Shenandoah County: From the Battlefields to the Spirits Trail

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About two hours west of the beehive known as DC/northern Virginia, Shenandoah County is a crossroads of American history, pastoral beauty and modern culture. In this diverse county, one can walk solemnly across a Civil War battlefield, ride a horse through a national forest, or enjoy a taste of the good life on the new Shenandoah Spirits Trail–14 vineyards, 9 craft breweries, 2 cideries, and 2 distilleries in and near Shenandoah County.

“The Shenandoah Spirits Trail is an exciting new way for travelers to explore Virginia,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “Visitors will be able to enjoy the authentic Virginia experience at vineyards, craft breweries, cideries and distilleries all across the Valley.”

“We have seen tremendous growth in these industries and visitor interest in these products over the last several years,” added Jenna French, Director of Tourism & Marketing for Shenandoah County. “It was a natural fit to package them together and enhance those partnerships.”

Along with its website, the new Spirits Trail offers printed pocket guides including a map of all the establishments within Frederick, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties as well as the Cities of Harrisonburg and Winchester.

And if anything goes well with the beer and wine atmosphere it’s music—the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, located in Orkney Springs, hosts 8 to 10 concerts a year, featuring names such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bruce Hornsby, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many others.

While the Spirits Trail is the newest draw to Shenandoah county, it is America’s past that has lured visitors to there for generations. Start your visit at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War.  Managed by the Virginia Military Institute, the museum houses Civil War exhibits and artifacts from across the commonwealth, with the most emphasis on the 1864 Battle of New Market. Visitors can walk or drive 300 acres of the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, where 257 VMI cadets fought, 10 for the last time.

Part of Cedar Creek/Belle Grove National Historic Park also lies within Shenandoah County, offering ranger-led or self-guided tours of the 3,700-acre complex (though not all is accessible to the public).

Beyond the battlefields, the county’s history is well represented in several small-town museums located in Strasburg, Edinburg, Woodstock, Mount Jackson, New Market and Fort Valley.

These towns and others, easily accessible from I-81, make excellent bases for weekends devoted to outdoor adventure. Bryce Resort offers mountain biking, snow sports, golf, zip lining plus lake canoeing and kayaking. The friendly wranglers at Fort Valley Ranch can put you on a horse and guide you into the secluded George Washington National Forest. Fish for smallmouth bass on the Shenandoah River or trout in the national forest, and get expert advice at Murray’s Fly Shop. You can hike, bike, camp, backpack, ski, tube, board, cast, or putt–surrounded the whole time by some of the most scenic views in Virginia.

And the scenery is not even all above ground. A one-mile tour of Shenandoah Caverns is about an hour of underworld beauty, and it’s open all year (except Dec. 25th.) It’s also a stone’s throw from the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory and New Market Battlefield.

While space limitations make it difficult to mention every single attraction Shenandoah County has to offer, we’d be remiss not to suggest you visit these as well:
Shaffers Catering, Barbecue and Deli
Shenandoah County Kids Trail
Shenandoah Flea Market
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation
Wholesome Foods
Woodstock Café and Shoppes 

Find out more at Shenandoah County Tourism.

Photo at top: Reenactment of the 1864 Battle of New Market at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, by Scott K. Brown, Virginia Tourism Corporation

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