There are many things in Shenandoah National Park that never change much at all—weathered stone walls built 100 years ago. The gleeful reaction of children at a waterfall. Or the eye-popping views as you tool down the 105-mile Skyline Drive.
But under the direction of Delaware North, the Park’s official concessioner, quite a few changes are underway in facilities, events, activities and programs. All are designed to enhance the visitor experience. For example, an extensive renovation of Big Meadows Lodge (MP 51 on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park) is now complete. Highlights include:
• A brand new roof with all new copper trim.
• Renovated chimneys in the Spottswood Dining Room and select guest rooms.
• Restored hardwood floors in the Spottswood Dining Room.
• Hardwood floors in the main lodge rooms – original where possible and brand new in areas where the original floors couldn’t be restored.
• New linens throughout the lodge and in all guest rooms.
• A new look for the New Market Taproom, including restored rock walls, a new tree trunk bar top, new tables and chairs and new hardwood floors. Service hours have been extended to 2:00-11:00 p.m. daily so you can enjoy new pizzas and other delicious offerings.
• New exit doors in preferred rooms to enhance your experience and safety.
An expanded slate of events and activities at Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland are planned as well. The popular Night Skies programs will be held on 10 dates between June 1 and October 23. Held at the big meadows area outside the Rapidan Camp gate, the presentations are led by amateur astronomers as you peer at the heavens through telescopes. Other astronomy events are on the calendar, too, and take special note of August 14-16, when the Annual Night Sky Festival will be held.
Another offering is Basic Outdoor Survival Skills training. Topics cover essential gear, water purification, land navigation with and without a compass, building an emergency fire, how to determine the amount daylight left, and basic first aid. The training will be held on six dates at Big Meadows and one date at Skyland, and is limited to 10 participants. Call 855-835-4149 to reserve a place. Cost is $150 person and most of the sessions run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Programs are led by the Shenandoah Mountain Guides.
Lodging options at Shenandoah National Park may be found here. Facilities, lodges, campgrounds and visitor centers will hopefully begin opening in the next couple months in the Park. (See the schedule here.) At this time of year, it’s still a good idea to check road conditions. Call 540-999-3500, option 1, then option 1 again.
There is also news from another Delaware North property, the famous Peaks of Otter Lodge. Scheduled (tentatively) to open on May 1, Peaks of Otter is located near Bedford, at MP 86, north of Roanoke, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Specific directions may be found here.)
The lodge could hardly be in a more beautiful, relaxing setting. Situated between two of the three mountains that make up Peaks of Otter, the Lodge offers 63 rooms, banquet and meeting facilities, Lake View Dining Room, a lounge and a gift shop – all overlooking beautiful Abbott Lake and majestic Sharp Top Mountain.
If you have not visited Peaks in a while, you can look forward to some expansions. General Manager Jean Hoell told us, “Renovations at Peaks include a 100-person banquet/event space where half the wall space is glass, bringing outdoor serenity to an indoor space, and creating a natural feel of rustic elegance. Two dressing suites for bridal parties (see photo), small family gatherings or business meetings have also been added. All bathrooms in the lodge have been renovated to include vanities, tile floors, curved shower curtains and Bath and Body works amenities.
“We also welcomed John Hanek as our new Executive Chef last November,” Hoell continued. “Chef John brings over 25 years of culinary experience with Disney World, American Cruise Line, and country clubs. Culinary events in 2020 will include the new July 23rd “Putting on the Ritz” 1920 speakeasy event, along with lunches with the Chef to view cooking techniques and gather menus directly from him. And, of course, he’ll continue the tradition of the iconic Sunday brunch!”
Watch the Peaks of Otter Facebook page for all the exciting events Chef John has planned for 2020!
Banner photo of Basic Outdoor Survival Skills Training courtesy Delaware North.