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Staunton Pride Festival

Celebrate Staunton Pride October 5-7

October is LGBTQ history month, and local nonprofit LGBTQ Tech is producing the first annual Staunton Pride Festival celebrating the LGBTQIA2+ community and its allies. Staunton Pride’s goal is to “support all members of our community in order to increase acceptance and inclusivity in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Friday Night Kickoff

All are welcome at the fun event, which will be held rain or shine on Beverley Street in downtown Staunton. A kickoff party with Shagwüf and The Judy Chops to benefit the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center on October 5th.

Saturday Dancing in the Streets

Get ready to party on Saturday, October 6th at the street festival on Beverley Street from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm. Highlights will include food, vendors, a local beer & cider garden (opening at 11:00 am,) a music stage, and a show headlined by Virginia native and indie-pop sensation, Catey Shaw, known for her songs “Brooklyn Girls” and “The Ransom.” Plan to dance in the street:  The Johnny Clark Set, The Sugar Jackets, The Crowles, Drägön Wägön, and DJ Jason round out the lineup. 

A Service for Everyone

Staunton Pride will have a special Pride Eucharist worship service led by Reverend Marion Kanour on Saturday, October 6th from 7-8:30 PM. All are welcome as Emmanuel Episcopal Church hosts the service in collaboration with clergy from Grace Episcopal Church, Massie’s Mill, Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton Virginia, and Stuart Hall School.

Get Wild at the Drag Show

Save some energy for the can’t-miss drag show at the Clocktower on Saturday night. Alexa V. ShontelleGabrielle DupreeKatrina Colby, Chris Smith Kristina Kelly,  Alexea Breeden Kelly, and at least five other performers will strut their stuff and wow you with their amazing routines and eye-popping costumes. Buy your tickets here or in person at Mill Street Body & Soul Day Spa and Salon.

 

Before You Go

  • Organizations offering support to the LGBTQ community will be on site
  • Make sure to visit the PRIDE LOVEworks, which will be on display in downtown Staunton October 5-10
  • Show your pride and support the organization by purchasing shirts, stickers, and magnets
  • The festival is family friendly, but the locations of some of the events require attendees to be over 21

Plan Your Visit to Staunton

While Staunton always offers a positive atmosphere and a welcoming community, the following businesses designate themselves as LGBT-friendly on Virginia.org:

Where to Stay

Berkeley House Bed and Breakfast

The Blackburn Inn

Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center

Hampton Inn – Staunton

Inn at Old Virginia

Staunton /  Walnut Hills KOA Campground

The Bunkhouse at North Mountain

Where to Eat and Drink

Emilio’s Italian Restaurant

Baja Bean Company

Mill Street Grill

The Store

Second Draft Bar & Bistro

The Coffee Cave

Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co.

Where to Shop

Medieval Fantasies Company Gyfte Shoppe

Latitudes Fair Trade Store

Staunton Books Popup

Pufferbellies Toys & Books

Harmony Moon

Redwood and Co.

Cherish Every Moment

Staunton Anniversaries We’re Celebrating this Fall

You don’t need a special day to come to Staunton, but if you like partying, plan a visit this fall. Several of our attractions, stores, and restaurants are marking milestone anniversaries. Read up for more info about their can’t-miss birthday celebrations.

The American Shakespeare Center

The American Shakespeare Center has been staging world-class Shakespeare for three decades. This year’s performances are extra special as its 30th Anniversary Artistic Year features fall performances of As You Like It, Richard III, George Etherege’s The Man of Mode, and a world-premier adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma by Emma Whipday. Check the schedule for performances that include free pre-show lectures. Plan to buy your tickets for the 30th Anniversary Gala on September 22, which will include a special performance, a celebration, dinner, and dancing.

Frontier Culture Museum

For 30 years, the Frontier Culture Museum has kept the past alive by providing hands-on experiences and telling the stories of the various people who migrated to the Shenandoah Valley during Colonial times. For the month of September enjoy admission prices circa 1988. You’ll be able to visit the Museum for the price you would have paid during its inaugural year: $3 for adults and children ages 6-17 are just $1 (5 and under are free). Come see living history, but also join as the museum marks its milestone birthday with an End-of-Summer Concert on September 2. The concert will feature the locally grown band E3 (formerly “Everything”), famous for their song “Hootch.” Food and beer will be available for purchase.

