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Category: Hiking

Plan Your Next Vacation in Staunton

Did you know that January 25th is National Plan a Vacation Day? And just like us, we bet you REALLY need one! From romantic weekends to family getaways, to weekends with the girls or guys, let us help with some quick recommendations on what to do on a vacation in Staunton!

Romantic Weekend

Share romantic meals, be pampered in luxurious lodgings, sightsee on one of America’s best main streets, and even discover the great outdoors. Here are some of Staunton’s best bets for couples.

Where to Stay

  • The Hotel 24 South and The Blackburn Inn both feature elegant rooms in tastefully updated historic buildings. Check the specials for romantic add-ons like champagne, chocolate, and spa packages.
  • The Berkeley House Bed and Breakfast offers an elaborate breakfast as well as packages for champagne and a trip to the Blackfriar’s Theatre.
  • The Frederick House is a 20 room inn, comprised of 5 historic houses, located in downtown Staunton, Virginia. They offer the privacy of a hotel, with the personal experience of a Bed and Breakfast.

Where to Eat

What to Do

  • The Staunton Farmer’s Market is open from the first Saturday in April until Thanksgiving, and it features fresh produce, baked goods, and live music. 
  • Take a self-guided or seasonal guided walking tour with the Historic Staunton Foundation.
  • Visit the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace to learn about Wilson’s connection to Staunton and much more.
  • Stop to flirt at Ox-Eye Tasting Room or take a scenic drive to Barren Ridge Vineyards to reconnect with your sweetie over some local wine.
  • Shop downtown Staunton’s independent stores and galleries for a range of wares including gourmet chocolate and olive oil, art-glass ornaments, unique gifts and art, and vintage treasure of all kinds.
  • Take in a show at the American Shakespeare Center. The 2022 season includes Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, and more.

Family Fun

Looking for a wonderful family trip where fun, history, and the great outdoors are all in big supply? Here’s how to enjoy Staunton’s best with your family.

Where to Stay

  • The Fairfield Inn and Suites is a family-friendly hotel convenient to both downtown Staunton as well as the interstates. The hotel offers a free hot breakfast, free Wi-fi, and an indoor saltwater swimming pool.
  • The Storefront is a two-level downtown lodging with a full kitchen, two queen-sized beds, and a unique bar/lounge area with a television.

Where to Eat

  • Voted one of the best breakfasts in the Valley, Kathy’s Restaurant heaps on the goodness with traditional breakfast fare served all day.
  • Your kids will love the caboose parked outside of The Depot Grille. They’ll also love the American fare served inside for lunch and dinner. The menu includes a section for kids. 
  • Shenandoah Pizza’s gourmet pies celebrate local ingredients and lore. Parents will be pleased with the extensive tap list.
  • The menu at Baja Bean has loads of Tex Mex options including choices for the younger set and an impressive tap list. 
  • Finish your meal with one (or more) of the 18 fresh-made gelato flavors from The Split Banana.

What to Do

  • Pool your wits to solve one of the active puzzles and escape a themed room at Crack the Code Escape Room
  • Step back in time at the Frontier Culture Museum, which invites visitors to explore the lives of the Shenandoah Valleys pioneers from the 1600s through the mid-1800s.
  • Watch as artisans use extreme heat, to blow and shape molten glass into globes and art pieces at Sunspots Studios
  • Family favorites for shopping include treasure hunting at Staunton Antiques Center and hobby shopping at Staunton Trains and Hobbies. Pufferbellies is the largest independently owned toy store in the Valley, which has a hands-on policy and something to fascinate kids and grownups alike.
  • Hit up one of Staunton’s great city parks like Gypsy Hill Park to feed the ducks, hit the skatepark, and play on the playgrounds. Montgomery Hall Park has more playgrounds as well as miles of hiking and biking trails.
  • There’s always something happening at Augusta Expo. Events include the Augusta County Fair, monster truck rallies, Bigfoot conventions, and more. 

Getaway with the Girls

Share the best of Staunton’s trendy restaurants, local wine, and unique shopping with your besties. You’ll make so many new memories that you’ll want to make Staunton an annual destination.

Where to Stay

  • Not only does 4-suite Gibson’s Warehouse have an interesting history as a working railroad warehouse, but it’s also just steps from downtown Staunton dining and entertainment. Renovated efficiency apartments are appointed with full kitchens and living spaces. There’s also a common space in the lobby with seating so guests can mingle and socialize.
  • Staunton Stays is a four-suite boutique hotel in a beautifully renovated Victorian house. Each suite is decorated according to a different theme. All offer full kitchens, modern bathrooms, living quarters, and access to a laundry room.

