who continue to amaze me with their support.

When I am on-site working on a large project I tend to focus on the actual work as much as possible. On the ‘You Belong Here’ mural, for example, I have managed to answer emails, create estimates, and make calls before and after the long days of painting.

What’s your style?

Color is paramount!  I am constantly amazed at the psychological impact of color and the relationships between hues.

Curiousity and playfulness are also a common thread in my work. When it comes to public work I respect the importance of the interaction of the viewer with the piece and as such my work holds a message of hope, peace, and ideally, truth.

In my personal work, I enjoy painting from life and spending time observing and translating what I see.

Describe your process for creating the design. 

My family and I have spent a fair amount of time in Staunton over the last decade. From Mischief & Magic, to visiting friends who live here, to just exploring the area, we have found Staunton to be a treasure of a town.

The pair of cardinals are a nod to our state bird and also a nod to the Virginia is for Lovers campaign that funded this project. Also, I frequently see the most beautiful female cardinal outside of my home studio window and wanted an opportunity to showcase her. The males are lovely too, but why not represent both? The cardinals also serve to add some vibrant color and some stylized lines. I wanted them to lift the banner over the mountains to illustrate that the natural world is offering a message of affirmation.

What message do you hope to portray about Staunton? 

I have had a few conversations with folks who have thought the message of ‘You Belong Here’ is a political one, but for me, it’s personal. I was born in Virginia, but we moved every few years. By the time I left for college I had moved eight times. I always longed for a sense of home. Whenever I come back to the area and get the first glimpse of the mountains, I feel like I am home.

I thought about the residents and what would signify a sense of place for them, individually and collectively. I considered those who have lived in the area for generations and those who have ancestors native to this land. Before the buildings and monuments and streets, what would ‘home’ look like? And for those who are new to the area, what would they see that would connect them to the past and provide a sense of place? I kept coming back to the mountains and the phrase ‘you belong here’.

In the last several years especially, I’ve seen such pain in the longing for identity and belonging. There has been such hate and division and such a resistance to listen. My hope through the design and message of this mural is to be a reminder to those who encounter it that, yes, you belong here and also so do your neighbors. We can remind each other of our connectedness instead of our differences.

How did you feel when your piece was selected? 

I was so surprised and thrilled to get the opportunity to create this piece for Staunton. My sons were with me when I read the acceptance email and they were confused and a bit concerned about why I was shouting until they realized it was a very good thing.

What Steps Are Involved in painting the mural? 

Each mural project is unique and has its own set of challenges and difficulties. A wall of this size can take anywhere from a week to several months. So much depends on the condition of the wall, accessibility, and ultimately the design. Because the budget was fixed from the outset I knew how much I could budget for the labor involved. The intricacy of the design was somewhat dictated by the number of hours and the amount of materials allotted, including the lift rental. 

I clean and prime each wall and use a high-quality paint which is crucial. Topcoats aren’t needed unless vandalism or weather are concerns.

There are several methods of transferring a design to a wall. I prefer to use a digital projector, which I used on this project. A fair amount of what I do is free-hand as I go and changes need to be made. Sometimes I might incorporate a stencil as well.

I have used everything from extension ladders to boom lifts. Before starting any project I assess the safety concerns and address them. Whether it’s power lines, wasps’ nests, unstable ground, or just being tired, it’s best to deal with it from the outset.

What is your typical daily routine?

I take care of emails and design work early in the morning and then head over the mountain to arrive on-site at 9 a.m. Once on-site, I check in with any assistants and then start setting up my work space. I usually have a list of priorities for the day and I start working down the list. At the end of the day, I break down my work station, clean my brushes and head home. Sometimes I have to swing by my studio to follow up on any projects that need attention.

Do you spend a lot of time fielding questions from passersby when working in a public space?  

One of the things I love about creating public art is interacting with folks passing by. Sometimes it can be distracting to the work but I try to make an effort to respond when people take the time to ask a question or make a comment. Usually, I can keep working as I talk but sometimes I take a break to get into a more involved conversation.

