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Category: Kids

How to Beat the Dog Days of August

We’ve all heard the term “the dog days of August”. It’s when dogs supposedly pass out from lying on the hot pavement and you can fry an egg on the hood of your car. The expression carries negative associations: drought, dangerous storms, rabid dogs, and just plain old bad luck. Though the term actually refers to the sun’s apparent location near the Canus Major “big dog” constellation, area kids are bummed that summer vacation is ending. It’s time to take a quick trip to Staunton and eke out a tiny bit more fun before the grind begins again. 

Dance to Roots Music

You don’t want to miss the dinner-concert Roots Music Events at the Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll hear bluegrass, blues, gospel, traditional Appalachian music and more during the five nights of concerts which “celebrate the influence of these musical roots genres on American frontier culture.” Grab dinner from onsite food vendor Island Wheels Caribbean Cuisine and listen to artists like Wound Tight Bluegrass and Southern Hospitality. Make a day of it by exploring the museum where you’ll learn all about the Valley’s earliest residents through living history farm exhibits, questions and answers with interpreters, and hand-on experiences. This museum is suitable for history buffs as well as kids, who can play historic games and check out cows, goats, pigs, and cats. 

Find Cheer with Craft Beer

August is Craft Beer Month, and fortunately most of our area breweries have areas that are family friendly. Redbeard Brewing Company is having a monthly outdoor concert series and on August 28, it will welcome the Findells. Come sing, dance, and enjoy some delicious craft beer. Skipping Rock Beer Company hosts live music most Friday and Saturday nights. Come get comfortable in their beer garden, grab a pint of your favorite brew, and get ready for a great night. Look for upcoming acts like VS., HoboJac, McHale & Justina, and more! Queen City Brewing sells “all kinds of beer in all kinds of ways.” Come check out their outdoor seating area and plan to come on a night where there’s something fun going on: trivia, live music, open mic nights, and more.

Splash Your Blues Away

Just because school is starting doesn’t mean it’s too late in the season to swim. Take the family to one of our area’s lakes or rivers for a day on the water. Good bets include spring-fed Sherando Lake and Todd Lake in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Both include sandy beaches, swimming areas, and restrooms. Paddlers will like the urban Waynesboro Water Trail and the more remote Goshen Pass, one of the top-rated kayaking spots in the area. For more on water fun, read Staunton’s Nearby Swimming Holes and Places to Cool Off.

The Best Way to Drive-Into Fall

If you’re sad because Staunton’s Movies in the Park 2021 season is over, you can still get your fill of the alfresco cinematic experience with a trip to Hull’s Drive In. Though it’s a bit of a drive, it’s worth it for the classic big-screen experience, the snack shop fare, and the community experience. Plus, it only costs $20 per carload of people for a double feature!

Dine out Downtown

There’s still plenty of time to dine out and shop in downtown Staunton. Each Friday night at 4 p.m., Beverley Street closes and stays closed until Monday morning. This lets restaurants in the busiest section of town use the sidewalk and street as dining, tasting room, and retail space. Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co., 101 West Beverley, Baja Bean Co., Shenandoah Pizza & Taphouse, Zynodoa, and more are all participating in the initiative. Stop by the Staunton Olive Oil Company, which is under new ownership, to taste some olive oils and vinegars on freshly baked 100% gluten-free bread, which we’ve heard tastes just like a normal French bread loaf. Follow this up with a selection of keto treats, which include blondies, power bars, brownies, and cheesecake bars. A map of the area with parking, pedestrian walkways, and restaurant take-out/pick-up spots clearly delineated is available here.

Pick Your Spirits Up

If your family hasn’t gotten enough fresh fruit pie from all the peaches you’ve been picking or buying, there’s still plenty of time to make more with bounty from the Staunton Farmers’ Market. Spend a Saturday morning perusing the stands, chatting with growers, and selecting the best fresh produce in the area. If you’d rather have a more hands-on experience, head to one of our nearby pick-your-own farms. Grapes and apples are coming into season at  Wenger GrapesSunrise Orchards, and Carter Mountain Orchard. School lunches always taste better with fresh fruit!

Just Let the Dogs out!