Where to Eat

  • Try a range of Spanish tapas and other Mediterranean food at Aioli Restaurant.
  • Enjoy wine by the glass or bottle at Yelping Dog Wine. Share a cheese plate or munch on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.  
  • Savor wine, beer, and light fare such as apps and sandwiches at The Green Room.
  • Dine at Table 44 for amazing Southern food with a twist.

What to Do

Guys’ Weekend

Staunton has golf, cigars, the great outdoors, and food and beer.  What else do you need for an awesome guys’ weekend? 

Where to Stay

  • Tru by Hilton has modern amenities, access to both the interstate and downtown, and generous public gathering spaces.
  • Avid Hotel focuses on getting the essentials right at a value price.

Where to Eat

What to Do

10 Things We Are Thankful For In Staunton This Year

Thanksgiving is almost here. Take some time between raking leaves, planning side dishes, and agonizing over table settings to reflect on the many things we’re thankful for in Staunton.

Our Great Outdoors

Staunton’s location in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley provides incredible views of mountains on both sides. Were just a few minutes from Shenandoah National Park with its many trails and Skyline Drive. We’re also right in the middle of George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, a wonderful place to hike, bike, paddle, and explore. Even downtown Staunton offers a robust park system featuring trails, views, pools, wilderness areas, playgrounds, ballfields, and a dog park.

Independent Small Businesses

Staunton boasts a diverse mix of indie shops. Our small business owners are following their passions, and creating one of the best independent shopping districts in the state. Hurrah for Staunton Olive Oil Company, Essentially Zen Artisan Bath and Body Shop, Latitudes, Made; By the People, For the People, Medieval Fantasies Company, Refill Renew, Pufferbellies Toys and Books, and more

Foodie Scene

For a small town, Staunton has a lot of good food and this list only scratches the surface. Enjoy fresh coffee and out-of-this-world pastries at Reunion Bakery & Espresso, Crucible Coffee Roasters, or Newtown Baking. Sit down to a tasty lunch emphasizing local ingredients at Serendipity Java Bar and Eatery, Table 44, the Pampered Palate, or Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery. Savor a dinner at Chicano Boy Taco, Zynodoa, the Mill Street Grill, or Aioli. Make sure to leave room for something sweet from The Split Banana, the Clocktower Eats and Sweets, or Wright’s Dairy Rite

Craft Beer, Wine, and Cider

Virginia is making quite a name for itself in the craft beer and wine scene, and our local area is no exception. In fact, Staunton was just named one of the “20 Best Beer Towns in the United States.” Hop on the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail to sip at 19 breweries, all within an hour’s drive. Queen City Brewing, Redbeard Brewing Company, and Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co. are all within city limits. Baja Bean Co. sells a wide selection of craft beers by the bottle or on tap. Wine lovers can taste the local varietals and more at Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room, Yelping Dog Wine, the Green Room, or the new Seed to Tail Kitchen & Market. Barren Ridge Vineyards is just a short drive away. If you prefer cider, grab a seat and a flight at Staunton’s new cidery, Ciders from Mars.

Artists, Artisans, and the Performing Arts

There are many ways to explore Staunton’s flourishing arts community. Walk around and visit Staunton’s collection of murals and public art. Drop in at a gallery. Take a class at Beverley Street Studio School. Visit Sunspots Studios, where you can watch glass art being created in front of your eyes. Catch a virtual performance by The American Shakespeare Center or a live show at ShenanArts where local performers put on high-energy performances. Got dramatic kids? Sign them up for a theater class with Silver Line Theatre Exchange.

Live Music 

From the world-renowned performers who perform at the Heifetz International Music Institute, to the wonderful local musicians enlivening the scene at our favorite breweries and restaurants, Staunton is home to the very best in music–making. We’ve got live, free music almost every night of the week at Gypsy Hill Park during the summer. We have music festivals that entertain all year long. These include Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the classical Staunton Music Festival, as well as rock, blues, jazz, and folk festivals.

Local Farmers and Producers

We are fortunate to be able to enjoy some of the freshest, most delicious locally grown food available anywhere in the USA.  We have a seasonal farmer’s market (and new winter market,) farm-fresh roadside stands, and pick-your-own farms.  We’re the envy of many communities in the “buy fresh, buy local” movement. Plus, many of our restaurants prioritize using this seasonal and healthy food in their recipes.

