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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.


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.


Staunton’s Sky Shows: Six Places to Watch a Sunset

Staunton might be known for its Shakespeare, but Mother Nature puts on some pretty great performances as well. Showing nightly, a Staunton sunset is beautiful, peaceful, and more satisfying than Netflix. Here are six great vantage points for catching nature’s award-winning performances.

Balcony at the Pompei Lounge

The Pompei Lounge is located upstairs from Emilio’s Italian Restaurant. This unique two-story watering hole offers both indoor and outdoor seating in a variety of configurations. A seat on the balcony at the front offers views of Staunton, Beverley Street, and spectacular sunsets. Raise your glass to that evening color!

Reservoir Hill Park

Often overlooked, Reservoir Hill Park is a quiet 4-acre spot at the top of Staunton. It sits on one of the city’s highest points and at one time housed the city’s water supply. The large brick structure you see today is what remains of the reservoir. The park stays open until 11 p.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to crush on the sunset and panoramic view.

Barren Ridge Vineyards

The sunset views from Barren Ridge Vineyards are incredible. Just a short drive out of town, the pastoral setting and delicious wine (of course) will work wonders on frazzled nerves. Pack snacks or a picnic, buy wine by the glass or bottle, and prepare to unwind. This vineyard is family friendly and often features live music. Dogs are welcome on the patio. The vineyard is open until 9 p.m. from Thursday-Saturday. It closes at 6 p.m. on other nights.

Thornrose Cemetery

Thornrose Cemetery, built in 1849 and considered to be one of the most beautiful and historic cemeteries in the country, is a lovely, peaceful spot to view the sunset. Wander your way up the hill to the Confederate monument and feast your eyes on the view. Far from creepy, the sight of the grave markers and statuary silhouetted against the evening colors is quite beautiful. Finish up your walk quickly, though. The cemetery closes at dusk.

Terrace at Second Draft Bistro

The terrace at Second Draft Bistro (the restaurant of the historic Blackburn Inn) is a lovely place to enjoy dinner, drinks, friendship and sunsets. Gaze out over the manicured grounds and indulge yourself in an overnight stay. Nightly happy hours from 5-7.

Sears Hill Bridge

The Sears Hill Bridge, the 100+ year-old pedestrian link between Sears Hill and downtown,  is one of Staunton’s sunset hotspots. It has a lot going for it. It’s easy to get to, it has height, it has history, it’s cool looking, it offers a fantastic view of downtown, and it has easy access to restaurants and watering holes so you can catch a drink or dinner after you snap your sunset pics.

Mary Baldwin University

There are a million reasons to attend Mary Baldwin University, and its access to sunsets must be somewhere on that list. Drive or climb up to the top of Cannon Hill (originally part of Staunton Military Academy) or watch the sun go down from Rose Terrace. While on Cannon Hill, check out the WWI memorial and the solar flower, MBU’s source of renewable energy.

Humpback Rocks

It’s a rite of passage for many people who grew up in the area to visit Humpback Rocks for a sunrise or sunset viewing. The 2-mile hike is steep and strenuous, but the views out over the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys are so worth it! Make sure you give yourself time to get back to the car before it gets too dark. Carry a good flashlight and watch your step on the way back down.

Here’s a fun webpage that tells you when the sun will rise and set each day. In addition, you’ll be able to throw around brainy terms like nautical or civil twilight. Remember that the best time to take photographs is the hour before the sun sets or the hour after it rises. Photographers call it the golden hour, and here’s a link to a calculator.

Dog-Friendly Parks, Patios, and Places to Stay: Staunton “Pup-cations”

Your dog is your biggest fan, always so loving and happy to see you. You get lots of together time when you take walks and when you snuggle at night, but it still hurts to leave her alone. Well, now that spring is here, you don’t have to. Here’s a list of “pawsome” Staunton public places that welcome your pet.

Staunton City Parks

The Gypsy Hill Bark Park is the jewel of Staunton’s dog-friendly venues. Divided into separate spacious runs for small and large dogs, it gives Fidos a chance to sniff each other’s butts while their owners make small talk.  On the other side of the park, the 1.3 mile “play street,” is a great loop for Fido to stretch those legs. Other city parks are stocked with doggy-bag stations and open to well-behaved dogs on leashes. Dog owners who like to take serious hikes with their dogs might enjoy the Betsy Bell Wilderness Area and the trails at Montgomery Hall Park

National Parks and Forests

For day-trippers and campers, George Washington and Jefferson National Forest stipulates that dogs must be leashed on hiking trails (but may go off leash in undeveloped areas). Shenandoah National Park is one of only a few national parks allowing pets on the majority of hiking trails provided that they are leashed and owners act responsible. Make sure you pack plenty of water for your furry friend and check them for parasites after your outing.


