Recently named one of the "Best Small Towns in America," Staunton offers a vibrant cultural scene, great food, and friendly faces. We hope you'll visit us!
Casey L. Higgins is a writer, editor, content consultant, and social media strategist working in the realms of travel and small business. She's also a mom and wife living in and loving the mountains and valleys of Virginia. Read more of her Virginia travel ideas at WheninVirginia.com.
As the central hub of the brand new Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, Staunton offers great craft beer with a heaping side of culture and a dash of history. Toss in a sprinkle of outdoor recreation and you’ll find that we’re an awesome getaway destination in the Shenandoah Valley.
“Blessings of your heart, you brew good ale,” wrote William Shakespeare in Two Gentlemen of Verona, and we’d like to think our brewmasters whip up some mighty fine elixirs as well. Queen City is our oldest brewery, Redbeard is our small batch delight, and Shenandoah Valley is our go-to for home brewing supplies and advice. No visit to Staunton is complete without a trip to each of them and a night at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, where beer is also served.
In addition to the breweries of Staunton, beer gardens and tap rooms serve up a variety of craft beer. Sample around and then enjoy a fresh-from-the-farm meal at one of our notable restaurants where you’re likely to find even more brews to choose from.
When you’re ready for some outdoor rec, you’ll find our parks to be pretty and well equipped, but just a few miles away are more challenging opportunities in Shenandoah National Park. For every speed of adventure, there’s an outlet nearby.
Finally, raise a glass to the nation’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, whose home and presidential library is located in Staunton. You can’t be this close to presidential history and not give a nod with a visit. The 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine is a must-see for any car enthusiast.
After you’ve enjoyed a few flights in Staunton, continue on the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail to discover more unique tastes in Virginia craft beer. There are 12 breweries along the way, plus more cool places to discover and adventure to be had. Spend the weekend with us and visit four breweries to the north, three to the east, and two the south. There’s no better place to be than Staunton, Virginia.
See you on the trail!
Learn more about the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail by following along socially!
Let’s be honest. Wine is intimidating. Sniffing, swirling, tannins, red versus white, where are Norton grapes grown again, and what do you mean I’m not holding the glass correctly? Fortunately, there are wine experts right under your novice nose all over Virginia, but quite possibly, Staunton has more opportunities for a quick wine 101 than any other city in the Shenandoah Valley.
This old-is-new-again establishment is sweetly situated in an old livery stable with a gated patio for your enjoyment. More than 20 wines from around the world are available by the glass each day and hundreds more are in stock. The day you want to find yourself at Lewis Creek is Monday, for it is then between 4:30 and 6:30 (most Mondays) that a FREE educational tasting is offered. Monday doesn’t suit? No problem. For just $5 you can sample four wines another day. Hours: Monday 10:30-6:30; Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10:30-5:30
The renovated 1904 coal office in the Wharf District is where you’ll find Ox-Eye’s tasting room. Fresh and airy, it’s a great place to learn the ins and outs of wine, and how to taste it. The selection at Ox-Eye features their very own estate-grown wine. Tastings are offered in two tiers at $5 or $7 per person. Hours: Monday through Thursday 12-6; Friday 12-7; Saturday 10-7
More than 1500 bottles of wine are available at Yelping Dog and a weekly wine-by-the-glass menu introduces you to something new often. Wine tastings are available from time to time. There is no fee, but a donation to the local SPCA is suggested and hoped for. Monitor their Facebook page for tasting announcements. Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 11-9; Friday through Saturday 11-10; Sunday 12-6
Fridays are Wine Cellar days with a different sommelier each week to roll out something new and tasty from 5 to 8 p.m. The Cellar is full of countless bottles of wine from all over the world: Virginia, West Coast, European, Argentinian … you ask and chances are, you can receive. Hours: Monday through Saturday 10-6
The Abbey is a restaurant, but don’t be fooled. More than 200 bottles of wine are in the house and tastings are offered every Friday and Saturday, alternating with the extensive craft beer selection, of course. Need help pairing a wine with a menu item? The staff knows just what to offer. Hours: Monday through Saturday 11-9
Up for a quick drive from downtown? Barren Ridge Vineyards is the closest winery to Staunton, less than 10 miles away in Fishersville. Situated at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the view from their patio. Tastings rotate weekly. Reserve tasting (eight wines) are $8 per person. If you know you like red or white, try a flight of four red or white for $5 per person. Traveling in a group of 8 or more? You win the group tasting with special seating at a rate of $10 per person (please call ahead). Address: 984 Barren Ridge Road, Fishersville, VA 22939 Hours: Monday through Wednesday 11-6; Thursday through Saturday 11-9; Sunday 1-6
The flowers are blooming and the trees are filling in nicely in the Staunton area, which means it’s wedding season! Day-dreaming girlfriends and Pinterest-frenzied fiancées, we have a dozen uniquely distinct venues for your consideration (and pinning!).