Museums and Historic Sites

Staunton’s in touch with its history. Take a walking tour and admire downtown’s amazing Victorian architecture. See the past come to life at the Frontier Culture Museum and Woodrow Wilson’s Birthplace Museum. Check out the Camera Heritage Museum, explore Thornrose Cemetery, or even book a private ghost tour

Our Fun Community

Though Covid has put a damper on a some of the live community events, we hope to soon be able to take advantage of all our favorites. We’re thankful for the Staunton Christmas Parade, Caroling in the Park, Happy Birthday America Celebration, Celebration of Holiday Lights in the Park, Queen City Mischief and Magic, Art in the Park, Concerts at Trinity Church and many more.

The People

We are thankful for YOU!  You, as a visitor or local, all come together to make Staunton exactly what it is!  It wouldn’t be the same without you. We’re also thankful for our teachers, our police officers, and our Public Works department. We’re thankful for the servers and bartenders in the cafes who know our faces and orders by heart, the doctors who keep us healthy, and many more. We are grateful for all of the incredible people who live and work in Staunton that contribute every day to help make our small city so amazing. 

We hope you’ll enjoy and share this list.  But most of all – we hope you’ll add to this list with all the things you are grateful for in Staunton. Happy Thanksgiving!

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report 2021: Weekend of October 15-17

It’s still pretty warm in Staunton during the day, but with some nights dipping into the 40s, we should really start seeing some of fall’s fiery color this weekend! The following week looks like it will be much cooler, so the height of the season will be here soon. In fact, the Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map predicts that leaves will peak between October 11-25, so get out there and leaf peep. You’ll find some nice backgrounds around the train station for fall-themed photos, and a climb up to Woodrow Park on Sears Hill rewards with stellar views of Staunton from above. You’ll also see lots of trees in Gypsy Hill Park with the added bonus of the swimming pool enclosure that’s populated with friendly and spooky Halloween scarecrows.

If the rain holds off this weekend, it should be good weather for hiking, so make sure you get out with your camera. If you haven’t done it yet this year, Humpback Rocks offers wide open views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys as well as chances to see migrating hawks. If you’d rather head to the west, drive up Shenandoah Mountain and hike the trails around the Confederate Breastwork Interpretive Site. You’ll notice that the trees at higher elevations are starting to show off those autumnal colors. The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests that the green will continue to change to yellow as limited daylight shuts down chlorophyll production. Though all deciduous trees change color and drop their leaves, the intensity of the show varies each year.

Check here every week for our updated fall foliage report.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage 2021: Weekend of October 1-3

Fall started last week, but it’s still pretty warm. In fact, it’s pretty much perfect weather. The warm days and cooler nights are ideal for hiking, camping, and hitting the playground with your kids. The trees are still mostly green, but here and there you can see yellowing and flashes of orange. You’ll have to wait for a while until you can roll around in piles of raked leaves or get your fall portraits, but the cooler weather is sending the trees its signal.

 

Beyond Staunton

Colors come to the trees first in the mountains and in the western part of the state. After that, the colors spread east and down the mountain slopes. The Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map predicts that leaves will peak during the week of October 11-25, which means things will need to happen very quickly! Make sure you don’t miss it: get outside over the next few weeks for hikes both in the mountains and in the Valley.

The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests looking to black gum (red), dogwood (scarlet to purple), sumacs (red orange), and even poison ivy (red) for hints of color this week. A lot of wildflowers are still in bloom now, so make sure you’re looking along the sides of roads and trails while you’re out exploring this weekend.

If you’re looking for a nice drive, explore the Blue Ridge Parkway for wonderful views of leaves and migrating hawks.

Check back here for our updated fall foliage report each week if you’re planning to leaf peep this autumn.

Staunton’s Fall Roundup

The weather’s cooling, the birds are migrating, and the kids are safely away in school. Football is back on TV, and the leaves are starting to adorn the lawn. But there’s more to fall than raking, cheering, and pumpkin spice latte. Here’s how to make the most of autumn in Staunton.

Fall Color

The leaves haven’t really changed yet, but you can’t beat the Shenandoah Valley for the upcoming fall color. To see the leaves at their brightest, plan to leaf peep at the peak of the season, which should be around October 11 through 25 this year. Check back each week for an update on the season’s progression.

