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Summer Music and More: What’s Happening at Heifetz

Not only does the Heifetz International Music Institute educate young musicians in their artistic growth, it also treats the community to a variety of world-class listening opportunities. After a year of online programming and virtual concerts during Covid, Heifetz is again bringing live, in-person music to a wide audience.

This year marks Heifetz’s 25th anniversary. It was originally founded in 1996 as a 6-week summer experience by concert violinist and teacher Daniel Heifetz. In 2012, Heifetz opened the doors to 62 students in its new Staunton location. It has grown a lot since then: according to the website, even in the midst of the pandemic, 40 Heifetz faculty members virtually served 100 students across 9 time zones. They brought music to over 500,000 viewers through concerts streaming on YouTube, Facebook Live, and the Violin Channel.

HEIR and Other Recent Notable Activity

As an alternative to normally scheduled Heifetz on Tour programming, Heifetz provided music during the pandemic with its HEIR (Heifetz Ensemble-in-Residence) Program. The audience could attend string quartet or piano trio concerts in-person at The Blackburn Inn & Conference Center’s Great Hall. They could also attend and interact through Zoom.

Heartstrings Program

Another part of the HEIR program was Heifetz’s virtual Heartstrings program, which connected performers with frontline workers and patients at Augusta Health. This program included almost 200 virtual, but intimate performances for patients suffering from both illnesses and the emotional toll brought on by months of social distancing. Additional ensemble performances catered to larger audiences and helped bring music and joy to the wider hospital community. These outlets also helped budding professional musicians connect with audiences.

Virtual Concert Hall

2020’s Rubato Virtual Concert Hall recorded sophisticated, all-new performances by Virtual Institute students and broadcast them to audiences. In 2021, most concerts will be recorded for broadcast, even if they are presented to live audiences. Some will be online only because participating musicians will perform from countries around the world. Want to interact with the Heifetz community? Look for special “watch parties.” Additional streamable options included music, commentary, and interviews from years past.

Chock Full O’Bach

Heifetz students (and most other classical musicians) learn a lot from studying Bach. Heifetz students even use the German composer’s work as audition material for the program. Now they’re sharing with the community by sharing some of those compositions with the public. Subscribe to Chock Full O’Bach to let Heifetz help you start each day with a new release! 

What’s Happening Now: Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts

Celebrate music with this year’s annual Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts, which extends through August 6th and offers both chamber music and multi-genre selections! Choose from over 50 concerts. Concert offerings can be either free and ticketed, but since children under 12 are invited to attend all concerts for free, there’s no need to hire a sitter!

  • Stars of Tomorrow (First Presbyterian Church, Tuesdays and Thursdays): “The Institute’s signature series showcases breathtaking performances by extraordinary Heifetz students, visiting alumni artists, and our outstanding Heifetz piano faculty.”

  • Virtual Stars of Tomorrow: These live-stream performances allow students from around the world to perform virtually. 
  • Fridays in the Gallery (Staunton Augusta Art Center): Free weekday concerts set against the backdrop of local and regional artists. Register ahead if you plan to attend because space is limited in the venues.
  • Celebrity Series (First Presbyterian Church, Friday evenings): These programs bring top performers to Staunton, including Shannon Lee, Philip Setzer, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and the Borromeo String Quartet. Concerts will feature works by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Dohnányi, Schumann, Bach and more.

  • HeifetzPEG Showcase (online): This showcase of young talent serves as “graduation recitals” for young string players.
  • Heifetz Hootenanny (Saturdays): This series “features students, staff, and special guests in one-of-a-kind, multi-genre mash-ups moves to the Blackburn Inn’s expansive new Great Hall, where you might hear bluegrass picking, Broadway belting, folk fiddling, or rollicking rhythm and blues!”

  • Sunday Matinees (First Presbyterian Church, Sunday afternoons): Headliner artists are joined by Heifetz students, alums, and special guests to make wonderful music. Presented by Redbeard Brewing Company.
  • Heifetz in the Vineyard (Barren Ridge Vineyard): Concerts both indoors and out take advantage of the vineyard’s idyllic setting. Plus, there’s delicious Barren Ridge wine to sip as you listen.

  • PianoPalooza (First Presbyterian Church, July 19): Come watch the Heifetz keyboard wizards as they wow you on the ivories.
  • Heifetz Grand Finale (Blackburn Inn’s SummerStage, August 6): The season’s final concert is a passionate gathering of Heifetz students and faculty followed by a farewell feast.

Looking for a Special Gift?

If you like to spoil a music-loving someone on your gift list, head downtown to the Heifetz Gift Shop (107 E. Beverley Street). From music-themed wearables and cards, to Heifetz chocolate bars and sheet music printed umbrellas, you’ll find a unique gift sure to make someone smile. And if you’d like to take an unusual route to supporting Heifetz, you can donate your unwanted household items and clothing to them so they can sell them on eBay. Since Heifetz is a non-profit, they’ll be able to keep 100% of the proceeds and use them to support the Institute.

For other musical experiences in Staunton, click here!

Top Things to Do in Staunton This Summer

After a year spent hiding in our homes it’s time to get outside and LIVE again. From live music to alfresco dining, here’s our roundup of fun things to do in Staunton this summer.