Want to spend an evening drinking with your fur buddy? Raise a glass because many of Staunton’s breweries are dog friendly. Bedlam Brewing and Skipping Rock Beer Co. allow well behaved dogs on the patios, and Shenandoah Valley Brewing and Queen City Brewing welcome dogs inside.


Staunton’s newest pet-friendly establishment is Table 44 and Paris Cake Company’s Dogio. Four-legged friends and their humans can relax under the covered picnic tables while both enjoying treats. Spoil your pooch and order off the Dogio menu. Choose from Bacon Slices, Burger Patty, or if you’re looking for something sweet, try the Vanilla Ice Cream with Pup Treat. Join the owner’s and their pups Lilo and Scout on the Dogio. Opening Friday, May 3rd. 

The patio at Byer’s Street Bistro welcomes dogs. Spend your lunch hour dining with Rex and watching the bustle of downtown. If you’re feeling like eating Mexican, take your pooch to Mi Rancho’s outdoor dining space where you can get a “a kick-ass Margarita that is extreme.” The patio at Thai Staunton Restaurant is dog friendly. The Pampered Palate and Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery both allow dogs at their sidewalk seating. If you’re lucky, you can grab a spot at the Peck’s Bar-B-Que’s dog-friendly picnic table. Dessert lovers will enjoy sharing their ice cream with their dogs at one of the two dog-friendly picnic tables at Klines Dairy Bar. Blue Mountain Coffees loves dogs and provides a water dish outside for dogs who wait as their owners go in to order (and bring back complimentary treats).

Homes Away from Home

Putting your dog in the kennel when you travel can be a real bummer. Fortunately, a number of Staunton inns and hotels include accommodations for dogs. The Blackburn Inn opens select rooms to dogs. The Inn at WestShire Farms welcomes pets with four pet-friendly rooms and a planned fenced area for pets to run. The Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center was a pioneer in Staunton’s dog-friendly accommodations. Hotels may apply additional fees for guests who travel with pets.

Other Staunton Venues that Welcome Dogs

While your dog might not be allowed inside the supermarket, you’ll still be able to take him while you shop for dinner at the Staunton Farmers Market.

If you don’t currently have a dog but are looking to welcome one into your family, check out Augusta Dog Adoptions.

Always make sure your dog is leashed, well-behaved, vaccinated, and licensed when you take it in public.

Things to Do Near Charlottesville: Staunton, VA

Located just 45 minutes west of Charlottesville, historic Staunton is worth the scenic drive over Afton Mountain. Staunton boasts thriving dining and arts scenes, a bustling shopping district, historic architecture, and natural beauty. Here are nine great things to do while you visit.

Eat an Award-Winning Meal

As a leader in farm-to-table fare, Staunton is on the map for its food. It boasts award-winning and notable restaurants, as well as a surprising variety of food.  Treat yourself to dinner or brunch at The Shack, one of Southern Living’s Best New Restaurants of the South. Try Gloria’s Pupuseria for an El Salvadoran feast. Indulge your inner Barbie with a trip to  Wright’s Dairy Rite, a drive-in burger joint that’s been a Staunton mainstay since the fifties.

Stroll one of America’s Best Main Streets

One of the reasons why Staunton keeps landing on lists of the best small towns in America is its beauty. Staunton’s five historic districts contain some of the loveliest examples of Victorian architecture in Virginia. Looking for views? Explore the picturesque campus of Mary Baldwin University or snap some selfies on the Sears Hill footbridge. If you visit on Wednesday or Saturday, stop in at the producers-only Staunton Farmers Market for the area’s best local produce, baked goods, and other products.

Find a Special Gift

Staunton’s downtown surges with independent shops. Made; By the People, For the People features gifts, books, local art and handcrafted items. Nearby, find Latitudes, a fair trade store where you can buy cool gifts as well as jewelry and clothing from around the world. And if you have youngsters on your list, don’t miss Pufferbellies Toys & Books, which can keep people of all ages occupied for hours.