Fall Fashion and Where to Find It 

The seasons are changing and it’s time to warm up your wardrobe, especially if you have a family portrait session in the near future. Here’s where to update your look in Staunton this fall. 

  • Shop Design at Nine for distinctive women’s clothing, including a large selection of seasonal shoes and boots as well as the accessories you need to tie your look together. 
  • LTD 7 and Latitudes Fair Trade Store have unique and trendy clothing, bags, scarves, and jewelry. 

  • If you’re looking for something with a story, check out Nanny June Vintage Clothing for ways to add a retro flair to your modern wardrobe. 
  • Don’t forget The Sparrow’s Nest for artistic jewelry and knitwear. 
  • Men will look sharp after shopping at CFO Trading Company for clothing, outerwear, scarves, hats, and seasonal accessories. 
  • And make sure to outfit yourself for that fall hiking or camping trip at Wilderness Adventure.

Pumpkin, Apple, and Grape Picking

If you’re looking for a family-friendly fall adventure to keep you busy when you’re not at soccer or football games, visit one of our area’s pick-your-own farms and orchards.

  • You’ll find views and crops of Concords and Niagaras at Wenger Grapes
  • Pick some Red Delicious at Sunrise Orchards. They also sell apple butter, pumpkins, and honey. 
  • Decorative gourd lovers can rejoice: the pumpkin patch at Middle River Farms (Grottoes) is open. You’ll find over 30 varieties of pumpkins and gourds. Their wagonload deal is one of the best around! 
  • Another stellar spot for pumpkins is Troyer’s Farm in Stuarts Draft. Explore the fields for mixed varieties of large and small pumpkins and gourds. Finish up with a trip through the 10-acre corn maze. 
  • Finally, enjoy a hayride and pick-your-own pumpkins and gourds at Mount Crawford’s Mulberry Hills Farms

Fall Flavors 

We know you’ve been salivating for weeks for a taste of apples, pumpkins, and anything with a hint of spice and cinnamon. Here’s a sampling of some of Staunton’s best fall flavors.

  • Firkin Pie has the best sweet and savory flavors of the season. Try the pork sausage roll, seasoned with caramelized onions, sage, and thyme that’s served with honey mustard or the beet Reuben hand pie. Save room for the Marlborough apple pie for dessert.
  • The Shack offers an ever-changing and seasonal tasting menu highlighting local ingredients.
  • Try Zynodoa’s Autumn Olive Farm grilled pork chop that comes with braised cabbage, Wade’s Mill rye spaetzle, and a sweet and sour glaze. Get a side of Wade’s Mill apple and cheddar grits and follow it all with a harvest thyme pumpkin pot de crème.

  • Order the pan-seared maple leaf duck breast at Aioli. It’s served with butternut squash parmesan risotto, vegetable tempura, and blackberry reduction.
  • Pick your favorite fall-flavored gelato like pumpkin pie or maple walnut at The Split Banana

  • How about an apple streusel or pumpkin pie from Paris Cake Company? They not only taste wonderful, they’re beautiful, too.
  • D&L Donuts bakes seasonal flavors of your favorite morning treat like pumpkin and apple crisp. You’ll want to arrive early to ensure you score one of these tasty seasonal treats.
  • Have you had a flight from Ciders From Mars yet? You can’t beat hard cider for a taste of autumn.
  • Queen City Brewing serves two delicious hard-pressed ales: Apple Ale and Cranberry Ale. Both are perfect for the fall season.
  • Redbeard Brewing Company releases their latest edition of Moriarty, a barrel-aged Imperial Stout on October 9.

Fall Events 

We’ve scoured the calendars so you don’t have to. Here’s what’s coming up near Staunton.

