A Family-Friendly Guide to Staunton, VA
Are you bringing the family to Staunton this summer? Awesome choice! From historical sites to outdoor adventures to family-friendly places to eat and play, there’s so much to do that the entire family will have a great time. Are we there yet?
How to Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Staunton is a hilly town, but the 1.3-mile paved loop at Gypsy Hill Park is relatively flat and perfect for young cyclists. Better yet, there’s not a lot of traffic, so riding conditions are very safe. Gypsy Hill also has a skate park and ponds for fishing and feeding the ducks. There’s a dog park, too, if some of your babies are covered with fur.
Mountain bikers will find challenges at Montgomery Hall Park in the form of several miles of wooded trail with varying difficulty levels. Next, the family can cool off at the public swimming pool before playing a round of disc golf or burning some energy on one of the playgrounds.
Staunton is situated in some of Virginia’s best hiking country, so take advantage of hikes in Shenandoah National Park and George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Consider Augusta Springs Wetlands, Sherando Lake Recreation Area, and North River Gorge.
Want to head underground to escape the heat? Visit the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel, a hiking trail that follows an old set of train tracks underneath Afton Mountain. You might also explore the formations in one of the area’s commercial caverns like Luray Caverns, Endless Caverns, and Grand Caverns.
Where to Find Entertainment
Spread out your blanket under the stars near the Gypsy Hill Bandstand where there’s live music four nights a week during the summer. Staunton’s historic 70-member Stonewall Brigade Band will get you parading with marches and big band classics on Monday nights. Tuesday night’s Praise in the Park will treat you to gospel and activities for kids. Local and regional bluegrass entertainers will visit Staunton on Wednesday nights, and Thursday brings you Jazz in the Park. Don’t miss the Happy Birthday America celebration on July 4th. Have a blast with a 5K race, a lively parade, a parent/child baseball game, concessions, live music, and fireworks.
Teach the kids to knock down some pins at family-owned Staunton Lanes! There’s also a snack bar and an arcade. If you’d rather exercise your brains, put your wits together to solve one of the active puzzles at Crack the Code. You’ll have an hour to solve multiple puzzles and escape one of the themed rooms.
Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center‘s Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, so it would be a shame to go home without experiencing it. However, if your kids are a little young for the Bard, you might find an age-appropriate movie at the Visulite. Bonus: if you’re a parent sitting through another video-game-themed movie, at least you can enjoy a beer while you watch.
Where to Learn
Step back in time at the Frontier Culture Museum, which invites visitors to explore the lives of the Shenandoah Valley pioneers from the 1600s through the mid-1800s. Costumed interpreters answer questions and demonstrate daily activities. The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library teaches about the life and times of this president who hailed from Staunton, as well as educational programs and downloadable content targeting younger audiences.
While Sunspots Studios isn’t a museum, you’ll learn all about the process of blowing glass if you stop in for a live demonstration. Using extreme heat, artisans blow and shape molten glass into globes and art pieces. Visitors can purchase completed (and cooled) glass in the gallery.
How to Explore
Explore the Saturday morning Staunton Farmer’s Market to find the tastiest local produce and baked goods. Listen to live music and talk to the producers at this weekly event that celebrates community. You can also see more of Staunton by hopping on the green trolley as it loops through town. Hop on and off at area attractions like the Jumbo Museum, where you can visit the oldest motorized fire engine in Virginia, and Gypsy Hill Park, where you can ride the $1 Gypsy Express Mini-Train that’s been delighting the young-at-heart for more than 60 years. Families will also love the way the free Traipse! app makes walking fun. Half historic tour and half scavenger hunt, Traipse encourages you to take an active part in learning about the town.
Where to Stay
Staunton has a number of casual lodgings that are perfect for families. Reserve a room at the Howard Johnson. There’s an outdoor pool, and it’s an easy walk to downtown and dining. Tru by Hilton and Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriot have great locations convenient to downtown Staunton as well as I-81 and I-64. Fairfield Inn and Suites has an indoor pool. If you’re hoping to spend more time in nature, book a campsite at Shenandoah Valley Campground or Walnut Hills Campground.
Where to Eat
Kathy’s Restaurant heaps on the goodness with traditional breakfast fare like pancakes and omelets served all day. Alternatively, grab some coffee and lite fare to go from The By & By. Catch some lunch at Wright’s Dairy Rite, a diner where your kids can get their burgers and fries in boxes that look like classic cars. Shenandoah Pizza serves gourmet pizza by the pie or by the slice celebrating local ingredients and lore. Skip the chain restaurants and grab a family-friendly meal at Remedy Burger, where there are smash burgers for adults and “happy trays” for smaller appetites. The Depot Grille serves up delicious American fare and includes a menu for kids. Finally, indulge yourself with a selection of fresh-made gelato flavors at The Split Banana, or head to Kline’s to get custard-style homemade ice cream.
Where to Shop
If you want something to keep the kiddos busy on the ride home, Pufferbellies Toys & Books will deliver big time. This is the largest independently owned toy store in the Valley, and its carefully curated shelves will fascinate the kid in all of us. Readers will find a big selection of new favorites at the Book Dragon, and hobbyists and gamers will like Staunton Trains and Hobbies, the Hobby Surplus Outlet, and The Dragon’s Hoard.