Other festivities include the Annual Pass Holder Pancake Breakfast on September 22 followed by a book signing of The Log Cabin – An American Icon by author Allison Hoagland and a performance by professed Southern Gothic, alt-country blues singer/songwriter Amythyst Kiah. 

Barren Ridge Vineyards

2018 marks ten years for Barren Ridge Vineyards. Head out to the winery on September 30 for the Harvest Festival Party, where you’ll enjoy live music, giveaways, food trucks, and, of course, award-winning wine, and some of the best scenery in Augusta county!

Two of our downtown favorites also have a lot to celebrate this fall. Baja Bean has been serving tasty Southern California-style Mexican for 20 years, and Made; By the People, For the People has been featuring local and handmade products for five years. Check out web pages and social media for specials.

Staunton’s Historic Hotels

The Blackburn Inn

The Blackburn Inn officially opened its doors this Spring. This 49-room luxury boutique hotel in downtown Staunton,
has a storied past dating back to the 1800s. What was once the Main Administration Building for Western State Hospital, The Blackburn Inn was envisioned and influenced by master builder and Thomas Jefferson protégé, Thomas R. Blackburn. This historic building was originally constructed in 1828 and was most likely built by several of Jefferson’s workmen who worked on the then, recently completed University of Virginia.

 

Guests and visitors at The Blackburn Inn are greeted with stately columns, wide corridors and hallway arches, vaulted ceilings, and an original wood staircase allowing guests to access the rooftop atrium offering breathtaking 360-degree views of downtown Staunton. The Inn honors the age and elegance of the building with other notable design elements to include original heart pine floors that flow throughout the hotel, classic molding around the doorways, an antique style drafting table that serves as the reception desk, and artwork from local and regional artisans showcasing Staunton’s emerging arts scene.

The Blackburn Inn features seasonal events on the lawn and throughout the hotel for both locals and visitors to enjoy as well as locally-sourced food and beverage at The Inn’s bistro and bar, Second Draft.

“First Fall” Promotion:

15% off if booked 14 days in advance
10% off if booked within 14 days
Includes $15 daily Food and Beverage credit (only if booked on hotel website)
Book Dates: Now – Nov 30
Travel Dates: Sep 01 – Nov 30
BOOK NOW

The Stonewall Jackson Hotel

The Stonewall Jackson originally opened in 1924, served as the premier gathering place for Shenandoah Valley society and a welcoming place for visitors to the Queen City. Designed by renowned American architect H.L. Stevens in the Colonial Revival style, the hotel’s grand lobby evokes a sense of Southern spirit and hospitality with its terrazzo floors, glass display cases, chandeliers and wall sconces. The Colonnade Ballroom features graceful 15-foot arched windows, refurbished floors, light fixtures, moldings and detailed decorative ironwork; all of which has been painstakingly restored after the hotel fell into disrepair. 

The Stonewall Jackson Hotel faced hard times during the 1960s and onward, as Staunton’s once vibrant downtown gave way to commerce and growth in fast-developing suburban and rural areas — a typical sign of the times. In 1968, the Persinger family purchased the hotel and reopened it as an assisted living facility with the owners hoping to one day restore the hotel to its original grandeur.  In 2004, the Stonewall Jackson began a $21.1 million renovation and expansion was and re-opened as a full service luxury hotel and meeting facility in October 2005. In 2018, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel underwent a $2 million refresh and just recently, unveiled the property’s stylish renovation. 

“Sweater Weather” Promotion

Save 30% off our “Best Available Rate” for selected dates in October
BOOK NOW

 

Staunton’s Global Cuisine

Staunton might be a sleepy little town in the Valley, but it’s well known for its Victorian architecture, Shakespeare theater, and sprawl of microbreweries. It hasn’t been snoozing in the global cuisine department, either. Come to Staunton hungry and prepare to eat your way around the world! You won’t even need to catch a plane.

