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 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.