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Plan Your “Nest” Adventure: Birdwatching in Staunton

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

Bell’s Lane

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

Montgomery Hall Park

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

Betsy Bell Wilderness

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

Gypsy Hill Park

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

Sanger’s Lane

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

Augusta Springs Wetlands

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

Natural Chimneys 

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

Shenandoah National Park

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

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

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

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

 

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

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

Places to Try It

Yelping Dog / 9 E. Beverley Street

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

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

Ox-Eye Vineyards / 44 Middlebrook Avenue

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

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

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

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

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

Pompei Lounge / 23 E Beverley Street

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

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

Places to Buy It

The Wine Cellar / 8 Byers Street

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

Hours: 11-6

Nu-Beginning Farm The Store / 221 North Lewis Street

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

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

Cranberries / 7 South New Street

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

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

Other Area Vineyards Within Easy Driving Distance of Staunton

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

Planning Ahead

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

Free Stuff to Do for Adults: 2019

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

Artsy Things

Beverley Street Studio School Gallery & Co-Art Gallery

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

Hunt Gallery

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

Gallery at Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room

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

Artisans Loft

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

Staunton Augusta Arts Center

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

Sunspots Studios

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

Heifetz Institute

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

Staunton Music Festival

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

 

Historic Things

Trinity Episcopal Church

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

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

Thornrose Cemetery

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

Historic Staunton Foundation Guided Tour

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

Outdoorsy Things

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray Wilderness Parks

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

Gypsy Hill Park

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

Montgomery Hall Park

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

Tasty Things

The Wine Cellar

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

Staunton Olive Oil Company

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

Fun Stuff at Breweries

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

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

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

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

Montgomery Hall Park

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

Betsy Bell Wilderness

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

Sherando Lake

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

North River Gorge

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

Augusta Springs Wetlands

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

White Rock Falls

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

Wanna Get Cheesy? 9 Pizza Paradises in Staunton, VA

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

Shenandoah Pizza and Taphouse

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

Newtown Baking

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

Bedlam Brewing

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

Bricks Restaurant and Pub

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

New York Flying Pizza

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

Maria’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant

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

Fresco

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

Byers Street Bistro

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

Stella Mia Pizzeria

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

Your Guide to Staunton’s Summer Music Festivals: 2019

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

11th Annual Shenandoah Valley Wine & Jazz Festival

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

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

Fan Favorite:

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

Must See:

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

Have a Listen:

Randy Johnson sings “Don’t Think Twice.”

Happy Birthday America Featuring Wilson Fairchild

July 3 – 4

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

When & Where:

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

John Moxie Stadium and Fairgrounds Lot at Gypsy Hill Park

Must See:

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

Have a Listen:

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

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

Before You Go:

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

Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts

June 29 – August 9

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

Fan Favorite:

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

When & Where:

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

7:30 p.m.

Page Terrace, Mary Baldwin University

Must See:  

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

When & Where:

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

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

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

Have a Listen:

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

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

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

Before You Go:

Red Wing Roots Music Festival

July 12 – 14

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

Must See:

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

Fan Favorites:

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

Have a Listen:

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

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

Before You Go:

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

Second Annual Valley Beach Music Festival

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

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

Have a Listen:

The Bootsie Daniels Band performs “Love Train.”

Before You Go:

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

Shenandoah Valley Blues & Virginia Brews Festival

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

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

Fan Favorite: 

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

Must See: 

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

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

Before You Go:

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

Staunton Music Festival

August 16 – 25

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

Fan Favorite:

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

When & Where:

Sunday, August 25, 4 p.m.

Must See:

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

When & Where:

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

Trinity Episcopal Church

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

When & Where:

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

Trinity Episcopal Church

Have a Listen:

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

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

Before You Go:

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

Visit Staunton on Foot: Thornrose Cemetery

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

History

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

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

Notable Sites

Main Entrance

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

Footbridge and Tower

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

General John Echols

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

Fort Stonewall Jackson

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

Jed Hotchkiss

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

Eva Clark

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

Row of Crypts and Garden

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

Mortuary Art

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

Staunton Mourning Her Dead

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

Before You Visit

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

 

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.

Breweries

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.

Restaurants

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.