Chicano Boy

Since 2015, jefe Justin Hershey has been serving up handmade tacos and enormous mission-style burritos at Chicano Boy Taco, a Mexican-American taquería inspired by Hershey’s heritage and dedicated to flavor. This bustling joint has some of the best tortillas you’ve ever eaten, and it has helped define Staunton’s food identity. Order from the simple menu (burrito, taco, or burrito bowl plus your choice of fillings and salsa) at the counter and then choose a seat inside or on the patio. You can order a Mexican beer or a “cheap beer” and eat here for lunch or dinner. It’s located just a short walk from downtown Beverley Street and it offers ample parking.

Ubon Thai

You’re guaranteed to get hungry hiking Staunton’s hills and historic districts, so make plans to dine at Ubon Thai, which is housed in a beautiful example of Staunton’s Victorian architecture. This restaurant serves made-from-scratch authentic Thai cooking from a chef who got her start selling street food. Owner, Ubon Herlong, is extremely friendly and invested in your experience at her restaurant. Feast on pad thai, panang curry, chef’s specials like crispy duck, and desserts like sticky rice with mango and coconut for lunch or dinner. After your meal, you can explore the grounds and see the herb gardens that provide seasonings for the dishes. If you’re in town for a few days, consider staying overnight at the inn. 

Gloria’s Pupuseria

Gloria’s Pupuseria has expanded from a farmers’ market and food truck favorite to include a cozy restaurant that emphasizes traditional Salvadoran cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. Tucked into a storefront, this eatery produces pupusas that are out of this world. Pupusas might look like plain tortillas, but they are actually dough, meat, and cheese treats that pack serious flavor. Try them stuffed with fillings like chicken, blended pork, vegetables and cheese. You can also enjoy tamales steamed in plantain leaves, fried plantains, or Salvadoran enchiladas. Refresh yourself with an ensalada, which is mango and pineapple juice served with fresh diced fruit. Save room for flan or tres leches for dessert.

Snapdragon Pho

Want a meal that’s nourishing and fun to eat? How about one that’s close to everything and open late so you can stop in after a show? Snapdragon Pho is a locally-owned Vietnamese noodle shop serving authentic pho, which is a popular street food in Vietnam. Pho is slow-simmered beef or vegetable broth poured steaming hot over meat, noodles, and vegetables to make a soup. Customers order at the counter for quick service and then season the soup to their personal tastes with an assortment of garnishes like bean sprouts, peppers, and lime. Snapdragon Pho also serves rice noodle salads and spring rolls. And if you were wondering, the restaurant’s webpage points out that you pronounce pho like “fun” without the “n.”

Taste of India

Right in the heart of downtown Staunton, Taste of India is convenient for people exploring the city or looking for a restaurant within walking distance of the Blackfriars or the Visulite. The enticing scents and friendly service of this delightful restaurant will draw you in from the sidewalk. Taste of India serves an extensive lunch buffet and dinner at reasonable prices. Try the deliciously tender spiced chicken tikka masala or the lamb vindaloo. A wide selection of meat-free dishes like Aloo Gobi Vegan and Saag Paneer will please vegetarians. Make sure you accompany your main course with an appetizer like vegetable samosas and garlic or peshawari naan. You can get a good selection of Indian beers, wine, and yogurt lassi drinks.

ANNE HATHAWAY COTTAGE TEA ROOM 

Enjoy a traditional tea at the Anne Hathaway Cottage Tea Room. This delightful tea room is housed in a Tudor home and boasts a thatched roof and beautiful gardens. Try their Victorian High Tea which includes hand-made scones, tea sandwiches, and shortbread all served with imported jams, clotted cream and of course, tea! Spend the afternoon catching up with friends and enjoying this beautifully decorated tea room. Be sure and peruse their collection of fine china, jams, and tea along with other goods for purchase. Reservations recommended. 

Plunge into Summer: 6 Staunton-Area Swimming Holes

It’s time to escape your stale air conditioning and take a break from the local pool this summer! If you want to beat the heat in a spot that’s a little more offbeat, try one of these pristine swimming holes, all within a short drive of Staunton.

Sherando Lake

OK, so the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge” isn’t exactly private, but 25-acre Sherando Lake is worth the trip for the large sandy beach and gradual deepening of the deliciously cool spring-fed water. Lounge while your kids splash and play in the sand, or man up and swim out to the island. There’s also access to camping, hiking, boating, fishing, showers, and picnic facilities. The recreation area was built in 1933 by the Civil Conservation Corps. Day access fee applies.