Shop & Dine Out Downtown

Celebrate summer by heading downtown to the Beverley Street area to dine alfresco during Shop and Dine Out in Downtown. Staunton closes Beverley Street from 4 p.m. Friday afternoon to 7:30 a.m. Monday morning so that restaurants and businesses can use space on the sidewalks and in the roadway for dining areas and merchandise displays. Customers can spread out and stay safe. Restaurants participating in Shop and Dine Out Downtown include: Laughing Bird Pho, Shenandoah Pizza & Tap House, Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company, Baja Bean Co., BLU Point Seafood Co., and more.

American Shakespeare Center at MBU’s Rose Terrace

Check out a performance by the American Shakespeare Center.  See the schedule for dates and showtimes of Macbeth, Henry V, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Some shows will be happening on-site at the Blackfriars Theatre, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s performance space. For a special summer treat, watch the Bard’s work under the stars on Mary Baldwin University’s Rose Terrace. Historic Rose Terrace has the distinction of once being the most expensive house in Staunton, and it appears on the National Registry of Historic Places. Its beautiful flat lawn makes a lovely, sheltered performance space.

SummerStage at The Blackburn Inn

How about kicking back on the lawn of the historic Blackburn Inn for a concert under the stars this summer? You’ll enjoy the sounds of Americana, roots, country, folk, and bluegrass bands during the weekly SummerStage series of concerts. The concerts will take place each Friday night from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You’ll be able to dine on a gourmet picnic box and enjoy beverages from local breweries, cideries, and vineyards. The series will feature artists like Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, Fireside Collective, David Wax Museum, Bonnie Bishop, and more. Get your tickets today!

Get Your New Beerwerks T-shirt

Have you signed up for the Beerwerks Passport yet? As if you needed more incentive to try the 18 breweries along the Beerwerks Trail. Not only can you enjoy tasty craft beers, Valley views, and brewery entertainment like live music and trivia, but once you get your passport stamped at eight breweries, you can send it in for a free t-shirt. That’s high summer fashion! Start with Redbeard Brewing Company, Queen City Brewing, and Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co. right here in Staunton. Next, venture out of town to Skipping Rock Beer Company, Seven Arrows Brewing Co., and Stable Craft Brewing.

Nearby Swimming Holes 

Escape your stale house and take a break from the kiddie pool this summer! The Staunton area has several swimming lakes like Sherando and Todd Lakes with hiking trails, picnic areas, and sandy beaches.  Water seekers will also like hiking to waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park or the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. St. Mary’s Falls is a four-mile out-and-back hike that pays off with an icy mountain pool and scenic waterfall. For more splashy ways to beat the heat, check out our post on area swimming holes

Frontier Culture Museum’s summer events – Juneteenth, 4th of July, Roots Music

Make sure you visit the Frontier Culture Museum this summer for a living history lesson on the earliest settlers in our area. You’ll get to see how various groups lived, worked, and passed the time. Exhibits include Native American, African, German, Irish, English, and American farms. The museum is hosting a free Juneteenth Celebration (June 19). This year’s theme is “The Continual Evolution of JUNETEENTH” and it will feature live music and event speakers. Later, the museum teaches visitors how our ancestors celebrated 4th of July with demonstrations, games, and more. Come to the museum in August for a series of live Roots Music concerts. You’ll enjoy the music of Karen Jonas, Haze & Dacey, Wound Tight Bluegrass, Troy Breslow, and Southern Hospitality.

Staunton Parks – Gypsy Hill & Montgomery Hall

There’s lots to do at Staunton’s public parks. Jump in the pool or take your dog to the Bark Park in Gypsy Hill Park. Let your kids feed the ducks, play on the playgrounds, or ride their bikes around the 1.3-mile loop. Set up your blanket for live music Monday – Thursday nights at the bandstand. Montgomery Hall Park also offers a pool as well as playing fields and playgrounds. Of special note is the Nature Ridge natural playground, where kids are encouraged to explore and interact with nature. Bird lovers and mountain bikers will love the miles of trails winding through the woods.

Music Festivals – Red Wing Roots Festival, Heifetz, Staunton Music Festival

There’s no shortage of live music this summer, and that’s wonderful news after last summer’s silence. 

  • Add live music to your summer schedule with The Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts. The festival, made up of 50+ concerts, includes performances by Heifetz students, alumni artists, celebrity faculty members, and special guests hailing from around the world. The music will range from chamber music, to Fourth of July music, to the multi-genre Heifetz Hootenannies. It all starts on June 29 and extends through August 6. 

  • The annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival (July 9 -11) is your chance to groove to wonderful music under the towering limestone Natural Chimneys. Listen to The Steel Wheels, Tim O’Brien Band, Son Little, Ragged Mtn String Band, and many more. Camp in the Natural Chimney’s campground and enjoy outdoor activities like 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.

  • The Staunton Music Festival (August 13-15 and August 18-22) is an “immersive classical music experience featuring more than 600 years of music” from the middle ages to world premieres. Dozens of musicians will perform during the festival in both large and small ensembles in a variety of locations throughout historic downtown Staunton. While some events are ticketed, many are free.

