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Wands Up: How to Make the Most of the 2019 Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival

For the past three years, Staunton has played host to the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival, a home-grown fan festival celebrating J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series as well as all things magical and mystical. On September 27-29, join thousands of seriously excited fans for themed shopping, dining, performances and hands-on activities for all ages as 11 blocks of our historic downtown is transformed into an enchanted village.

First Things First

  • Select your highlights from the schedule and grab a map of the event. Maps can be found at the QCMM Info Booths on Augusta Street between Beverley and Johnson Streets (#38 and #61 on the map). Look for Norberta, our BIG green Dragon.  Maps can also be found at the Shuttle Station downtown (#3 on the map). Make a note of parking, restroom, and if necessary, changing and breastfeeding facilities. 
  • Make arrangements to leave your non-service pets at home. The festival is noisy and crowded — not the best environment for fur buddies.
  • Plan your costume. While costumes aren’t necessary, they’re definitely encouraged. Look here to see some examples from last year. A children’s costume parade is planned for Saturday at 12:30 at Sunspots Pavilion. The adult version of the event kicks off at 7 p.m.
  • Check the weather. Pack sunscreen and sunglasses or an umbrella. Many of the events take place outside. 
  • Plan to stay hydrated. Bring your water bottle to fill up on the go at the Aguamente Filling Station (provided by Sutton’s Home Inspections), located behind Suntrust Bank.
  • There will be a charging station at Hammond Insurance on Beverley Street, near the big green dragon: all those videos and selfies you’ll be taking will drain your battery. Be sure to post and tag them with #qcmm2019 and #lovestaunton.
  • If you’re traveling with others, plan a meeting place.

What to Do

The QCMM festival lineup includes tarot readings, wand-making and deuling demonstrations, English teas, festival-themed escape room fun, henna tattoos, shopping (from wizard gear to unique gifts and food items, and even props from past performances at Blackfriars), selfie stops, scavenger hunts using the Traipse app, wizard house sorting, crafting, quidditch matches, ghost tours, a live owl show, dance instructions, family-friendly dance parties, a 5K race, a fire circus, festival VIP’s arrival by train, and performances and lectures at the Blackfriars, and much, much more. We guarantee you’ll have plenty of things to keep you busy! Some events at QCMM are ticketed, but many are free. 

Here are more details and a full schedule of events.

Where to Stay

Staunton boasts hotels, motels, B&Bs, and small inns, located both in the downtown area and a short drive away. Click here for a list. Lodging fills quickly, so reserve your home base ASAP.

How to Get Around

Several streets in downtown Staunton will be closed to traffic during the weekend festival, so wear comfortable shoes and plan to do some walking. Limited parking will be available on the streets and public lots outside the immediate downtown area, but it will fill quickly. Alternatively, the festival will run shuttle buses on 9:30 a.m to 9 p.m Saturday from the Federated Auto Parts parking lot located at 795 Statler Boulevard. Include hours Street closings will be available on the Waze app.

What to Eat

Check out special festival food and drink like Bubbly Dragon Brew at Laughing Bird Pho and Butter Beer at Baja Bean, cake pops and flights at The Book Dragon. Downtown Staunton has a number of fine restaurants and many will offer festival specials. Plan accordingly as lines may be long during peak festival hours. Here’s a list of Staunton restaurants.

What Else to Do

If you need a bit of a break from the magic, reconnect with the natural world: Try an easy area hike with kids. Or if you want the backstory on all those cool, Victorian buildings that form the backdrop for QCMM, learn the real history of Beverley Street in Explore Staunton on Foot: Beverley District. Stop by the Visitor Center, 35 S. New Street, for a walking tour brochure. 

Staunton’s Silver Linings: What to Do on Rainy Days

Is a sudden thunderstorm threatening to put a damper on your Staunton plans? Don’t beat yourself up asking “water” we going to do in the rain, because Staunton looks good in clouds, too! Check out these surefire remedies for cabin fever.

Eyeball Some Art

Explore the rotating exhibits of art and history at Staunton Augusta Arts Center, located in the historic R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. The Beverley Street Studio School Gallery and Co-ART Gallery host multiple exhibits of fine local art each year. For more art, visit Mary Baldwin University’s Hunt Gallery. The art ranges from “abstract to classical, reflecting a wide variety of media and artistic intentions.” If you’re hankering for a chance to do your own creative work, Hygge Craft offers both classes and creative space and materials for independent work.

Take a Break from Netflix

A rainy day is a perfect excuse to watch a play or a movie. Amp up the culture factor with a performance of one of Shakespeare’s hits at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Weekday shows start in the evening, but daytime options are available on the weekends. Is a movie and a beer more your speed? The Visulite airs the latest movies and lets you relax with a glass of wine or craft beer.

Find the Bottom of Your Glass

When downpours make you thirsty, get a sense of Staunton’s local wine offerings at the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room. Hang out with friends at Yelping Dog, for a wide selection of wines from around the world. Redbeard Brewing Company and Shenandoah Valley Brewing both offer delicious craft beer right in Staunton’s downtown. Skipping Rock Beer Co. is just a short drive away and you can spend the afternoon enjoying your brew over a board game or two.

Roll the Dice

Speaking of games, if the sound of raindrops makes you eager to roll dice, Staunton has lots of options to get your game on. To purchase a game to take back to your place, try Pufferbellies for family games or the Dragon’s Hoard for strategy games. Alternately, cure your cabin fever with bowling at Staunton Lanes, a collaborative breakout puzzle at Crack the Code Escape Room, a game of pool or darts at Bricks, or a trip to Video Zone arcade at the Staunton Mall.

