The only incorporated town in Virginia’s Warren County, Front Royal, has a few interesting accounts of how it got its name.
As the Warren’s County seat, the town teems with history, and these accounts reflect this heritage.
One account mentions that the massive oak tree, the “Royal” Tree of England,” standing in the town square gave the town its name.
This tree stood during the Colonial period in American history. Likewise, the local militia drilled near the tree.
Their drill sergeant would often command them to “front the Royal Oak,” which got shortened to “Front Royal.”
During the American Revolution, the local militia guarded the town.
People entering the town needed to complete the special password at the sentry.
When he calls out “Front,” the guests have to respond with “Royal.” This exchange would lend its name to the military post called “Camp Front Royal.”
Today, Front Royal offers various historical sites and landmarks for the curious tourist.
Do you want to know more about Front Royal, VA?
Here’s a list of the best things to do in town:
Explore the Depths of the Skyline Caverns
If you wanted to visit one of the few places in the world where Anthodites hang, you need to go to Front Royal and enter the Skyline Caverns.
What are these anthodites anyway?
These are unique rock formations that appear in deep caves.
Join the hundreds of thousands of tourists who enter the caverns every year and learn new things about the planet we call home.
In 1937, Dr. Walter S. Amos discovered the underground caverns and discovered secrets that lay underground for 60 million years.
Two years later, these caverns opened to the public and welcomed millions of guests.
One of them was the star singer Bing Crosby.
Today, the caverns remain unspoiled, looking the same as it was when Dr. Amos discovered it.
Practice Your Swing at the Front Royal Golf Club
It’s fair to say that the Front Royal Golf Club is one of the town’s historically significant recreational spots.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tasked the Civilian Conservation Corps to build this golf club on land Mr. William E. Carson had donated.
Construction began in 1938, with Carson himself providing the design, which remains to this day.
The Front Royal Golf Club is a 9-hole course, although its 18 tee boxes could still challenge any confident golfer.
Likewise, the varying slopes and gradations will make you feel like you’re playing at a genuine 18-hole course.
Besides golf, the club also offers boating memberships, fishing memberships, and duck hunting access.
Learn Beer History at the Virginia Beer Museum
You may not know this, but the state of Virginia has the distinction of being the beer brewing and drinking capital of America.
Today, the state continues to see a rising number of craft breweries, numbering over 200.
These breweries started from the single brewery in 1994, Richmond’s aptly named Legend.
The Virginia Beer Museum in Front Royal recounts the interesting story of breweries in the state through displays, artifacts, and guided tasting tours.
Each tour promotes Virginia breweries.
Likewise, the rooms represent a specific period in the state’s beer-making history, from 1607 to the present day.
It’s also the only museum in the entire country to focus on the beer-brewing history of a single state.
Step Back in Time at the Historic Balthis House
Visit the Front Royal Historic District to find the Balthis House, a fine example of the Federal style townhouse popular in the late 18th to the early 19thcentury.
It’s also one of Front Royal’s few surviving houses built in this style.
During your visit, you’ll find that the house retains its original period layout.
Many of its furnishings—like doors and chair rails—survived from the demolished houses on Chester Street.
The Balthis family bought the property in 1838, making their house the oldest standing house on Chester Street.
(Chester Street is also Front Royal’s oldest street.)
Back then, Front Royal was a bustling hub for wagon manufacturing, producing wagons for the Southern and Western states.
Today, the house is open for public tours.
Try Fine Wines at the Glen Manor Vineyards
The Glen Manor Vineyards share Front Royal’s rich history.
In 1787, the owners’ ancestors arrived in the Front Royal area.
His heirs sold the land to the Marshall family in 1812, who in turn sold 8,000 acres to William Woodward in 1837.
In 1901, Stephen Clifton Lawson bought a portion of the Woodward property.
Today, Stephen Lawson’s great-grandson Jeff Raymond White manages and runs the vineyard.
He had developed a passion for winemaking at a Virginia winery, which he brought to bear on the farmland.
In 1995, Jeff put up the first 6 acres of vineyards in the area.
You can visit the Glen Manor Vineyards to taste their wine or tour the grounds.
Their offerings include Sauvignon Blancs, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Francs, Vin Rouges, and many others.
Become a Fierce Warrior at the Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co.
If you need a place to blow off some steam, come visit the Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Company in Front Royal.
The axe-throwing range is open to everyone of all ages since axe-throwing has become a popular recreational activity.
Don’t worry if you’re a complete newbie.
The company will teach you how to throw axes accurately and safely.
During your visit, you’ll find eight axe-throwing lanes that can fit six people each.
It’s a terrific place for a friendly hangout or a family bonding adventure.
After you throw axes, you can order from their full menu to satisfy your appetites.
Located in the heart of Front Royal, the Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co. should help you find something thrilling to do if you find yourself in town.
Revisit Local History with the Warren Historical Society
In 1971, the town of Front Royal established the Warren Historical Society to preserve and retell the history of Front Royal and Warren County.
They hold regular events such as living history museums, lectures, and summer history camps for kids.
Likewise, their permanent exhibits contain various artifacts showing how life in Front Royal changed throughout history.
If you’re curious about your roots, you can visit the Laura Virginia Hale Archives.
They can connect you to distant Virginian ancestors you didn’t know you had.
They have records of every issue of the Warren Sentinel newspaper and funeral homes, among others.
Every October, the Society also sponsors the Festival of Leaves to raise funds for the society and to let the townspeople celebrate local history.
Learn Civil War History at the Belle Boyd Cottage
One of the oldest buildings in Front Royal is the Belle Boyd Cottage, where many important figures in American history stayed.
