Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley

  • Published 2022/03/20

Are you planning for a trip to the stunning Shenandoah Valley and looking for some insights?

Want to experience the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains firsthand?

Then you’ve come to the right place—here’s a comprehensive guide to Staunton, home to all the landmarks mentioned above!

Not only does the city offer some of the most breathtaking views of both the valley and the mountain, but it also boasts an eventful history.

To make sure you have the best visit, here’s a list of the best things to do in Staunton, Shenandoah Valley:

Catch Breathtaking Views at Betsy Bell and Mary Grey Wilderness Parks

Staunton provides some gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Spread across the Shenandoah Valley, the destination offers some definite must-visits; chief amongst those are Betsy Bell and Mary Grey Wilderness Parks.

Plan a road trip to the beautiful destination.

There are a lot of trails, which are also accessible by bike, making the park a perfect place to test out your riding skills.

For your evenings, find an ideal viewing spot, sit back, and enjoy watching the sunset over the horizon.

Enjoy the Staunton Music Festival

Staunton is a lively place all year round!

No matter when you visit, you can find a bustling crowd around a varied range of food and live music events.

However, Staunton Music Festival holds a special place in everyone’s hearts.

If you plan to visit in the middle of August, it’s recommended that you not miss out on the event.

It is one of the most significant events in the city and goes on for almost 10 days.

A week-long event of music and food — doesn’t that sound alluring?

More than 30 concerts are held during the festival, and the best thing about this is that some of them are even free and open to everyone.

Start Your Day at The By & By

Missing your freshly brewed coffee from your local barista?

Worry not —Staunton has a suitable (if not better) replacement.

Mary Baldwin University, the central campus in the region, is surrounded by some top-notch coffee shops.

Among several options, The By & By has managed to make a niche.

Serving some of the best hot black coffee that you will come across on your trip, this is the one place where you’ll want to start your mornings.

So, are you up for some caffeine before you start sightseeing?

Grab your iced coffee and lattes before you set out on your journey!

Check Out the Camera Heritage Museum

Staunton is a unique location for any artist as the destination offers some of the best places where one can find inspiration for their next project.

If you are into photography or are even intrigued by camerawork, this museum will pique your interest for sure.

The Camera Heritage Museum feels like a bit of a paradise for all sorts of camera lovers.

The department of vintage photography is quite strong here.

Here, you’ll see some of the oldest camera models, along with vintage photographs going back to the early days of cameras.

Explore the Historic Wharf District

It is now time to steep deep into the history of Staunton.

There are, in total, six historic districts in this city; each of them has a story to tell.

If you go on a walking tour of the city, you’ll get to learn about every single one of them.

You’ll also get to hear various stories about the city’s old days.

The historic Wharf District has played a significant role since the 19th century.

It became famous shortly after railways were introduced here.

Before you go on a self-walking tour, getting a map from any local convenience store is a good idea.

This way, you’ll get a better idea of what to expect so that you can plan your tour of the best architecture and attractions in the area.

Take a Walk Around Downtown Staunton

Buildings at Downtown Staunton

Kyle J Little /

Downtown Staunton speaks of a completely different story.

While you are in the city, the downtown area is a mandatory place to check out.

This part hosts not only some of the best events in the town, but it is also home to some of the best restaurants and diners in the city.

View of Downtown Staunton's stores

henristosch, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Many tours are available that involve walking around the downtown area.

You can even get a guide who will accompany your group and tell you all the historical stories of the downtown area.

Many buildings in the area date back to the 19th century and have been restored.

There is a lot of history related to this area of the town.

Hit the City’s Spookiest Spots

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a town as old as Staunton has tons of ghost stories!

Yes, this vacation destination has some of the spookiest stories revolving around it, too.

You do not have to sit around listening to just the stories—there are several trips around the mysterious spots as well.

Most of these stories have made their way from the downtown region.

In fact, the downtown part is the extra spooky part of town that you must check out if you, too, are a fan of the paranormal.