Music & Miniatures of Note in the Valley Exhibit at the R.R. Smith Center for History & Art

“Music & Miniatures of Note in the Valley” is a fun exhibit at the R.R. Smith Center for History & Art featuring the whimsical pairing of the region’s musical story with miniature scenes from the Valley’s past. The exhibit runs April 23 – September 6.

Augusta County Historical Society History Gallery in the R.R. Smith Center for History & Art
20 S. New St., downtown Staunton
Free & open to the public
Exhibit hours: W-F 1-4 p.m., Saturday 10-4

Watch for special events associated with this exhibit throughout the summer.

Pick Your Own Fruit & Produce 

Imagine a summer day in the fresh air soaking in the scenery and picking the freshest fruit and produce around. The entire family can enjoy this wholesome pastime away from the crowds. Consider Critzer Family Farm, which provides strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, plums, pumpkins, and fresh veggies, the “freshest, best-tasting and healthiest produce that you can find.”  The farm boasts environmentally-friendly methods and a commitment to educating kids and bettering the land and community. Enjoy your bounty in baked goods, canned for later, or by the handful on the car ride home.  Click here for our guide to more local pick-your-own fruit and produce farms.

 

Entertainment Returning to Staunton’s Gypsy Hill Park Bandstand

It’s been a quiet year of hiding in our houses, but now that it’s safe to get out and mingle, why not set up chairs or a blanket at the Gypsy Hill Park bandstand? The bandstand, which was originally constructed in 1891 for the Stonewall Brigade Band, continues its long tradition of hosting live entertainment. This year, visitors can enjoy live music four nights a week as well as four nights of family-friendly movies. All entertainment is free.

Monday Nights: Stonewall Brigade Band (8 p.m.)

About 70 local and regional musicians come together at each performance of the Stonewall Brigade Band. This community concert band first formed in 1855 as the “Mountain Saxhorn Band,” and today is the oldest-continuous community band in the U.S. The band, made up of volunteers playing woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments has included over 1000 musicians in its time, some as young as 12. The band plays 

The Stonewall Brigade Band will perform on Monday nights from June 7 – August 30. See the full schedule here.

Tuesday Nights: Praise in the Park (7 p.m.)

Linden Heights Baptist Church hosts the annual concert series Praise in the Park in July and August. The concerts include southern gospel, gospel bluegrass, and contemporary gospel. All concerts start at 7 p.m., except for the one on June 30, which will begin at 6:30. Shenandoah Valley favorite Faithful Men will start the season on July 6. Celebrate America on August 3rd with the sounds of One Family Band and by wearing red, white, and blue and waving an American flag. August 10 brings the southern gospel sounds of Ed Pettersen & Streets of Gold Quartet. The season closes on August 24 with Covenant Band “We Will Ride” and a fun blend of praise and rock that the entire family will enjoy. See the full schedule here.

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Wednesday Nights: Bluegrass (7 p.m.)

Staunton Parks and Rec hosts the Wednesday night bluegrass concert series from July 7 – August 25. Concerts start at 7 p.m. and feature local and regional bluegrass entertainers. If you love energetic tunes and banjo picking, these shows are for you! The schedule is still TBD, but past performers have included Marteka and William, performing in the styles of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and Little Roy and the Lizzy Show.

Thursday Nights: Jazz in the Park (7 p.m.)

Celebrate hot summer nights with the Jazz in the Park summer concert series. You’ll hear classic jazz standards performed by S.P.L.A.A.A.T. Quartet, amazing stride/boogie pianist William Hayes performing with The Boogie Kings, and trumpeter John D’earth, who has collaborated with greats such as Tito Puente, Dave Matthews, and Miles Davis. See the full lineup here.

Friday Night Family Flix

Movies under the stars are magical! Bring a big blanket and cuddle up with your kids to make some lasting summer memories. The lineup includes Toy Story 4 (June 4), Jumanji: The Next Level (June 18), Tom & Jerry (July 9), and The Goonies (July 23). Movies start at dusk (usually between 8:30 and 9:15).

Before You Go:

Gypsy Hill Park has lots to do. You can enjoy a full day of golf, biking, tennis, swimming, walking your dog, and playing on the playground before settling down for some evening entertainment.

Most entertainment will go on, even if it’s raining, but check the weather cancellation line just to be sure. 540.332.3947.

Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. 

There will be concessions available for purchase during the events, but visitors should consider bringing takeout from Staunton area restaurants. Quick and tasty picks include:

The park does not permit alcoholic beverages, but Queen City Brewing is just steps away. Why not enjoy a craft beer nightcap after the show?

A Starlit Soundtrack: SummerStage at the Blackburn Inn

What kind of music will fill your summer nights? Have your ears been yearning for music that doesn’t come through your earbuds? This summer, you can kick back in socially distanced style on the lawn of the Blackburn Inn for a weekly SummerStage series of concerts. You’ll enjoy the sounds of Americana, roots, country, folk, and bluegrass bands from regional and national artists as you relax under the stars and breathe the fresh air.