Take Home Some Art

Those looking for gifts or collectibles should check out Sunspots Studios, where art glass is blown on site (yes, you can view daily demonstrations) and exhibited in a gallery. You’ll enjoy the local art you’ll find when strolling through Beverley Street Studio School Gallery. If unique wearable art is what you want, don’t miss the organic and sustainable fiber art clothing and accessories at Artful Gifts. For more arts and crafts must-sees, check out You Made That? Staunton’s Impressive Arts and Crafts Scene.

See a Live Performance

Staunton is best known for the American Shakespeare Center, where visitors can see world-class performances most days of the year. If you’d rather hear music, take in a concert by students at Heifetz International Music Institute. In August, the 22nd annual Staunton Music Festival offers 10 days of world-class classical programming. And the summer music series at Gypsy Hill Park  includes weekly outdoor concerts of gospel, jazz, and music from the long-standing Stonewall Brigade Band.

Take a Hike

Staunton is just a short drive from Shenandoah National Park as well as the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. These national treasures and offer miles of hiking and endless beauty.  The hike up Humpback Rocks, a local favorite, concludes high in the Blue Ridge and provides panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley. Prefer stretching your legs closer to civilization? Explore Staunton’s Montgomery Hall Park for hiking and biking within city limits and easy access to great food and drink.

Go Jump in a Lake

Hike a mile or two up the Riprap Trail to get warm before plunging into a large swimming hole in a mountain stream. Lake lovers will thrill for Sherando Lake Recreation Area, a 25-acre lake with a wide, clean sandy beach and picnic and restroom facilities. If you want to swim in a pool with a lifeguard, look no further than Staunton’s Gypsy Hill Park pool. Or check out these other area swimming holes

Visit a Museum

The Frontier Culture Museum, a living history museum, educates about the lifestyles of the various peoples who settled the Shenandoah Valley. Fans of presidential history will enjoy touring the buildings and grounds of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library. And families with future firefighters should swing by Jumbo Antique Fire Engine Museum to see the 1911 Robinson Chemical Fire Engine.

Relax at a Vineyard or Brewery

Why not sample some local wine? The Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room in downtown Staunton sells their yummy wine by the tasting, glass, or bottle. Take a peek at the upstairs art gallery, which rotates artists every three months. For delicious wine and amazing sunset views, grab a bottle and sit on the patio at Barren Ridge Vineyards in Augusta County. And if you like beer, travel the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. The trail consists of 15 microbreweries in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Augusta County, and Lexington and Rockbridge County.

Date Night Desserts and Where to Get Them

Win your date’s heart over with a romantic dinner followed by one of Staunton’s sweetest treats. Make your special someone swoon with the help of a delicious dessert from this list.

The Split Banana

Why not relive your first date with a movie at the Visulite followed by a short stroll to The Split Banana for gelato? With 18 flavors ranging from classic to unusual tastes like mojito and almond fig, you’ll find something to make your tastebuds sing. Share a banana split and imagine your futures 5, 10, 15 years from now. Don’t lie – those futures will feature gelato!

Paris Cake Company

When you want a treat that’s as beautiful as it is tasty, don’t hesitate to wow your honey with one of the rich and decadent desserts at Paris Cake Company. Gorgeous cupcakes shaped like a bouquet of flowers? Check. Individual coconut cream pies? Chocolate chip cookie cheesecake? Check and check. Bonus: You can indulge in these treats after an equally delicious dinner at Table 44.

Réunion Bakery & Espresso

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day night to steal your sweetie’s heart. Meet for coffee and pastries at Réunion, a Staunton sweet spot which recently received a nod from Vogue! Enjoy espresso, buttery croissants, and a morning of gazing into each other’s eyes across a cafe. Staunton will be replacing Paris as the City of Love!

Giancarlo Fine European Pastries

Speaking of European pastry, don’t forget to select something from Giancarlo Fine European Pastries. If you’re cooking at home and you want to end your meal on a note that will make your love’s toes curl, try the tiramisu. Giancarlo also offers cakes, tarts, and pastries, and beautiful chocolates “crafted with a premium Cordillera Colombian 65 % cacao – bittersweet and a 36% dark milk, single bean chocolate.”

