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Category: Outdoor Recreation

Our Guide to Em“bark”ing on a Pet-Friendly Trip to Staunton

If you’re like most Americans, you rarely leave home without your pandemic pet! Fortunately, there are a lot of pet-friendly activities, plenty of lodgings that cater to paws, and a wealth of restaurants and watering holes that are totally cool with your pet joining you on the patio. Here’s a “pound-up” of where your pet is welcome in Staunton.

Pup-cation Fun for People and Pets

Get outside to howl, run, and play fetch. Here are our favorite parks and hikes.

  • Gypsy Hill Park has a paved 1.3-mile loop that offers a nice view of the park as well as doggy bag stations and convenient trash cans. The star of the show, however, is the Gypsy Hill Bark Park. Divided into separate enclosures for small and large dogs, it gives pups a chance to meet and greet while their owners make small talk. The enclosures include tunnels, training ladders, “fire hydrants,” and benches for humans to sit. 
  • Leashed pets are welcome on the majority of the hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park. It’s actually one of just a few national parks with this perk. For day-trippers and campers, George Washington and Jefferson National Forest stipulates that dogs must be leashed on hiking trails (but may go off-leash in undeveloped areas). Make sure you pack plenty of water for your furry friend and check them for parasites after your outing.

  • Coyner Springs Dog Park in Waynesboro boasts a large, open off-leash area as well as trails for leashed dogs and their human packmates. The nearby Crozet Tunnel trail is a good hike for leashed dogs, especially if you’re afraid of the dark! Make sure you take your flashlight.

  • Leashed dogs are also welcome on the Augusta Springs Wetland trail, but you shouldn’t take your dog if you think he might disturb the waterfowl and other wildlife.

Un-Pack Your Bags

Kenneling your dog is expensive, sad, and can cause a lot of stress shedding. Fortunately, many Staunton inns and hotels offer luxury accommodations for people and dogs, so you can share that king-sized bed just like at home. Just check the fine print: lodgings may have restrictions on size and number of pets. They may also apply additional fees to bunk your fur baby.

  • Hotel 24 South is both a luxury, historic hotel as well as a pioneer in Staunton’s dog-friendly accommodations.

  • The Blackburn Inn opens select rooms to dogs and has extensive grounds to explore while you walk them. 

  • Howard Johnson by Wyndham is steps from downtown shopping, dining, and the farmers’ market. There’s also free parking, light breakfast, and wifi.
  • Sleep Inn Staunton ensures you’ll sleep well in one of their Designed to Dream rooms. Bring your pet: there’s no pet fee!
  • Best Western Staunton Inn boasts comfortable rooms, easy access to I-81, and no pet fee.
  • Comfort Inn Staunton has free breakfast, a pool, and is convenient to both the highway and downtown Staunton.
  • Motel 6 Staunton allows pets and lets kids stay free. You’ll also enjoy free coffee and expanded cable options.
  • Holiday Inn Staunton Conference Center allows up to three pets. It’s convenient to golf, the interstate, and kids eat free with paying adults.
  • Red Roof Inn Staunton is a great budget option. Kids and one pet up to 80 pounds stay for free.
  • Econo Lodge is convenient to the Frontier Culture Museum and downtown Staunton. It’s pet-friendly and offers free coffee.
  • Walnut Hills KOA and Sherando Lake Campground both accommodate families and dogs.

Paw-some Patios

Staunton has several dining spots where the waitstaff doesn’t mind stepping over Teddy’s outstretched paws. They might even bring him a dish of water!

  • Well-behaved dogs on leashes can join you at a table on the covered, gated patio at Table 44
  • The patio at Byer’s Street Bistro also welcomes dogs. Spend your lunch hour dining with Rex and watching the bustle of downtown. Bonus: Dogs will find water bowls and often treats.

  • Just want a quick bite? Stop by the outdoor patio at The By & By for coffee drinks, beer and wine, and sandwiches. 
  • The patio at Thai Staunton Restaurant is pet-friendly.
  • If you’re feeling like eating Mexican, take your pooch to Mi Rancho’s outdoor dining space where you can get relax with a big, tasty margarita. 
  • Prefer Italian? Family-owned Maria’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant has a dog-friendly patio where you can share your spaghetti with Lady.
  • The Pampered Palate, Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, The Split Banana, Nu-Beginning Farm, and the Clocktower Eats & Sweets all have delicious food and allow dogs at their sidewalk seating. 
  • Get there early and grab a spot at the Peck’s Bar-B-Que’s dog-friendly picnic table. There’s shade and nearby grass for your pet to sniff. There’s also a lone pet-friendly table at Sam’s Hot Dog Stand where you can enjoy a sack of all-beef hot dogs.
  • Share your BBQ and ice cream with your dog at one of the two dog-friendly picnic tables at Hog Wild BBQ and Klines Dairy Bar
  • Edelweiss Restaurant serves authentic German food like bratwurst and jager schnitzel. If you dine outside at one of the covered tables, Fido can join you and lick knackwurst juice off your fingers.