Nothing lifts our spirits like our pets, and since it’s the dog days of summer, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a nod to Staunton’s dog-friendly destinations. Let your pet work off excess energy at Staunton’s Bark Park in Gypsy Hill Park. Divided into separate spacious runs for small and large dogs, it lets dogs play and socialize while their owners do the same. Other city parks are stocked with doggy-bag stations and open to well-behaved dogs on leashes. Serious hikers might enjoy the Betsy Bell Wilderness Area and the trails at Montgomery Hall Park. Finally, reward a good dog with a treat at the Well-Balanced Paw. This shop carries treats and supplements and provides nutritional guidance and therapeutic massage.

Savor the Sweet Staunton Summertime

Can you believe there are only a few weeks of summer vacation left before everyone heads back to school? If you’ve already been camping, cheered at a baseball game, and spent a week at the beach, here are a few more ways to savor the sweet Staunton summertime! 

County Fairs and Festivals

The Augusta County Fair is happening now through July 31. Gorge on carnival food and see rides, exhibits, livestock, acrobats and other sideshow performances, music, tractor pulls and more! If you miss the fair in Augusta County, head up to Rockingham County Fairgrounds for the Rockingham County Fair from August 16-21 for more fair action, including music by Hardy with the Hackens Boys and a demolition derby. The Rockbridge Regional Fair and Expo is happening in Glasgow on August 26-28 and will feature music, rides, pageants and more.

Normally a springtime festival, Art in the Park is being held in the fall this year. On September 4-5, head to Staunton to enjoy the shady space by Gypsy Hill Park’s bandstand as you browse the work of a variety of juried artists. You’ll find photography, paintings, jewelry, ceramics, wood turnings, activities for kids, and more.

Pop over Afton Mountain on August 5 for fun and to support a good cause at the Rockfish Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Carnival. You’ll find rides and games for the entire family as well as delicious pit-cooked chicken and other food. Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department will host a Chicken in the Park event on August 14, and a Sunday lunch on August 15.

Fruit Picking

Nothing says summer like a fresh fruit pie or smoothie, and nothing says family like time spent bonding in an orchard or berry patch. Here’s how to head into the country and make some memories this summer. Remember to check what’s in season on this calendar and call the farm ahead of time to see what’s available. Don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray!

Troyer Nursery specializes in strawberries, but there’s still plenty to pick later in the season. You’ll find sweetcorn, tomatoes, green beans, red beets, squash, zucchini, onions and other vegetables. They also sell milk and ice cream mix from Mount Crawford Creamery. Critzer Family Farm is dedicated to environmentally-friendly farming practices and education. It’s a nice place to take the kids to learn about food production and to pick seasonal strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, plums, pumpkins, and fresh veggies. Don’t skip home-churned ice cream after your time in the sun!

If you want to wait for the weather to cool off a bit before heading outside, mark your calendar for the end of August when the crops of Concord and Niagara grapes start to ripen at Wenger Grapes. Another good option is Sunrise Orchards, a small pick-your-own apple orchard that offers Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Jonathan by the bag, peck, half bushel, or bushel from early September until the apples are gone. Carter Mountain Orchard is a bit of a drive, but they offer the pick-your-own fruit experience on a large scale. You can pick or buy pre-picked apples and other seasonal fruits and shop at the farm market, making sure to order a plate of the apple cider donuts! The pumpkin patch at Middle River Farms opens in the middle of September. You’ll find beautiful views and over 30 varieties of pumpkins and gourds. Their wagonload deal is one of the best around!

Best Barbecue

Barbecue season lasts all summer, giving you plenty of time to celebrate and try all the Staunton varieties of this juicy, smoky warm-weather staple. Here are the places worth the drive!

Peck’s Bar-B-Que is a local favorite, known for Virginia-style smoked pork served chopped, sliced, or coarse. Get your meat on a sandwich or on a platter with sides like coleslaw and hush puppies. If you want straight meat, you can order that too. The less carnivorous will enjoy salads, fish, and chicken choices. Shredder’s BBQ also serves your favorite Virginia barbecue. It’s made with locally raised meats and smoked with hickory wood.