Headliner artists include North Carolina’s Chatham County Line, Grammy winner Bonnie Bishop, social/environmental activist Ben Sollee, and many more (see full schedule below). Local acts will open each concert.

The concerts will take place each Friday night from Memorial Day through Labor Day. When you buy tickets, you’ll reserve an 8×8 foot square “blanket pod” for up to four people or a smaller “chair pod” for two. Order a southern-style picnic box to savor on your blanket. Purchase beverages from local vineyards, cideries, and breweries from the 2nd Draft Bistro bar. The bar will also serve a grill menu and a decadent, custardy bread pudding with rum sauce.

The Blackburn’s grounds will open at 6 p.m. and music begins at 7. The main event starts at 8, and the bar will close at 10:30. The show will go on, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate! That night’s concert will be held in the Great Hall, part of the Blackburn’s new conference center.

Tickets cost $25-35/person and can be purchased online. Extra tickets, if available, will cost $40 at the door.

Here’s the Lineup

Follow links to learn more about the performers and purchase tickets.

May 28: SummerStage No. 1: Heifetz Memorial Day Weekend Hootenanny

June 4: SummerStage No. 2 Chatham County Line

June 11: SummerStage No.3: The Judy Chops

June 18: SummerStage No.4 Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass

June 25: SummerStage No.5 Fireside Collective

Fireside Collective performs at the 2018 Mountain Song Festival in Brevard, NC.

July 2: SummerStage No.6: Scott Miller

July 9: SummerStage No.7 The Quebe Sisters

July 16: SummerStage No.8: The Golden Age

July 23: SummerStage No.9: David Wax Museum

July 30: SummerStage No.10: Aztec Sun

August 6: SummerStage No.11: Heifetz Grand Finale

August 13: SummerStage No.12 Bryan Elijah Smith

August 20: SummerStage No.13: Bonnie Bishop

August 27: SummerStage No.14: Hackensaw Boys

September 3: SummerStage No.15: Ben Sollee

Make a Weekend of It

If you’re from out of town, Staunton makes a wonderful weekend destination. Take advantage of the SummerStage package at the Blackburn and you’ll be able to drift happily back to your room after the concert is over. The package includes a luxurious room at the historic inn, lawn space for a concert and a picnic dinner for two, and a continental breakfast. 

What Else Should I Do While I’m in Staunton?

Make sure you check out Staunton’s Saturday morning producer’s only Farmers’ Market in the wharf parking lot. You’ll find the heart of Staunton’s community as well as the freshest fruit and produce, and local-made goods.

You’ll also want to make time to walk downtown and explore the Beverley Street area during Shop and Dine Out in Downtown. Staunton closes Beverley Street from Friday afternoon to Monday morning so that restaurants and businesses can use space on the sidewalks and in the roadway for dining and merchandise, allowing customers to spread out and stay safe. 

Learn some history while you’re here by taking a tour at the Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll see living history demonstrations about how the early settlers of the Shenandoah Valley survived and thrived.

Get some exercise by hiking some of the great trails in nearby George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

Relax and rejuvenate with a massage or a skin or nail treatment at the Blackburn’s new spa.

American Shakespeare Center Restart

The American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s performance space. Since 2001, it has been treating audiences to performances that capture not only the magic of Shakespeare’s stories (all 38 of them), but also the historic and cultural atmosphere surrounding the shows. While the past year has been incredibly challenging for performance venues, ASC is now cautiously welcoming the public for live performances and educational experiences as well as continuing a robust selection of virtual options.

Upcoming Performances

Beginning in May, the ASC will offer a summer packed with performances as part of their annual Actors’ Renaissance Season. The productions will attempt to mimic the performance conditions common in Shakespeare’s time, where actors had a great deal of creative license and writer/performer roles sometimes blurred. Seasoned ASC actors will perform a rotating set of plays, rehearsing them in a short period of time without directors. Not only do the actors control their performance decisions, they also plan costumes, music, props and more, and that kind of creative empowerment can lead to exciting and memorable productions. This summer, audiences can enjoy Macbeth, Henry V, and All’s Well That Ends Well.

  • “Electrifying and immediate, Macbeth plunges headlong into the darkest depths of the human condition and the toxic underbelly of politics and warfare—with murder begetting murder, and blood thirsting for blood. This twisted tale ends as it began, in the manifestation of a dark prophecy; with one final, fatal blow, the light prevails and tomorrow dawns anew.”
  • “In this final, epic installment of Shakespeare’s Henriad trilogy, ASC veteran Brandon Carter leads ‘once more unto the breach’ as King Henry V—one of the greatest monarchs in English history. Swashbuckling adventure and romance burst at the seams of this the most exciting of Shakespeare’s histories, which ends, as so many of the great stories do, in a wedding.”
  • “Helena has a heart that will not be denied. All’s Well That Ends Well upends and reexamines the love story, reveling in the imperfection. Part fairy tale, part farce, and all heart, this often-overlooked masterpiece takes audiences on a hilarious journey through courtship and class, danger and desire, and ridicule and (if the title proves true) redemption.”

