It’s hard to pick what to love most about Waynesboro.
First, there is the location—“Waynesboro is the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley from the East, and we are located at the crossroads of the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail,” said Jennifer Callison, Tourism and Marketing Manager of Waynesboro’s Department of Tourism.
Then there is the arts and theater scene. Downtown murals, the P. Buckley Moss Gallery, the 416 Gallery, the Shenandoah Valley Art Center and the new Russell Museum all attest to the city’s creative energy.
As for theater, the Wayne Theatre/Ross Performing Arts Center anchors Waynesboro’s entertainment scene. On show nights, its effect on nearby restaurants and coffee shops is measurable.
We put a few other questions to Jennifer Callison to expand on these attractions and find out what else there is to see and do in Waynesboro:
SVTA: Is there anything new going on in the city (event, attraction opening) you want to tell us about?
Callison: “In recent years, Waynesboro has seen an explosion of public art in the form of murals. The Virginia Street Arts Festival has called Waynesboro home for the past five years, and with that has come about a dozen unique and eye-catching murals. We are planning to put the murals together on a cohesive “trail” for visitors to explore, which will also give them the chance to explore some of the new and existing businesses around town.
“Our downtown revitalization efforts are ongoing, as several new businesses opened in 2019 and several more are in the works for 2020. The new Russell Museum, home to the legacy of Dr. Walter and Lao Russell, opened in July 2019. After 20+ years in storage, more than 40 tons of artwork and sculpture are on display. You can also attend classes, speaking events, Homecoming, traveling and local art exhibits and more. This museum fits in well with our community of history and art lovers, as it is just down the block from the Waynesboro Heritage Museum and the Plumb House. The Blue Ridge Tunnel (sometimes called the Crozet Tunnel) is expected to open in 2020 as well. “
SVTA: What surprises tourists most about Waynesboro?
Callison: “First, our proximity to so many natural wonders– not only a national park and a major scenic byway, but also the South River which flows directly through Waynesboro, making us one of only two urban trout fisheries in the Commonwealth. Fly fishers of all skill levels cancatch trophy-size rainbow and brown trout. The best fly fishing is in the catch and release section downtown, which extends from the Wayne Avenue Bridge downstream to the Second Street bridge and is easily accessible from the South River Greenway, a paved walking path along the river. We are also home to the South River Fly Fishing Expo (just voted “Best of the Blue Ridge” 2020), which will take place April 18-19, 2020 right here in downtown Waynesboro.
“Beyond that, our southern hospitality shown to all visitors, whether hikers from the Appalachian Trail (we are a designated Appalachian Trail Community), couples looking for a romantic getaway, or families on vacation. We hear from visitors at our information center all the time how friendly and helpful everyone is.”
SVTA: What events are coming up January – March?
Callison: “Several great shows at the Wayne Theatre, including: Chanticleer – Feb. 1, Legally Blonde-The Musical – Feb. 21-23, and Disney Frozen Jr. – Mar. 21-22. Then there are the Nordic Fire Festival at Barren Ridge Vineyards: Feb. 1, Wine Weekend at Iris Inn: Feb. 7-9, and the Mad Anthony Mud Run in Coyner Springs Park: Feb. 29. Basic City Beer, Heritage on Main Street, and the French Press also usually have weekly Trivia Nights or Open Mic Nights!”
SVTA: What do you feel are your most popular tourist sites?
Callison: “The restored vaudeville-era Wayne Theatre, with over 300 events and shows each year, ranging from world-renowned dance troupes and singers to weekly classic film showings. This historic theatre is an integral part of our larger arts scene, which includes the P. Buckley Moss Gallery and the Shenandoah Valley Art Center where local artists showcase their work year-round.
“Additionally, tourists love our booming craft beverage scene, where they can visit tasting rooms for delicious craft beer (Basic City Beer Co.), hard cider (Blue Toad Cider House), and kombucha (Blue Ridge Bucha), all within a stone’s throw of one another in Waynesboro’s East Main Corridor. We also have two other breweries nearby (Seven Arrows Brewing and Stable Craft Brewing), as members of the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, where you can visit 8 out of 15 participating breweries and collect stamps on your passport, then submit it for a free Beerwerks t-shirt.”
SVTA: What do you personally love most about Waynesboro?
Callison: “I really love the 360-degree views of the mountains from anywhere in Waynesboro, but particularly those from downtown! As I stroll downtown to one of the cute little shops or to get a bite to eat at one of our amazing restaurants, I can see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains just a few miles away.”
SVTA: “We understand there is a natural history museum in the works for Waynesboro. Can you tell us a little about that?
Callison: “The Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) is planning a Waynesboro campus, which will be a 25,000 square foot building and will feature exhibits focused on the natural history of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge regions, from the collection of over 10 million artifacts at the original campus of the VMNH in Martinsville.”
In short, there is a lot to love about Waynesboro. Want to know more? Visit their website or contact: Waynesboro Department of Tourism, 301 West Main Street, Waynesboro, VA 22980. Monday-Friday: 9:00 am-5:00 pm. (540)-942-6512.
Banner photo by Nils Westergard, courtesy Waynesboro Dept. of Tourism