Firkin Pie Company

It’s always time for pie! Firkin Pie Company bakes beautiful, flavorful pies in both the sweet and savory variety. The menu varies, but expect seasonal flavors like cranberry chess and chocolate silk. Even Cupid couldn’t keep his hands off this fine, fine pie!

Cocoa Mill Chocolates

It will be love at first bite when you present your special someone with a box of handmade, gourmet chocolate from Cocoa Mill Chocolates. The Valentine’s Day assortment even comes in an attractive and edible box.

Looking to spend an entire weekend with your special someone? Check out 48 Hours of Romance in Staunton for a sample itinerary.

Get Happy in Staunton: 10 Happy Hour Spots

You’ve had a full day experiencing the history and culture of Staunton and now it’s time to unwind before gearing up again for a dinner and a show. Whether you’re looking for cocktails, wine, or beer, here are some of the best happy hour spots to grab a drink and some snacks with friends.

Clocktower Food and Spirits

Clocktower Food and Spirits is a cozy place to get a cocktail and an appetizer or settle in for a full meal. The building, built in 1890, was originally Virginia’s second YMCA. It still retains historic features like the clock. Filling and delicious appetizers include Philly steak potato skins, Irish nachos, and chicken wings. Happy hour specials on beer and wine Monday-Thursday, 4-7 p.m.

Second Draft Bistro

Second Draft Bistro is located in The Blackburn Inn. Enjoy daily happy hour from 5-7 p.m. Accompany your drinks with food from the seasonal menu, which includes appetizers and small plates, main courses, and desserts. If the weather is accommodating, you can sit on the front porch and view the historic grounds.

Sorrel’s Lounge

Sorrel’s Lounge at the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center is an elegant stop in close proximity to the American Shakespeare Center. Enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine. Happy hour specials served weekdays from 5-7 p.m.


If you’re seeking a spot that has the feel of the big city, look no further than the bar at Zynodoa. Choose a unique cocktail that incorporates locally sourced ingredients like herbs, honey, or vinegar. You might also select beer or wine from the extensive wine list. Finish your evening with a dinner featuring “inspired Southern cuisine” or head to a show at the American Shakespeare Center, which is only steps away.

Yelping Dog Wine

Yelping Dog Wine features both local wines and wines from over 200 vineyards around the world. Enjoy an ever-changing wine-by-the-glass menu or indulge in a bottle to share from the extensive selection. The atmosphere at Yelping Dog is quiet and relaxed, perfect for for chatting with a friend or larger group. Hungry? Try one of the cheese plates or gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.

The Depot Grille

The Depot Grille celebrates Staunton’s history with its location in the historic train depot. The entrance is flanked with cabooses and the 40-foot bar, which was “originally a fixture in the luxury Ten Eyck Hotel, located in Albany, New York.” Order wine, beer, a classic cocktail, or something fun like a mochatini, which includes espresso vodka, Godiva liqueur, and cream. Appetizers include classics like wings and skins, but also ahi tuna sashimi, fried calamari, and steamed spiced shrimp.

Byers Street Bistro

You can’t go wrong starting your evening at Byers Street Bistro in Staunton’s historic Wharf District. Enjoy beer, wine, or a classic cocktail in this cozy and casual setting. Plan to share some crispy potstickers or drunken chicken nachos with your drinks and follow up with dinner. When the weather’s warm, you can enjoy happy hour on the brick patio.

Bedlam Brewing

You’ll stop in at Bedlam Brewing for a pint before dinner and you’ll end up staying for dinner. Try a pizza, some sliders, the fish and chips, or something from the specials menu. Check the events calendar for fun stuff like live music, Bingo and comedy nights. The Monday happy hour from 4-7 p.m. includes $9 pizza and “app and tap” specials.

Bricks Restaurant and Pub

If you’re looking for a cool and welcoming place to get a drink and play pool in downtown Staunton, make Bricks your next stop. Not only can you get beer, wine, or cider, but you can follow it with a pizza. Still hungry? Donuts are on the menu for dessert. Check the events page for the regular heavy metal nights. Daily happy hour from 5-8 p.m.

Baja bean co.

This local cantina has a stellar beer list—that is always changing. Beer aficionados will love their  “tap takeover,” events where they pour multiple craft brews from the same brewery. Next up, is Augusta County’s newest brewery, Skipping Rock Beer Co. on April 9th.

Be sure not to fill up on chips and salsa, the Southern-California inspired menu takes a creative approach to Mexican favorites with daily specials and of course margaritas! 