Embrace Something with Memories

The Factory Antique Mall in Verona is the largest in the country. Spend your rainy afternoon browsing acres of antiques, jewelry, toys and other items sure to evoke memories of another era. 17 E. Beverley Antiques boast two floors of goodies, from furniture, fine jewelry, and art, to retro clothing and accessories. Continue the hunt at Staunton Antiques Center, three floors bursting with vintage furniture, housewares, and clothing, as well as contemporary work by local artists.

Score Something New

Staunton has dozens of cool shops offering unique gifts and items. If you’re looking for something uniquely Virginian, check out The Sparrow’s Nest, which features jewelry, clothing, art, decor, and more from local artists and farms. Jude’s: A Fine Emporium carries gifts for all members of the family as well as pets.  Light up your tastebuds at Staunton Olive Oil Company where you’ll find premium olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and the local herbs and spices to complement them. If books are what you’re into, check out Staunton’s newest bookstore, The Book Dragon, which carries new and used books for the entire family. Click here to read our post on Staunton’s other great independent booksellers.

Biteseeing Staunton’s Queen City Sweep Food Tour

Discover why Staunton is a cultural and culinary destination! Biteseeing Staunton’s Queen City Sweep guided walking tour is a wonderful way to fill an early afternoon — and it’s far more interesting than lunch at Applebee’s. For a culinary journey and a tour of Staunton’s architecture and history, book your tour today.

Bridgett Beasley, owner-operator of Biteseeing Staunton, is a foodie who really loves food tours. After her move to Staunton a few years ago, she was delighted by both Staunton’s walkability and the depth of its food scene. The idea behind the Queen City Sweep is to get hungry people to move beyond chain restaurants and even Beverley Street to discover locally owned gems that are a little farther afield. This particular adventure lets food tourists experience both the Beverley and the Wharf Historic Districts and catch a peep into the Newtown District. 

The tours run in all weather, but the day we toured was sunny and cool for August. We parked at the trolley hub and met Bridgett on the porch of Olde Staunton Inn. After a brief tour of the lovely public rooms of the Inn, we chatted and walked to our first destination. Restaurants on the tour may vary.

What I loved about the food tour:

  • Bridgett was extremely personable and knowledgeable about the cuisine and backgrounds of the restaurateurs. She was a blast to hang out with, and I felt really comfortable with her.
  • The tour operated efficiently and smoothly. At each stop our plates arrived as soon as we settled.
  • The amount of food seemed appropriate for the tour. I’m a big eater and I felt satisfied, but not overstuffed.
  • The tour included some exercise and some Staunton sights and history. Bridgett has modifications in mind for those who might struggle climbing steep hills.
  • With advance notice, Biteseeing Staunton accommodates vegetarian and gluten-free diets. Just ask!

Gloria’s Pupuseria

Gloria’s Pupuseria is a homey and welcoming place. We enjoyed a tasting plate of El Salvadoran fare and the amazing flavor and history of the pupusa, which people have been devouring for at least 1,500 years. Pupusas are cornmeal flatbreads stuffed with cheese and meat. People have been loving them so long that they’ve even been discovered in the ruins of Joya de Cerén, the “El Salvadoran Pompei.” Beer and wine are available for separate purchase.

Chicano Boy Taco

We sat inside at Chicano Boy Taco (but there’s also a patio) to devour delicious soft tacos made with handmade tortillas and three special sauces. You’re going to want to invest in a tortilla press after this meal. Beer is available for separate purchase. The walk from Chicano Boy to Beverley Street is full of history. We saw sites where sinkholes appeared in the early part of the 20th Century and the streets laid bare by “urban renewal” in the 60s. We also walked by two churches boasting original Tiffany windows.

Staunton Olive Oil Company

Staunton Olive Oil Company provides a fun way to rest between courses. We wandered the store sampling olive oils and balsamic vinegars and making important-seeming notes on clipboards. We learned the difference between fused and infused oils and got suggestions about good pairings. Oils and vinegars are available for purchase.

Yelping Dog Wine

The walk down Beverley Street takes you past a number of T.J. Collins-designed buildings. What’s cool is that for the 20 years Collins was active in Staunton around the turn of the century, he designed in a variety of styles, including Gothic, Beaux Arts, and Moorish Revival. He also had the means to import materials from far away. Consequently, downtown Staunton has an eclectic main street. We cozied up at a table in Yelping Dog Wine, talked about architecture and real estate, and gnoshed on a cheese and fruit plate. Wine is not included at this stop, but you can purchase it separately.

Réunion Bakery & Espresso

Réunion Bakery & Espresso makes one tray of canelé a day and I got to have one. They only make one tray a day because this tasty crusted custard, made first in French convents, is a ton of work and requires ages to season the mold with butter and beeswax. It was delicious, and Réunion is a terrific place to meet and chat with friends. 

Wright’s Dairy Rite

By the time I walked to Wright’s Dairy Rite, I was hungry again. I enjoyed an egg salad slider and some of Wright’s famous hand-dipped, made-to-order onion rings. We sat outside and talked about the history of the Blackburn Inn property across the road, but we could have sat inside and delighted in the classic-Staunton diner ambiance.

Paris Cake Company

To get to the Paris Cake Company, we walked over Sears Hill and the pedestrian footbridge over the railroad tracks. The Wharf District has a fascinating history that includes train wrecks, fires, brothels and patent medicine scammers. We sat in the charming lobby of the Paris Cake Company, perused photo albums of wedding cake inspiration and savored a decadent deconstructed peanut butter mousse.

