Picture a place of scenic beauty, historic heritage, outdoor pursuits, and lively downtown areas, and you’ll begin to get a sense of Augusta County.
All Augusta, All Outside
For outdoor recreation, one can spend endless hours exploring Sherando Lake Recreation Area, George Washington National Forest, or Shenandoah National Park. The southern entrance to Skyline Drive and the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway are both easily accessible. Hiking, cycling, canoeing, swimming, camping, and horseback riding are all popular.
The independent cities of Staunton and Waynesboro are the central hubs of the Augusta County region. Both have a great deal to offer, especially at this time of year. Katie Campbell, Sales & Marketing Manager for the Staunton Department of Tourism, gave us an update of what’s going on there.
“We have just developed a landing page that highlights our four main pillars,” Campbell said. “Outdoor Recreation, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, Historic Downtowns with shopping, dining and cultural amenities, and Farm Experiences.” “In terms of what’s new,” Campbell continued, “HC Photography Tours, which combines guided cycling trips and photography, has added three tour routes. The Get Stoked, Rockfish Road and Discover Ag all cover Augusta County.” Of course, October’s autumn intensity makes for a great ride. “Basic City Brewery just opened The Showroom, a full restaurant, and bar serving wine and cider in addition to their craft beer,” Campbell added.
American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton is a landmark of performance art. Campbell told us, “They have reopened with their SafeStart2020 Season featuring Othello and Twelfth Night both playing through mid-October. They will also bring back A Christmas Carol in December.
As for long-awaited dining opportunities, “Staunton has closed Beverley Street on the weekends to allow for outdoor dining,” Campbell said. “The initiative is called Dine Out in Downtown.”
Here’s a quick look at some other points to explore, in the area:
Traipse the Murals
Waynesboro has a new Traipse tour featuring street art and the many dynamic murals found in Downtown. Traipse is a smartphone app for “puzzle hunt” tours of local attractions and businesses.
Go to the Theater, at Home
In response to the COVID-19 situation, “The Wayne Theatre launched its ‘At Home With The Wayne’ digital series,” Shannon Sankar told us. “Unique weekly content ranging from videos that showcase local talent to videos that take viewers behind-the-scenes to learn about acting, singing, and design.
“As the Wayne Theatre begins to safely reopen, the Wednesday evening livestream now offers an in-house VIP experience with limited seating – as well as continued livestream viewing opportunities via the Wayne Theatre’s social channels. Events are being continuously added to the growing Calendar,” Sankar concluded.
Waynesboro is home to the P. Buckley Moss Gallery. It will again be the site of the Virginia Street Arts Festival on October 11, with social distancing precautions in place.
Paddle or Walk
Waynesboro has a four-mile Water Trail on the South River and a 1.2-mile South River Greenway.
Taste the Wine
Once your list of outdoor thrills is satisfied, try something more sedate like visiting Barren Ridge Vineyards. The scenery alone will calm you. The Tasting Room is a converted apple packing barn, and an ideal place to sample the wine selection.
Grand Caverns (originally called Weyers Cave) opened for tours in 1806–making it the oldest continually operating show cave in the country. Guided tour opportunities include the traditional tour, about 70 minutes, the Historic Trail Tour (2-1/2 to 3 hours) and the Fountain Cave—2 to 2/12 hours of more challenging climbing and scrambling.
Find a Bargain
Factory Antique Mall
Thought to be the largest antique mall in the country, Factory Antique has more than 200 vendors displaying furniture, tools, military memorabilia, glassware and kitchen essentials of all types, and much more. With 135,000 square feet of floor space to explore, plan on a long day of shopping for bargains.
Hoist a Glass
Virginia’s craft beer industry has grown by 36 percent since 2015, placing it among the top five fastest-growing states in that industry. Several stops along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail are located in Augusta County—Stable Craft Brewing, Seven Arrows Brewing, and Skipping Rock Beer to name just a few. Check the link above to see the full list of 17 craft breweries, all within about an hour’s drive of each other. Food is usually available, often in the form of food trucks; a few offer light fare or full-service menus. Visit your choice’s website to find out more.
Where to Stay
Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro offer all the lodging options anyone could ask for. One sure bet is the Iris Inn, featuring the main inn, cottages, and cabins built specifically to take advantage of magnificent views. Each room has a king bed, Wi-Fi, flat-screen HD TVs, DVD players, refrigerators, writing desks, private baths with hairdryers, and comfortable sitting areas. Breakfast and complimentary evening wine and cheese hour are also included with any room, cottage, or cabin.
Find more lodging options throughout the Shenandoah Valley click here.
Banner photo: Canoeing on Sherando Lake by Scott K. Brown/VTC