Kline’s Hog Wild BBQ serves Carolina and sweet-style barbecue and sides for dining in and taking out. Drink a milkshake with your meal or finish with some of the fresh-churned ice cream that Kline’s is famous for! Big Red Barbecue’s menu is packed with selections like pulled pork and fried catfish. The menu also includes a ton of breakfast selections. Check Facebook for daily specials like jerk chicken and shrimp and grits. Valley Smokehouse specializes in seafood, barbecue, and steaks. Be on the lookout for events like all-you-can-eat seafood or scallops, prime rib, and tuna steak meals! Finally, next time you dine at Mill Street Grill or The Depot Grille, make sure to sample their slow-cooked ribs and homemade barbecue sauce.

For even more summer fun, visit our blogs on Live Music, Ice Cream and Swimming Holes.

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.

Celebrate Juneteenth Staunton Style

Are you ready to embrace the warm weather and the loosening of Covid restrictions? Are you ready to celebrate community and learn about cultural heritage? Are you ready to dance? Read on for some local ways to enjoy  Juneteenth, the holiday to celebrate the end of slavery.

Juneteenth Celebration at Sunspots Pavilion

Get the Juneteenth party started early on Friday, June 18th at the Juneteenth Celebration at Sunspots Pavilion in the historic Wharf. The free event is from 6 – 10 p.m. and features a variety of vendors as well as music by Steve The Painter & DJ Adonis. Expect to hear old-school classic club hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s as well as some sounds from South Africa. All that dancing will make you hungry, so grab a bite from one of the onsite food trucks, Wharf restaurants, or stroll over to Beverley Street to take advantage of dining opportunities. Beverley Street is closed to vehicular traffic on the weekends. 

5th Annual Juneteenth at the Frontier Culture Museum

In the past, the annual Shenandoah Valley Juneteenth Celebration was held at Montgomery Hall Park. This year, however, the Frontier Culture Museum is hosting the free family-friendly event on June 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year’s theme is “The Continual Evolution of JUNETEENTH” and it will feature live music and event speakers. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and plan to hang out. If you’re feeling competitive, join the 3-point shooting competition or the cornhole tournament. Food, jewelry, craft, and other vendors will be on site.

Visitors should also explore the rest of the 200-acre living history museum and learn about the early inhabitants of our area from costumed interpreters.  Of special interest will be the museum’s West African farm exhibit, which “explores the cultural contributions of African captives who were brought to Virginia in the 1700s.” Though enslaved peoples were captured from all over Africa and represented many ethnic groups, many were Igbo from the West African Coast. The clay farm exhibit demonstrates how the Igbo cooked, farmed, created crafts and pottery before enslavement.

Juneteenth After Party at the Pompei Lounge

DJ Adonis is back, this time at the Pompei Lounge at 23 E. Beverley Street on Saturday, June 19th, 10 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. This Juneteenth After Party is sure to get you dancing. The Pompei offers plenty of room to spread out over two floors with several unique spaces, a balcony, and an open-air terrace.

If you’d like to discover resources for gaining a broader understanding of our city’s African-American history, culture, and contributions, check out our post on African American History in Staunton.

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! Or try one of our beginner hikes for kids. 

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. 

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. 

48-Hour Family Getaway in Staunton

Going to be in town for two days with your family? There’s tons to do in Staunton, and 48 hours should give you time to experience the must-do spots as well as squeeze in some lesser-known adventures. Here’s an itinerary for a family getaway packed with Staunton’s best.

Day 1:

Explore the Farmers’ Market

Jump right into your Staunton visit by exploring the Saturday morning Staunton Farmer’s Market. Listen to live music, talk to local farmers and taste seasonal fresh fruit and a variety of baked goods. This is a great way to catch a snack, buy gifts for peeps back home, and connect with Staunton’s bustling community.

Enjoy some art and parks

A glass-blowing demonstration at Sunspots Studios will thrill all ages. Using extreme heat, artisans blow and shape molten glass into globes and art pieces. You’ll want to study this process or even try “Blowing Your Own Ornament” (alongside a trained artist, of course). Next, stretch your legs by walking past the train depot and summoning your inner billy goat gruff by climbing up over the historic and recently restored Sears Hill footbridge to Woodrow Park. Bring your camera: the quiet park offers shade, seating, and a postcard-perfect view of the city.