Ox-Eye Tasting Room

The final stop on the tour was the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room. While the actual vineyard sits outside of town, the tasting room is located in a historic T.J. Collins structure, originally used to weigh railroad cargo. We tasted both white and red wines, and we learned how the grapes are grown and harvested. Additional wine is available by the glass or bottle for purchase.

Before you go

  • The menus may vary as the restaurants showcase their best seasonal offerings.
  • Tours run on Saturdays, May – October. Tours last about 3.5 hours and can accommodate up to 12 guests.
  • Purchase advanced tickets at biteseeingstaunton.com.
  • Tours occur rain or shine and involve walking. Wear weather-appropriate gear and comfortable shoes.

 

Plan Your “Nest” Adventure: Birdwatching in Staunton

Staunton offers visitors a wealth of birdwatching opportunities. Eagle eyes will be rewarded in both our parks and residential areas. Venture into the countryside for even more chances to experience avian habitats and the Shenandoah Valley’s incredible scenery. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’re working on your big year, these Staunton-area hotspots are a good place to get started.

Bell’s Lane

Staunton’s top birding spot is Bell’s Lane, a quiet two-mile paved road that winds through farmland. Traffic is light and the road is recognized by locals as a site for runners, bikers, and birders. Birdwatchers on ebird have reported seeing 208 species plus more at the ponds. Sightings include warblers, orioles, hawks, and waterfowl, If you’re into owling, you might be able to catch glimpse of screech, great-horned, and short-eared owls here. The southern end of Bells Lane supports a kiosk where birders note recent sightings.

Montgomery Hall Park

Made up of open fields and wooded areas, Montgomery Hall Park boasts 99 reported species. The park is usually private and several miles of hiking/mountain bike trails wind through it. Woodpeckers, flycatchers, and yellow-billed cuckoos. Look for warblers and vireos during migration periods.

Betsy Bell Wilderness

Betsy Bell Wilderness is Staunton’s best-kept secret when it comes to natural areas within the city limits. It’s a little hard to find, but once there, you’ll enjoy a nice hike and the chance to see 95 different reported forest-dwelling species, including hawks, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. This is also a good location to spot warblers and other neotropical migrants in the spring and fall.

Gypsy Hill Park

Gypsy Hill Park is best known for the bandstand, the playground, and ballfields. But it’s also a good spot to view song birds. The duck pond includes both wild and domestic ducks and geese. If you’re walking or jogging before dawn, you might hear a screech owl. A half mile away, scenic Thornrose Cemetery offers 43 species, lovely views, and a nice place for a walk.

Sanger’s Lane

Just outside of Staunton city limits, find Sanger’s Lane. This quiet country road winds through open farmland, wetland, and woods. Birders have identified 46 species like the great blue heron rookery. This is a good site for songbirds and owls.

Augusta Springs Wetlands

Visitors to Augusta Springs Wetlands report more than 150 species. According to the Augusta Bird Club, phoebes, green herons, kingfishers, yellowthroats, and red-shouldered hawks are among the species that can be found here. Be on the lookout for butterflies, salamanders, and other small creatures. The wetlands consists of a handicap-accessible loop trail with entrances to a more extensive trail network in the national forest.

Natural Chimneys 

Birdwatchers visiting Natural Chimneys Park report sightings of 102 species. This small park offers both open fields and wooded trails. You’ll also enjoy seeing the tall limestone rock formations that rise up like a castle. Entrance fee applies.

Shenandoah National Park

The southern end of Shenandoah National Park is a 25-minute drive from Staunton. Take advantage of the miles of trails and scenic overlooks in this extensive mountain forest habitat. More than 190 species have been identified nesting or migrating here. Entrance fee applies.

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

172 bird species have been reported at Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, but the real stars are the raptors. Volunteers gather near the Inn at Afton, located just off I-64 for the fall migration. They collect data on the hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and osprey that pass through from August-November.

For more on the local ornithological community and organized and social opportunities to bird, travel, and promote wildlife conservation, check out the Augusta Bird Club. Started in 1966, the club now has over 100 members.

 

Looking for Your Next Vino Vacay? “Wine” Down in Staunton

Virginians have been making wine for 250 years, but recently our wine business has gained national attention for its award-winning wines. Virginia had only six vineyards in 1979; today it boasts 312! Nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Staunton offers scenery and culture. It’s also a great home base for a wine vacation. 

Places to Try It

Yelping Dog / 9 E. Beverley Street

Yelping Dog is perfectly suited for dropping in (and staying a while) when you’re visiting downtown Staunton. Spoil yourself with a glass of wine or choose a bottle from the 1,500+ selections hailing from both nearby vineyards and around the world. Hungry? Enjoy a gourmet cheese platter to share with friends or indulge in one of Yelping Dog’s incredible grilled cheese creations. 

Hours: Tues-Thurs: 11-9, Fri-Sat: 11-10, Sun: noon-6

Ox-Eye Vineyards / 44 Middlebrook Avenue

Check out the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room tucked into a historic T.J. Collins building in Staunton’s Wharf district. Just steps away from the Staunton Farmers’ Market, you can enjoy a noontime tasting or a glass after a morning of shopping. Or, enjoy a drink at Ox-Eye before visiting one of the many restaurants within easy walking distance. This wine stop also boasts an upstairs art gallery. 