Explore the Fields of Gold Farm Trail

Shenandoah Valley is one of the most picturesque locations in the US.

Travelers come from afar to explore the valley in great detail and take in its views.

The Fields of Gold Farm Trail is the best way to see everything.

On this trail, you will see the valley’s beauty and realize how much of an important role it plays in the agricultural department of the States.

You can also find some of its fresh produce in the local farmer’s market!

Taste the Best of Shenandoah Valley at Ox-Eye Vineyards

Ox-Eye Vineyards is known for its endless beauty.

Located amid the ever-gorgeous Shenandoah Valley, the vineyards are incredibly charming.

A lot of their charm comes from the daisy flowers that adorn the area all around them.

Some people say that the grapes growing at Ox-Eye Vineyards are perfect, owing to the ideal conditions they are grown in.

The produce is well-renowned for being some of the most flavorful.

Chardonnays, pinot noirs—all the different blends are available at your service.

It’s recommended that you visit the tasting room and have a sip of everything.

If you are a wine connoisseur, you won’t want to miss this opportunity!

Shop Like a Local at the Staunton Farmers’ Market

The Staunton Farmers’ Market is a big deal for every local in the city.

People usually arrive in large numbers for the summer market, which offers some of the best, freshest, and local produce.

Staunton Farmer’s Market is open to all.

If you want to live like a local for a day, start your day a little early.

Arrive at the busy market in the morning for some of the freshest home-baked goodies.

The moment you set foot inside, you will smell the lovely aromas of bread, cakes, and cookies!

Spend the Day Exploring the Frontier Culture Museum

Frontier Culture Museum

Jon Marc Lyttle /

The Frontier Culture Museum is one of Staunton’s best places to spend some quality time with your entire family.

There are some fine exhibits detailing some of the region’s earliest settlements in the museum.

Exterior of Frontier Culture Museum

Jon Marc Lyttle /

You can visit as many as 11 full exhibits.

Inside the museum, shuttles take the tourists to the different exhibition halls while offering guided tours for each exhibit.

But if you prefer it, you can choose to walk with your own group and take your time exploring.

Interior of Frontier Culture Museum

Jon Marc Lyttle /

Treat Yourself to Ice Cream from Kline’s Dairy Bar

A visit to Staunton isn’t complete without getting to try Kline’s Dairy Bar’s ice cream.

The original shop was located in Harrisburg, but the parlor reached immense popularity.

Their ice cream became well-renowned, and suddenly everyone wanted to have a taste.

They started operating three separate branches in no time—all serving the best organic handcrafted ice cream!

Immerse Yourself in History at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum

Exterior of Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum

Frank Romeo /

Explore the life of President Wilson in a museum and library housed in a magnificently restored Greek Revival mansion.

The former president was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1856.

This National Historic Landmark depicts a typical pre-Civil War Shenandoah Valley house with historical pieces from the Wilson family’s collection.

Take a self-guided tour of the Woodrow Wilson Museum to learn about the life and times of the US 28th president.

The museum showcases documents from his early years, his turbulent presidency, suffrage, prohibition, and World War I.

Its centerpiece is the restored Pierce-Arrow limo of President Woodrow Wilson from 1919.

Experience what it was like to be a soldier during World War I through the museum’s cutting-edge trench display, replete with lights and music.

As you learn the spectacular narrative of the doughboys, you’ll be able to see actual weaponry and uniforms.

The museum also has scavenger hunts, which are enjoyable for children.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Look at the Marvelous Swannanoa Palace

Swannanoa Palace

Jon Bilous /

If you end up exhausting the sightseeing options within Staunton, there are also places worth visiting that are just a drive away.

First up is the stunning Swannanoa Palace.

Located just 20 kilometers away from the city, the palace is an absolute visual treat.

Interior of Swannanoa Palace

Fopseh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

James H. Dooley bought about 1,000 acres of land in 1912.

He had a dream mansion in mind, and this grand building, reminiscent of ancient Roman architectural styles, is its manifestation.