Historic Garden Week 2019

Historic Garden Week returns to Staunton just in time for the highlights of spring’s floral glory. This year’s tour takes place on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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

The Augusta Garden Club turns 100 this year. To celebrate this milestone birthday, the club is hosting a tour of five “historic homes with outstanding architectural value that chronicle the history of both Staunton and the Augusta Garden Club.” The tour is in or close to Staunton’s downtown and most of the featured homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The interiors of the homes on the tour will feature floral arrangements created by garden club members.

Houses on the Tour

Oakdene / 605 East Beverley Street

Architects Yarnall and Goforth built Oakdene in 1893 in the Queen Anne style of architecture. It was tastefully renovated in recent years. This home’s interior retains fine examples of Gothic revival, including a sentry owl with light-up eyes. The gardens were designed in 1934 by A.A. Farnham.

Stuart House / 120 Church Street

Built in 1791 in the Classical Revival style, Stuart House is likely Staunton’s first brick house. Thomas Jefferson influenced the design – perhaps directly. Thomas Blackburn, designer of Staunton’s Blackburn Inn, designed the 1844 wing. Renovated in 1975 by a former Garden Club of Virginia president, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Waverley Hill / 3001 North Augusta Street

Another former president of the Garden Club of Virginia, Emily Smith, built Waverley Hill in 1929. Architect William Bottomley, a distinguished and sought-after Colonial Revival designer, designed it. The house overlooks the Blue Ridge and gardens designed by Arthur Shurcliff, landscape architect for Colonial Williamsburg.

Whitestone / 2712 North Augusta Street

Built between 1920 and 1922, Whitestone is a Colonial-inspired fieldstone house . Landscape architect Charles Gillette originally designed the gardens, and owners have added to them over the years. The house is currently owned by founding member and lead singer of the Statler Brothers, Don Reid (and his wife). It features artwork and memorabilia

The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum / 20 North Coalter Street

Built in 1947 in the Greek Revival style, the mansion housing the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum was originally the manse of the First Presbyterian Church. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, was born here in 1856. Open to the public since 1941, the property has been restored over the years. Charles Gillette designed the gardens in 1933 and Ralph Griswold designed the terrace in 1967.

Before You Go

  • Access parking and van transportation to Waverley Hall and Whitestone at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2001 N. Coalter St. or Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2807 N. Augusta Street.
  • Park in public lots or on the streets for homes in the downtown area.
  • Visit houses in any order.
  • Plan to wear flat walking shoes for your comfort in touring the gardens. This also protects the interiors of the homes.
  • Plan ahead: there are no public restrooms on tour properties. Restrooms will be available at the churches as well as the Staunton Visitor’s Center.
  • Buy your advance tickets before April 26. Attendees may purchase tickets on the day of the event at all tour properties.
  • Please respect the home owners’ privacy by refraining from taking interior photography.
  • If you want to take a memory of the tour home with you plan to purchase a painting by one of the plein air artists who will be painting in the tour’s gardens. Work will be available at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church from 3:30-4:30 p.m. and at Sunspots Pavilion from 2-3 p.m.

Caught the Garden Tour Bug?

After visiting Staunton and enjoying your tour, plan to tour more of Virginia’s 200 plus historic gardens. See Virginia Garden Week’s suggested itineraries. Nearby destinations hosting tours include Harrisonburg, Lexington, Albemarle-Charlottesville, UVA Pavilion Gardens, and Lynchburg.

Other notable gardens a short drive away from Staunton include the Andre Viette Farms (Fishersville), Edith J. Carrier Arboretum (Harrisonburg) and Boxerwood Gardens (Lexington).

Spring Break (And Summer) Survival, 2019

Spring break is here and that means it’s time to kick the cabin fever and get outside with the kids. Now that the weather is warmer, Staunton is bursting with stuff to do. Visit for a day or spend a weekend. Here’s your guide.

the Train Obsessed

Does your family love trains? Visit the historic train station and Sears Hill Bridge. You’ll see the tracks – and Staunton – from above. On the other side of town, the Gypsy Express Mini-Train runs on the weekends from May to October in Gypsy Hill Park. For an awesome display of model train layouts and railroad art, head to the Augusta County Railroad Museum in the Staunton Mall. And if your obsession leans toward fire trucks, you’ll like the Staunton Fire Station, where you can see JUMBO, the oldest motorized fire engine in Virginia and the only remaining 1911 Robinson fire engine.

