In between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, the Shenandoah Valley stretches along 200 miles of magnificent scenery. And though the region is sprawling among some of the prettiest mountains, overlooks, caverns, rivers and falls in Virginia, there’s also plenty of cultural venues to visit.
Explore Staunton’s artful downtown area, featuring eclectic shops, galleries and phenomenal restaurants—and be sure to catch an exceptional performance at American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse. Spend a day hiking Crabtree Falls, a series of alluring waterfalls flowing from Crabtree Meadows toward the Tye River. And before you leave, hit up a local farmers’ market to get your fill of fall apples and other delicious goodies to enjoy on the way home.
Toward the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, embraced by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, is Harrisonburg.
And while many folks know the town (founded in 1779 originally as Rocktown and later named after settler Thomas Harrison) as home to James Madison University, there is a lot more going on here than reading, writing and arithmetic.
A revitalized downtown makes strolling through the area, lined with boutiques and eateries, a pleasure to do. Just outside town are venues that provide outdoor adventures, wine and beer tasting and places to unwind.
Harrisonburg is quite the hip restaurant town. A number of eateries to explore exists, from greasy spoons to fine dining and from classic southern to ethnic offerings. We like the local-centric Local Chop and Grill House in the historically renovated City Produce Exchange, with their fresh, seasonal menu. If you are a carnivore, pick any steak from Chef Jakob Napotnik’s menu; the 12-ounce New York strip is a winner. Also good options: chicken breast from renowned Polyface Farms and the cauliflower “steak” for folks eating vegan, even if just for the night.
Get your foodie on with a tasty, terrific walk through town with Rocktown Bites, which offers an assortment of specialty culinary tours. Other edible adventures: stroll through the Harrisonburg Farmers Market (look for outstanding offerings from local Mennonite families like baked and canned/jarred goods), or visit the specialty snack producer Route 11 Potato Chips’ factory in Mount Jackson, which is up the road. Also in the region: visit Shenandoah Caverns to explore the namesake caverns and other items including antique vehicles on property.
Learn more at VisitHarrisonburgVA.com.
The Joshua Wilton House is a stunning Victorian structure downtown with beautiful architectural features, including an impressive turret with spire reaching skyward. A large porch with rocking chairs welcomes guests. Located in the historic Old Town district, many venues in town are within easy walking distance. Rooms are well-appointed and intimate; breakfast greets guests the next morning. Even if you are not a guest, enjoy a remarkable, local-centric, chef-driven menu at dinner at the house.
Up and down the Shenandoah Valley there are many wineries and wine trails to explore. Put Bluestone Vineyard on your agenda; the Hartman family crafts small-batch wines from fruit grown locally and on the estate. Their merlot is a beautiful, medium-bodied wine with flavors and aromas of black cherry, plum and a bit of chocolate. The Crooked and Weedy, named for a local train line, was a fun, sweet expression of Chambourcin.
It’s a family affair at Brothers Craft Brewing, founded by three siblings who aim to craft exciting, unique beers that emphasize and support the community of Harrisonburg. The brewery is housed in a renovated soda bottling plant, and they offer public tours of the grain room and 15-barrel brew house each Saturday from noon–2 p.m. If you’re big on IPAs, you’ll adore their Hoptimization, which incorporates big, bold hops, resulting in a clean, citrusy flavor—with that signature bitter bite.
Here’s a sip you can be proud of; Silverback Distillery in Afton not only produces fine quality bourbon, whiskey, gin and vodka—but they do so using practices that minimize energy usage and environmental impact, making it their mission to become industry leaders in “green” distilling and production methodologies. Their sips are outstanding, too, from their Beringei vodka crafted from pure mountain water to their Strange Monkey Gin, capturing the essence of quality botanicals (juniper berries, coriander, anise, orange peel, lemon and almond) in every sip. And recently available is their Blackback Rye Whiskey, made from hand-selected milled grains, pristine well water and perfectly charred barrels.