Hours: Mon-Thurs: noon-6, Fri: noon-7, Sat: 10-7, Sun: noon-5

Barren Ridge Vineyards / 984 Barren Ridge Road, Fishersville, VA

There’s a reason that Barren Ridge Vineyards is such a popular destination: the incredible wine and the incredible view. Enjoy a tasting of Barren Ridge’s best, then follow it up with a glass or bottle. Plan to pack a picnic or snacks. This vineyard is child and dog-friendly. Check the schedule for live music and other fun events like races and the annual 4th of July Pork and Cork.

Hours: Sun: 1-6, Mon-Wed: 11-6,  Thurs-Sat: 11-9.  

Pompei Lounge / 23 E Beverley Street

While not strictly a wine destination, The Pompei Lounge deserves a place on this list because of the atmosphere. Choose from a variety of seating areas including two exterior spaces: a balcony overlooking Beverley Street and providing incredible views of the city and an outdoor terrace that often hosts live music and events. Enjoy wine, beer, or cocktails, and order food from the Emilio’s kitchen.

Hours: Tues: 5-midnight, Wed-Sat: 5-2 a.m.

Places to Buy It

The Wine Cellar / 8 Byers Street

For a carefully curated selection of wines, visit The Wine Cellar. Besides wine, the Wine Cellar also sells craft beer, Santiago chocolates, and other gourmet foods. Check the event schedule for complimentary Friday night tastings. After 20 years, this shop is under new ownership. Look for changes in the coming months. 

Hours: 11-6

Nu-Beginning Farm The Store / 221 North Lewis Street

Nu-Beginning Farm The Store offers Virginia wine, craft beer, and cider for sale along with homemade items and baked goods. Stop in to dine or shop at this micro-restaurant and grocery specializing in local products.

Summer Hours: Mon – Sat 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Cranberries / 7 South New Street

Try Cranberries for lunch, to grab some treats from their grocery section, and to buy your favorite natural and bulk products. Cranberries also sells local beer and wine, including wines from Crosskeys Vineyards and Barren Ridge Vineyards.

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

Other Area Vineyards Within Easy Driving Distance of Staunton

If you’re using Staunton as your home base, but want to visit some vineyards that are a little further afield, try Rockbridge Vineyard, Bluestone Vineyard, Cross Keys Vineyards, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Veritas Vineyard & Winery, or Marceline Vineyards.

Planning Ahead

Don’t forget to make plans to attend February’s annual Winter Wine Festival at the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel. June brings the annual Shenandoah Valley Wine and Jazz Festival at the Frontier Culture Museum.

Free Stuff to Do for Adults: 2019

What’s better than a trip to Staunton? Finding free things do do while you visit, of course! Here’s a list of fun (and frugal) activities for grownups.

Artsy Things

Beverley Street Studio School Gallery & Co-Art Gallery

The Beverley Street Studio School Gallery hosts seven annual exhibits, which are open to the public seven days a week. Enjoy the work of 40+ local artists in the Valley’s largest cooperative gallery, the Co-ART Gallery, which is housed in a connecting space.

Hunt Gallery

Mary Baldwin University hosts five professional exhibits in its Hunt Gallery each academic year. The art ranges from “abstract to classical, reflecting a wide variety of media and artistic intentions.”

Gallery at Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room

If you stop in at Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room, located in a T.J Collins-designed building in historic downtown, make sure you head upstairs for a look at the gallery, which is free to the public and offers several shows each year.

Artisans Loft

Located in a 2,000-sf. loft about the Staunton Antiques Center, the Artisans Loft celebrates the work of local artists with four juried shows each year.

Staunton Augusta Arts Center

The Staunton Augusta Arts Center is located in the historic R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. Peruse the galleries Monday through Saturday to check out the rotating exhibits, which change every six weeks.

Sunspots Studios

Have you ever seen glass blown at Sunspots Studios? It’s free to watch and demos are offered daily until 4 p.m.

Heifetz Institute

Fans of chamber music should check out the Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts schedule for free offerings.

Staunton Music Festival

Several events at the Staunton Music Festival are free and open to the public. This 10-day chamber music festival opens on August 16 and represents 600 years of music.

 

Historic Things

Trinity Episcopal Church

The Louis Comfort Tiffany windows at Trinity Episcopal Church are always a draw, and you can visit the church for free to see them. Learn more about the windows and plan your visit.

For more about the surrounding area, visit Staunton Architecture: Newtown Historic District.

Thornrose Cemetery

Thornrose Cemetery is a good place for a walk to experience human and architectural history. It’s the final resting place of more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers from five area battlefields. The various statues and landscaping are worth your attention as well. Check out our walking tour of Thornrose Cemetery.

Historic Staunton Foundation Guided Tour

A free guided tour of Staunton’s notable buildings and historic districts is offered every Saturday – May through October. Connect with the Historic Staunton Foundation to join in.

Outdoorsy Things

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Parks

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Parks are open to the public from dawn until dusk. Hike the nature trails and appreciate the expansive views of Staunton and the surrounding area. Be sure to bring your camera to capture wildlife!

Gypsy Hill Park

Some people love the duck pond at Gypsy Hill Park. Others appreciate the fishing lake or dog park. Bring your inlines, your BMX, or your skateboard to thrill onlookers with your mad tricks at the skatepark. During the summer, the bandstand hosts free summer concerts. Concerts feature a different genre each night and include the Stonewall Brigade Band on Monday, Praise in the Park on Tuesday, Bluegrass in the Park on Wednesday, and Jazz in the Park on Thursday.

Montgomery Hall Park

Those who want a real workout will enjoy the mountain biking and hiking trails at hilly Montgomery Hall Park. If disc golf is more your style, tee up on the 18-hole course.