Starting May 13th, the actors will bring Macbeth to the ASC’s outdoor venue on the Mary Baldwin University’s historic brick Rose Terrace. Henry V will join the lineup in June, and you can see it indoors at the Blackfriars. In August, All’s Well That Ends Well will also be staged at the Blackfriars. If you’d rather not venture into a public performance space just yet, you can stream the plays via BlkFrsTV.

Is it Safe to Attend a Live Performance?

Tickets to shows at the Blackfriars are available at reduced capacity to ensure that the audience is able to social distance. Increased sanitation and universal masking will also keep people safe. Last summer, ASC’s infectious disease specialist-guided SafeStart Summer Season was a leader in bringing safe, live theater to audiences.

Other Ways to Enjoy the ASC

Performances and educating the public have always gone together at the ASC, and the education team has developed a digital curriculum. The virtual SHX Series targets teachers and their classes, homeschooling parents, and drama enthusiasts. They seek to make Shakespeare accessible with interactive workshops, study guides, virtual performances, and other customized experiences.

Want to keep the kids occupied while building their self-esteem and exercising their creativity? Check back later in the summer for more information on online after-school programs, guaranteed to get students (ages 9-18) excited about theater, history, and language.

Blackfriars Conference

The Blackfriars Playhouse holds the international biennial Blackfriars Conference every other autumn. Shakespeareans, scholars and practitioners congregate to share discoveries and learn about early modern theatre. The next conference is scheduled for October 28-30, 2021.

Support the Blackfriars

Though the vaccine is widely available and restrictions are lifting, it’s still been a tough year for the ASC. Click here to help them “keep the lights on!”

Blackburn Inn & Barren Ridge Vineyards Getaway

Are you looking for a romantic getaway in a beautiful location with lots of opportunities for adventure? Take advantage of the Blackburn Inn’s Weekend Getaway Package with award-winning Barren Ridge Vineyards. The package will pamper you with delicious food and wine, outdoor adventure, and luxury at the Blackburn Inn. Staunton is within easy driving distance of D.C., Richmond, and Roanoke. You’ll enjoy the incredible scenery and the small-town, historic cool. Read on for our suggested itinerary and book your couple’s weekend today!  

Friday: 

You’ll know you’re in for a wonderful, relaxing weekend when you arrive at Staunton’s Blackburn Inn. This classic red-bricked and white-columned building was designed by Thomas Blackburn in the 1820s. Don’t worry about its age, though. While the 49-room boutique hotel keeps its historic charm, it has been renovated and updated with your absolute comfort in mind. In your room, you’ll find a decadent treat of chocolate-covered strawberries and Prosecco.

Stretch your legs by exploring the immaculately landscaped Blackburn Inn campus. Next, stroll around downtown Staunton with the map that’s included in your package. Staunton has over 100 independent restaurants, galleries, and boutiques as well as prime selfie spots like the “You Belong Here” mural and the Sears Hill Bridge.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, eat dinner at one of Staunton’s fine restaurants. Your package includes a voucher for BLU Point Seafood Co. or Zynodoa (inspired Southern farm-to-table cuisine).

Head back to the hotel and sleep well in your historic room. You’ll enjoy wireless, high-speed internet and elegant touches like oversized bathrooms with glass rainfall showers, plush towels, and luxury toiletries.

Saturday: 

Wake up well rested to a lovely breakfast in the hotel’s onsite Second Draft bistro. The ever-changing menu showcases seasonal, locally sourced fare like pastries, parfaits, frittatas, ham biscuits, eggs Benedict, and breakfast croissant sandwiches.

After you’ve eaten, set out on a hiking adventure to one of the area’s celebrated trails in Shenandoah National Park or George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. You’ll enjoy a scenic drive through the Shenandoah Valley as well as incredible views from your hike. The Blackburn Inn will provide a pack with maps and a delicious picnic lunch for two.

After the hike, head to Barren Ridge Vineyards and take a guided tour of the vineyard. You’ll learn how the vineyard evolved from an apple orchard as well as how grapes are grown and wine is made. You’ll come away with an understanding of the cycle of vines, terroir, and more. Relax after your tour with a bottle of wine or sparkling wine in the tasting room or on the patio.

Listen to live music and use your voucher for a charcuterie/cheese board dinner, which features excellent artisanal cheeses from Goot Essa, salami, organic olives, crackers, or sweets from Giancarlo. You won’t want to leave without buying some wine to enjoy at home, so take advantage of special discounts: 10% per bottle, 15% for 6 bottles, and 20% for a case or more.

After the music, drive to Staunton and take an evening stroll through the safe, walkable downtown, making sure to check out the Victorian architecture and the historic train station.

Stop in at the Green Room for a nightcap of craft beer, wine, or cider and a snack or ice cream in flavors like brambleberry crisp, brown butter almond brittle, or darkest chocolate.

Head back to the Blackburn Inn and fall into your luxurious freshly made bed and enjoy some well-earned rest.

Sunday: 

Wake up refreshed and start your journey back after a yummy breakfast in the hotel and another leisurely stroll around town.

Back at home, open a bottle of Barren Ridge wine and enjoy the memories of this perfect weekend. Remember, it’s never too early to begin planning your next visit to Staunton!

