Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel–but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove.
And while travel doesn’t look quite the same this year, you can still explore Virginia’s endless beauty with an epic road trip in the Shenandoah Valley!
Virginia is in Phase 3 of Gov. Northam’s Re-opening plan. Expect some changes in hours and service limitations in the venues you visit, so it’s wise to call or visit websites to help you plan. (A summary of Phase 3 may be found here. )
A Shenandoah Valley road trip can expose you to a huge variety of attractions. To help you narrow down your options and plan a trip, consider the following examples of things to see and do within just one long section of the Valley — from Clear Brook to Waynesboro (about 112 miles depending on your route). You can ramp onto I-81 for speed, or follow Route 11 (the Great Wagon Road) for history, views and many attractions. Creative LOVEworks signs, part of the inspired “Virginia is for Lovers” campaigned created by Virginia Tourism Corporation, may be seen in many of these locales.
Clear Brook Welcome Center
“The Virginia Welcome Center at Clear Brook is located off Interstate 81 South, Mile Marker 320,” said Virginia Tourism’s Kathleen Reilly, a few miles south of the Virginia/West Virginia state line. “We are open seven days a week. Please stop in for your free Virginia State Map and Travel Guide! We can even make your hotel reservations for you! For more information about Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley please visit our website.”
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester (Exit 317 or 310 from I-81 South)
This summer, the MSV’s seven-acre gardens are displaying David Rogers’ Big Bugs outdoor exhibit. See a 10-foot-tall daddy long legs spider, an 18- foot-long praying mantis weighing 1,200 pounds and a 17-foot-wide dragonfly hovering on the pond of the Water Garden. In all, the traveling exhibition brings 10 fascinating sculptures to the Museum’s gardens.
Belle Grove Plantation is open for touring. Located near Middletown, Virginia, it is an authentic 1797 Manor House, built by Major Isaac Hite and his wife Nelly Madison Hite, sister of President James Madison. Belle Grove is a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark, and a historic property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It serves as an educational center through the many interpretive programs it offers.
Edinburg (Exit 279 off I-81)
Visitors will find the town has retained much of its 19th century influence, with picturesque Victorian homes, hand-carved woodwork and crafted stone walls. Walking tours, shopping for art and antiques, and a variety of non-chain restaurants make for a splendid day to explore. Do not miss the Edinburg Mill Restaurant— located on the lower level of the Edinburg Mill building, a Virginia Historical Landmark since 1848. You will savor Rustic American style cuisine and the chefs specialize in local, farm to table, fresh prepared products daily. They have a wide variety of menu items including fresh seafood, hand cut steaks, vegetarian and vegan options.
Showalter’s Orchard and Greenhouse, Timberville
Located about nine miles west of New Market in scenic Shenandoah County, Showalter’s has been a Valley tradition for 50 years. This family run operation grows 30 varieties of apples and two of peaches on 40 acres. The 360-views from their hilltop location are nothing less than spectacular. Staff press and bottle traditional and hard apple cider on the premises. You’ll also find a wide selection of vegetable plants, bedding plants, patio planters and perennials in the Showalter greenhouse.
Luray Caverns Exit 264 off I-81, to 211 E
Fully re-opened and featuring a new, step-free entrance, Luray Caverns simply never disappoints. The 1.25 mile guided tour may well overload the senses. You will see pools of water so clear they mirror the rocks above them, hear musical notes played on the Great Stalacpipe Organ, and view stadium-sized chambers filled with towering rock spires. Combinations of color—red, orange, brown, yellow and white—decorate the cave in a milieu of earth tones. The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and Toy Town Junction are included with every Luray Caverns ticket.
Luray-Page County Chamber (Exit 264 off I-81 to Route 211)
Located in Page County, which is the Cabin Capital of Virginia. Headquartered in a restored train station, the Chamber should be your first stop to find out about all this area has to offer: vineyards, quick access to Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest, secluded mountain cabin rentals, outfitters on the Shenandoah River, performance art venues, Main Street attractions, and more. Check out their new LOVE sign in front of the building.
Back Home on the Farm B&B in Harrisonburg (Exit 251 off I-81)
Open nearly year round with various activities providing a way to educate school children about agriculture. Visit the Greenhouse, take Field Trips, enjoy Country Tea and the Corn Maze in the fall. Located just north of Harrisonburg. (Not all activities are open at this time due to Covid-19 restrictions, but they have 20+ kid friendly attractions.)
Oasis Fine Art & Craft, Harrisonburg (Exit off I-81)
An art co-op selling fine art and contemporary crafts made by local artisans, located in Downtown Harrisonburg. Open daily, 12 to 5, with safety measures in place.
Massanutten Resort, McGaheysville (Exit 247A off I-81)
Massanutten Resort features 6000 acres of mountain fun and beauty. Its many unique amenities including the Indoor/Outdoor WaterPark (open in compliance with Phase 3 guidelines), Ski and Adventure Park area, two fantastic golf courses, farm-to-table dining experiences, a state-of-the-art Bike Park, shopping and recreation options, along with a day spa for complete relaxation and rejuvenation.
Waynesboro’s LOVEWorks sign illustrates the area’s popularity with fly fishermen. Waynesboro is also home to the Wayne Theatre, a major performing arts center, which is now focusing on digital content due to the COVID-19 virus. The city’s South River Greenway is perfect for a summer walk–1.2 miles along the river and through Downtown.
Obviously these recommendations are just a fraction of the many other sights to see and experience in the Shenandoah Valley. Other suggested itineraries may be found here, and you can always click on “Contact Us” for more suggestions.
Banner photo courtesy Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center