Bark-tastic Breweries

Want to spend an evening out having beers with your best fur buddy? Raise a glass because many of Staunton’s breweries are pet-friendly. 

Other Staunton Stops that are Mutts about Dogs

It’s not surprising to come across a dish of cool water waiting on the sidewalk on a hot day in downtown Staunton. Here are other pet-friendly destinations.

  • Your pet will be the star of the show at the Well Balanced Paw Pet Wellness Shoppe and Barkery. Specializing in nutrient-rich pet nutrition and relaxing small-animal massage, this downtown destination will keep your pet balanced and healthy for years to come.

  • Latitudes has all kinds of fair-trade gifts, including this snazzy puppy place-mat!
  • Locally owned Pets N Pals has been selling pet supplies like habitats, food, and toys since 1989. They also have healthy pets of all kinds for sale if you’re seeking a new companion. Petco has a big selection of supplies as well as fish, lizards, birds, spiders, and rodents. Also, check out Augusta Dog Adoptions and the SPCA for pets that need new homes.
  • It’s common to see happy dogs walking with their owners as they shop for dinner at the Staunton Farmers’ Market. Leashed dogs can also browse the aisles at Tractor Supply Co.

Treat Your Dad Right: Ideas for Father’s Day in Staunton

Your dad helped you become the adult you are today with a special blend of support, advice, hugs, and tough love. Make sure you let him know how much you love him with a gift that’s specific to his interests. Check out this list of cool Father’s Day gifts to show the father figure in your life how much you care.

Father’s Day events

Here are a few special Father’s Day events happening nearby:

Grill him some steaks

Does your dad love steak as much as we think he does? Why not grill him up a feast for Father’s Day? Pick up some fresh, grass-fed meat from an area farm at Stanley Meat Market. They also sell free-range chicken and local produce. If your grill skills leave something to be desired, take him for a steak at Mill Street Grill,  Depot Grille, BLU Point Seafood, or Zynodoa instead.

Take him out to the ball game

Remember whiling away the summer nights watching baseball with Dad while you were a kid? Relive those wholesome memories by taking him to a Staunton Braves game at Moxie Stadium. The team is part of the 11-team Valley League that’s been entertaining fans since 1923 with the skills of talented college players, many of whom go on to the pros. Stop in at one of the day’s sponsors for free tickets! Treat him to a few hotdogs and a beer or two in the new beer garden. Keep the memories alive by gifting him a Braves hat.

Introduce him to his new favorite brew

Is your dad still embarrassing you at family functions when he pops open a cooler of boring supermarket beer? Help him develop his palate with a flight at one of Staunton’s three craft breweries. Redbeard Brewing Company and Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co. are just a short walk from each other. Queen City Brewing is about a mile away. All three offer the best local craft beer as well as regular entertainment (see their events listings). Skipping Rock Beer Company is located just west of town and visitors can choose to relax in the taproom or outside in the large beer garden. If he’s a cider fan, try a flight at Ciders from Mars, or if wine is his beverage of choice, enjoy a glass on Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room patio.

Help him spruce up his car

Does all the spilled coffee and random stuff floating around in Dad’s car make you sick? How about helping him freshen his ride? Locally owned The Avenue Car Wash offers two drive-thru automatic washes and four self-service bays. Peterson’s Car Wash has soft-cloth washes and an interior package that includes window washing, vacuuming, dusting, and fragrance. AMG Detail has several detailing packages that include interior shampoo and steam work, hand waxing, tire dressing, and more.

Tee off at Gypsy Hill Golf Club

Send Dad to the links with a round at Gypsy Hill Golf Club. Not only is this a beautiful, challenging course, but it also boasts some of the cheapest rates in the area. 18 holes with a cart costs just $30 on a weekday. If your handicap needs some help, Gypsy Hill Golf Club also offers one-hour private lessons with the pro.

Get back to nature

Reserve a weekend at an area campground. Sherando Lake Recreation Area and Todd Lake Recreation Area let visitors camp, swim, hike, and fish. Shenandoah Valley Campground and Walnut Hills Campground are family-oriented and offer amenities like pools and camp stores. Before you go, pick out an outdoor-themed gift at Wilderness Adventure. Experienced sales staff will guide you in picking the most appropriate clothing and gear for dad’s favorite outdoor activity.

Send him a gift

Does Dad live out of town? Send him a gift he’ll love from one of Staunton’s retailers.