Tasty Things

The Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar hosts regular tastings. Sip some samples and then select a bottle of wine or beer from the newly expanded beer selection. The tastings are sometimes on Fridays and sometimes on Saturdays. Check Facebook for more info.

Staunton Olive Oil Company

If you enjoy cooking or are looking for a special gift, stop by Staunton Olive Oil Company’s tasting room for a cooking demonstration and to try their many varieties of infused and fused olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

Fun Stuff at Breweries

While you’re not going to get free beer or food while you visit, you can certainly take advantage of the many free activities hosted by our local breweries. Join the weekly trivia and karaoke at Redbeard Brewing. Skipping Rock Beer Co. hosts lots of live music and trivia games. Enjoy music, bingo and comedy nights at Bedlam Brewing. Queen City Brewing lets you listen to live music or take the stage yourself with open mic nights. Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company also hosts live music and events. If you’re planning to brewery hop, earn yourself a free t-shirt with Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail’s passport program!

If you are traveling with your family, click here for our post on free family adventures.

Train Those Legs: Six Staunton-Area Hiking Trails for Beginners

Whether you’re new to hiking or you’re hoping to get your kids to join you, Staunton has a number of hikes that are appropriate for beginners. You won’t be ready to thru-hike the A.T., but you’ll end up with strong legs and the peace of mind that comes with getting outside and breathing deeply of nature. I’ve personally done all of these hikes with my five-year-old to the tune of minimal complaining.

Montgomery Hall Park

Montgomery Hall Park is a great asset to Staunton. You can wander on the looping miles of wooded hiking trails and forget that you’re within city limits. Great for birders, you might also spot deer. This park is hilly, but the interconnected nature of the blazed trails make it possible to design a hike that suits your needs. It’s also easy to cut your hike short if it becomes too challenging for beginner (or tiny) legs. The trails are well maintained. There are no views or water features. Best for: walking with kids or leashed dogs, and birders. 

Betsy Bell Wilderness

Affectionately called “mountains,” Betsy Bell and Mary Gray rise above the city of Staunton and can be spotted from the distance as you approach town. The loop hike climbs and will get your heart pumping, but it’s not challenging and is good for beginners or children. Park in the designated parking area and hike up the gravel road to start. You’ll pass two overlooks that give great overhead views of Staunton. It’s fun to try to identify landmarks from a different perspective. This is a good spot to see deer and birds.

Sherando Lake

Sherando Lake Recreation Area offers several hiking trails, but our favorite is the trail that loops the lower lake. If you hike clockwise (go left from the parking area), you will cover the more difficult portions of the trail while your legs are fresh. This section has some short, but steep, ups and downs and edges a drop off in one section. At the halfway point, you’ll come to the spillway of the dam, which offers some interest and views. The second half of the hike is on a flat, wide trail. The loop concludes at the sandy beach by the swimming area and restrooms.

North River Gorge

The North River Gorge hike requires sitting in the car for a while, but is totally worth all the “are we there yets” when you arrive. The entire loop might take experienced hikers six hours, but you can hike about a mile and get to a scenic overlook if you take the turn for the Lookout Trail noted on the hike’s web page. This is a good turnaround spot. The hike has just enough up and down to get your heart pumping, offers great views of the river, and ends at a scenic overlook high above the valley. Oh, and there’s a swinging bridge and ruins of an old spring to explore.

Augusta Springs Wetlands

Augusta Springs Wetlands is a super hike for kids, beginners, or birders out for a stroll. Originally part of a turn-of-the-century resort, all that remains now are some foundations and random-looking stonework. The main loop trail is flat, mostly board-walked, and less than a mile long, but you can add on additional, more rugged, distance if you’re feeling up to it. Educational stations along the way tell of animals you might encounter.

White Rock Falls

Hikers who aren’t ready for the steep climb to Humpback Rocks might enjoy the hike to White Rock Falls from the Slacks overlook. You’ll descend just over a mile from the parkway to a pretty waterfall. The trail continues for a longer hike, but if you retrace your steps, your total will be 2.2 miles. The hike back out is steep, but there are some bridges to stomp over (and trolls to chase you if you’re lucky).

Wanna Get Cheesy? 9 Pizza Paradises in Staunton, VA

Kids and adults alike love the ooey-gooey taste and texture of pizza. From dine-in experiences to takeout and movie nights and everything in between, Staunton’s got the pizzeria for you. Read on for nine of our best.

Shenandoah Pizza and Taphouse

The pizza at Shenandoah Pizza and Taphouse is fresh and flavorful and fully embraces Staunton’s enthusiasm for farm-to-table fare. This low-key pizzeria offers a dozen gourmet selections named after local businesses. Sip happy from an extensive beer list and enjoy live music on the weekends. Tuesday night is family night and happy hours happen on Thursdays.

Newtown Baking

Newtown Baking is good at more than pastries. Come for dinner and choose from a variety of wood-fired, gourmet pizzas and appetizers such as marinated olives and meatballs. Nice weather? Plan to dine in their exterior courtyard. Dinner is served Wednesday – Saturday, 5-9 p.m.

Bedlam Brewing

Bedlam Brewing is a microbrewery that just happens to cook up some pretty darned delicious food. While most of the items on the elevated pub-fare menu will work up your tastebuds, the wood-fired pizza or the garlic and cheese stromboli should be at the top of your need-to-try list. Bedlam is kid-friendly and offers indoor seating as well as patio seating that welcomes dogs. Pizzas are on special on Sunday and Monday nights.

