Skip to main content
Try our new AI Powered Travel Planner
It's Free. Try it now!

The Shenandoah Valley, located in the heart of Virginia, is a hidden gem that offers a perfect weekend getaway for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. With its stunning landscapes, outdoor activities, rich history, and charming small towns, the Shenandoah Valley promises a memorable escape. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best things to see and do in this picturesque region of Virginia.

Getting There

Choose the Right Time to Visit

Shenandoah Fall Foliage

The Shenandoah Valley is beautiful year-round, but the best time to visit largely depends on your preferences. Spring and fall are the most popular seasons, offering mild weather and breathtaking foliage. However, if you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the less crowded winter or summer months.

Plan Your Accommodations

The Mimslyn Inn(image via Instagram)

The Shenandoah Valley offers a range of accommodations, from rustic cabins to cozy bed and breakfasts. Book your stay in advance to secure the lodging that suits your needs. Popular options include the Big Meadows Lodge, Iris Inn, and the Mimslyn Inn.

Choose Your Route

Several routes lead to the Shenandoah Valley, depending on your starting point. The Valley is accessible from major cities like Washington, D.C., Richmond, and Roanoke. Plan your route in advance, considering scenic byways and stops along the way.

Day 1: Nature and Adventure

Start Your Day with a Scenic Drive

Skyline Drive

Begin your day with a drive along the scenic Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. This iconic 105-mile route offers jaw-dropping vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. The park is home to an array of wildlife, so keep an eye out for deer, black bears, and a variety of bird species.

Hiking in Shenandoah National Park

Hiking in Shenandoah State Park

Shenandoah National Park is a hiker’s paradise. With over 500 miles of trails, there’s something for every skill level. Some popular trails include the Old Rag Mountain Trail, Dark Hollow Falls, and the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, you’ll find the perfect trail to explore the park’s natural wonders.

Luray Caverns: Explore the Underground Wonders

Luray Caverns

After a morning of hiking and scenic drives, head to Luray Caverns, one of the largest and most visited caverns in the eastern United States. Explore stunning underground chambers with towering stalactites and crystal-clear pools. The caverns are a consistent 54 degrees Fahrenheit, making them an ideal place to escape the heat in summer or stay warm in winter.

Picnic in the Park

For a break, stop at one of the many designated picnic areas within Shenandoah National Park. Pack a lunch or grab a meal from a local deli or bakery. Savor your meal while surrounded by the natural beauty of the park, with birds singing and fresh mountain air.

Canoeing and Kayaking the Shenandoah River

Shenandoah River

In the afternoon, take advantage of the Shenandoah River’s scenic beauty by going canoeing or kayaking. Several outfitters in the area offer equipment rental and guided trips, including Shenandoah River Adventures and Shenandoah River Outfitters. Paddle along the calm waters and take in the tranquility of the river and its lush surroundings.

Evening in Luray: Dinner and Stargazing

Triple Crown BBQ

After a day filled with outdoor adventures, make your way to the charming town of Luray for dinner. Triple Crown BBQ, a family-owned food truck, and Italian restaurant and pizzeria Il Vesuvio are local and visitor favorites. As night falls, don’t miss the opportunity to stargaze. The Shenandoah Valley is known for its clear night skies, making it an excellent spot for amateur astronomers and stargazers. Consider bringing a telescope or simply lay out a blanket to gaze at the stars.

Day 2: History and Culture

Shenandoah Valley Battlefields

Belle Grove Manor House(image via Wikimedia)

The Shenandoah Valley is steeped in Civil War history, making it a perfect destination for history enthusiasts. Begin your day by visiting one of the many battlefields in the area, such as the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park or the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. These sites offer a glimpse into the region’s role in the Civil War.

Explore the Arts and Crafts Scene

The Little Gallery(image via Instagram)

The Shenandoah Valley has a thriving arts and crafts community. Spend your morning exploring local galleries and studios like The Little Gallery and Warm Springs Gallery. You might discover unique handmade jewelry, pottery, and artwork that make for great souvenirs. The area’s artisans often draw inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Wine Tasting in the Valley

Veramar Vineyard(image via Instagram)

The Shenandoah Valley is home to numerous vineyards and wineries. Consider a visit to one of these picturesque wineries for a wine tasting session. Enjoy locally produced wines while taking in the stunning views of the vineyard and the rolling hills. Some notable wineries in the area include Veramar Vineyard, CrossKeys Vineyards, and Muse Vineyards.

Historic Downtown Staunton

Historic Downtown Staunton

For lunch, head to Staunton, a charming town with a historic downtown. Explore its vibrant streets, filled with shops, restaurants, and beautiful architecture. The town is also home to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, where you can catch a Shakespearean performance.

Frontier Culture Museum

Frontier Culture Museum(image via Instagram)

In the afternoon, visit the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. This living history museum allows you to step back in time and experience the daily life of early settlers and immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley. You’ll see historic homes, farm animals, and demonstrations of traditional crafts.

Evening in Harrisonburg

Jimmy Madison's(image via Instagram)

End your day with dinner in Harrisonburg, another vibrant town in the Shenandoah Valley. The town is known for its diverse culinary scene, featuring a range of international cuisines, farm-to-table restaurants, and craft breweries. Explore local flavors and unwind after a day of exploration. We recommend Jimmy Madison’s, Rocktown Kitchen, and Jack Brown’s as solid dining choices.

Day 3: Small Town Charm

Historic Lexington

Washington and Lee University

Start your day in Lexington, a small town with a rich history and beautiful architecture. Visit Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute, both of which are located in Lexington. Stroll through the town’s historic district to admire its antebellum homes and buildings.

Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park

Just a short drive from Lexington, you’ll find Natural Bridge State Park. This iconic natural wonder is a massive limestone bridge that arches over Cedar Creek. Explore the surrounding trails and enjoy the views.

Dine in a Quaint Café

DV8 Kitchen(image via Instagram)

For lunch, choose one of the charming cafés in Lexington, where you can savor a leisurely meal in a cozy atmosphere. Many of these cafés feature locally sourced ingredients and a delightful menu. Some popular choices include DV8 Kitchen and A Cup Of Commonwealth.

Woodstock

Woodstock Tower

In the afternoon, make your way to Woodstock, a small town with a rich history and a charming downtown area. Browse the local shops and galleries, or visit the Woodstock Tower on the Massanutten Mountain for panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley.

A Visit to Shenandoah Caverns

Shenandoah Caverns

To wrap up your weekend getaway, visit Shenandoah Caverns, a different underground experience compared to Luray Caverns. These caverns are known for their impressive formations, including the famous “Breakfast Bacon” drapery. The guided tour provides an educational and awe-inspiring experience.


ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Summary

A weekend getaway to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia is a perfect escape for those seeking a blend of nature, history, and small-town charm. From the breathtaking vistas of Shenandoah National Park to the rich history of the Civil War battlefields and the artistic culture of the region, the Shenandoah Valley offers a diverse range of experiences. So, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or someone simply looking for a tranquil break, this beautiful region has something for everyone. Plan your visit and enjoy the wonders of the Shenandoah Valley.

Related Reads