  • CFO Trading Co. sells fine, casual men’s clothing as well as accessories, grooming items, and gifts such as leather-bound traveler’s notebooks. They have an excellent selection of barware, as well as drink mixes and infusion cubes.
  • Sweeten his day with something chocolatey from Cocoa Mill. A good gift is the coffee break coffee and chocolate assortment, which includes over a pound of assorted chocolate-covered coffee beans, mocha bark, and more. 
  • Beverley Cigar Store sells cigars, pipes, pipe tobacco, and more, including smoking accessories, lighters, and clothing like summer guayaberas.
  • The Book Dragon sells both new books and a selection of used books as well as gifts created by local artisans. Better yet, they’ll gift-wrap!
  • Help Dad channel his youth by treating him to his favorite records, cassette tapes, and CDs from The Vinyl Asylum.
  • Crown Jewelers fine jewelry selection includes engravable cufflinks and Citizen watches. 

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.

Staunton’s Great Outdoors – Camping and Waterfall Hikes

Dig out the tent and the camp chairs. Stock up on hotdogs and marshmallows. Figure out how to use the plant identification and stargazing apps on your phone. Whether you’re looking for a family adventure, a getaway with your friends, or a solo excursion into nature, we’ve got you covered with Staunton’s best campgrounds and waterfall hikes. It’s time to line up this summer’s camping weekends!

Camping

Walnut Hills Campground

Walnut Hills Campground is the ideal destination for families. You can come prepared with your tent or RV, or book one of the campground’s cabins, which provide both primitive and deluxe accommodations. Deluxe cabins include bathrooms and partial kitchens. Campground accommodations include a pool, a lake, a 9-hole disc golf course, an off-leash dog run, a playground, and a game room. 

Shenandoah Valley Campground

Make some memories in your tent or RV at  Shenandoah Valley Campground. Not only does this campground boast large, comfortable sites and plenty to do like playgrounds and a fishing pond, but there’s also a big, heated pool, four six-person hot tubs. You’ll find weekend DJs, a game room, mini-golf, a cafe, and a giant pack of tame rabbits to feed. The campground is situated along a calm 1.5-mile horseshoe bend of the Middle River; this offers wading and tubing access.

Sherando Lake

Sherando Lake Recreation Area is tucked into the mountains and boasts two deliciously cool spring-fed lakes for fishing and exploring. The campground gives easy access to the large, sandy beach and marked swimming area as well as showers and picnic facilities. Visitors will find an extensive trail system, fishing piers, a playground, and lots of shade.

Natural Chimneys Park & Campground

The limestone towers rising 120 feet above Natural Chimneys Park & Campground were formed when an ancient inland sea receded from the area. Now, they resemble a ruined castle, and the 165-site campground is really cool. It has sites for both RVs and tents. Amenities include hiking trails, a swimming pool, playgrounds, and a slow-flowing section of the North River. 

Sun Retreats Shenandoah Valley

Sun Retreats Shenandoah Valley boasts 130 private, wooded acres to explore and plenty of tent and RV sites. You can fish, swim, lounge on the beach, enjoy playgrounds, a jump pad, and games like cornhole and volleyball. There’s also a game room and mini-golf as well as planned activities and themed events like the upcoming family fun or father’s day weekend.

Todd Lake 

Grab one of the sites at 7.5-acre Todd Lake for a wonderful weekend of camping, swimming, hiking, wildlife viewing, and more. This recreation area features a wheelchair-accessible sandy beach, bathhouse, picnic facilities, playground, hiking trails, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and not-motorized boating. Situated in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, the lake was created in 1963 as part of a flood-control project. 

Waterfall Hikes

Crabtree Falls

At 1,200 feet, Crabtree Falls is one of the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Hike the up-and-back 3.8-mile trail for incredible views of five major cascades and many smaller ones. The trail’s switchbacks return again and again to knockout views, and while it’s not safe to climb on the falls, you can cool your feet in the stream at the top as you savor a magnificent view of the Tye River Valley.

St. Mary’s Falls 

St. Mary’s Falls can make your dreams of swimming under a waterfall come true. Tackle a relatively easy four-mile out-and-back hike along the Saint Mary’s River to earn the exhilarating payoff of the icy mountain pool and scenic waterfall. The trail is washed out in places and includes multiple water crossings (and places to wade and lounge), so beware of slippery rocks and wear shoes that can get wet.

White Rock Falls 

The White Rock Falls hike is a 4.5-mile loop hike accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. For a shorter 2.2-mile down-to-the-falls-and-back-up option along a fresh mountain stream, start at the Slacks Overlook at MP 20 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There’s not a deep swimming hole here, but the 40-foot falls are beautiful and offer a refreshing area to wade and snack at the bottom.

RipRap Hollow 

There’s not much of a waterfall here, but you’ll be blown away by the enormous 50-foot swimming hole along Riprap Trail. You can access this deep,spring-fed beauty by hiking down from the Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park fees apply). If you want to make a day of it, try the entire 9.5-mile circuit hike, which includes Riprap Trail and Wildcat Ridge Trail and is considered one of the best loops in the southern end of Shenandoah National Park.