Bricks Restaurant and Pub

If you’re looking for a cool place to get a drink, a pizza, and play pool in downtown Staunton, make Bricks your next stop. Still hungry? Donuts are on the menu for dessert. Check the events page for the regular heavy metal nights if you want some massive sound and guitar solos with your pizza pie!

New York Flying Pizza

A lot of Stauntonians will tell you their go-to pizza joint for carryout or delivery is New York Flying Pizza. The pies are generous and have great “cheese pull” because they’re loaded with all that stretchy cheese you remember from childhood. The restaurant offers a full menu of pies, sides, subs, and pasta dishes. You can order your food online and there is a dining room.

Maria’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant

Maria’s Pizza serves pizza, subs, and traditional Italian entrees. If the weather is nice, sip a glass of wine or beer with your slice and hang out on the new patio. You can even bring your dog! Thursday happy hours start at 4 p.m. See webpage for daily specials.

Fresco

Out for some fun in the park? Stop by Fresco on your way home and pick up a pizza (or two). Since 2011, Fresco has been serving up genuine Italian-style pizza, pasta, and subs. You can order take-out, delivery, or eat your dinner in Fresco’s dining room. Check out the daily specials.

Byers Street Bistro

If you enjoy spending a summer night eating pizza on a patio, look no further that Byers Street Bistro. The Bistro has an extensive menu and doesn’t specialize in pizza, but their meat and vegetable pizzas are made with hand-tossed dough and are really yummy, and they run pizza specials on Tuesday night?

Stella Mia Pizzeria

Open Tuesday – Sunday, Stella Mia serves up an extensive menu of pizza, Italian favorites, and desserts. Check here for weekly specials. Dine in, take out, or delivery.

Your Guide to Staunton’s Summer Music Festivals: 2019

Look no further than Staunton for live music this summer. We’ll thrill your ears with traditional country music, roots rock, blues, chamber music, and everything in between. Planning your festival experience will involve some coordination, so check out our festival guide for insider tips and must-see performances.

11th Annual Shenandoah Valley Wine & Jazz Festival

June 22, 4-9 p.m. at the Frontier Culture Museum

Looking for something to do in that quiet time before the 4th of July? Save the date for the 11th annual Wine and Jazz Festival at the Frontier Culture Museum. Relax for an evening of music and wines from the Shenandoah Valley. Food and other vendors with also be on site. 

Fan Favorite:

Make sure you check out opening act Chrome-Tweed playing from 5-6:30. The Luray-based band will treat you to “their own jazzy twist on familiar tunes.”

Must See:

Headliner Randy Johnston, one of the most “widely recorded and prolific guitarists of his generation,” plays from 7-9:30. Enjoy his guitar and vocals as he plays original compositions as well as standards and blues standards.

Have a Listen:

Randy Johnson sings “Don’t Think Twice.”

Happy Birthday America Featuring Wilson Fairchild

July 3 – 4

Bring the family to Gypsy Hill Park this Independence Day for Happy Birthday America. Check out the Happy Birthday America Pageant on June 30. The party continues on July 3rd with entertainment (TBA) and a vesper service. Things will get going early on July 4th with the Firecracker 5K, followed by the Happy Birthday America Parade. Spend the afternoon enjoying concessions, playing in community baseball games, and listening to the Stonewall Brigade Band. Look for music by local artists starting at 5 p.m. The headline performance by Wilson Fairchild joined by The Malpass Brothers will get underway at 7:30.

When & Where:

Sunday, June 30th (pageant), Wednesday, July 3rd and Thursday, July 4th

John Moxie Stadium and Fairgrounds Lot at Gypsy Hill Park

Must See:

The headline performance by homegrown, country group, Wilson Fairchild—sons of Harold and Don Reid of the Statler Brothers—starts at 7:30 p.m. This year, Wilson Fairchild welcomes special guests The Malpass Brothers. The Malpass Brothers performing traditional country music, has toured with legends like Merle Haggard. This performance promises to be high energy and entertaining. Stick around after the concert for fireworks!  

Have a Listen:

Wilson Fairchild sings “Ready For Times to Get Better.”

The Malpass Brothers sing “I’ve Found Someone to Love.”

Before You Go:

  • See the complete schedule.
  • This event is free and open to the public.
  • Bring your lawn chair and plan to join the “chair dash” for the best seats. Line up starts on July 3 at 11 p.m. and gates open at 6 a.m. on July 4.
  • The parade starts at 10 a.m. on July 4. There is no spectator parking on Thornrose Avenue until after the parade.
  • No pets, umbrellas, tents, coolers, or alcohol allowed in the concert area.

Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts

June 29 – August 9

Add live music to your summer schedule with the Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts. The festival, made up of 46 concerts “ranging form Baroque Opera to chamber music to the multi-genre Heifetz Hootenannies” starts on June 29. The music doesn’t stop until August 9. The six-week festival consists of concerts, outdoor events, “Heifetz Happy Hours” featuring local wine and artisan food, 169 students hailing from around the world, and special performances featuring world-renowned faculty and guest artists.

Fan Favorite:

You never know who might show up and play at a Saturday night Heifetz Hootenanny! Enjoy great food and brews (including “Hootbrü…”) during the multi-genre show under the big tent. Last year’s entertainment included “hula hoops, a Chinese Gong, and gut-bucket blues.”  

When & Where:

Saturdays: 7/6, 7/13, 7/20, 7/27, 8/3

7:30 p.m.