Todd Lake

Head northwest of Staunton for a fun day at 7.5-acre Todd Lake. There will be too many people around to skinny dip, but it’s still a great place for a family swim, picnic, or camping weekend. The lake and the Todd Lake dam were built in 1963 as a flood control dam. Today, this spot features a sandy beach, bathhouse, picnic facilities, playground, kid-friendly hiking trails, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, boating (non-motor), bird-watching and camping. Day access fee applies. 

Goshen Pass

Where’s your special swimming hole in Goshen Pass? Swim, tube, kayak, fish, lounge, picnic, and scramble over the rocks along this three-mile mountain gorge carved by the Maury River. 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.

St. Mary’s Falls

If you want to swim under a waterfall, St. Mary’s Falls should be your next destination. Enjoy a four-mile out-and-back hike and earn the exhilarating payoff of the icy mountain pool and scenic waterfall. The trail to the swimming hole may be washed out in places and includes multiple water crossings.

White Rock Falls

The White Rock Falls hike is a 4.5-mile loop hike accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. For a shorter 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. The bottom offers a refreshing area to wade and snack.

RipRap Hollow

Want some privacy as you take your dip? Try the 50-foot-wide swimming hole on Riprap Trail. Access this deep, spring-fed beauty by hiking down from the Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park fees apply) or up from Rt. 612. Make a day of it by taking on the entire 9.5-mile circuit hike, which includes Riprap Trail and Wildcat Ridge Trail. Many consider this hike of the best loops in the southern end of Shenandoah National Park.

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

Public Pools

And finally, if you want a quick dip without the hike or the natural elements, Staunton has two great community pools ideal for all ages and abilities. Daily fees apply. 

Gypsy Hill Park Pool: 600 Churchville Ave.

Montgomery Hall Park Pool: 1000 Montgomery Ave.

Staunton Biking Adventures: Grab Your Vacation By the Handlebars 

Staunton Biking Adventures: Grab Your Vacation By the Handlebars 

 

Nothing restores the body and mind like exercise, fresh air, and beautiful views from the back of your bike. Staunton offers long excursions through the surrounding Shenandoah Valley, thrilling single track, and places for short jaunts with the kids.  What are you waiting for? Join us for some Staunton biking adventures and upcoming events. Grab your vacation by the handlebars!

Special Events

Virginia Trail Festival/The Virginia Mountain Bike Festival 

May 25-28, 2018. Come hang out at the Stokesville campground for the 12th annual Virginia Trail Festival. The festival features family-friendly activities and rides for all abilities in the National Forest where the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition has developed biking trails. Click here for more information

4th Annual Lee Warren Queen City Century

June 16, 2018. Starting in downtown Staunton, this 25-, 50-, or 100-mile ride heads west into picturesque Augusta County.  Enjoy farm and country views from quiet, paved roads. This ride benefits Renewing Homes of Greater Augusta.  Click here to visit the website.

Tour de Valley 

September 1, 2018.  The Tour de Valley, which includes both a 100-mile option and at 62-mile option, starts at Waynesboro’s Ridgeview Park and loops through Augusta County south and west of Staunton. Stay for the after-party or head back to Staunton when your ride is over.

Valley Veterans Ride for Heroes

September 8, 2018. The Valley Veteran Ride for Heroes allows participants to choose from a 25-mile or 50-mile option. Both non-competitive rides leave Staunton’s Gypsy Hill Park and wind through the countryside. The event supports Boulder Crest Retreat, a therapeutic and wellness facility for veterans.

Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival

October 19, 2018. The 28th annual Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival will offer mapped and supported riding opportunities for all abilities. Enjoy riding, sightseeing, food, and entertainment at this popular Staunton biking festival.

 

Road Biking

For amazing road biking routes in the area, check out Bike the Valley, which maps and details lots of different routes at different distances, appropriate for varying skill levels. Here are some of our favorites:

Staunton Polyface Ride

Starting in the historic Wharf District near Black Dog Bikes, the 23-mile Staunton Polyface ride explores neighborhoods in Staunton as well as the surrounding rural countryside to the west. The ride has a few short hills, but is considered fairly easy. It becomes intermediate if you add the gravel section in Swoope leading to Polyface Farm, a leader in the development of “emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises.” If you choose to continue to Polyface Farm, consider taking a self-guided tour and visiting the farm store.  