Total cost of your romantic weekend for two:

  • Hotel 2 nights: $187 (one room)
  • Strawberries, breakfasts, and bag at the hotel: $35
  • Friday dinner at BLU Point Seafood Co. or Zynodoa: (Voucher) $50
  • Picnic lunch for two from Blackburn Inn: $16 
  • Cheese & charcuterie dinner from Barren Ridge Vineyards with a bottle of Rose: $86.00 (Voucher for 2)
  • Vineyard walk and talk (1 h): $25 
  • TOTAL: $399

Click here to reserve your weekend: Weekend Getaway Package.

Wool Week at the Frontier Culture Museum

When we buy new clothes, we usually think no more deeply about the process than going to the store and picking out what looks best on us. But the process was much, much more involved for our ancestors and the early settlers of the Shenandoah Valley. Not only did they have to harvest the raw materials, but they also had to clean them, transform them into cloth, and then transform the cloth 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.

Come to the museum during the week of April 24-30 to see demonstrations and exhibits focusing on wool and flax processing. The stall will be shearing sheep twice a day at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Enjoy strolling the paths in the warm spring sunshine. As an added bonus, you’ll get to meet the new baby lambs.

 

How long will the lambs be lambs?

Lambs are usually born in the spring when there’s plenty of grass to eat and the weather has lost its winter chill. Ewes tend to give birth to one to three lambs at a time. Twins are most common and tend to weigh about the same as human babies. They can usually walk within a few hours of being born! Besides sheep, the museum is home to ducks, goats, pigs, horses, cows, and cats.

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

Wool is the heavy winter coat of the sheep that’s harvested once a year, often 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. A skilled shearer can remove the wool quickly and in one piece.

Do sheep like getting shorn?

Sheep shearing is very much like getting a haircut. During the shearing process, though, the sheep may struggle, and 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 probably relieved to be rid of their heavy, dirty coats. 

Contrary to picture postcards, sheep are pretty dirty. How do they get that wool clean?

The wool fibers are pulled and teased apart by hand to get rid of dirt and parasites. The wool is then washed and carded. Carding untangles the fibers and stretches it out so that it can be spun. The museum staff will teach you how to perform each of these steps.

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

Spinners wind stretched-out wool fibers are into yarn, which can be dyed before or after spinning. 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.

Flax? What’s that?

Flax is a kind of plant. When it’s harvested, it is dried, deseeded, and retted, which means that the interior of the plant is removed and the rest is split into long fibers during a lengthy series of steps. The fibers are spun and then woven into linen fabric. Though it’s difficult to produce, linen is one of the most durable natural fabrics.

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 the region from other places. They include farms from West Africa, England, Ireland, and Germany. The museum also offers a Native American village and American farms from various time periods.

Earth Day 2021

Earth Day events are designed to help us learn to restore our planet by promoting clean air, land, and water, supporting native species, and more. In past years, Staunton has held a large educational fair for Earth Day, but this year things will look a little different in order to keep people safe from Covid. A number of activities will occur virtually or will be extended for a longer period of time.  Click here for the full schedule.

Live Events:

  • Earth Day Staunton Stage: Come to the Sunspots Pavilion on April 24 from 10 – noon for music and demonstrations including tips for native gardening, climate restoration, honeybee behavior, and more.
  • Shenandoah Mountain Warblers & Wildflowers: Join Friends of Shenandoah Mountain and Headwaters Master Naturalists at one of three Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail sites to explore the trails, and identify birds and plants. Each site will have a master naturalist, a birder, and a biologist standing by to help you and answer your questions. May 8, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

  • ​Litter Cleanup & Classification (Ages 11-Adult): Most litter can end up in our waterways. In this activity you’ll select an area to collect litter (it doesn’t need to be near a body of water). Download the pdf and track the amount and type of litter you found. This will be used in a national database.
  • Earth Day Paddle Trip with Friends of the Middle River: This self-guided, 3-hour float on the Middle River is available to those who have their own boats and transportation. May 1st, put-in 8 – 9:30 a.m. 

Virtual Meetings:

  • Meet a Bat! Afterschool Animal Encounter & Flappy Hour for Adults: Leslie Sturges (Save Lucy the Bat) will teach the community about how bats are beneficial to the community. She’ll have separate programs for kids (they’ll get to ask questions and see a real bat) and adults (more answers to your bat-related questions, plus “batty” drink recipes). April 21, 4:30 pm  
  • Climate Reality and What We Can Do About It: Shenandoah Green will discuss the climate and teach us how to “restore balance.” April 22, 5:30 p.m.
  • Watch & Talk — Kiss the Ground: Register to watch the movie and then join the virtual discussion with soil experts on how to “stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies.”

Links available here soon

Activities with Apps and Online Components

  • Families can download the ActionBound app and participate in a series of miniature quests called “Earth Day Staunton Bound.” The free activity will be available until April 30.
  • Identify that new-to-you plant or critter with the help of iNaturalist’s Seek app. Take photos and earn points as you learn about the subject’s life.