Goshen

Goshen Pass is technically whitewater instead of a waterfall, and you don’t have to hike to access it, but we couldn’t resist including this summertime gem in our roundup. Enjoy nature’s best scenery as you swim, tube, kayak, fish, lounge, picnic, and scramble over the rocks along this three-mile mountain gorge. You can choose to embrace the bustle and family atmosphere near the gravel beach at the picnic facilities, or escape the crowds and find your own private rocky island. 

When swimming in natural pools, remember to wear water shoes and sunscreen, and keep an eye out for slippery rocks, glass and reptiles.

Dive into Summer: Staunton’s Best Picnic Spots

Don’t have plans for the weekend? How about a good, old-fashioned picnic? Pack the picnic basket, shake out the blanket, grab a frisbee, and get ready for some wholesome summer fun. We’ve rounded up our best area picnic spots with swimming and views.

A Swim and a Picnic

Gypsy Hill Park

You can spend an entire afternoon exploring Gypsy Hill Park. Start with a swim at Gypsy Hill Park pool, a large, L-shaped pool with lanes for laps, a slide, and a dedicated kiddie pool for the three-and-under crowd. Next, set up for a picnic at one of the park’s many tables, find a place in a pavilion, or spread out on the grass somewhere private. One of our favorite spots is the south side of Lewis Creek to the east of the baseball diamonds. After your meal, walk the 1.3-mile loop, burn some energy at one of the playgrounds, or feed the ducks. If you want your picnic for dinner, check out the weekly live music schedule at the bandstand.

Montgomery Hall Park

There’s a lot to do in Montgomery Hall Park. Start by arranging your picnic lunch at one of the large park’s many picnic tables. Next, let the kiddos play at either the traditional playground or the natural playground. Get your heart rate up with a game of tennis, a round of disc golf, or a hike or bike ride along the wooded trails. Finally, take a dip in the park’s pool, which has both a deep end with a slide and a shallow area for the littles.

Sherando Lake

25-acre Sherando Lake is known as the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge” because it’s beautiful and when you come upon it tucked into the hills, you’ll feel like you discovered a prize. One side of the lake features a large sandy beach and gradual deepening of the deliciously cool spring-fed water. There are even shaded places where you can lounge while your kids splash and play in the water. Built in 1933 by the Civil Conservation Corps, the recreation area also has camping, hiking, boating, fishing, showers, and picnic facilities. Day access fee applies.

Todd Lake 

7.5-acre Todd Lake is a great place for a family swim, picnic, or camping weekend. This recreation area in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest features a sandy beach, bathhouse, picnic facilities, playground, hiking trails, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, not-motorized boating, and camping. The lake was created in 1963 by the construction of a flood control dam. Today, it’s a great spot to watch waterfowl. Day access fee applies. 

Shenandoah Valley Campground

If you’re hoping to make a weekend out of picnicking and swimming, Shenandoah Valley Campground is the place to go. Not only does this campground boast large, comfortable sites and plenty to do like playgrounds and a fishing pond, but there’s also a big, heated pool as well as four six-person hot tubs. If you’re looking to skip chlorine, you’re in luck: the campground is tucked into a 1.5-mile horseshoe bend of the Middle River. That means there’s wading and tubing access.

Picnic Spots with Views

Cannon Hill at Mary Baldwin University

Popular for viewing 4th of July fireworks, Cannon Hill at Mary Baldwin University is a perfect spot for a picnic any day of the year. This high, flat, open lawn commands a panoramic view of the city. While there aren’t picnic tables, the space is usually empty, and there’s plenty of room to toss a ball or chase fireflies. 

Woodrow Park

Woodrow Park perches high above the railroad tracks on historic Sears Hill and boasts one of the best views of Staunton. You can park at the top or start at the Wharf and climb up and over the Sears Hill footbridge. Picnic on a bench or spread your blanket on the grass. Make sure to check out the informative signs that tell the area’s history and point out notable buildings.

Frontier Culture Museum

While the views here are pretty, you’ll spend most of your day gaining a new perspective on the past and learning about the Valley’s earliest settlers at The Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll develop a big appetite after walking the grounds and learning all the steps people needed to follow just to eke out an existence. There’s a covered pavilion as well as plenty of picnic tables to relax and enjoy the relative ease of modern dining. 

Skyline Drive

Finally, make sure to picnic this summer at one of the 70 scenic overlooks along Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. Check out the views, look for birds and wildlife, and identify native plants and trees. Many of the overlooks feature trailheads, so you can get your exercise in before or after your meal.

Wool Week 2022 at the Frontier Culture Museum

Have you ever wondered what people from the past did when they wanted to update their wardrobes? Today, we go to the store or even order our outfits online, but the process was much more involved for our ancestors and the early settlers of the Shenandoah Valley. Not only did they have to obtain the raw materials, but they also had to clean them, and transform them into cloth. Finally, they had to turn the fabric into wearable clothing or other textiles. Each year during Wool Week, the Frontier Culture Museum invites visitors to celebrate spring as well as the process of creating useful products from raw materials.