Page Terrace, Mary Baldwin University

Must See:  

Heifetz Celebrity Series is a fun Friday night tradition! Experience Heifetz Institute faculty members performing entertaining 75-minute programs. The series includes work by such composers as Bach, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Handel, Elgar,  Schoenberg, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert. The concerts begin at 6, and your ticket includes a happy hour reception under the Page Terrace tent with complimentary wine from local vineyards and artisan foods from local eateries. Happy hour starts at 5 p.m.

When & Where:

Fridays: 7/5, 7/12, 7/19, 7/26, 8/2

Happy Hour Receptions: 5 p.m., Page Terrace

Concerts: 6 p.m., Francis Auditorium, Mary Baldwin University

Have a Listen:

Check out this video of Heifetz students playing Tchaikovsky during the 2017 Grand Finale performance:

Here’s a video of last year’s performance of Joaquín Turina’s “Andalusian Scenes,” performance by violist Gilad Karni, pianist Stefan Petrov, and the student Shenandoah Quartet.

Check out this video of 10-year-old Pauline Lee playing the energetic “Orange Blossom Special” while flawlessly hula hooping at a 2018 Hootenanny.

Before You Go:

Red Wing Roots Music Festival

July 12 – 14

The seventh annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival is your chance to enjoy wonderful music in a spectacular location. The towering limestone Natural Chimneys in Mt. Solon set the stage for the music of The Steel Wheels, Lucinda Williams, The Wood Brothers, Mandolin Orange, and many more. Camp in the Natural Chimney’s campground and enjoy a wealth of outdoor activities designed for multiple age and skill levels. These include daily group bike rides, hikes, morning yoga, fun runs and activities for kids. Your entire family will have fun at this festival, whether you come for the day or the whole weekend.

Must See:

Three-time Grammy winner, Lucinda Williams, will perform her classic Car Wheels on a Gravel Road album in its entirety along with “visual elements to enhance the storyteller style.”  Williams will perform a second set made up of music from throughout her career.

Fan Favorites:

The Steel Wheels’ sets are always popular, particularly the Tribute Set on Sunday other artists performing Red Wing join them. The Judy Chops high-energy blend of blues, swing, rock-a-billy, and country is also a fan favorite.

Have a Listen:

Check out Grammy-nominated foursome Della Mae’s track “Empire.”

You’ll also like the Birds of Chicago performing “Real Midnight.”

Before You Go:

  • Click here for the complete 2019 line-up.
  • Buy tickets here.
  • Festival camping at Natural Chimneys is an obvious choice, but options are quickly selling out. Fortunately, several area campgrounds have availability. Also, consider lodging options in Staunton, which run the gamut from B&Bs, to Inns and full-service hotels.
  • Bring your reusable bottle to fill with free water – no water will be sold in plastic bottles.
  • To reduce the festival’s carbon footprint, drinks, beer and cider will only be served in Red Wing Roots stainless steel cups. Buy one in the  beer garden, or reuse your cup from last year.
  • All food vendors use bio-based, disposable food service items. Make sure you recycle.
  • Bring your dancin’ shoes!

Second Annual Valley Beach Music Festival

July 13, 2-9 p.m. at the Club at Ironwood

Come dance to the jams of The Tams, the Bootsie Daniels Band, the “vintage 60s rock ‘n’ soul” of Little Walter and the Convictions, and more at the second annual Valley Beach Music Festival. It will be set against the beautiful backdrop of the Club at Ironwood with easy access to the interstate. 

Have a Listen:

The Bootsie Daniels Band performs “Love Train.”

Before You Go:

  • Buy tickets here.
  • The event will occur rain or shine.
  • Bring your lawn chairs.
  • No coolers or pets allowed.
  • Bring your printed ticket and ID if you plan to buy alcohol.

Shenandoah Valley Blues & Virginia Brews Festival

July 20, 2-9 p.m. at the Club at Ironwood

Come enjoy the Blues, tasty brews, and The Club at Ironwood’s panaramic views of the Blue Ridge at the 11th Annual Shenandoah Valley Blues & Virginia Brews Festival. Spend the afternoon listening to the Ally Venable Band, Bob Margolin, Sun-Dried Opossum, and more while enjoying the scenery and a wide variety of local BBQ, craft vendors, and beer from Virginia microbreweries. 

Fan Favorite: 

Sun-Dried Opposum’s guitar-driven rock-n-roll and high-energy live performances will keep you dancing! 

Must See: 

Don’t miss the Ally Venable Band, whom Good Times Magazine calls “The hottest new guitarist in blues music.”

Have a Listen: Check out this video of Ally Venable.

Before You Go:

  • Buy tickets here. Kids under 12 are free.
  • Bring your lawn chairs.
  • No coolers or pets allowed.

Staunton Music Festival

August 16 – 25

The Staunton Music Festival celebrates its 22nd year with a 10-day chamber music festival. Musical selections will represent 600 years of music ranging from the middle ages to world premieres. Over 100 musicians will perform during the festival in both large and small ensembles in a variety of locations throughout historic downtown Staunton.

Fan Favorite:

The festival’s concluding performance of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is considered “one of the most powerful musical works of all time.” Carsten Schmidt conducts the finale performance, which will feature period instruments.

When & Where:

Sunday, August 25, 4 p.m.

Must See:

The festival opens with Theodora, a masterpiece of Baroque opera by Handel, which premiered in the mid-1700s. This dramatic, semi-staged performance directed by Timothy Nelson will feature period instruments conducted by Carsten Schmidt.  

When & Where:

Friday, August 16, 7:30 p.m.; pre-concert talk at 6:40

Trinity Episcopal Church

Another big event is the performance of Asto Piazzolla’s tango opera Maria de Beunos Aires, also conducted by Casten Schmidt.