History Buffs

Pack a picnic and rent a wagon for a day of exploration at the Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll learn about the Valley’s earliest settlers as you make your way from the Old World to the New. Costumed interpreters and farm animals bring the farmsteads to life. Older children might enjoy learning about the life and legacy of our 28th President at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum.

Hikers and Bikers

Montgomery Hall Park is one of Staunton’s best kept secrets with its rolling hills and quiet woodlands. The park includes 148 acres of nature hiking and mountain biking trails. Younger children just getting used to their wheels might prefer the mostly flat, 1.3-mile paved loop at Gypsy Hill Park. Staunton is only a stone’s throw from Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest which are filled with hikes and other outdoor recreation.

Theater Lovers

Don’t miss a chance to enter the Bard’s world at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse. See a play and be sure to schedule a tour so you can go behind, under, and even on stage! If you’re looking for films, visit the Visulite where Mom and Dad can sip a glass of wine or beer during the show. And for a real bargain, check out Legacy Theaters, where all tickets are only $3.

Playground Aficionados

Located in Montgomery Hall Park, Nature Ridge is designed for imaginative play. It features a tunnel, mud kitchen, elevated walkways, pirate ship, chimes, and sand pits.. Montgomery Hall park also has a traditional playground and a public pool for warmer weather. Gypsy Hill Park offers a large playground with structures designed for children ranging from 2-12. It also offers a tot lot for the youngest crowd.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Pop in to play at Pufferbellies, the largest independently owned toy store in the Shenandoah Valley, and enjoy the carefully curated selection of toys, games, and books. Gaming fans will find all kinds of gaming and hobby supplies including dice, living card games, and hobby rocket kits at the Dragon’s Hoard. Video game enthusiasts can purchase games and consoles at Game Stop. And for beautiful dollhouses and the detailed miniatures to furnish them, try Ware House Miniatures.

Treasure Hunters

If you have an hour and a team of sleuths on your hands, take them to Crack the Code escape room and work together to solve puzzles and escape. Themes include The Dark Mage’s Rise, Haunted Mansion, and Steampunk City. Ages 10+. If you want to get more mileage under your belt, explore different parts of Staunton on foot using the free app, Traipse! Traipse provides an adventure that is half historic tour and half scavenger hunt. You can even build your own tour based on your interests, time and even level of difficulty.

Artists and Crafters

For a cool and unusual experience, check out the live glassblowing at Sunspots Studios. Artists blow bubbles from lumps of molten glass and turn it into ornaments, vases, and other beautiful pieces. Sunspots offers a chance to try your own hand at this (with the help of a trained artist) when you try “Blowing Your Own Ornament.” Enjoy the art gallery experience and support local artists at the Co-Art Gallery and the Artisans Loft. Visit the R.R. Smith Center for art and history. And if your kids like to build models, take them to Staunton Trains and Hobbies for model kits and supplies.

Trolley Riders

Want to relax as someone else drives you around Staunton stopping at all the important attractions? Ride the green trolley for 25 cents per rider, per trip. The Green route runs every 30 minutes from the Visitors Center located at 35 S. New Street. Check out the Victorian architecture from your seat, or hop off to view the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum and Gypsy Hill Park where the kids can feed the ducks.

Hungry Bellies

Order by the slice or by the entire pie from Shenandoah Pizza & Taphouse. Locally named, gourmet pizzas, feature a variety of ingredients including dill pickles for those who want to stretch their comfort zones. The Depot Grille is a good place to go for a kid-friendly experience with a big menu, and if you’re looking for old-fashioned burgers (and ice cream to follow) head to Wright’s Dairy Rite. Speaking of ice cream, other Staunton hot spots include Kline’s for custard-style ice cream and the The Split Banana for homemade gelato.

Festival Folk

Spring break over? Visit Staunton for festivals during the warmer months, including Earth Day, Art in the Park, and Happy Birthday America. For other special events and weekly happenings check out Staunton On Tap, our schedule of events with all the latest happenings.

Explore Staunton on Foot: Beverley Historic District

Downtown Staunton contains many examples of Virginia’s finest Victorian architecture. Some of the most notable can be seen in the Beverley Historic District, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Most of the buildings in this area date from the 1870s to the 1920s. This historic district is small, and therefore perfect for exploring on foot.

