Tips for the First-Time Visitor to Staunton
Congratulations on deciding to visit Staunton for the first time! We promise you’ll have so much fun exploring that you’ll start planning your next visit right away. Here are our insider tips for first-time visitors to the Queen City.
Why Visit Staunton?
- Staunton has a charming and walkable downtown that boasts dozens of independently owned shops and restaurants that emphasize farm-to-table fare.
- Visitors come to enjoy the rich arts scene that includes productions at the Blackfriars Playhouse, the Staunton Music Festival, the juried Art in the Park art show, and a wealth of galleries.
- Visitors come to learn about history in our museums and historic downtown.
- They also come to hike in nearby parks and wilderness areas, paddle our rivers, and bike our roads and mountain trails.
- They come for Staunton’s phenomenal dining opportunities.
- Finally, people visit (and return to) Staunton because of our great sense of community, found in places like the Staunton Farmers’ Market and the downtown business district during Shop and Dine Out Downtown.
Tips and Tricks
- It’s pronounced STAN-ton. Rumor has it that the U sound was dropped way back during Civil War times to ferret out spies. It’s named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of colonial governor Sir William Gooch. It’s called the Queen City because it was once the county seat of the largest county in the world!
- Stop at the Staunton Visitor Center, located at 35 South New Street for maps and information.
- Park in the New Street Parking Garage and catch the $0.25 trolley for easy access to Staunton’s top locations.
- Here’s where to stay, shop, and dine.
- We love Harry Potter, and Queen City Mischief and Magic weekend is one of our busiest all year. The entire downtown transforms into a Hogwarts-inspired destination. We also go all out on our Christmas and 4th of July parades and celebrations! These events are busy, but lots and lots of fun!
Learn about Staunton history by exploring one of several museums. The Frontier Culture Museum brings the past to life with living history exhibits depicting the lives of the area’s early settlers. Learn about the life of 28th President Woodrow Wilson at the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, and discover the history of cameras at the Camera Heritage Museum. Weekly and self-guided walking tours give you a sense of the city’s past, and ghost tours spice up that history with some goosebumps. Check out all of our tour options!
Staunton was once a sleepy little town, but when the Virginia Central Railroad arrived in 1854, it became a hub for commerce and travel. You can enjoy this history today with a stroll around the Wharf Historic District with its turn-of-the-century train station. Make time to climb the Sears Hill Bridge for an amazing view of the city. The Virginia Scenic Railway offers excursions from the station. Younger folk (and their adults) will love the Gypsy Hill Express mini train that runs weekend loops in Gypsy Hill Park.
Let your tastebuds lead the way
You’d better come to Staunton hungry! The rich culinary scene features both global eateries like Gloria’s Pupuseria and Chicano Boy Taco and farm-to-table restaurants like Zynodoa and The Shack. You can get tapas at Ailoi, upscale burgers at Remedy Burger or gourmet pizza at Shenandoah Pizza, steak and seafood at BLU Point Seafood, family diner fare at Wright’s Dairy Rite, and much more. We even have The Split Banana, a gelato shop and Sweet Addie’s, a restaurant serving only decadent loaded Belgian waffles.
Staunton is a great home-base for exploring the Virginia craft beer scene. Redbeard Brewing is located downtown and Queen City Brewing is steps away from Gypsy Hill Park. Both offer delicious, fresh beer and entertainment like live music. Staunton is also centrally located along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, which includes 17 breweries all located within an hour’s drive of each other. Staunton also has a few tasting rooms like Ox-Eye Vineyards, Yelping Dog, Accordia, which features Barren Ridge wines and Ciders from Mars, which offers a range of craft hard ciders.
Yes, bring your dog
Staunton’s a dog-friendly town with lots of dog-friendly hotels and businesses. Walkable neighborhoods are good for stretching your legs and friendly pooches will love to meet and greet on the 1.3-mile loop in Gypsy Hill Park. The park also has a fenced leash-free dog park with enclosures for large and small dogs. Montgomery Hall Park has miles of wooded trails for seclusion and hikes as well as barking a squirrels. We even have a boutique, The Well-Balanced Paw, that caters specifically to pups.
If you’re planning outdoor fun during your visit (we’re just a short drive away from Shenandoah National Park and George Washington and Jefferson National Forest), make sure you stock up on good gear before you go. Wilderness Adventure stocks a big selection of quality outdoor clothing, boots, and gear. If you’re going to peddle while you’re here, Black Dog Bikes can set you up will all the gear and supplies you need, and if you have a breakdown, they can do repairs.
Document your Trip
Make sure you preserve your memories with lots of photos and souvenirs! Here’s a guide to our mural scene and some of our other favorite selfie locations, and here’s where to snag Staunton swag. You might also want to commemorate your trip in a new journal from Words Matter. Just looking for a unique gift? Try Medieval Fantasies, Little Shoppe of Crystals, or Queen City Games and Gifts.
We hope you enjoy discovering Staunton for the first time. Please come back soon.
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