When & Where:

Saturday, August 24, 7:30 p.m.; pre-concert talk at 6:40

Trinity Episcopal Church

Have a Listen:

Francis Poulenc’s L’Histoire de Babar (The Story of Babar) is performed at the 2018 Staunton Music Festival.

Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne Op. 60 is performed at last year’s festival. 

Before You Go:

  • Free concerts daily; All other concerts range from $10-32
  • Brochure/Calendar of Events
  • Tickets and 2019 Summer Passes
  • For lodging and to plan your trip to Staunton, click here; the festival will announce new dining and lodging deals as the season gets closer
  • Check the Staunton Music Festival website or social media pages for the latest info.

Visit Staunton on Foot: Thornrose Cemetery

People visit Staunton for its food scene, its Shakespeare, and its proximity to the natural beauty of national parks and forests. But another, lesser-known reason to visit is right within walking distance of downtown. Did you know that Thornrose Cemetery is considered one of the most beautiful in the country?  Combining human and architectural history and landscaped beauty, Thornrose Cemetery is yet another compelling reason to visit Staunton.

History

Early Staunton’s main burial ground was the crowded cemetery at Augusta Parish Church, now Trinity Episcopal Church. However, as downtown expanded, the need for an alternative grew.  Built on 12 acres in 1849, Thornrose Cemetery saw its first burial in 1853. 

Roads and walks meander through Thornrose, making it a pleasant place for a stroll. Before the 20th century, most people did not have access to public parks. It was the fashion to make cemeteries as park-like as possible, so that people without a lot of land of their own could enjoy their beauty. Well into the 20th century, people would “haunt” the cemetery, exploring its paths and picnicking near their departed loved ones.

Notable Sites

Main Entrance

Designed by famed Staunton architect T.J. Collins and built by William Larner & Company in 1896, this stone arch and gatehouse mark the main entrance to Thornrose Cemetery. William Larner’s stone and brickwork also survives at Oakdene. The quarry that supplied the Thornrose limestone on Middlebrook Road opened an entrance to what became known as Staunton Caverns. This short-lived commercial cave, lit by acetylene gas lights, opened in 1907. 

Footbridge and Tower

The footbridge and tower, also designed by Collins and built by Larner & Company can be seen up the hill from the gate. The female statue standing near the tower is Perpetual Care, and in the past she has been extensively damaged by vandals pushing her off the bridge. 

General John Echols

A tall obelisk marks the grave of General John Echols. Known for his stint as a general in the Civil War, Echols later practiced law in Staunton. He championed the cause for Virginia’s readmittance to the Union and helped former Confederates return to political office. Echols joined the state legislature and later became president of the National Valley Bank. He later moved to Kentucky to oversee the Chesapeake, Ohio, and Southwestern Railroad, but died in Staunton.

Fort Stonewall Jackson

Fort Stonewall Jackson sits at one of the highest points in the cemetery. Dedicated in 1888, a 22-foot marble Confederate infantryman marks the mass grave of 1,700 fallen Civil War soldiers who died at Cross Keys, Port Republic, Piedmont, McDowell, and other area battlefields. This site also includes a pavilion and a stone terrace flanked by cannons and planters.

Jed Hotchkiss

Jed Hotchkiss earned Civil War fame as Stonewall Jackson’s mapmaker. His work was instrumental during Jackson’s Valley Campaign. After Jackson’s death, Hotchkiss continued to develop maps for the South. Following the war, Hotchkiss returned to Staunton. He built the house still known as the Oaks and operated a school for boys in Churchville. The Library of Congress holds his maps.

Eva Clark

In 1906, 25-yr.-old Eva Clark, a trapeze artist with the Cole’s Brothers Circus found herself in the middle of a confrontation between a “friend” and her jealous husband, and was shot in the abdomen. After being abandoned by both men and the entire circus, she survived for three weeks at King’s Daughters’ Hospital before succumbing to infection. For years, each time a circus came to town, performers would gather to decorate her grave with flowers.

Row of Crypts and Garden

Originally, Thornrose Cemetery was a simple, somewhat wild, burial ground. The attempt to beautify the cemetery by building gardens, structures and statuary continued into the 20th Century. Arista Hoge, a city treasurer and longtime cemetery board member, led the movement. Some call Thornrose Cemetery Hoge’s “city of the dead” due to his planning and often personally funding the improvements. The stone garden at the bottom of the hill along West Beverley is a good example of an improvement. Several ornate mausoleums line the road nearby.

Mortuary Art

Thornrose Cemetery is home to a large collection of mortuary art. From elaborate iron urns and gates to marble statuary, these details appear everywhere on the grounds. Many of the older tombstones feature symbolic markings. See the U.S. Geneology & History Network webpage for a useful key to understanding the meanings of clasped hands, lambs, birds, angels, flowers, and more.

Staunton Mourning Her Dead

The marble statue of E. Barnicoat’s life-sized Staunton Mourning Her Dead sits in the mausoleum at the southwestern edge of the cemetery. In 1989, Thornrose updated the original 1910 pavilion into a rock-of-ages granite mausoleum housing over 100 crypts and cremation niches. On a stone wall at the rear of the mausoleum stand marble statues representing the four seasons.

Before You Visit

  • Park along the shoulders of the cemetery roads. Please don’t block road access.
  • The terrain in Thornrose is hilly: wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • There are no public restroom facilities in the cemetery.
  • For a guided tour experience and a chance to learn history and see costumed interpreters, check out Conversations from the Grave, an occasional tour that’s been run by the Augusta County Historical Society since 2008.