There are numerous stories about this house.

Some say this was all for his wife, whose photograph is showcased in a massive stained glass window from Tiffany & Co. in the hall!

Pathway at Swannanoa Palace

Jon Marc Lyttle /

Learn About the Crozet Tunnel

The Crozet Tunnel has a fascinating story to tell about the old times of Shenandoah Valley.

The Virginia Central Railway came up with a place intended to join all of Shenandoah Valley via rail lines, one that would make transportation and connectivity a lot easier.

An engineer named Claudius Crozet was the one who took up the entire project.

He had a vision that connected Blue Ridge Mountain to the outside world.

The Crozet Tunnel, commonly known as the Blue Ridge Tunnel, is an actual work of art.

Built in the 1800s, it was the largest tunnel in the States at that time.

See the Mole Hill

Far view of Mole Hill

LD Kirklin /

There are a lot of stunning locations around Staunton.

How do you feel about a trip to a volcano?

Mole Hill happens to be one of the younger volcanoes in this region.

When in Staunton, take the opportunity to drive to the Mole Hill, its vast landscapes.

The drive makes for a great getaway outing, and the views here are simply splendid.

Tour the Caverns at Natural Bridge

Scenic view of Caverns at Natural Bridge

Hollie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1977, the Natural Bridge Caverns near Natual Bridge, Virginia, opened to the public after being found soon before the turn of the 20th century.

More than 34 stories below the surface, the Natural Bridge Caverns tour descends visitors to a breathtaking natural wonder.

Among the Natural Bridge Caverns’ numerous exceptional attractions are cavern constructions like the Colossal Dome area, which visitors may explore underground.

View inside Caverns at Natural Bridge

Dmitriy Ryabin /

This chamber is a massive, naturally formed, domed structure that has been here for a very long time.

The 45-minute tour of the Natural Bridge Caverns includes stops at Mirror Lake, the Well Room, and the stalagmites and stalactites that grow out of the Canyon Room; be sure to check them out.

Rock formations at Caverns at Natural Bridge

Dmitriy Ryabin /

Check Out the Stalacpipe Organ at Luray Caverns

The Stalacpipe Organ at Luray Caverns

Michael R Brown /

Although the Luray Caves in Virginia are the most extensive caverns in the Eastern United States, traveling through them feels like a journey into another world.

Incredibly diverse in shape and unmatched in a natural hue, make this a US Natural Landmark.

Cathedral-sized halls with ceilings 10 stories high, replete with crystal-clear ponds and massive stone columns, may be accessed through well-lit, paved corridors.

Far view of Stalacpipe Organ at Luray Caverns

Filipe Mesquita /

You’ll also have the chance to listen to the world’s only Stalacpipe Organ, which produces symphonic-quality music from stone formations.

To round out your trip, visit the Luray Valley Museum, a collection of restored 19th-century buildings that recreate a small 19th-century farming community, and a Shenandoah Valley museum that displays artifacts from the 1750s to the 1920s.

Pay Tribute to a Civil War Hero at Jackson House Museum

Exterior of Jackson House Museum

William Silver /

For more than a century, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had only one home: a house in historic Lexington, Virginia’s downtown area.

Jackson and his second wife, Mary Anna Morrison, resided in this brick-and-stone mansion before the American Civil War broke out.

Welcome sign of Jackson House Museum

William Silver /

During the tour, you’ll learn about Jackson’s work as a professor, a businessman, a church leader, and husband in the context of his everyday life.

Many of Jackson’s things are displayed at the National Register of Historic Places-listed residences, available to the public for guided tours.

The Virginia Military Institute owns and operates the home.

Exterior of Jackson House Museum

William Silver /

Final Thoughts

As a result of its long and fascinating history, the Shenandoah Valley has retained much of its original charm.

Waterparks, hiking trails, horseback riding, and canoeing are just the beginning of what the Shenandoah Valley has to offer.

Start planning your adventure now!

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