How can I visit?

Wool Week 2022 is April 25 – May 1

There is no extra cost beyond regular admission to the museum.

Museum visitors will see:

  • Demonstrations focusing on wool and flax processing
  • Sheep shearing
  • New baby lambs
  • Regular museum exhibits

How long will the lambs be little?

Lambs are born in the spring when there’s plenty of grass to eat and the weather has lost its winter chill. Ewes give birth to one to three lambs at a time, but twins are most common. Lambs usually weigh about the same as human babies. They can walk within a few hours of being born!

What is wool, anyway? How did people on the frontier harvest it?

Wool is the heavy winter coat of the sheep that’s harvested each year in the spring. While we typically use mechanical clippers now, people from the frontier would use sharpened blades like scissors with the pivot point at the end. Skilled shearers can remove the wool quickly and keep it in one piece.

Do sheep like getting shorn?

Sheep shearing is very much like getting a haircut, but nervous sheep may struggle during the shearing process. It takes a lot of strength to hold them still and clip the wool at the same time. Sheep shearers should take their time to prevent injuries. Shorn sheep feel cooler for the upcoming hot weather and are probably relieved to be rid of their heavy, dirty coats. 

How do they clean the wool?

Contrary to what we see in picture books, sheep are pretty dirty. Museum interpreters use their hands to pull and tease the wool fibers apart to get rid of dirt and parasites. Next, they wash and card the wool. Carding untangles the fibers and stretches them out so that they can be spun. The museum staff will teach you how to perform each of these steps.

How did settlers color the wool?

We didn’t have the synthetic dyes we use now until the middle of the 19th century. Before that, people colored their fabrics with plants, lichens, and even insects. They used fixatives like salt and vinegar to help the dyes stay in place. Professional dyers were very protective about their recipes since some worked better than others. Many colors weren’t readily available, especially in the materials for the dyes that came from far away. Wool can be dyed before or after spinning.

How did they turn that pile of wool into my favorite sweater?

Spinners wind stretched-out wool fibers into yarn. Next, the yarn is formed into a fabric by knitting or by weaving on a loom. Both the German and the Irish farms have looms and visitors can watch the intricate, time-consuming process of working one.

What else can I see at the museum?

The Frontier Culture Museum is a living history museum that will connect present-day people with the lives and histories of those who lived in the past. The walkable museum offers a chance to explore the homesteads of the various people who settled in the region from other places. They include farms from West AfricaEnglandIreland, and Germany. The museum also offers a Native American village and American farms from various time periods.

Have more questions? Head to Wool Week to get answers!

Check out more events on Staunton on Tap.

“Soil: Mother Earth From the Ground Up” – Staunton’s Earth Day 2022 Celebration

Have you enjoyed being outside this month? From balmy spring days and floral displays to heavy wind and freaky snowstorms, Mother Nature has been pulling out all the stops, and we are noticing! Spring is a wonderful time to channel some of that appreciation into learning about how to take good care of the Earth. Below, read about Staunton’s annual Earth Day as well as several local businesses making it their business to preserve and beautify our planet.

Earth Day: Saturday, April 23, 2022

Each year, Staunton holds a large, family-friendly educational fair for Earth Day. This year’s theme is “Soil: Mother Earth from the Ground Up,” and visitors will learn all about what lives in and makes up the soil as well as other environmental topics.

Head over to Bells Lane on Saturday for Staunton’s Earth Day Celebration

Enjoy live music from Heifetz and Cotton Hill Band (Bluegrass). You also won’t want to miss the Wildlife Center’s demonstration with the center’s educational animals. These creatures are native species like owls and opossums that received treatment at the center, but can’t return to life in the wild. See the full schedule.

Earth Day events are designed to help us learn to appreciate and preserve our planet by promoting clean air, land, and water, supporting native species, and more. The day’s ongoing activities include kite flying (bring your own or get one at the event), an “underground” classroom, fish kissing, and chances to befriend bats and worms.

Most exhibits will have demonstrations, games, crafts, or other hands-on activities designed for kids to learn actively. Check out booths by more than 20 local environmental organizations including Project Grows, Staunton Parks and Rec, the JMU Art Department, the Augusta Bird Club, Virginia Department of Wildlife, Friends of Middle River, and the Potomac Trail Club.

Staunton Businesses that Promote Good Stewardship of the Earth

Staunton has a number of businesses committed to reducing our impact on the earth.