Lunch break

Close by, The Depot Grille is a good, family-friendly way to catch a bite. The restaurant serves up delicious American fare and includes a menu for kids. Still hungry? With just a short walk, you can get your hands on a sweet treat from Paris Cake Company.

Shopping with the locals

Check out the shopping on or near Beverley Street, which USA Today calls one of the “most charming main streets” in America. Family favorites include treasure hunting at Staunton Antiques Center, 17 East Beverley Antiques, and Black Swan Books and Music, or hobby shopping at Staunton Trains and Hobbies, the Hobby Surplus Outlet, and The Dragon’s Hoard. And don’t miss Pufferbellies, the largest independently owned toy store in the Valley, which has a hands-on policy and something to fascinate the kid in all of us.

Ride the Trolley

A good way to see more of Staunton in a relaxing way is to ride the 25-cent green trolley as it loops through town. Enjoy admiring the Victorian architecture and plan to 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 to feed the ducks, play on the playground, and ride the Gypsy Express Mini-Train. Catch the trolley again for your trip back downtown. If you still have energy to burn on the way, get off and wander historic Thornrose Cemetery for views and history.

Evening Refreshments

Have a pre-dinner beverage at Redbeard Brewing Company. The barrel-aged beer here was recently praised in a story by the Washington Post. Children are welcome in the beer garden out back. Next, take a short walk to Shenandoah Pizza for a gourmet pie celebrating local ingredients and lore. Oh, and plan to have more beer from their extensive tap list.

Still not ready to turn in?

If your family doesn’t have an early bedtime and you’re looking for more evening adventure, put your wits together to solve one of the active puzzles at Crack the Code Escape Room. You’ll have an hour to solve multiple puzzles and escape one of the themed rooms.

Day 2:

Start the Day at Kathy’s

You have a busy day ahead of you, so make sure you take the time for a hearty breakfast. Voted best breakfast spot in the Valley in 2013, Kathy’s Restaurant heaps on the goodness with traditional breakfast fare served all day. Feast on omelettes, pancakes, and corned beef hash.

Museum morning and Lunch under the trees

Next, 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. Wear comfortable shoes to walk between to working farms where costumed interpreters answer your questions and demonstrate daily activities. Little folk will love the animals, and you can rent a wagon if your kids can’t handle lots of walking. Pack a picnic and plan to enjoy lunch at the covered pavilion or under a tree.

Afternoon Fun

For your afternoon’s entertainment and a taste of the county, check the schedule at Augusta Expo where there’s always something going on. Events include the Augusta County Fair, monster truck rallies, Bigfoot conventions, antique and yard sales, dog shows, and more. Alternately, slow it down and lounge in Montgomery Hall Park for the afternoon. This 148-acre treasure has plenty of room to relax. It also features trails, Frisbee golf, a public swimming pool, and three playgrounds, including Nature Ridge, Staunton’s new natural playground.

What’s for Dinner?

If your family enjoys Tex Mex, plan to have dinner at the Baja Bean. The menu has loads of options including choices for the younger set and an impressive tap list. This day won’t be complete without a frozen gelato from The Split Banana. Indulge yourself with one (or more) of the 18 fresh-made flavors.

Watch a show

Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center and the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater, 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 or Legacy Theaters.

The Staunton Ice Cream Scoop

July is ice cream month and Staunton is chock full of fantastic places to celebrate and sooth your sweet tooth. Whether you like soft-serve, gelato, classic malts, or traditional cones, here’s the scoop on Staunton-area frozen treat sweet spots.

Wright’s Dairy Rite

Wright’s Dairy Rite has been a Staunton mainstay since 1952, and you can still park your car in the glow of the retro neon sign and get curbside service. Originally serving only frozen custard, this slice of classic Americana expanded to include a full menu, but frozen treats remain a solid reason to visit. The menu offers flurries, splits, milkshakes, malts, and drink freezes to cool you off on the hottest days. For a true sugar rush, try a Wright’s Wheelie. This treat incorporates a warm donut loaded with ice cream, whipped cream, and a topping. If you’d like a helping of nostalgia with that, visit during one of the Cruise-In antique car rallies Wrights hosts twice a year.