  • Catch the right wind and see your kite soar at Coyner Springs Kite Fly on September 25. See kite demonstrations, paint pumpkins, and sling apples at this fun event. If you don’t already own a kite, browse the selection at Pufferbellies Toys and Books.
  • Get ready for Halloween by learning about Staunton’s spooky history with a Ghosts of Staunton walking ghost tour on September 24 and 25.
  • Find a use for your old clothes at Staunton Parks and Rec’s Scarecrows in the Park event. Use your skills to create a silly or scary scarecrow to stand near the swimming pools and spook all the early morning joggers. September 25.
  • There’s no live Queen City Mischief & Magic festival this year, but keep an eye on Facebook for lots of fun, virtual events.
  • Celebrate German Heritage Day at the Frontier Culture Museum on October 2 and see how early residents of the Valley lived and made merry.
  • The Fall Foliage Art Festival (October 9-10) brings talented artists to downtown Waynesboro each year. You’ll find paintings, prints, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, and more as well as music, food, and craft beer against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge in full color.
  • The Fall Foliage Bike Festival (October 15-17) attracts hundreds of 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 a number of SAG-supported routes over two days.
  • Wade’s Mill will host its 26th annual Apple Butter Festival on October 16. See apple butter being made the traditional way, enjoy tasty food and drink, and shop for local crafts.
  • October 16 is Fall Farm Day at Creambrook Farm. You’ll see baby calves and other farm animals, pretty views, and have lots of family fun.
  • Plan to take the kids to trick or treat at Swannanoa this Halloween. Expect goodies, photo opportunities, face painting, a food truck, and possible real ghosts!

Scenic September in Staunton

Clear blue skies, temps in the seventies, and low humidity are reasons why September shines as a month to get outside. Short on time? These destinations are all in town, so plan a stroll or bike ride to find your favorite spots. Bring the kids along to visit the parks, feed the ducks and stretch their legs. Here’s how to enjoy scenic September in Staunton.

Gypsy Hill Park

Gypsy Hill Park is the most popular of Staunton’s Parks, and there’s definitely a festive atmosphere when little league games and live music are happening. Walk, jog, or pedal the 1.3-mile loop and you’ll definitely meet a friend or neighbor. Little ones will enjoy the two updated playgrounds, and your dog will love making paw pals at the dedicated bark park. There’s aquatic life, too, in the form of ducks, geese, swans, and fish to feed at the duck pond and fish to hook at Lake Tams. Brave souls with good balance can shred it at the skatepark. Fuel up for the rest of your day at Chicano Boy Taco.

Gypsy Hill Golf Club

September is perfect golfing weather, and there’s no better place to do it than on the par 71 Gypsy Hill Golf Club, part of Staunton’s history since 1919. The terrain is steep, but stunning, with lots of old trees and long-range views of the mountains. Fees, cart rentals, and private lessons are reasonable. Head over to Queen City Brewing after your round.

Montgomery Hall Park

Montgomery Hall Park has a bit of everything, from playgrounds to hiking trails to sports fields to picnic pavilions. You can’t miss the spiderweb and tall slide tower as you drive into the park, but did you know there’s a less visible natural playground in the park, too? This quiet and shady spot is the perfect environment for kids to develop imaginations, balance, and appreciation for nature’s toybox. Hikers and mountain bikers share several miles of well marked and maintained trails winding through the trees and hills. This area is also used for a popular 18-hole disc golf course. And if the cooling weather means racquet sports to you, get your game on at the tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts. Grab a bite or a loaf of bread at Newtown Baking & Kitchen.

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Area

Betsy Bell Wilderness is Staunton’s best-kept secret when it comes to natural areas within the city limits. You’ll enjoy a peaceful hike or bike away from the bustle. The climb is steep, so catch your breath and survey the city from above at one of the two overlooks. Betsy Bell is a hotspot for birdwatching and good for walking your dog. Treat yourself after your hike with a cone from Kline’s Dairy Bar!

Woodrow and Landes Parks

Woodrow and Landes Parks are so small that you might not even know they exist. And while you might not be able to play a baseball game there, they’re part of a perfect loop for stretching your legs and snapping some beautiful photographs. Climb the steep steps to the Sears Hill Bridge from the Wharf.  Cross the bridge, stopping to gaze up and down the railroad tracks and out over Staunton’s rooftops. Rest a while in Woodrow Park before strolling through the Sears Hill neighborhood. Take Middlebrook Avenue back to downtown and you’ll pass through Landes Park as it passes under the tracks and skirts the edge of Lewis Creek. Your pics in this space will be cool and moody. Make sure you visit nearby Crucible Coffee or Ciders from Mars for a quick sip before heading home.

Other Places to Have a Stroll

While not part of the city park system, historic Thornrose Cemetery and the Frontier Culture Museum make good places to take an urban hike. Thornrose Cemetery was built on the park cemetery model popular in the 1800s. Since city park spaces were rare, cemeteries made up for it with interesting architecture like towers, bridges, and scenic paths. See Explore Staunton on Foot: Thornrose Cemetery for more information. The Frontier Culture Museum brings the past to life on eight working farms representing the Valley’s early settlers. Costumed interpreters do chores and educate visitors who explore the sprawling complex at their own pace. Later, get dinner at nearby Thai Staunton.