  • Farmers’ markets shine as ways to obtain the freshest possible produce and connect with your community. They also support local agriculture and sustainable farming practices. Visit the Staunton Farmers’ Market April – November. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch some live music!
  • Staunton Plant Co. specializes in locally grown and native plants. Native plants are important because they have adapted to their native conditions and generally don’t require as much fertilizer or pesticides as other species. They also shelter and feed local species of birds, mammals, and insects like butterflies. Staunton Plant Co., a full-service garden center, also provides annuals, perennials, mulch, trees, and hanging baskets to beautify your property.
  • Not only does JMD Farm Market & Garden Center offer locally grown annual, perennial, and vegetable plants, they also carry garden gifts and fresh, local meats, fruits, and vegetables. Shop, enjoy a glass of wine and let the kids explore the natural playground.
  • Bryan Black, designer and owner of Concepts Created, consults with individual customers before constructing custom furniture out of reclaimed wood and other materials. Skilled handcrafting and attention to detail produce durable and unique pieces that have both beauty and history.

Buy your favorite cleaning and personal products at Refill Renew, a low-waste refill shop where you bring your own refillable containers, and pay for the bulk product you add. Choose from hair and body products, sunscreen, various cleaners, and detergents, as well as local apple cider vinegar. You’ll also find reusable lifestyle goods like stainless steel utensils and straws, mesh product bags, beeswax wrap, biodegradable trash bags, and more.

Natural Areas in Staunton’s Parks

If you’d like to connect with nature while in the city of Staunton, explore some of the natural areas in our parks. Betsy Bell Wilderness and Montgomery Hall Park both offer miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers. Birders, too, will revel in the high number of species that can be identified in these areas. Montgomery Hall’s Nature Ridge natural playground doesn’t have swings or slides, only natural elements that will absorb kids for hours of imaginative and exploratory play.

A Spring Guide to Staunton’s Gardens, Farms, and Markets

Want to take a springtime walk and see some flowers? Want to learn about sustainable farming practices and how to fill your own garden with native Virginia plants? How about getting your hands on the first fresh produce of the season? Here’s our spring roundup of Staunton’s gardens, farms, and markets.

Historic Garden Week Staunton Tour: April 23

Historic Garden Week returns to Staunton at the peak of spring. Tour attendees can stroll through Colonial Williamsburg-inspired Baldwin Place to see two beautifully landscaped homes and a floral design demonstration and gardening talk. A short walk away, the extensive gardens at Waverley Hill will also be on display. Originally designed in 1929, the house and gardens have been recently restored. Musicians from the Staunton Music Festival will play in the gardens.

Historic Garden Week has been held since 1927 when it was used to raise funds to restore Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate. Each year, more than 250 historic homes across the state open their doors and grounds to visitors. Proceeds go toward preserving and restoring public gardens in Virginia.

In honor of Garden Week, bring the kids to Staunton Augusta Art Center’s Spring Fling. Experience a day long celebration of Spring, Gardens and Poetry. Come make a flower and pollinator “zine” out of watercolor, see artists drawing and painting, and hear poetry being read!

Staunton Gardens

Even if you can’t make Garden Week, you’ll see plenty of blooms as you explore Staunton’s residential neighborhoods. Gardens in many of our public spaces also shine. 

  • The Augusta Garden Club’s Project Dogwood has planted over 150 of these springtime beauties in Gypsy Hill and Montgomery Hall Park. They’ve also erected signage to identify and provide information about the different types of trees.

Nearby Gardens and Farms

  • The Andre Viette Farm & Nursery is known best for its daylilies, but the extensive display gardens are open to the public and contain much more. The sun and shade gardens will inspire your own landscaping, and you’ll be able to purchase favorites at the garden center.
  • Lovely sites and smells will greet you at Pebble Hall Wildflowers (Weyers Cave), where you can pick blooms from over an acre of wildflowers and herbs. Check out the schedule to see what’s in season. 

  • White Oak Lavender Farm (Harrisonburg) provides beautiful views, a chance to tour the lavender fields and pick some lavender when in season, a lavender shop, a discovery area for kids, and a tasting room for the Purple WOLF Vineyard.

  • Stroll along the peaceful trails at JMU’s 125-acre Edith J. Carrier Arboretum (Harrisonburg) for inspiration on how to use native Virginia flowers, trees, and shrubs in your own landscaping. You’ll find water features, artwork, play areas for kids, and more, nestled in the wooded environment.
  • You probably visit Stable Craft Brewing (Waynesboro) for the craft beer, agri-pub food, and music, but you can also sign up for a tour of the facilities. This brewery and event space is on a beautiful working horse farm, and tours teach about the brewery’s sustainable practices and offer a peek behind the scenes. 
  • Polyface Farms (Swoope) leads the nation in best-practices farming. Polyface also offers self-guided tours, scheduled lectures, and private tours. You can buy pasture-raised, hormone/antibiotic-free chicken, beef, pork, and eggs at the farm store. 

Markets

  • Tap into the heart of the community at Staunton Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning from April through Thanksgiving. Everything sold here has been grown or produced from within 75 miles. You’ll find the freshest seasonal produce, herbs, plants, and cut flowers. Producers also sell meat, cheese, baked goods, honey, and pickled items. 

