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Category: Hiking

Virtual Staunton Visits

Looking for some much-needed entertainment while we are all sheltering-in-place, but tired of Netflix, TikTok, and YouTube?  Staunton has lots of options for virtual entertainment and education to keep you busy from the comfort of your own home this spring.

Bring American Shakespeare Center home with BlkFrsTV

“Thrilling…These webcasts effortlessly convey the joyous experience of watching Shakespeare performed in Blackfriars Playhouse..let ASC take your mind off your troubles as you commune at home with theater’s supreme genius,” — Terry Teachout for The Wall Street Journal 

Streaming Shows

Since audiences can’t come to the Blackfriars, ASC is bringing the Playhouse to you. Pull up a chair to the virtual hearth for cinema-quality streaming video of their complete 2020 Actors’ Renaissance and Tour Homecoming seasons. These high-quality performances are available until May 3, 2020 and each performance is just $10 per household. Can’t commit? Don’t worry, you have a week to watch the performance. Have more questions? Visit their FAQ page to find out about BLKFRS TV. 

Masterclasses and SHXCADEMY 

ASC announced two new opportunities to connect and learn something new direct from the stage and shops of the Blackfriars Playhouse and delivered straight to your home.  ASC/Masterclass series is a series of eight unique courses taught over 6-weeks by ASC artists and designed for everyone.  No experience is required to enroll and the best part is you can do it in the comfort of your own homewhere no one is watching. So you can let your hair down and immerse yourself in the experience as you connect with ASC’s artists in an intimate setting. Pick your area of interest which run the gamut from stage fighting, song writing, character building, cooking, movement and much more. Join ASC actors every week for an hour long class and dive into the creative process.  

The SHXCADEMY introduces participants to the practices of the rehearsal room through a series of four workshops, hosted live from the Blackfriars Playhouse, plus a digital ticket to the relevant BlkFrsTV streaming production you are studying. Working with ASC’s Education Team and ASC artists you’ll break down Shakespeare’s text into pieces, connecting character, story, and compelling moments. These workshops are perfect for families or individuals. Learn more about the workshops and to see the complete schedule. 

FREE ONLINE TOURS at Woodrow Wilson Presidential LIBRARY

Maybe a virtual tour of our 28th President’s home or an educational discussion with the museum curator is more up your alley? Check out the FREE online tours and programs offered at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum. Every Monday and Wednesday take a virtual tour of Wilson’s birthplace home. On Tuesday afternoons join the Curator Andrew Phillips or Education Director Emily Kilgore in a lively discussion with their “History at Home,” series focusing on a different topic every week. Friday’s topics switch every other week between Enslaved Laborers in the Manse and Wilson and the Pandemic. Enslaved Laborers in the Manse focuses on the enslaved people who lived and labored in the Presbyterian Manse where Woodrow Wilson was born, while Wilson and Pandemic looks at the 1918 pandemic and how it compares to COVID-19 and what we are currently facing today. Take a look at the complete schedule and list of topics. Registration is FREE but is required to participate. 

sip and swirl with Virtual Experiences at Barren Ridge Vineyards 

Barren Ridge is hosting a series of tastings and other experiences on Facebook Live. Their Live at 5 Wine Tastings are every Sunday at 5 PM and come with tasting sheets. Read up on the wine before joining Robert Higgs for a virtual tasting where you will learn wine tasting technique, varietal characteristics, and a bit of local history surrounding the Higgs’ 3rd generation family farm. For a more hands on experience, taste alongside Robert by pre-ordering your wine. Pick-up curbside or get your your wine delivered locally on Thursdays (15-mile radius). 

unwind with classical music 

Subscribe to the Heifetz International Music Institute’s YouTube channel. Their robust channel, with over 30,000 subscribers and millions of views, is your go-to for classical music—although their repertoire goes far beyond Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms. Their videos include performances from past seasons of their Festival of Concerts with tons of playlists to choose from. The Institute also releases a Video of the Week where they highlight a piece of music offering historical context surrounding the music and programmatic notes while highlighting the Heifetz alums, students, and celebrity faculty that take that stage of the Francis Auditorium at Mary Baldwin University. And if that wasn’t enough, the Institute also has their very own Spotify Playlist on their website. Happy listening! 