Staunton Frog Pond Smoky Row

The 22-mile intermediate Staunton Frog Pond Smoky Row route travels through the scenic area west and south of Staunton.  It offers sustained climbs, long, downhill glides and is entirely on paved roads. The ride begins and concludes in downtown Staunton near places to eat, drink and shop. For fuel, check out Redbeard Brewing Company and Byers Street Bistro.

Staunton Badger Road Loop

If you’re looking for a local ride that’s a little more challenging, try out the 45-mile Staunton Badger Road Loop. This figure-eight ride offers two big climbs, but views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains make the effort worth it. Start in Gypsy Hill Park and ride northwest of Staunton through the villages of Spring Hill and Mount Solon. 

Mountain Biking

If you enjoy the heart-pounding thrills of off-road biking, these rides will spike your adrenaline!

Montgomery Hall Park

Want to stretch your mountain-biking legs in downtown Staunton? Put Montgomery Hall Park on your bucket list. Over 4 miles of well-maintained single track snake through the trees, and you can get quite a workout attacking the hills. The trails tend to be quiet, but you might occasionally encounter hikers. After your ride, head over to Newtown Baking for pastries, sandwiches or pizza.

Reddish Knob

Mountain bikers rate 19-mile  Reddish Knob: Timber Ridge to Wolf Ridge as an advanced-level ride. Multiple trails climb the 2,900 feet to the ridge and they’re all challenging, including the paved road, which is your best bet. The view from the top of the Shenandoah Valley to the east and West Virginia to the west is worth the long, steep climb. And the single track descents are out of this world. Steep and technical, they require sharp eyes and strong brakes, but they have amazing places to go all out. Take Timber Ridge to where it intersects with Wolf Ridge Trail for the best downhill ride.

The Southern Traverse

The Southern Traverse is 36-mile ride through the George Washington National Forest that combines punishing ascents of over 3,000 feet, spectacular ridge riding on Shenandoah Mountain with views for miles, some technical rocky areas, and a long stretch to hurtle down the mountain. The final leg back to your car cruises along quiet country roads.

Biking with Kids

If you’re looking for a place to ride with your kids, try one of these easy, family-friendly rides.

Gypsy Hill Park

Gypsy Hill Park offers a 1.3-mile paved loop that is open to pedestrians, bikes, and cars. Traffic can be heavy at times, but drivers move slowly and know to be cautious. The duck pond and playgrounds are good post-cycling destinations.  If your youngsters are just learning to ride, the park also offers a large, flat parking lot near the Gypsy Hill Gym. Used as event parking, this lot is often empty. If your family enjoys a post-ride pizza, pick up a pie at Fresco.

Augusta Springs Wetlands

Augusta Springs Wetlands, once the site of a turn-of-the-century resort, is now where Staunton nature lovers flock to walk and watch birds. The ¾-mile main loop trail is also a nice place to take beginning cyclists. The flat path meanders over wooden boardwalks and pea gravel, and it offers interpretive nature stops along the way.

Staunton Named One of Virginia’s Foodie Towns To Try – Virginia.org

We’ve known all along that Staunton is a “foodie” paradise filled with lots of options for all palates and price points. Thanks to 
Virginia.org we’ve been named one of Fifteen Virginia Foodie Towns to try in the new year. Check out Part Two of their blog series. 

See who made the Staunton’s shortlist and add them to your Must Eat/Drink list in 2018: 

For Dinner

The Shack

Zynodoa

For Drinks

 Ox-eye Vineyards

yelping dog

For Dessert

Cocoa Mill Chocolates

For the full list of Fifteen Virginia Foodie Towns see the blog

Source: Click here to read the original blog by Patrick Evans-Hylton

Don’t Hibernate! Plan Your Winter Escape to Staunton

With four distinct seasons, each offering an unparalleled experience, plan an unforgettable  trip— any time of year—to the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Day 1: Attractions Galore

Start your day at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library where you’ll discover the life and legacy of the country’s 28th president in the city where he was born. Visitors will receive a guided tour of Wilson’s birthplace, as well as a self-guided tour of the museum featuring seven galleries which explore Wilson’s early years, his eventful presidency, suffrage, prohibition and World War I. Highlights include the President’s restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine as well as a new, state-of–the-art World War I trench exhibit complete with lights and sound to experience what life was like for soldiers as they engaged in battle.
Winter Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm and Sunday: 12 pm – 5 pm.
“Pay What You Wish” for Sunday admission during the months of January and February.

