If you asked a child to imagine the ultimate place to play, the Shenandoah Valley might be exactly what he or she comes up with.
With mountain trails, waterfalls, ziplines, bike parks, swimming pools, horses, giant mazes and inter-active museums, the Shenandoah Valley is a can’t-miss family fun adventure. Average high temperatures hover around 60 degrees in November and it only rains about six days. Take advantage of good weather and put together a long weekend with the kids. Any of the following venues will guarantee their enjoyment, and yours.
Massanutten Family Adventure Park
Well-known for its year-round indoor waterpark as well as winter sports opportunities, Massanutten Resort’s Family Adventure Park includes an 800-foot Mega Zipline, a two-hour Canopy Tour, a Kids Adventure Course, plus a Climbing Wall and guided rappelling. Golf, a bike park, hiking, music and art classes are just some of the other possibilities.
Most outfitters will let children ride as long as their feet can reach the stirrups. Fort Valley Ranch offers guided horseback trips, with their mounts or yours, in the pristine Massanutten Mountains of the National Forest. You can ride miles of marked trails on the Ranch as well as find direct access to trails in the National Forest. In addition to riding, multi-day Ranch Packages in their bunkhouse cabins are available.
Jordan Hollow Stables, a few minutes south of Luray, is a family-owned and operated business offering trail rides for children and adults with all levels of riding skill. Your experienced guide will take you on well-maintained 150 acres of winding trails through a beautiful wooded area near the border of Shenandoah National Park. Their quiet, breathtaking trails are shared by various wildlife that roam the property.
The Garden Maze
The Garden Maze is located on the Luray Caverns complex (but is not included in the Caverns ticket price). This one-acre ornamental garden employs more than 1500 evergreen hedges to create a half-mile pathway that diverges at over 40 points. Challengers must navigate their way through twists and turns while searching for hidden goals. The Garden Maze is fully handicapped accessible and is perfect for baby strollers.
To get an aerial view of the Shenandoah Valley, ziplines are the next best thing to a drone. Bear Mountain Ziplines, a 50-acre forested haven in Luray, can get you off the ground via a Mama Bear Zipline, a Baby Bear High Ropes Course, or a Bear Scramble Climbing Wall. (Note: We’re sad to report that Virginia Canopy Tours, formerly operating within Shenandoah River State Park, has closed largely due to COVID-19.)
Today’s farmers’ markets are not just expanded roadside stands. They have evolved into multi-faceted businesses hosting seminars, festivals, concerts, tours and other events. Marker-Miller Orchards and Farm Market in Winchester, was one of four markets to be written up in Family Circle magazine. Enjoy their huge selection of produce, fruit, vegetables and baked goods, and the “pick your own” opportunities. Farther south, the Valley Pike Market in Weyer’s Cave has fresh, local goods ranging from meats and cheeses to over-stuffed sandwiches to desserts and candies.
Virginia Safari Park
More than 1,000 wild animals of all types roam this 180-acre property freely. Drive the three-mile gravel road and feed them through your windows. Don’t miss the safari village walk-thrum the free-flight aviary or the petting zoo, either. Located near Lexington.
Massanutten and Bryce Resorts have taken bike parks to new heights, literally. Bryce appears to be open through the month of November; a specific closing date will be announced soon. Massanutten’s last day of Bike Park operation was November 1st, although there are still miles of trails to ride in the nearby area. Cycling low-traffic back roads is possible almost everywhere in the Valley, too. Local Visitor Centers and Tourism Offices can help you plan a route.
Family hiking options in the Shenandoah are virtually unlimited. Choose from Shenandoah National Park, George Washington National Forest, a Greenway in Front Royal, Luray or Waynesboro, or a number of state parks. Need one “can’t miss” route? Try Dark Hollow Falls, just off Skyline Drive at milepost 50.7. It’s a bit steep, but just 1.4 miles round trip, with views of a stunning 70-foot waterfall. See other popular hikes in the Park here.
Choose from the just-for-kids Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester, or venues ideal for adults and kids like Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (also in Winchester) and the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. Many smaller venues like the Virginia Quilt Museum dot the Valley as well, and offer fascinating looks at local culture and history.
Your kids will be awestruck by the Valley’s caverns. Most of the world has heard of Luray Caverns, but there are other caves in the Valley, too: Skyline in Front Royal, Shenandoah in Quicksburg, Grand and Fountain Cave near the town of Grottoes, and the Caverns at Natural Bridge.
Banner photo courtesy Massanutten Resort