get up close and personal with wildlife

Get up close and personal with wildlife at the Virginia Wildlife Center. This animal hospital is home to two dozen animal residents like hawks, owls, eagles, opossums and snakes. These permanent residents serve as ambassadors for the center and you can visit them via the center’s critter cam. Channel 1 features the center’s education birds that are non-releasable: Buddy the Bald Eagle, Buttercup the Black Vulture or Athena the Barred Owl. Channels 2 and 3 show the cute and cuddly black bear yearlings and cubs who will be cared for until they are old enough to be released back in the wild. The Center is also offering virtual programs every week on Facebook. Here you can meet their animal ambassadors and learn about the different species. Visitors can also tour their animal enclosures and if you think you’re an animal expert try their Quiz Friday! Facebook live events.

Take a virtual Architecture Walking Tour

Explore Staunton and the city’s historic districts, and other areas of town, on a virtual walking tour via our blog. Every week this new blog series, Staunton on Foot, takes you on a stroll through one of Staunton’s historic districts, six of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Learn about the eclectic mix of architectural styles that range from Greek Revival, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Colonial Revival, Neo-classical, Federal, Beaux-Arts and more. Much of the city’s celebrated architecture can be attributed to one man, TJ Collins, a talented architect who practiced in Staunton from 1891 to 1911. He designed or remodeled nearly 200 buildings in Staunton, many of which still survive today including the courthouse, schools, churches, theaters, commercial buildings and private residences.

So far Staunton on Foot has explored three areas of the city, Beverley StreetThornrose Cemetery, and Newtown. While Thornrose Cemetery isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places it is chalk-full of history, character and beauty and definitely worth checking out. Newtown, ironically, is Staunton’s oldest distinctly residential neighborhood and is Staunton’s largest consisting of over 400 buildings.

Whether you’re visiting virtually or literally exploring by foot check out Historic Staunton Foundation’s walking tour map. Physical maps are also available for pick-up at the kiosk outside the Visitor Center at 35 S. New Street.

 

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; only $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. 

Staunton’s Farms, Fall Foliage, and Festivals

Fall is coming and there’s no better way to welcome the (almost) sweater weather than by traveling to Staunton to enjoy farms, fall foliage, and festivals! A trip to the Queen City will give you the opportunity to harvest and taste some of our local food, photograph our views, and celebrate our culture. 

Farms

Farms and Farmers’ Markets

Staunton Farmers’ Market 7-noon Wed. and Sat.

North Augusta Farmers’ Market (Verona) noon-5 Wed.

Take a drive out to Polyface Farms to see a national leader in best-practices farming. You can take tours of the farm and buy pasture-raised, hormone/antibiotic-free chicken, beef, pork, and eggs at the farm store.

Meadowcroft Farms and the Inn at Meadowcroft. Sample some of the 68 different kinds of pickles, relishes, jams, salsas and spreads at the farm store. If you’re looking for a unique and special place to stay, try the inn, which is a situated in a historic (and modernized) log cabin that is over 200 years old.

Pick Your Own

Pick your own wildflowers and herbs at Pebble Hall Wildflowers and Herbs from May to October. Use them fresh for floral displays or culinary pursuits or dry them to use them later. The farm offers beautiful photo opportunities as well as onsite massage and lodging.

Are you looking for a great deal on pick-your-own pumpkins and gourds? Middle River Farms offers pricing by wagon load. The farm also sells locally grown produce, eggs, cheese, and fall decor.

Another great spot to search for the great pumpkin is Mulberry Hills Farm. Visitors can expect a seasonal pumpkin patch (with a wide variety of pumpkins, gourds, squash, and other decorative items). The farm also sets up seasonal backdrops for your family photos and the kids can pet friendly farm animals.