Shakespeare is serious fun at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater. Take a backstage tour where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look as you go on, behind and under the stage. Photography— including selfies–are encouraged!
Winter Tours (through March 31): Monday-Friday at 2 pm and Saturdays and 11 am.

Other “winter friendly” attractions include: the Camera Heritage Museum, R.R. Smith Center for History and Art and Sunspots Studios.

Head back to your hotel and freshen up for a night out. Enjoy dinner at one of our local restaurants in downtown Staunton. Visit Emilio’s for its authentic Italian taste; Aioli’s for its Mediterranean fare; Mill Street Grill for their barbecue ribs; or The Depot for American inspired dishes.

Then it’s off to the Blackfriars Playhouse for an award-winning performance. The Actors’ Renaissance Season (running January 19-April 8) embraces the spirit of early modern rehearsal conditions where the actors lead the charge in directing the shows, choosing the costumes, and producing all with limited rehearsals. Filled with murder, love, laughs, revenge, and rediscovery choose from five different plays, including: Hamlet, Richard II, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Way of the World, and Antonio’s Revenge.

Day 2: Shop ‘til you Drop

No trip to Staunton is complete without shopping! Explore our nationally recognized Main Street featuring over 100 unique boutiques, artisan studios, antique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Lovers of antiques can peruse from eight different shops in and around Staunton. And if you haven’t found what you’re looking for, head to the Valley’s premier antiquing destination: The Factory Antique Mall. With 200,000 square feet of antiques and over 200 vendors, making it the largest antique mall in America.

Hobbyists will enjoy a number of eclectic shops that range in interests from clocks to model trains, planes, and automobiles and even miniature houses.


Day 3: wildlife viewing

Situated between Shenandoah National Park and the Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Staunton is a great place to view winter wildlife. Check out these local hot spots for when the chilly weather keeps you close to your hotel. If you’re looking for a trip that takes you farther afield, see Winter Wildlife Hot Spots Part 2. 

Special Events:

Winter Wine Festival: February 24 from 12-5 pm at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel
Enjoy samples from the states most accomplished vineyards and wineries along with live music and light bites.

Annual Swedish Fire Festival:  January 27 at Barren Ridge Vineyard
This annual event features Nordic cuisine paired with Barren Ridge wines, live music and sometimes dancing! A Swiss alphorn performance, melted Raclette cheese, warm and spicy mulled red wine, and the lighting of Swedish fire torches complete this festive evening.

Winter Wildlife Part 2: Farther Afield

Staunton and its surroundings are great places to view winter wildlife.  If you’d like to stretch your legs and explore, take a quick trip to one of these cool spots. If you’re looking for something within city limits, try one of the sites in our post Winter Wildlife Hot Spots Part 1: Staunton.

STAR Trail

Drive east on US 250 to visit the STAR Trail (Supporting Therapeutic Access to Recreation) at Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center. This ½-mile wheelchair-accessible trail circles a lake, crosses a pretty bridge, and winds through a pine grove. It also offers benches for viewing waterfowl, a gazebo, a picnic shelter, fishing, and even a fitness trail. White-tailed deer, Canada Geese, and black bears sometimes appear here. 

Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway

The entrances to the Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are an easy 20-mile drive from Staunton. Both offer scenic overlooks, abundant opportunities to enjoy winter wildlife, and trailheads for hikes of varying difficulty.

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

The Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch commands a 180-degree vista of both the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont Region. This site is easy to access, and provides a spectacular place to watch migrating raptors, especially broad-winged, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s hawks. The site receives the most traffic (avian and human) during the fall migration. At this time, volunteers from area bird clubs set up lawn chairs and log long hours recording data. Common winter sightings of red-tailed hawks, ravens, and vultures make this a worthwhile stop all year.