HISTORIC :: WOODROW WILSON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
If you’ve never seen the historic gardens at Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace, you’re missing a ready-made, gorgeous, historic ceremony setting. The gardens are one of 13 maintained by the Garden Club of Virginia, and feature the only boxwood bowknot bed ever created by landscape architect Charles Gillette.
Accommodating up to 150 people, the historic gardens are available for four hours and $1,200. Many brides choose to host the reception between the gardens and terrace, an expansion that can be realized for only $400 more.
The caveat with any use of the Woodrow Wilson historic site is membership. The League of Friends is the donor backbone to support the privately funded site, and membership in The League allows for facility rental. Fortunately, “a complimentary Family membership is included in the rental fee for non-members,” according to the Facility Rental guidelines, which is valued at $100 and provides free unlimited admission, discounts, and more.
ROMANTIC :: GAIE LEA
Multiple ceremony and reception options make Gaie Lea (Old English for “Happy Meadows”) quite the contender when it comes to all-in-one wedding venues. Two hundred acres ensures privacy at any of the sites, which include a pavilion overlooking a pond, a hilltop pool for cocktail hour or reception, a formal English boxwood garden, a stone patio and fire pit near the pond for cigars and bourbon or a s’mores snack, the estate home itself, and whatever else your imagination leads you to on the expansive property.
Treat your wedding party or immediate family to an overnight at the estate. Fifteen guests can be accommodated in the six large guest rooms.
COLLEGIATE :: MARY BALDWIN COLLEGE
Whether you’re an alumnae or simply appreciate the beauty of a meticulously manicured college lawn, you’re in luck. The views from Mary Baldwin may be some of the best Staunton has to offer.
DRAMATIC :: AMERICAN SHAKESPEARE CENTER
You’ve never seen a venue like the Blackfriars Playhouse, and you likely never will. The world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, this is the place for any romantic, Shakespeare aficionado, or one who is into old English architecture. The details at Blackfriars are impressive. Floral arrangements (unless very large) would be a waste in this space.
For those seeking an all-inclusive approach to their wedding day, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel may be the perfect Staunton fit. You facility rental will include tables, linens, place settings, dance floor, candle centerpiece … the works. Toss in a few rooms for your bridal party and out of town guests (yours is free, by the way!), plus the Hotel catering and that doesn’t leave you with a great deal to worry about. Classically beautiful and worry free!
UNFORGETTABLE :: FRONTIER CULTURE MUSEUM
Indoors or out, with a barn or under the sun … you have many choices at the Frontier Culture Musuem, and your guests (up to 400) are in for a real treat, should you spring for a group rate admission for them to explore the grounds.
The Lee S. Cochran Pavilion is open air for warm months and tented for cooler months. A catering kitchen makes prep and delivery super easy while museum staff takes care of setting up and taking down the tables and chairs. The Lawn is a great place for the ceremony itself.
The Octagonal Barn is two levels (you may access both or one) and boasts a small amphitheater for your use as well. This space also includes a catering kitchen.
The Lecture Hall is a sleek, converted dairy barn with soaring ceilings and dinner seating for up to 100. Or, clear it out and dance the night away! Caterer’s staging area with sink is available.
Your and your guests are cordially invited to ~ Staunton Spring Arts Festival Weekend ~ April 21-24, 2016
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Eight events promise to keep you entertained and engaged like never before while our hospitality industry rolls out the red carpet. You won’t want to miss a minute!