President Franklin Pierce stayed there before delivering a speech at the town square.
However, the cottage’s association with famous Confederate spy Belle Boyd cemented its place in history.
During the Civil War, Belle Boyd stayed at the hotel, which the Union officers used as a headquarters.
Belle and her family moved to the little cottage whenever these officers were around.
Boyd gave information on Union troop positions to the Confederate Army, which helped General “Stonewall” Jackson win the Battle of Front Royal on May 23, 1862.
After the Civil War, Belle Boyd became an active theater actress and married three times.
Four of her five children survived.
In 1981, the Warren Heritage Society received the building as a donation and relocated it in 1982.
Revisit Historical Lifestyles at the Country Store Museum
In the 1950s, Bernard Samuels cobbled together pieces of salvaged wood from the Balthis House to build the Country Store Museum.
Its original name was “The Loom House,” but no weaving happened there.
Instead, it is now an accurate reproduction of a general store circa the late 1800s to early 1900s, which also houses the Stokes Collection.
During your visit, you can see the original 1890 post office box taken from Sentinel, Virginia, sitting on the old store’s original counter.
During the 2008 Festival of the Leaves, the Country Store opened to the public, along with the Stokes Collection.
Today, you can access the collection during special events or by request.
Drink Wine with a View at the Chester Gap Cellars
What better way to enjoy a glass of wine than by enjoying a gorgeous mountainside view?
The Chester Gap Cellars’ mountainside location allows you to do both.
Located at the northernmost part of the Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop, Chester Gap is also the highest-elevated vineyards in Virginia.
The vineyards’ breathtaking wines are fully the equal of its marvelous scenery.
You can try their Viognier, Merlot, Petit Manseng, and Cabernet Franc, among other unique blends.
Take your chosen wine and enjoy it inside their lush tasting room or the spacious outdoor deck.
Explore Front Royal History at the Ivy Lodge Museum
The headquarters of the Warren Historical Society is the Ivy Lodge Museum, another historic building in Front Royal.
During your visit, you’ll find permanent exhibits and artifacts on the history of the Native American population, the early settlers, and the development of industry and agriculture.
You can also buy tickets to the Balthis House and the Belle Boyd Cottage here.
Likewise, Ivy Lodge is unique because it’s an educational landmark of Warren County.
It used to be a school; it also housed school officials.
For example, Ms. N. Fellows, who taught at the prestigious Front Royal Academy, also gave private lessons to the girls of Ivy Lodge.
She taught them manners, calisthenics, and art.
The Confederate officer Major Victor Moreau Brown lived in Ivy Lodge while he reopened the Front Royal Academy.
His death occasioned the largest funeral service in the town.
Spend the Day at the Lions Park
You won’t run out of things to do at Lions Park, one of the hottest parks in all of Warren County.
Bring your kids to the park’s two playground areas while you prepare lunch at the picnic shelter.
If you want to spend an afternoon hanging out with family or friends, Lions Park is the place for you.
Located at the intersection of Warren Avenue and Commerce Avenue, the 3-acre Lions Park also hosts the kids’ favorite Fantasyland Playground.
This playground is a huge wooden play structure that offers two swings, five slides, and a network of tunnels and climbing areas for kids big and small.
Ride the Horses at the Royal Horseshoe Farms
Are you still nurturing dreams of being a horse-riding cowboy?
Make those dreams come true at the Royal Horseshoe Farms, a family-owned riding stable in Front Royal.
The farm contains 90 acres of trails, either forested or meadow.
Likewise, it also has more than 50 acres of pastureland.
During your visit, you can ask one of the farms’ certified horse-riding instructors to teach you how to ride a horse.
Then, you can ride around the farm along the trails or on the riding arena.
You can pick from an hour-long riding session or the two-hour trail ride for individuals and groups.
The farm also offers riding camps for beginners to intermediate-level riders.
If you get bored of riding horses, you can also visit the farm’s historic farmhouse, built in the 1740s.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Explore the Outdoors at Cedar Creek & Belle Grove
If you go 17 minutes from Front Royal, you’ll reach the town of Middletown, Virginia, where you’ll also find the historic Cedar Creek & Belle Grove Park.
This National Historical Park features a rich history and fantastic outdoor views.
Visit the park to learn about the Native Americans who made the area their home and the pioneering settlers who tamed the frontier.
During your visit, you’ll learn how this area developed into the biggest wheat-producing region in the American South.
The park had also seen dramatic battles during the Civil War.
One of the decisive battles fought in this area was the Battle of Cedar Creek, which took place on October 19, 1864.
The Union won this battle, which helped secure their final victory.
During your visit, you’ll also have the chance to visit the Belle Grove Plantation, a 1797 Manor House, and see how slaves worked for the plantation owners.
Enjoy Tasty Snacks at The Apple House
Drive 14 minutes away from Front Royal to reach the nearby community of Linden, Virginia, where you’ll find The Apple House Restaurant and Gift Shop.
Since 1963, the shop has offered tourists and residents a slice of Virginia hospitality through its snack options.
What can you eat there?
The Apple House offers its signature Apple Butter Donuts and the Apple House Pork BBQ.
If you’re curious, this trademark pork BBQ comprises either pulled or smoked pork slathered in George’s original BBQ sauce.
This sauce mixes VA Sweet & Tangy and Carolina Vinegar.
Moreover, the Apple House is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It’s perfect for people passing by on a trip.
Front Royal, Virginia is an excellent town for a weekend getaway, especially if you feel like visiting museums and historical landmarks.
Look for the next holiday weekend and drive your family down to this charming town.