Klines

Klines Dairy Bar has been serving ice cream since 1943 from its original Harrisonburg location. The Staunton site opened in 1997 and makes fresh ice cream each morning using the same “continuous freeze” production method. This creates a soft dessert that is packed with goodness instead of air. Chocolate and vanilla are always available, and each location produces a weekly special flavor (or two). Enjoy a rotation of can’t-miss options like banana and cake batter or local favorites like razberry and lemon gingersnap in cones, cups, shakes, and sundaes. Pick up a printed flavor card to keep in your car (or just drive by and check the signs). Klines in Staunton also offers Hog Wild BBQ, so you can eat sweet or Carolina-style barbecue and burgers before dessert. 

The Split Banana

Ever wonder how gelato differs from ice cream? Gelato contains more milk and less cream, making it lower in fat. But it’s also dense and creamy because it contains less air. And let’s talk taste: gelato lends itself to intense flavors and is served slightly warmer, so those flavors pop. Experience this for yourself at the The Split Banana, an adorable gelato and sorbet shop decorated with a traditional ice cream counter, a piano you’re invited to play, and old-timey black, white and green tile. The Split Banana serves 18 delectable and fresh-made flavors each day. Enjoy traditional flavors or more innovative and adventurous options like banana stracciatella, sticky rice, and peanut butter and jelly.  The Split Banana earned a TripAdvisor’s 2011 U.S-wide top ten ice cream/gelato spot. It is also a Virginia Living Magazine’s 2012 Best of Virginia pick. A favorite of locals and tourists alike, this shop stays open late, so stop in after dinner, a movie, or a play.

Mt.Crawford Creamery

You might be lucky enough to catch the Smiley’s Ice Cream truck at a local event, but if your craving for cones, shakes or sundaes must be fulfilled, it’s worth a drive to the Mt. Crawford Creamery to visit the new brick and mortar shop. Smiley’s Ice Cream specializes in “porch ice cream,” which is slowly churned to eliminate much of the air added to commercial ice creams. Check out regular flavors like coconut almond chocolate chunk and pina colada sorbet as well as weekly specials. The ice cream contains milk and cream produced onsite. Grab a gallon of milk and visit with the cows while you’re there! You can even order larger batches of ice cream online and pick them up at your convenience.

Fourth of July Happenings

Full of fireworks and fanfare, head to Staunton for a truly unique Fourth of July. 

Happy Birthday America

Tuesday, July 3 starting at 6:30 pm
Wednesday, July 4 starting at 7:30 am
Gypsy Hill Park

Celebrate America’s Birthday with two-days of festivities! This family-friendly party kicks off on July 3rd with an opening ceremony and an evening of entertainment. The party continues on July 4th with the Firecracker 5K (7:30 am), followed by the Happy Birthday America Parade (10 am) and the Official Welcome and Posting of the Colors (12 pm) along with activities, performances, and concessions for all ages. The headline performance by homegrown, country group, Wilson Fairchild—sons of Harold and Don Reid of the Statler Brothers—starts at 8 pm. The evening ends in grand fashion with fireworks. This event is FREE and open to the public. See the complete schedule

The Children’s Art Network is selling the Official Happy Birthday America t-shirts and ball caps as a fundraiser: Let’s “Paint the Park” and “Flood the Field.” These items are currently on sale at Ltd7 in Staunton and Kimco in Fishersville for $20. They may be purchased on July 3rd and 4th at Gypsy Hill Park near the entrance of the John Moxie Stadium.

Independence Day Celebration

Wednesday, July 4 from 9 am-5 pm
Frontier Culture Museum

Experience the Fourth of July with hands-on activities and presentations at Virginia’s living history museum. Historic celebrations include the reading of The Declaration of Independence, sack races, pie eating contests, woodworking and cooking demonstrations and much more. Entrance to the museum is Pay What You Will. See the complete schedule.

Looking for a low-key, yet festive way to celebrate our Nation’s Independence? Check out these family-friendly options:

 

bbq on the lawn

Wednesday, July 4 from 5 pm-9 pm
The Blackburn Inn

Celebrate the Fourth of July with a BBQ at the The Blackburn Inn. Enjoy the beautiful grounds of the newly renovated Blackburn Inn with delicious burgers, a beer garden, and special lawn games for all to enjoy. 