Thursday, April 21
◊ The Queen City Plein Air Festival kicks off with an array of artists set up throughout Staunton, creating beautiful paintings. You will find them here, there, and everywhere … even at the gardens on tour for Historic Garden Tour Day. Look for them Thursday through Sunday.
Friday, April 22
◊ Break out your best frock and hat for an evening Garden Party at Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum! From 5 to 7:30 p.m. some of Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley’s best food, wine, and craft beer will be served while musician Kathy Lafon creates a jubilant atmosphere. It’s all in support of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Garden Fund. Purchase Tickets
◊ Classical music lovers are in luck this weekend! Staunton Music Festival will be performing two concerts. The first, Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas, will be performed at Trinity Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. Stay until Sunday for the second. Purchase Tickets
◊ You’ll be blown away when you see the exceptional talent of two Heifetz Institute alumni. Featuring 13-year old violinist Masha Lakisova and 14-year old cellist Isaiah Kim, Heifetz on Tour “Spring in the Valley” Concert will be held at Mary Baldwin College’s Francis Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. All proceeds benefit the Heifetz Institutes’s 20th Anniversary Shenandoah Scholarship Campaign. Enjoy the sneak peek of Masha and Isaiah below. Purchase Tickets
a hot, happenin’ good time of constant glass blowing demonstrations and guest artists showing off their talents. Kids love the fire-breathing dragon and the flaming ray gun. Have a glass of Barren Ridge wine while you peruse the second floor gallery or check out the stone carving across the street. It’s free, fun, and all day long, so see you there!
◊ Dogwood Road is the main path for this year’s Historic Garden Tour Day in Staunton. Set up to be a walkable affair between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., the tour features those plein air artists mentioned above as well as classical musicians, floral designers, and of course, stunning gardens. See the seven properties at your leisure. Purchase Tickets
◊ If you want evidence of how dedicated the Staunton community is to each other and preserving history, look no further than the celebration that is Bridge Day at Sears Hill Bridge. Reclaiming the condemned pedestrian bridge connecting the Sears Hill neighborhood to downtown Staunton was a labor of love, dedication, and perseverance that took a little more than two years to accomplish. Enjoy the live music, crafts, great food, and family fun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
◊ It’s the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, but rather than donning black garb and mourning, the American Shakespeare Center is throwing a bash on Market Street! Join in the family-friendly #Shakespeare400 Block Party for free from noon until 6 p.m. If you care to see a show at Blackfriars Playhouse, there will be two available for you. At 2 p.m., Shakespeare’s Julius Casear will be performed. Later, at 7 p.m., the cast of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest will take the stage. Purchase Tickets for Julius Caesar Purchase Tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest
Sunday, April 24
The weekend finale is Staunton Music Festival’s presentation of Schubert’s Final Piano Sonatas at Trinity Episcopal Church at 4 p.m. This concert will be a real treat as Carsten Schmidt performs Franz Schubert’s last two sonatas, D.959 A major and D.960 B-flat major, on an 1830’s fortepiano. Purchase Tickets
Shakespeare packages are almost as famous in Staunton as The Bard himself. Choose from these to have a fantastic stay and tickets to one of the Saturday shows:
Good luck with this one, as you’ll probably want more than a picnic basket full of what Staunton has to offer. With a broad stroke of the pen, these are some goodies we think you’ll love to take along.
Cranberry’s Club at Cranberry Grocery features house-made cranberry mayo on Newtown sourdough bread.
Caromont Plank Road Round cheese pairs well with crusty bread and fruity red or white wine. Pick it up at Yelping Dog.
Order a small bowl (or large, if you want) of Gourmet Olives or Waldorf Salad at Lewis Creek Market.
Ask for the Hummus Plate to go at George Bowers Grocery. It includes fresh veggies, feta, and crackers. You have our permission to get a cucumber and banana milkshake to go.
Swing by The Store for fresh tomatoes or cucumbers (because you need them outside of a milkshake, too).
