I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to write about Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. I’ve been visiting on a regular basis for the last six years. My daughter, Corinne, decided to attend a college there, and a couple of years later, Camille followed her there.
This year, my son Connor, started grad school at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, just south of the Shenandoah Valley. Now, I have a reason to keep visiting Virginia for the next five years and that makes me happy.
So, are you wondering what there is to do in the Shenandoah Valley and why you should consider a vacation there? I’m going to give you some of the highlights.
You don’t have to DO anything on a vacation to the Shenandoah Valley if you don’t want to. It is so pretty, you could just drive, walk, hike, or sit somewhere and admire the gorgeous scenery all around you.
Shenandoah National Park is a must-visit. The views from Skyline Drive are incredible and there are several scenic overlooks and hiking opportunities along the way. 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail go through the park.
Just south of Shenandoah National Park is the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the scenic views continue.
Natural Bridge State Park is another highlight.
Some of the prettiest caves ANYWHERE
If there’s a downside to having taken my kids to all 50 states and over a dozen countries, it’s that they can be difficult to impress. By the time we visited Luray Caverns, we’d toured dozens of caves all over the country. Understandably, my kids weren’t expecting to be wowed. But they were. Luray is just gorgeous. And if that wasn’t enough, some genius figured out how to turn the beautiful formations into the world’s largest musical instrument–the Great Stalacpipe Organ.
While Luray is the best, in my opinion, there are still a half-dozen other caverns that are worth seeing.
Lots of history
The Shenandoah Valley is chock full of historic sites and museums. My daughters had a view of the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson from their dorm rooms. It is now the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.
While not technically in the Shenandoah Valley, Monticello and the University of Virginia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), are an easy drive from the valley, as is James Monroe’s Highland.
There are lots of different types of museums as well. My favorite is the Frontier Culture Museum where you can learn about life on the American Frontier.
There are also lots of small, specialty museums spread throughout the valley. Whether you are into Civil War history, quilts, jewelry, or vintage cameras, you’ll find a museum for it.
Antique malls and other shopping
The largest antique mall in the world is just a 15-minute drive from where my daughter lives. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, the valley is home to lots more antique stores and malls.
The Shenandoah Valley also has Amish, farm, and country markets. If you’re looking for a cute, small town with lots of boutiques and gift shops, Staunton is it.
Fun and recreation
Do you love animals? My daughter and I had a blast when we visited the Virginia Safari Park last year. We haven’t had a chance to visit the Natural Bridge Zoo yet, but it looks like fun.
The Shenandoah Valley has a couple of resorts that offer skiing in the winter and other recreational opportunities throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
You’ll also find outfitters that offer horseback riding, canoeing, and kayaking.
Theater and performing arts
Although with the current pandemic, performing arts have been largely canceled, hopefully we can look forward to a day when theater returns. There are a variety of venues around the valley, but the most notable is the only re-creation of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton.
Food and drink
The Shenandoah Valley offers lots of independent restaurants, many with authentic farm-to-table experiences. You’ll also find wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries–with trails to follow.
So, what do you think? Enough for a weeklong vacation? Easily.
If you would like to visit Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, I would love to help you plan a trip. Please read about my planning services.