Where to Park

Park in the New Street Parking Garage ($1/hour) or in the Hardy lot on Market Street ($.50/hour).

Market Street

The Stonewall Jackson Hotel, 24 S. Market St., was built in 1924 in the Colonial Revival style and is recognized by the National Trust Historic Hotels of America. Designed by H.L. Stevens & Co. of New York, it lends some of that city’s height to Staunton and rings in as Staunton’s tallest building. The red, neon sign and original details like marble floors, chandeliers, and only known working Wurlitzer organ on the mezzanine were retained when the hotel underwent at $21.5 million dollar renovation and expansion in 2005. Peek inside the lobby and imagine the society women who used to gather around the fireplace in what is now the cocktail lounge.

Though not an example of historic architecture, the American Shakespeare Center at 10 S Market St. is an important Staunton landmark. Built to resemble Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Theatre, a 14th-century monastery converted to Tudor theater, it produces Shakespeare’s plays as well as contemporary works.

Cross Beverley Street and continue past the parking lot to see The Temple House of Israel at 15 N Market St. The one-story stucco Moorish Revival building was built in 1925 to house a growing congregation.

East Beverley Street

Backtrack and head west on Beverley to see an example of a 1912 Renaissance Revival building at 125 E. Beverley St., originally the New Theatre, a lively venue for performances and silent films until a fire destroyed the interior in 1936. Note also on this block at 113 E. Beverley St. (1870), now Staunton’s General District Court, the site where the City Manager form of government originated in 1908.

For a chance to take home your own bit of history, check out the treasures at 17 E. Beverley Antiques, which carries furniture, decor, and vintage art and clothing, and Black Swan Books and Music, which buys and sells rare and used books and records.

East Beverley Street (Continued)

Continue your tour by crossing New Street.

This block contains examples of the Venetian Revival style at 19-21 E. Beverley (1911) and the Colonial Revival style at 7&9-15 E. Beverley St. (1899-1906). For an example of the Romanesque Revival style, look no further than the Marquis Building at 2-4 E. Beverly Street. Architect T.J. Collins not only designed the structure, notable for its corner entrance and stone columns, but housed his offices there as well. The Beverley Cigar Store can be found there now.

The Camera Heritage Museum offers its own perspective on history and is worth a quick tour. Staunton Antiques Center deals in furniture, collectibles, and local, contemporary art, and Warehouse Collectibles and Antiques offers “two huge floors of anything old.” And if you’re feeling parched from all this history, The Split Banana will refresh you with 18 flavors gelato and sorbet with names like Almond Fig and Highland County Maple.

West Beverley Street

Cross Augusta Street and enter one of Staunton’s most architecturally notable blocks.

For a glimpse of the Beaux-Arts style, see the National Valley Bank at 12 – 14 W. Beverley St. (1903). Large oval stained glass skylight inside complement the ornate limestone exterior. The Gooch & Hoge Building at 15 – 23 W. Beverley St. (1880) is an example of the Italianate style and includes many fine details like lion’s heads.

Two of Staunton’s most recognizable buildings also grace this block. The Masonic Temple at 7 – 13 W. Beverley St. (1896) is a perfect example of one of Staunton’s oldest buildings retaining its history as well as living a new live through its businesses. One of Staunton’s tallest buildings, it features a gable roof and mixes classical and medieval elements and is home to Baja Bean Co., The Split Banana, and H. L. Lang & Co. Jewelers.

In 1916, T.J. Collins remodeled The Clocktower 27 – 29 W. Beverley St (1890). The first floor now houses the Clocktower Restaurant and Bar, Downtown 27 (a music and event space), and The Clock Tower Convenience Store, but it was originally the YMCA, notable for being only the second in Virginia. It contained a bowling alley, track, and gym. Many of the original components of the clock are still working today!

This block features even more antiquing at Queen City Marketplace and the taproom at Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company.

Cross Central Avenue to see another example of the Romanesque Revival style at 103 W. Beverley St. (1894), originally the showroom of the Putnam Organ Works.

Augusta and New Streets

Head back toward Central Ave. and turn south. Your child side will enjoy the elevated sidewalk, mural of the painting workman, and glimpse of Lewis Creek before it dips back underground. Turn left on Johnson St. and proceed one block to Augusta Street.