Finally, consider taking one of our self-guided walking tours to learn the history of one of Staunton’s historic districts.

Staunton’s Nearby Swimming Holes and Places to Cool Off

So far 2021 has been taking the prize for the hottest summer in reported history. Here’s how Staunton can escape the blazing temperatures and suffocating humidity with swimming pools, paddling put-ins, waterfalls, and more.

Pools

If you’re not lucky enough to have your own pool, never fear. Staunton has public pools at Gypsy Hill Park and Montgomery Hall Park. The pool at Gypsy Hill Park is an Olympic-sized L-shaped pool with a shallow section for hanging out and a separate area for swimming in lanes. The pool has a diving board, slides, and a kiddie pool with a zero-depth entry for the youngest visitors. Montgomery Hall’s Pool is smaller but has a cool twisty slide and a shallow area with sprinklers for kids. There’s a nearby playground and picnic area for after-pool fun. Both pools can be rented for parties!

Lakes

The George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests boast nearly two million acres of unspoiled nature. There are lots of opportunities to get outside, including chances for swimming and fun in the water. When the weather gets hot, Staunton residents head to Todd Lake or Sherando Lake. 7.5-acre Todd Lake is located northwest of Staunton and will prove a perfect place for a family swim, picnic, or even a camping weekend. Built to control flooding in the 60s, the lake now features a sandy beach, playground, bathhouse, picnic area, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and hiking trails. You can even launch your non-motorized boat in the water. Day-use fee applies.

Head southeast of Staunton to reach Sherando Lake, known locally as the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge.” Come enjoy the spring-fed water for the day, or stay overnight in the campground. The 25-acre lake has a clearly marked swimming area and a sandy beach. There’s plenty of room on the beach and surrounding grassy area to spread out your blanket and chairs. There’s a bathhouse and lots of shaded picnic tables. If you’re feeling energetic, hike around the lake or swim out to the island. The recreation area was built in 1933 by the Civil Conservation Corps. Day access fee applies.

Rivers & Streams

If you’re willing to hike a bit to beat the heat, try one of these pristine swimming holes in nearby rivers and streams.

The 9.5-mile Rip Rap circuit hike is widely considered one of the best loops in the southern part of Shenandoah National Park. The 50-foot-wide icy cold swimming hole you’ll encounter midway has a lot to do with that reputation. Access this deep, spring-fed beauty by hiking down from the parking area at MM 90 on the Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park fees apply).

Take the four-mile out-and-back hike through St. Mary’s Wilderness for a beautiful and exhilarating plunge into an icy mountain pool under St. Mary’s Falls. Make sure you bring water shoes since there are multiple water crossings and this popular trail to the swimming hole might be washed out in places.

A third hike that’s great for summertime is the 4.5-mile loop starting on the Blue Ridge Parkway that passes White Rock Falls. Though there’s not a huge swimming hole beneath the 40-foot falls, you’ll find pools that are good for wading and cooling off. If you have younger kids, consider the shorter down-to-the-falls-and-back-up version of this hike that begins and ends at the Slacks Overlook.

You won’t need to do a lot of hiking to find your special spot at Goshen Pass, but you might need to scramble over some enormous rocks to get there. The water in the 3.7-mile section of the gorge carved by the Maury River 420 million years ago is refreshingly cold. You’ll see forests punctuated with jagged rock formations and you’ll discover countless private pools if you want to swim or hang out on your own private island. The site is also popular for tubing and offers some of the most challenging kayaking around. If you want ease of access, try the gravel beach at the picnic facilities where the gorge opens out and the water flows slowly.

Paddling and Tubing

If your preferred way to cool off is a leisurely float down a river, check out the Waynesboro Water Trail. This 4-mile stretch of the South River flows right through downtown Waynesboro and offers several convenient put-in and take-out points as well as nearby canoe and kayak rentals from Rockfish Gap Outfitters. Just north of Staunton, a lazy stretch of the Middle River flows past a waterfall and through the Shenandoah Valley Campground, where you can rent inner tubes at the general store. Another good place to launch your kayak or inner tube is at Grottos Landing in Mountain View Park, Grottos. From here, you can float to Port Republic and beyond!

When swimming or boating in natural areas, remember to wear water shoes and sunscreen. Also keep an eye out for slippery rocks, poison ivy, glass, and reptiles.

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. 

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.