  • Verona’s North Augusta Farmer’s Market operates each Wednesday afternoon (May-October) at the Augusta County Government Center. You’ll enjoy perusing the big selection of fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, bakery items, honey, and artisan crafts.
  • Nu Beginnings The Store emphasizes local and organic goods and celebrates the tastes of the Valley. You’ll find prepared food, milk, honey, meat, cheeses, eggs, jams and jellies, baked goods, and much more. You can even order online and pick up your food curbside.
  • JMD Farm Market & Garden Center sells vegetable and garden plants, pottery, seasonal produce, meats, eggs, and local honey. Do your shopping, and then enjoy a glass of wine while the kids play on the small natural playground.
  • The Valley Pike Farm Market (Weyers Cave) emphasizes local and Virginia products and includes a coffee shop, deli, ice cream shop, bakery, and food trucks. You can also buy many varieties of Virginia wine and beer.
  • Plan an upcoming summer excursion to pick your own fruit at Critzer Family Farm, which grows strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, plums, pumpkins, and fresh veggies. 

Plan Your Family’s Staunton Summer Adventure

Are you looking for a new place to take the family this summer? School lets out in just a few weeks, so it’s time to start planning now. Staunton has tons of fun activities to delight the whole family. You can’t go wrong planning a trip around an event or festival, but Staunton is lovely any day of the year.

Events and Festivals

  • June 24-26: Everyone in the family will get up and dance as the biggest names in folk music appear at Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Natural Chimney’s Park. Besides the music, festival attendees can expect a beer garden, food and craft vendors, bike rides, yoga, and lawn games for adults and kids alike.
  • Bring the family to Gypsy Hill Park this Independence Day for the free, family-friendly Happy Birthday America celebration. Have a blast with a 5K race, a lively parade, concessions, live music from local acts and country group Wilson Fairchild, and fireworks. (Free)
  • August 12-21: Musicians will love The Staunton Music Festival’s classical concerts spanning over 600 years. Dozens of musicians will perform in both large and small ensembles in a variety of Staunton venues like Trinity Episcopal Church and Blackfriars Playhouse. (Some concerts are free, some are ticketed)
  • September 4-5: Join the fun at the Staunton Augusta Art Center’s 55th annual Art in the Park festival in Gypsy Hill Park. You’ll find amazing art, community spirit, live music, food, and creative activities for the kids. The park boasts lots of parking, shade, and playgrounds to keep everyone happy. (Free)
  • September 24-25: Join thousands of seriously excited fans in downtown Staunton for themed shopping, dining, performances, and hands-on activities for all ages at the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival. This home-grown fan festival celebrates J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series as well as all things magical and mystical. (Many activities are free, some are ticketed)
  • July 26-30: Visit Augusta Expo for the rides, shows, food, and fun at the Augusta County Fair. Check the schedule for more upcoming fun like train shows, dog shows, and tractor pulls.

Family-Friendly Lodging

Kid-Friendly Restaurants

  • Start your day with a hearty meal at Kathy’s Restaurant, where they heap on goodness and serve traditional breakfast fare served all day. Have you ever tried a Captain Crunch biscuit? Vic’s Eats serves an eclectic menu with delights like honeybuns and fried bologna.
  • For a pre-dinner beverage, check out the kid-friendly beer gardens and phenomenal craft beer at Skipping Rock Beer Co. or Redbeard Brewing Company.  
  • Kid-friendly Shenandoah Pizza offers plain and loaded gourmet pies that celebrate local ingredients and lore. Oh, and parents can order more beer from their extensive tap list.
  • The Depot Grille is another tasty, family-friendly way to catch a bite. The restaurant serves delicious American fare and includes a menu for kids. 
  • If your family enjoys Mexican, order dinner at the Baja Bean. The menu has loads of options including choices for the younger set and an impressive tap list for the grownups. 
  • Wright’s Dairy Rite serves its kids’ meals in boxes shaped like antique cars. You sit in a booth and order your food over the phone. The food is traditional diner fare, just the way picky kids like it.
  • However, if you have more of an adventurous eater on your hands, Taste of India offers a range of fresh Indian dishes. Diners choose how mild or spicy they want their dishes to be.
  • Complete the day with one (or more) of the 18 fresh-made flavors of frozen gelato at The Split Banana or indulge yourself with a giant soft-serve cone from Kline’s Dairy Bar, which has been perfecting their creamy flavors for decades.

Play Outside

  • Spend a fun Saturday morning exploring the 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, introduce the kids to new tastes, and connect with Staunton’s bustling community.
  • Take a hike in one of Staunton’s parks or hit the playground or tot lot at Gypsy Hill Park. Montgomery Hall Park has a regular playground and Nature Ridge, a playground made of natural elements to aid in exploring nature and having fun. Montgomery Hall also has miles of hiking/biking trails and an 18-hole disc golf course. 
  • Get out of town to Shenandoah National Park or George Washington and Jefferson National Forests for a dose of Next, summon your inner billy goat gruff and climb up to the historic Sears Hill footbridge to Woodrow Park
  • Step back in time at the Frontier Culture Museum, which invites visitors to explore the lives of people living in the Valley from the 1600s through the mid-1800s. Walk between 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.