The Augusta County Courthouse at 1 E Johnson St. (1901) was built by T.J. Collins in the Beaux Arts style, and is actually the fifth courthouse on this site, dating back to a 1755 log structure. The smaller structures flanking the courthouse along Barristers Row (pre-1870) have always housed law offices, but used to have a more eclectic demographic, consisting of restaurants, bars, cobblers, and barbers.

A fun play on the location is the Crack the Code Escape Room, where visitors can choose from several themed rooms and work together to escape in one hour. Those enjoying old, used, and rare books should check out Barrister Books.

End your tour by turning back onto New Street, making sure to note 20 – 22 S. New St. (1894), home to the R. R. Smith Center for History & Art. The Staunton Augusta Art Center, the Augusta County Historical Society, and Historic Staunton Foundation all operate in the recently restored, French Second Empire-style, T.J. Collins-designed Eakleton Hotel. Notable features of the building are the mansard roof, iron balconies, and decorative brickwork.

One of Staunton’s oldest commercial buildings can be found at 3 – 7 S. New St. (1830). Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery is housed in one of Staunton’s oldest commercial buildings. In the past, the structure has been a laundry facility, taxi garage, print shop, and tailor’s studio. The brick was a modern addition during the Victorian Era, but you can still see the original stone on the side walls. Wrap up your tour with something delicious to eat!


Here’s Why You Need That Winter Getaway to Staunton

Looking for a way to shake the post-holiday blahs? Let Staunton serve up a sure cure for you. Start planning a winter getaway for your family, your couple, or your friends today!

Frozen Wonderland

With Staunton as your starting point, you’ll find a plethora of spectacular winter views. Go east for drives or hikes along the Blue Ridge on the Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Venture west to explore the Alleghenies and Bath County. Stick close to Staunton for some of the best winter pastoral views.

Foodie Paradise

Close your eyes when you enter one of Staunton’s fine dining establishments and you’ll think you’re in a much larger city. Indulge your taste buds with fine dining at The Shack or Table 44, global fare at Chicano Boy Taco or Taste of India, traditional and delicious meals at The Depot Grille or the Mill Street Grill, or the retro dining experience at Wright’s Dairy Rite.

Antiquer’s Delight

If hunting for treasures is your game, you’ve got to check out Staunton’s vintage offerings. From funky finds to recycled riches, spend the day perusing Staunton’s eight antique shops and markets.  A short drive to Verona will get you to the Factory Antique Mall, one of the largest in the country. Read all about our antique offerings

Instagramer’s Dream Scene

There are many reasons that Staunton keeps popping up on the best small towns lists and one of them is its beauty. From its rolling hills and quaint Victorian architecture, to parks, gardens like the one at the Anne Hathaway Cottage Tea Room, to industrial elements like the red neon Stonewall Jackson Hotel sign, the train station, and  Sears Hill Footbridge over the tracks, you’ll find no end to cool backgrounds for your selfies. While you’re here seek out Staunton’s five photogenic hot spots. 

Hub for History Buffs

Staunton provides a healthy dose of history. As one of the oldest cities west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Staunton’s history spans three centuries. A wide selection of historic attractions, archival collections, old buildings, museums, and Civil Warsites are located in and around Staunton. Highlights include the Frontier Culture Museum, an outdoor living history museum providing snapshots of life on the frontier from the 1600s through the mid-1800s in this area. Jumping ahead to the 20th century, take a closer look at our 28th president at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum as you take a self-guided tour through seven galleries that explore Wilson’s life and legacy. Highlights include the President’s restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine as well as a new, state-of–the-art World War I trench exhibit complete with lights and sound to experience what life was like for soldiers as they engaged in battle. 

 You can also tour historic districts downtown and learn about Staunton’s place in Civil War history as you explore Thornrose Cemetery.

attractions galore

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

The Actors’ Renaissance Season kicks off on January 11. With no director, little costume assistance, and very little rehearsal time—similar to the way historians believe Shakespeare’s company operated—ASC actors take the stage in four different productions: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, Part I, Anne Page Hates Fun, and Arden of Faversham. 

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

Wildlife Hot spots

Situated between Shenandoah National Park and the Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Staunton is a great place to view winter wildlife. See our list of wildlife hot spots for when the chilly weather keeps you close to your hotel. If you feel like venturing beyond Staunton, check out Winter Wildlife Hot Spots Part 2: Farther Afield.