You only need to drive a few miles south of Staunton to get to Sunrise Orchards, a small operation that offers a welcome change from crowded apple orchards. You can pick your own red delicious, yellow delicious and Jonathan apples by the bushel, peck or bag. Plan a picnic to enjoy under the trees with spectacular views of the mountains.

September is grape season, so spend a morning picking Niagara or Concord grapes at Wenger Grape Farm. These grapes can be used for wine, juice or jam, or enjoying by the handful. This beautiful farm offers a wealth of wholesome photo opportunities.

Fall Foliage

You can’t beat the way the Shenandoah Valley dresses up in the autumn. Leaves will be peaking between late September and early November, so plan to take a drive on the Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway for some breathtaking displays.

For a more private option, head to the westernmost end of Augusta County and check out the views from the Confederate Breastworks interpretive site at the top of Shenandoah Mountain.

If you want to leaf peep in town, wander the trails in Montgomery Hall Park, pack a picnic and hang out under the trees near the Gypsy Hill Park grandstand, or take a stroll through historic Thornrose Cemetery. One of the best views of Staunton can be had from Wilson Park high on Sears Hill.

To see the leaves at their brightest, check out this fall color predictor site from Shenandoah National Park.

Festivals

Octoberfest

October 6

Octoberfest at the Frontier Culture Museum is a blast. Start the day with Irish Road Bowling and then tour the German farm. Later on, kick up your heels dancing to live music, eating traditional food, and drinking good beer. Tour the museum to see how past residents of the Valley celebrated their harvests.  The festival offers fun and activities for the entire family.

Fall Foliage Art Festival

October 13-14

150 fine artists come to downtown Waynesboro, VA for the 46th annual Fall Foliage Art Show. Artist bring paintings, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and wood to this outdoor juried show. You can also enjoy delicious food, craft beer, and music. The Street Arts Festival takes place concurrently with Fall Foliage and offers a chance to admire the vibrant works of talented street artists as they make urban spaces their canvas.

Fall Foliage Bike Festival

October 19-21

Now in its 28th year, the Fall Foliage Bike Festival attracts over 750 cyclists from around the mid-Atlantic states for a weekend of riding in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Escape the cities for a quiet weekend and choose from over eleven SAG-supported routes over two days.

 

Take a Drive: Stunning Scenic Byways

Staunton is not only a portal to Skyline Drive, the iconic 105-mile thoroughfare bisecting Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, but it also sits at the northern cusp of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out these two scenic drives, arguably some of the best thoroughfares on the east coast for leaf-peeping: 

skyline drive

Flanked by the 200,000 acres of the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is laden with 69 different scenic overlooks along the 105-mile long public road. For ambitious leaf-peepers, allow 3 to 4 hours to drive the entire Skyline Drive which doesn’t include stops. Hop on the scenic byway via the Rockfish Gap entrance just 20 minutes from Staunton. Popular overlooks closest to the Southern entrance are Big Run Overlook (milepost 81.2) and Crimora Lake Overlook (milepost 92.6). The valley of Big Run is one of the park’s most scenic and opens into the depths of the park’s largest stream. Crimora Lake Overlook sits at 2,985 feet where you can see the strewn rock slopes of Rocks Mountain. 

Try a leg-stretcher and see the fall colors up-close. From Skyline Drive try Blackrock Summit (milepost 4.8), a geological wonder that’s an easy 1-mile loop. Although not the highest peak in the South District, this is probably the easiest to get to with rewarding views. From the summit of boulder-strewn Blackrock enjoy views that extend for miles in multiple directions. Another short and sweet hike is the Frazier Discovery Trail (milepost 79.5). This area used to be the Frazier’s farm and you can still see evidence of their past in the apple trees that still dot the mountain. 

blue ridge parkway

In Rockfish Gap, 20 miles from Staunton, Skyline Drive also merges into the southbound Blue Ridge Parkway, the iconic byway running 469-miles from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. While there are a staggering 280 viewpoints, some of the most spectacular sites along the entire parkway are in the northernmost section—just minutes from Staunton. First, the Humpback Rocks Recreation Area offers access to a range of hiking trails, with options for quick leg-stretchers or extensive loops. The massive 3,080-foot rock formation known as Humpback Rocks is also touted as one of the parkway’s premier vistas—and one of the most popular.