What kinds of questions do people walking by ask?

Most people want to know how long something will take or how I get the design so big!

What do people generally think about public art? 

The nature of public art is that it is open for conversation and critique. Everyone has an opinion but not everyone shares their opinion. In general, I have found that people welcome public art, especially if it brings a sense of positivity. When public art gets contentious is when it is hurtful or inconsiderate to the audience. Public art can be controversial regardless of intent, which I think is a good thing. When public art carries with it a sense of permanence or an oppressive agenda is when things get ugly.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions surrounding people who create art for a living?

One misconception I run into a lot is that an artist should be willing to do work for free. We should compensate artists fairly for their work. I wouldn’t create art if I didn’t feel passionate about it, but that doesn’t mean I should allow my work to be devalued because I love what I do. Years ago I committed to pursuing a career as an artist and I am still paying off the student loans. I view myself as successful in that I can provide for my family through my skill and abilities as an artist and designer. That said, I would like to have more time to pursue other interests and spend time with my friends and family. All art requires time, material, space, and a sense of safety. Often I find myself with a few of those elements but not all.

Many people think artists are lazy or disorganized. I’ve found, myself included, that as artists we are always working. Our minds are formulating projects and ideas, our eyes are taking in references and inspiration, our bodies are moving and making constantly.

What will you work on next? 

I have several mural projects, a few custom painted floors, and some hand-painted signs lined up for the next few months!

What is your dream project?

My sketchbook is full of ideas for projects I’d love to pursue should I have the resources available. I’d love to create more immersive, experiential art pieces that invite interaction and transformation.

 

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report: Weekend of November 1-3, 2019

Staunton Area The autumn colors have peaked in Staunton over the past week. They’ve been spectacular, despite predictions of less-than-stellar colors due to drought. Many trees have dropped their leaves in the past few days, but there’s still time to see some brilliant foliage. Plan to visit the Staunton Farmer’s Market on one of its … Continue reading Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report: Weekend of November 1-3, 2019

Staunton Area

The autumn colors have peaked in Staunton over the past week. They’ve been spectacular, despite predictions of less-than-stellar colors due to drought. Many trees have dropped their leaves in the past few days, but there’s still time to see some brilliant foliage. Plan to visit the Staunton Farmer’s Market on one of its final weeks this Saturday and check for some color in the historic Wharf area and nearby on the grounds of Trinity Church.

Beyond Staunton

The Virginia Department of Forestry  reports peak fall foliage this week in the mountains. The weather should be sunny and in the 50s this weekend, so make up for the lousy Halloween weather by getting the family outside for a hike. Take advantage of Fee-Free Entry Day at Shenandoah National Park on Sunday, November 11.  Here’s a link to the park’s list of suggested hikes or plan to leaf peep from your car while cruising along the Skyline Drive.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report: weekend of October 25-27

Staunton Area You won’t need to look hard to see autumnal colors this weekend as you move around Staunton. Though our fall foliage display isn’t quite as vibrant as in years past, it’s starting to really feel like fall, and you should scout some backgrounds for your seasonal photos.  Visit Gypsy Hill Park, Montgomery Hall … Continue reading Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report: weekend of October 25-27

Staunton Area

You won’t need to look hard to see autumnal colors this weekend as you move around Staunton. Though our fall foliage display isn’t quite as vibrant as in years past, it’s starting to really feel like fall, and you should scout some backgrounds for your seasonal photos. 

Visit Gypsy Hill Park, Montgomery Hall Park, Woodrow Park, Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Area, and Thornrose Cemetery for some of the loveliest views in town. Check here every week for our updated fall foliage report.

Beyond Staunton

The colors continue to march on outside city limits. Expect to see yellows and reds from maples, though the drought has impacted the brightness of the yellows. Look also for red displays from sumac and, surprisingly, poison ivy vines, which add festive garlands to tree trunks. The Virginia Department of Forestry estimates that 50 percent of the trees at higher elevations have changed. Check out the views along the Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and from the top of Shenandoah Mountain to the west.