Natural Areas in Staunton’s Parks

If you’re looking to “get in touch with nature” while in the city of Staunton, you should really check out the natural areas in our parks. Hikers and mountain bikers will love wandering the trails in Betsy Bell Wilderness and Montgomery Hall Park. Both offer miles of trails and the particular sense of peace you get when you’re surrounded by the natural world. Birders, too, will revel in the high number of species that can be identified in these hotspots. Montgomery Hall also offers Nature Ridge natural playground. Tucked away behind the softball field, this playground features no swings or slides, only natural elements that will absorb kids for hours of imaginative and exploratory play.

Staunton Businesses that Promote Good Stewardship of the Earth

Refill Renew

How can you enjoy your favorite cleaning and personal products and do something good for the environment at the same time? Shop 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.

Concepts Created

Bryan Black, designer and owner of Concepts Created, has been constructing custom furniture out of reclaimed wood and other materials since 2000. Each piece is created after a detailed consultation with the customer. Skilled handcrafting and attention to detail produce unique pieces that have both beauty and history.

Staunton Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ markets are wonderful ways to score 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.

Staunton Plant Co.

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 support the shelter and food needs of local species of birds, mammals, and insects like butterflies. Staunton Plant Co. specializes in locally grown and native plants. This full-service garden center also provides annuals, perennials, mulch, trees and hanging baskets to beautify your property.

JMD Farm Market & Garden Center

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 on the natural playground.

Several downtown Staunton shops offer garden and garden-themed decor. You might know Blair Made for beautiful handmade wooden signs, but check the website for a glimpse of her vintage botanical prints that are printed on wood and will allow you to look at fresh flowers all year long. Harmony Moon has a nice selection of planters and flower pots, whimsical bird houses, windchimes, birdbaths and other garden décor.

 

Staunton in Bloom

Historic Garden Week

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 grounds to visitors. Proceeds go toward preserving and restoring public gardens in Virginia.

After being cancelled for Covid in 2020, Staunton’s Historic Garden Week Tour is back in bloom for 2021!  The walking tour showcases four gardens on New and Lewis Streets in the downtown area, the Gardens at Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum as well as other outdoor spaces decorated with floral installations created by the Augusta Garden Club. For safety reasons, guests will only have access to the gardens and the exteriors of the homes. 

In addition to the tours themselves, guests may also attend several outdoor presentations. These include a “Fun and Fantasy” floral design demonstration taught by Garden Club of America judges. Visitors can attend educational talks about Staunton architect, T.J. Collins, and also learn about the ongoing archeological dig in the gardens of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum. Finally, guests will get to see plein air artists from the Beverley Studio School at work. Take home a memory by purchasing a finished painting at the “Wet Paint Sale.”

If You Go

  • When: April 17, 2021, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Purchase tickets online for a specific time. No tickets will be sold on the day of the tour.
  • Plan to wear flat walking shoes. 
  • Hungry? Purchase a boxed lunch ahead of time, or visit one of our restaurants close by.
  • Please plan ahead: there are no public restrooms on tour properties. Restrooms will be available in the parking lot at tour headquarters at 205 N. Central Ave. 

After visiting Staunton, plan to tour more of Virginia’s historic gardens. See Virginia Garden Week’s suggested itineraries. Nearby destinations hosting tours include Lexington, Albemarle County, and Lynchburg.

Best Gardens in Staunton

If you can’t make it to the Garden Tour, Staunton offers more places where you can enjoy the spring bounty. Walk through many of our public spaces or explore the residential neighborhoods and you’ll be wowed by the gardens. In early spring, flowering trees like redbuds, magnolias, Bradford pears are budding out. Look for dogwood displays to follow. Early spring flowers include daffodils, tulips, forsythia, lilac, and violets. Check out some of our favorites.

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum

The Historic Gardens at Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum are open to the public from dawn to dusk. Originally part of a much larger estate, the existing gardens were designed by landscape architect Charles F. Gillette in 1933. Maintained by the Garden Club of Virginia, the gardens include perennials, lilacs, boxwoods, and hostas. Stroll the brick pathways and admire the plants or rest on a quiet bench just steps from the bustle of downtown Staunton.

Gypsy Hill & Montgomery Hall Parks 

Both Gypsy Hill Park and Montgomery Hall Parks have flower gardens maintained by Staunton Parks and Rec. Look for seasonal blooms and annuals in the landscaping around buildings and park features as well as various types of labeled trees. The dogwood tree is both Virginia’s state flower and tree, and for over 100 years. The Augusta Garden Club’s Project Dogwood has planted over 150 of these springtime beauties in both parks. They’ve also erected signage to identify and provide information about the different types of trees.

Gardens at the Staunton Library

The library has several garden beds, including a large one that wraps the corner of Augusta and Churchville Avenues. Make sure to visit the award-winning Brenda L. Papke Memorial Sensory Garden, a small, universally accessible space designed to stimulate all five of the senses. Sensory favorites include: lavender, rosemary, Annabelle Hydrangea, and butterfly bushes. Download a scavenger hunt to use in the library, when open, and the garden.  

Mens’ Green Thumb Park and Watering Can 

Blink and you might miss this little gem as you drive into Staunton. It’s worth a second pass though: Look for spring blooms spilling out of a giant watering can and larger plants like elephant ears later in the season.

