Shenandoah County is rich with natural wonders just waiting to be explored — and the slower the better.
Located at the northern gateway to Virginia’s historic Shenandoah Valley, between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains, Shenandoah County’s diverse range of attractions draws tourists all year, but early fall is a particularly rewarding time to visit. Ride a horse, get loud at a concert, walk a Civil War battlefield, or relax with a glass of wine and a stunning view. While it’s tough to narrow down everything enjoyable to do on a weekend visit, we offer the suggestions below to help you plan.
Make a weekend out of it, or stay a week – the choice is yours. Perennial visitor favorites in the local area include:
Shenandoah Valley Music Festival Located in scenic Orkney Springs, the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival has been booking major entertainers for nearly 60 years. Scheduled performances in September include: the SteelDrivers (left) on Sept. 4; Eileen Ivers and Universal Roots on Sept. 5; Hot Strings and Cool Breezes, featuring the Seldom Scene and Gina Furtado Project on Sept. 6; the Travelin’ McCoury’s on Sept. 18; and Sam Bush on Sept. 19. Right now, SVMF is selling Lawn seats and Pavilion seats in every other row. Additionally, the total number of seats sold within a ticket order will have a buffer of two seats on either side. Other precautions may be in place.
Meems Bottom Bridge Travel and Leisure named it one of “the Most Beautiful Covered Bridges in America.” The 204-foot Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge in Mount Jackson was built in 1892-93 from materials cut and quarried nearby. This long span over the North Fork of the Shenandoah River carried traffic for more than 80 years before being burned by vandals on Halloween 1976. After salvaging the original timbers, the bridge was reconstructed and reopened to traffic in 1979. From Mt. Jackson, take Rt. 11 South about two miles, then turn right on State Rt. 720 for half a mile.
Star in the Valley Vineyard With a tasting room perched at about 1,300 feet, Star in the Valley affords some of the most exceptional views in a county known for its views. Enjoy a flight of four different wines from their outdoor seating or call and set up curbside pickup. You can order online, too but then you miss the scenery. Located in Strasburg.
Big Schloss The name of the summit is German for “Big Castle,” reflecting both the German heritage of the region and the towering rock outcrops at the end of the trail. Big Schloss is a relatively easy hike at only 4.4 miles and an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. If you have some extra time consider hiking Tibbet Knob as well; it gets far fewer visitors and the views are every bit as good. Good hiking trails abound in Shenandoah County.
Fort Valley Ranch Fort Valley Ranch offers guided horseback trips, with their mounts or yours, in the pristine Massanutten Mountains. 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. If your kids are too small for a horse, ask about a wagon ride along the area’s back roads. Located just outside Luray. For appointments, call 888-754-5771 or 540-933-6633.
Shenandoah Caverns/American Celebration on Parade This geologic wonder, about five miles north of New Market, is the closest major Virginia cave to I-81. Tour group sizes are limited to 20 at the moment, due to COVID-19 precautions, but the Caverns are very much open. You and your children will also be thrilled to visit the accompanying attraction called American Celebration on Parade, a display of massive parade floats and props from national events like the Rose Parade and presidential inaugurations.
Shenandoah Spirits Trail Shenandoah County is home to several spots along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, although with 22 breweries, 3 cideries, 2 distilleries, and 23 wineries its reach extends from Winchester to Harrisonburg. As if the wine tastings won’t be enough, the trail takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Valley. Most of the venues are offering outdoor seating
Route 11 Potato Chip factory Who doesn’t love potato chips? In Mt. Jackson, just a bit north of New Market, you can watch much of the production process through large windows in their retail store. Families and small groups are welcome anytime.
Skydive Shenandoah If you like the scenery from your car, wait till you see as you jump out of a plane. Skydive Shenandoah in New Market (540)-740-9312 can get you the view from the top.
Woodstock Café Eating in small towns can sometimes be hit-or-miss, but the food and service at Woodstock Café never disappoint. The owners gained experience in DC, San Francisco and Chicago and brought their best ideas here to the Valley. Very affordable and a friendly atmosphere. Shenandoah County makes exploration easy with planned itineraries—visit here to check them out. Learn more about Shenandoah County at Visit Shenandoah County, 600 North Main Street, Suite 101, Woodstock, VA 22664. Call 888-367-3965 or click here.
Banner photo of Big Schloss by Margaret Haun, courtesy Shenandoah County Tourism