#LOVEstaunton

Category: Kids

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; $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.