Wildlife Center of Virginia

The Wildlife Center of Virginia has been helping sick or injured wild animals for 25 years. The center holds open houses several times a year, but spots are limited so register ahead of time. The hour-long tour (for ages five and up) educates visitors about rescuing and providing medical care for sick and injured animals. Guests visit the operating rooms and meet the education animals.  These animals are permanently handicapped or have imprinted upon humans and cannot return to the wild.

Sherando Lake

Twenty-five miles to the southeast of Staunton and part of the George Washington National Forest, 25-acre Sherando Lake is Augusta County’s own “Jewel of the Blue Ridge.” A bustling summer destination for swimming and camping, it becomes serene in winter. Hike the trail looping the lake and, if it’s cold enough, pack your ice skates! E-birders report common loons, Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks, and pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers in winter.

Sherando Lake in winter

Augusta Springs Wetlands

The Augusta Springs Wetlands is part of George Washington National Forest and 16 miles southwest of Staunton. This ¾-mile all-access loop trail traverses elevated boardwalks through a wetland that was once the sight of turn-of-the century resort. As you pause to read about wildlife at the learning stations, also notice the occasional foundations (buildings, fountains, bottling plant). In winter, you might spot Canada Geese, wood ducks, mallards, ring-necked ducks, and hooded mergansers on the two large ponds. Vultures and red-shouldered hawks are also common this time of year.

Braley Pond

Hiking trails around Braley Pond explore a hardwood forest, and some of the trees show signs of beaver teeth! Winter bird species noted here include great horned owl, red-shouldered and red-tailed hawk, belted kingfisher, and pileated woodpecker. The Forest Service built the pond for recreation in 1965. You might see ice fishermen if the water freezes. 

Braley Pond

Forest Trails

Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Birding and Wildlife Trails showcase great spots to see wildlife across the state. The following trails are easily accessible from Staunton.

Forest Trails  

Skyline Drive

North River

Winter Wildlife Hot Spots Part 1: Staunton

Situated between Shenandoah National Park and the Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Staunton is a great place to view winter wildlife. Here are some local hot spots for when the chilly weather keeps you close to your hotel. If you’re looking for for a trip that takes you farther afield, see Winter Wildlife Hot Spots Part 2: Farther Afield

Foxes, opossums, deer, raccoons, beavers, and rabbits stay active all year. You might encounter them at many of the locations on these lists. Hibernation patterns in other animals, such as Virginia black bear, can vary each year. Bears generally hibernate late in November or December, but they sometimes emerge during thaws to forage for food. 

Montgomery Hall Park

Many birders visiting Montgomery Hall Park record seeing 20 or more of the 94 reported species in a single visit. According to ebird.com, winter birds seen here include red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, rock pigeons, and golden-crowned kinglets. The 148-acre park boasts several miles of secluded hiking/biking trails winding through the wooded hills. It also has fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a rich history as an important African American park established in 1947. 

Trail in Montgomery Hall Park

Betsy Bell Park

Betsy Bell Park is a 63-acre pocket of wilderness rising 1,959 feet in the middle of the Queen City.  The park has a network of solitary hiking trails and a scenic, east-facing overlook. Some of the land was given to Staunton in 1941 to be both recreational space and a memorial for veterans. Park to explore the trails on foot or carefully drive up the gravel road to the top. Birds spotted in December include woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, and white-breasted nuthatches.

Bells Lane

Nature enthusiasts love Bells Lane, a quiet country road winding through picturesque farmland just a mile outside of downtown Staunton. Measuring nearly two miles each way, it offers runners and walkers a popular out-and-back route. Open meadows, woods, and marshy ground provide habitats for many species. E-birders report 199 total species, noting American kestrel, bald eagle, northern harrier, and short-eared owl activity in the winter. Birders record their discoveries on a chalkboard near the Rt. 11 end of the road. Between US 11 and Va. 262.

Duck Ponds

If feeding the birds is more your style, visit the duck and fish pond at Gypsy Hill Park. You can also feed the ducks at the Frontier Culture Museum. Don’t share bread or other human food, though – it’s detrimental to ducks’ health. Duck feed can be purchased at both locations.