Best Gardens Near Staunton

Edith J. Carrier Arboretum

James Madison University’s Edith J. Carrier Arboretum celebrates native Virginia wildflower, tree, and shrub species in a peaceful, wooded environment. The 125-acre sanctuary contains walking paths, water features, play areas for kids, and daffodil, perennial, and pollinator gardens. Other garden areas showcase ferns, daylilies, herbs, and a shale garden of endemic perennials that survive only in the harshest of conditions.

Boxerwood Gardens

The Play Trail at Boxerwood Gardens will keep your kids busy for hours, but you’ll also want to explore the 15-acre Woodland Garden. Follow the trails through the woods, around the pond, and along the wildflower meadow. Early spring blooms include magnolia and cherry trees.

Shenandoah National Park

Wildflower season at Shenandoah National Park begins in late March and extends all the way through fall. Springtime blooms to look for are redbuds, trout lilies, bellworts, violets, and wild geraniums. Over 850 different species grow here, including many specimens from the aster, pea, lily, mint, and mustard families. Check here for a calendar of what’s in bloom.

Pebble Hall Wildflowers

Pebble Hall Wildflowers offers over an acre of wildflowers and herbs that you can pick to create your own seasonal bouquets. Wander the lovely grounds admiring the views, taking photos, sharing a picnic, and petting the cows. Hula hoops, a small nature museum and a fairy garden will please the younger set. Check out the schedule to see what’s blooming.

White Oak Lavender Farm

Pretty sights and even better smells will greet you at White Oak Lavender Farm. This lavender destination provides beautiful views, a chance to tour and explore the lavender fields and processing areas. You’ll also find a lavender shop where you can purchase lavender-infused items, a discovery area for kids, and a tasting room for the Purple WOLF Vineyard.

Andre Viette Farm & Nursery

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. Check out the garden center to purchase what you like most!

Staunton Silver Linings: How to Spend a Rainy Day

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.

Indulge in a Spa Day

If rain makes you stressed, book a spa treatment at the Spa at the Blackburn, Staunton’s newest place for relaxation. Pick from massage, reflexology, nail or skin treatments, or indulge yourself with a full day of luxury.

Other soothing places include Breezy Hill Day Spa, housed in a historic mansion, or Mill Street Body and Soul Day Spa and Salon, which is right downtown. Both spas’ services include massage, facials, manicures, and pedicures. If you’d prefer to relax at home, stop by Essentially Zen Artisan Body & Bath Co. You’ll find soaps, bath bombs, candles, gift boxes, and much more to help you relax in these stressful times.

Eyeball Some Art or Visit a Museum

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, Staunton Makerspace offers both courses, space, and tools for independent work.

If you haven’t been to the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library yet, a rainy day is the ideal time to tour the 19th-century manse and bone up on your history. Snatch a selfie in front of Wilson’s 1919 Pierce-Arrow Limousine or tour the state-of-the-art WWI trench warfare exhibit. The museum is also offering live virtual programming and is opening a new exhibit called “The Quarantine Museum,” in which Staunton residents share their stories of navigating the pandemic.

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, which is located in a cool, historic building and has a covered outdoor seating space. Hang out with friends at Yelping Dog, for a wide selection of wines from around the world. Redbeard Brewing Company, Shenandoah Valley Brewing, and Queen City Brewing offer delicious craft beer right in Staunton’s downtown. Skipping Rock Beer Co. is just a short drive away. Sip beer and spend the afternoon enjoying your brew over a board game or two or stunning the world with your knowledge during weekly pub trivia.

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, which has started selling tickets for its Actor’s Renaissance Summer outdoor performances of Macbeth. More performances will follow, but in the meantime, take advantage of BLKFRSTV, where you can stream cinema-quality performances in the comfort of your home. 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. Covid safety measures are in place, including extensive cleaning of all touchpoints and socially distanced seating.

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 and puzzles or the Dragon’s Hoard for strategy games or live gaming.

Limber up those wrists and cure your cabin fever with bowling at Staunton Lanes, where you can roll some straights and fill up on nachos and fries. Your peeps will also enjoy a collaborative breakout puzzle at Crack the Code Escape Room. Crack the Code has recently moved to a new location and is offering both live and take-home escape challenges, some of which are Staunton-themed.

 

Score Something New

Staunton has dozens of cool shops offering unique gifts and items. If you’re looking for something uniquely Virginian, check out Made; By the People, Medieval Fantasies Company Gyfte Shoppe, or The Sparrow’s Nest, which features jewelry, clothing, art, decor, and more from local artists and farms. Harmony Moon and Jude’s: A Fine Emporium carry gifts for all members of the family. And if you’re shopping for Fido, hit up the Well Balanced Paw.  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. Alternatively, browse for hours through the huge inventory of reasonably priced used books, comics, CDs, and DVDs at Know Knew Books.

Embrace Something with Memories

17 E. Beverley Antiques boasts two floors of goodies, from furniture, fine jewelry, and art, to retro clothing and accessories. Continue the hunt at Staunton Antiques Center, 10,000 square feet bursting with vintage furniture, housewares, and clothing, as well as contemporary work by local artists. 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. Nearby, Verona Antiques fills a space once occupied by a roller rink with high-quality antiques and art.