Just after Humpback Rocks is another treasure: The Sherando Lake Recreation Area is one of the byway’s most inviting detours. The 25-acre, spring-fed lake is edged by hiking trails, leafy campsites, and a sandy swimming beach. Slightly further south, the parkway also offers access to the one of the most stunning waterfalls in the east—and the highest in the Virginia Blue Ridge—Crabtree Falls. Two trailheads just a few miles from the parkway offer hikers intimate access to the cascades plunging 1,800-foot course to the Tye River.

Please note: Many parkway facilities are closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes all restrooms and portable toilets, visitor centers, campgrounds, picnic areas, and concession operations. Trails and most sections of the roadway remain open.

Awesome Hikes: Mountain Views and Waterfalls

 

Please check ahead of time to be sure your destination has not temporarily closed due to COVID-19. 

What’s better than spending a lovely day hiking to a great view or waterfall? Staunton is surrounded by an almost unlimited number of adventures for everyone, from casual day-hikers to trail-savvy backcountry gurus. Just outside town, the southward-winding Blue Ridge Parkway is a portal to more than 300 miles of trails, while Skyline Drive provides access to more than 500 miles of hiking trails in the Shenandoah National Park. This doesn’t even include the two massive national forests—the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests—that flank this mountain-fringed town. Social distancing at its finest!

Awesome hikes To The West

ELLIOT KNOB 

If you’re up to chasin’ waterfalls, Elliot Knob is a great place to start. West of downtown Staunton near Buffalo Gap, Elliot Knob is the highest point in Augusta County and the closest hike for stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley. The trail is 8.5 miles to the summit, and still considered to be a hidden gem in the grand scheme of Virginia’s best hikes.

Two significant and other minor falls are along the trail. Be cautious of slippery algae, but feel free to take off your shoes and chill out a while. The second major set of falls (marked by a cairn) is a great place to have a quick picnic. The flat rocks are begging you to perch, sunbathe, and enjoy a bright sunshiny day. If care to march on, a grassy summit with incredible Shenandoah Valley views awaits.

> Elevation Gain: 2,425 feet
> Time: Allow 5.5 hours for hiking; add additional for lunch and chill
> Parking: Virginia Route 42, pull-off to a gated area with a stop sign and an additional brown sign on the post marked “291.” Use “854 Little Calf Pasture Highway, Swoope, VA” as the address for GPS.

Extend the Elliot Knob hike by going around the backside of the mountain and trying Chimney Hollow. It’s a longer hike with more elevation gain, causing it to be rated 5 out of 5 in terms of difficulty. However, the views are worth the challenge (also rated 5/5).

All said, the point-to-point hike is 15.4 miles, but can be shortened by parking at Route 688 instead of Route 42 (the Elliot Knob parking point). 

> Elevation Gain: 3,670 feet
> Time: Allow 8 hours for the entire hike and don’t forget to figure in time for lunch
> Parking: Virginia Route 250, before Route 715. A non-descript pull-off on the right side of the road with coordinates of 38.27490, -79.29710. Have a partner leave another vehicle at the Route 688 lot (38.21332, -79.29599) or the Route 42 lot.

ramsey’s draft trail

Farther out Route 250 is the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness Area, which delivers a 16.8-mile loop that an overnight to accomplish. The Ramsey’s Draft Trail is highly rated across all HikingUpward categories, which means you’ll work your tail off, but the rewards are equally tremendous.

Expect steep ascents along two ridges in this loop, which will yield great views and really nice camp sites. You’ll dart back and forth across the stream as you go (be prepared for wet feet), and the trail has a tendency to be invisible in a few places due to rocky outcrops. Be aware of stinging nettles on the clockwise ascent.