Indoor Activities Everyone Will Enjoy

  • Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center and the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater. If you come in May, you can get tickets for one of the final shows of Romeo & Juliet or The Comedy of Errors. Summer programming includes Every Brilliant Thing (in conversations with Romeo & Juliet), Twelfth Night, and Thrive, or What You Will (an exploration of themes from Twelfth Night. If your kids are a little young for the Bard, you might find an age-appropriate movie at the Visulite.
  • Work together to solve one of the active puzzles at Crack the Code Escape Room. Pick from several challenges like Subway, NYC, or Staunton-themed Lang’s Legacy. You’ll have an hour to decipher the clues and break out of the mysterious room.
  • Get an intro to the fascinating art of glass-blowing at Sunspots Studios. Artisans answer questions and demonstrate how they blow and shape molten glass into globes and art pieces. You’ll want to study this process or reserve a spot in a  “Blow Your Own Ornament” session, led by a trained artist. 
  • USA Today calls Beverley Street one of the “most charming main streets” in America and several stores cater to families. Look for dollhouse gear at Warehouse Miniatures and modeling supplies at Hobby Surplus Outlet. The Dragon’s Hoard will meet your gaming needs, and Pufferbellies, the largest independently owned toy store in the Valley, has something to fascinate the kid in all of us.
  • Teach the kids to knock down some pins at Staunton Lanes!

Hopefully, this list has given you some ideas on how to take your family on a Staunton Adventure this summer. Start planning today!

Staunton is a Southern Living Best Mountain Town

Did you know that Southern Living Magazine recently showcased Staunton as a top mountain town in its The South’s Best 2022? The list of the best southern destinations celebrates “the people, places, and communities that make [the South] more vibrant than ever.” Mountain towns were chosen for their local shops and restaurants, cozy lodging, and welcoming downtowns as well as their beauty and access to the mountains. Southern Living praises Staunton’s charming downtown, varied dining scene, notable lodging selection, and proximity to Shenandoah National Park. Read on for more reasons why Staunton is such a hot travel destination.

Ogle Staunton’s Beauty

Find a high spot in Staunton and kick back to admire the views. Try Cannon Hill at Mary Baldwin University or cross the historic footbridge to Woodrow Park on Sears Hill. You’ll even find something postcard-worthy when you pause on the Wal-Mart parking lot! From walks through historic downtown, country bike rides, or drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll never be far from a million-dollar view.

Eat Like a King

For a small city, Staunton has a wealth of independent restaurants. You’ll find everything from sophisticated Southern gourmet meals at Zynodoa and Table 44 to French pastry at Réunion. Get your fill of steak and seafood at Mill Street Grill and Blu Point Seafood, or opt for global fare at Gloria’s Pupuseria and Gonzo’s Pollo.

Find a Festival

Staunton is a wonderful home base for festivals throughout the year. 

  • Join us for the initial BaroqueFest, a three-day immersion in the very best music from the 17th and early 18th centuries. This festival takes place April 8-10.
  • Friday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day come enjoy an outdoor concert series on the grounds of the Blackburn Inn and Conference Center. SummerStage kicks off May 27 with Hootenanny.
  • Jam out to The Steel Wheels, The Jayhawks, Langhorne Slim, and other notable names in roots music at the Red Wing Roots Festival at nearby Natural Chimneys State Park. June 24-26.
  • Enjoy selections from hundreds of years of classical music at the 10-day Staunton Music Festival. This festival welcomes over 70 acclaimed professionals from around the world to perform in 30 events and opens on August 12.
  • Browse the juried work of local and regional artists at the Staunton Augusta Art Center’s annual Art in the Park. The 54th annual event will occur in Gypsy Hill Park on September 4-5. 
  • The Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival will return in person this year on the weekend of September 24-25. Head downtown for lots of magical fun as businesses and citizens 

Learn Something New

Learn the history of the presidency and early 20th-century life at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum. Get a hands-on education at the Frontier Culture Museum, where costumed interpreters work historically accurate farms. Make time to view the exhibits at the Beverley Street Studio School Gallery and the Staunton Augusta Art Center.

Access the Outdoors

We dare you to visit the Shenandoah Valley and not take one of the best hikes of your life. Staunton is close to the Appalachian Trail and dozens of beautiful hikes in Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Venture west into George Washington and Jefferson National Forest for more exciting hiking opportunities. Hikers can also stretch their legs on miles of trails in Montgomery Hall Park and Betsy Bell & Mary Gray Wilderness.

Visit Southern Living to see more parks, businesses, and towns that made this years list. Look forward to casting your vote for the South’s Best 2023.