AND AWAY WE GO …
So where will you enjoy your picnic? Will it be one our parks? How about an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Take a scenic drive and look for a great place to pull over and enjoy the sunshine.
‘Tweens and teens average six to nine hours of entertainment media consumption per day according to a recent study by CommonSenseMedia.org1. Break away from the screen time (yours and theirs) and enjoy the great outdoors. Staunton’s parks are a fantastic place to start! Go blow off steam and relax in a natural environment for a change.
Within the 214-acre Gypsy Hill Park are ball fields, a duck pond, a fishing pond, the Action Skate Park, a swimming pool, multiple playgrounds, horseshoes, volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts, bandstand, mini train, picnic tables, and an 18-hole golf course. It’s a beautiful backdrop for capturing video and Instagram shots of your kids at play, as long as you promise to be “in the moment” after you capture a few moments.
The Action Skate Park features a half-pipe and several other launches and rails to polish your skills. BMX bikes, skateboards, and inline skates are permitted.
The train lovers of your bunch will likely enjoy the Gypsy Express, the mini train knocking on 60 years of family fun. The train runs from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May through October. Tickets are only $1 and FREE on Independence Day and Labor Day. Do note that the train does not run in the rain.
Do you have a little explorer on your hands? Feed the sense of adventure and mystery when you geocache in our parks. Learn more about the process and fun of geocaching, then locate our area caches to get started.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, plan to enjoy Family Night Flix at the Bandstand on Friday nights at dusk. The outdoor movie series kicks off June 10 with Minions!
Montgomery Hall Park is 148 acres and a go-to for hiking or mountain biking along the trails. Multiple ball fields make this park a bustling spring and summer destination for local youth. Come throw horseshoes or a round of disc golf before cooling off in the pool (which will open in mid-June following renovations ). Afterward, you’ll find the pavilions to be a nice shady place to picnic.
If you’re looking for a pickleball court, you can find a few at Montgomery Hall Park. “What’s pickleball?” you ask? It’s kind of like badminton or tennis but with a plastic ball (like a whiffle ball) volleyed over a lower net by players with wooden paddles (like ping pong). A larger version of ping pong, faster version of badminton, and slower pace of tennis, perhaps? You play and decide.
Before summer, development on the Natural Play Area will begin behind Lancaster softball field. This will be a special place for children to explore the environment without the typical playground equipment. Imaginations will run wild!
Some days just call for naughty splurge, don’t they? (Diet? What diet?) Fortunately, Staunton has several places dedicated to delivering just that. Sink your teeth into these filling options and ask for a frosty mug of something local.
“Southern California-style Mexican” is the menu at Baja, but locals know, it is also the go-to place in Staunton for craft beer. Their 12 taps are carefully curated on a weekly basis. Want help pairing your Big Burrito with a beer? The staff at Baja Bean Co. dedicates quite a bit of time choosing the worthy, and will gladly assist you in making a wise choice.
Get comfortable and order The Statler (fennel sausage, smoked bacon, red onions, and fresh mozzarella) with a Devils Backbone “Eight Point IPA” or a Blue Mountain “Full Nelson.” There’s just not much that beats pizza and beer, am I right?
Choose from a wide range of “well cultivated” bottled and canned craft beer at this legit craft shop loaded with local, artisanal wares and made-to-order delights. Try the Classic Reuben, their signature sandwich featuring Farmstead Ferments sauerkraut from Charlottesville and handmade Russian dressing. It pairs well with Brothers Craft Brewing’s “Drift” session ale, according to Matthew Miller of Craft Beer Nation.
Southern comfort food rises to the top at Byers Street Bistro. Start with fried green tomatoes, then move on to shrimp and grits or meatloaf. Skip dessert in favor of something tasty like the latest release from Pale Fire or Starr Hill.
When you know that quality is the cornerstone priority of a restaurant, you can trust great food and great service await. Clocktower embraces that responsibility, delivering scratch-made entrees to each guest. With that in mind, savor the wait with a choice of several Virginia craft beers like State Street, Champion, and Port City found among the 16 taps.
Which Staunton establishment boasts the best selection of Virginia craft beer AND serves your favorite dish? Tell us all about by leaving a comment!