As with all wilderness areas and Virginia outdoors in general, leave no trace. If those before you left evidence of their presence, please pack out what you can.

> Elevation Gain: 3,170 feet
> Time: Two Days
> Parking: Virginia Route 250, right on Ramsey’s Draft N (38.30828, -79.36090), go 100 yards beyond the Mountain House Picnic Area.

Awesome Hikes to the East

humpback rocks

Humpback Rocks once served as a landmark for wagon trains trying to cross the Blue Ridge in the 1840s. The trailhead for this popular hike is on the Blue Ridge Parkway and not far from I-64. Since the parking lot is usually well-populated, you might have better luck parking at the visitor’s center and strolling to the trailhead through the interpretive farm, which represents the regional architecture of the late 19th century.

The mile to the top is a steep, hard hike. Rocks stud the trail, but you won’t forget you’re close to civilization as there are occasional steps and benches. The beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park at the top are worth every step. This spot can score you amazing photographs, but you might have to shoot creatively around other hikers.

The most popular route is only two miles round-trip; however, if you’re looking for something longer, HikingUpward.com suggests adding two additional miles along the Appalachian Trail. The longer hike provides a gradual descent (your quads will thank you) and solitude that the well-traveled up-and-back does not.

> Elevation Gain: 800 feet
> Time: Allow 2.5 hours for hiking the longer route
> Parking: Park at the Humpback Rocks parking area, milepost 6. 37.96846, -78.89656

crabtree falls

1,200-foot Crabtree Falls, one of the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi, features five major cascades and many smaller ones. This great hike along and up a waterfall pays off almost immediately. In fact, the first section of the paved, nearly flat trail leads to a viewing platform from which you have an excellent view of the lower part of the falls.

Don’t let the ease of this beginning fool you, though, because from here on out, the trail becomes steep. The switchbacks repeatedly reconnect with the falls, offering the interest of several vantage points and viewing platforms. Steps and railings provide safety in some of the steepest, slipperiest sections. Rest and snack awhile at the large, walled area on top, and take in the rhododendron and the magnificent view of the Tye River Valley. Though it will be tempting to children and photographers, don’t leave the trail to climb on the slippery rocks.

While the up and back might be plenty (3.8 miles), those really wanting to break in their boots, might try the longer route connecting Crabtree Falls with another spectacular hike, Spy Rock (13.9 miles).

> Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
> Time: 2.5 for hiking up and back
> Parking: parking lot with per vehicle fee, VA56. 37.85144, -79.07922

Dobie Mountain

Wanna see something you don’t see every day?  There’s a plane crash site on Dobie Mountain just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll need to park at the very popular Humpback Rocks area to get there, but trust us, this is a really great redirection from the crowds that flood Humpback on the weekends.

Following the trail notes at Hiking Upward (linked above), you’ll be able to skirt off the trail for an excellent overlook of the Rockfish Valley and Nelson County before looping back around to see the 1964 wreckage of a lost Beechcraft*. Make time to get sidetracked for the sake of a great lunch venue, too: the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club shelter and Mill Creek.

* Do not disturb the Beechcraft crash site. Not only is it disrespectful, but you could cut yourself on metal or come upon a venomous timber rattlesnake.

> Elevation Gain: 1,560 feet
> Time: 3.5 hours plus time for lunch
> Parking: Humpback Rocks Lot at milepost 6

One final waterfall for you! The hike from White Rock Gap off the Blue Ridge Parkway to Torry Ridge features a 30-foot waterfall – White Rock Falls – with a caveat. You must hike the trail after a good spring rain for the falls to materialize. And when they do? Magic.

One of the cool things about this hike is that it passes through Sherando Lake campground, which has picnic tables for your lunch, and a lake with a beach area, if you feel like chilling out. The views along this trail are best in early spring (Hey! You’re right on time with spring break!), as the trees will not have fully leaved yet.

> Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
> Time: 5.5 hours plus lunch and whatnot
> Parking: White Rock Gap lot around milepost 18