Pets are welcome on a leash in the beer garden – so bring your furry friends along. 
*This event is weather permitting.*

10th annual pork and cork

Wednesday, July 4 starting at 6:30 pm
Barren Ridge Vineyards

Enjoy a beautiful sunset while you sip wine at Barren Ridge Vineyard’s 10th Annual Pork and Cork. This relaxed evening includes local musicians Who Shot John and an extensive barbecue feast catered by Hogback Mtn. BBQ. End the evening with fireworks!  Wine is available for purchase but tickets are required for this event. *Due to fireworks, dogs are not allowed to attend this event.*

Spring Break (and Summer) Survival

With spring break ahead, summer travels, and impromptu days off here and there often leave parents looking for things to do. We’ve rounded up a list—worthy of a day trip or overnight stay—that won’t break the bank; making parents happy and keeping kids entertained. Pin, Facebook, bookmark, or print this for future reference; we’re sure you’ll look to it as a resource over the next few months.

Teenagers and Tweens:

One of the coolest demonstrations you’ll ever see is glassblowing, and you can see it every day in Staunton at Sunspots Studios! Watch the masters seemingly turn glass into wax as they form big bubbles bound for a life of beauty. If you get inspired, try “Blowing Your Own Ornament” where you work alongside a trained artist to create a unique ornament which will provide a lifetime of memories.

Escape to Crack the Code where you must solve puzzles in order to escape the room. You have 60 minutes to find the clues, solve the puzzles and make your way to freedom. Choose from two different themed rooms: DaVinci’s Office and The Asylum. This group activity is perfect for large families or a group of friends (6 people max).

For parents of Pokémon Go fans, we’ve got the fix. 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 or Gypsy Hill Park. And with the newest version of the app you can now build your own tour based on your interests, time and even level of difficulty. 

Montgomery Hall Park is one of Staunton’s best kept secrets with its rolling hills and quiet woodlands. Its a perfect escape for those looking to get outdoors with 148 acres of nature hiking and mountain biking trails. The park is also equipped with a disc golf course, basketball courts, tennis courts and much more! 

For history buffs visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum where you can discover the life and legacy of our 28th President or learn about the Valley’s earliest settlers at the Frontier Culture Museum. Theater enthusiasts will fall in love with the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse where selfies and Snapchat are encouraged as you can go behind, under, and even on stage!

The Younger Set:

Discover Staunton by Trolley! Take a ride on the green trolley for just 25 cents per rider.  Hop on and off as you visit area attractions like the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum and Gypsy Hill Park. Parents and Grand Parents can sit back and enjoy the architecture and scenery of several of Staunton’s historic districts. MUST SEE stops include Gypsy Hill Park to feed the ducks and stretch your legs; Split Banana for handmade gelato; and Pufferbellies to play with the latest toys. The Green route runs every 30 minutes from the Visitors Center located at 35 S. New Street.

Speaking of toys, did you know Staunton has a toy store that lets your kids play while you shop? “Don’t touch” is not a phrase you’ll hear at Pufferbellies. Pop in to play at the largest independently owned toy store in the Shenandoah Valley, and you can help your kids build their Christmas wish list while you’re at it!

Montgomery Hall Park is 148 acres and is home to the natural playground, Nature Ridge. Designed for imaginative play, Nature Ridge has a mud kitchen, rock quarry, pirate ship, ball drop, chimes, and an elevated sand pit accessible to children of all ages and abilities. 

For train obsessed kiddos we have the historic train station. Take a walk across Sears Hill Bridge for great City views and to explore the tracks from overhead. On the weekends, don’t miss the Gypsy Express Mini-Train running Saturdays and Sundays from May to October. Another kid hot spot is the Staunton Fire Station where you can see JUMBO, the oldest motorized fire engine in Virginia and the only remaining 1911 Robinson fire engine.

Pack a picnic and bring a stroller or rent a wagon for a day of exploration at the Frontier Culture Museum. Walking shoes recommended as you make your way from the Old World to the New, visiting farmsteads with costumed interpreters complete with farm animals. 

Staunton has no shortage of music and art festivals during the warmer months and for other special events 
and weekly happenings check out Staunton On Tap, our schedule of events with all the latest happenings.