By Sophia Rutti
If you’re looking for a summertime escape from the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia, you don’t have to catch a flight out of the country. Less than 80 miles away from Washington, D.C., Front Royal has everything a NoVA resident needs to shut down the email, unwind and reconnect both with nature and with your long-lost peace of mind.
Front Royal, the “Canoe Capital of Virginia,” is a country haven for people looking to get out and get their daily dose of adventure. There is nothing like a canoe trip down the Shenandoah River to pick you up and make you forget how to tie a tie in the first place. With places to hike, swim, canoe, trail-ride on horseback or even catch an air balloon ride, it doesn’t matter what kind of adventure-seeker you are—there will be something to sate your wild side.
If the kind of adventure you seek is less physical, then there is Front Royal’s historic downtown. You can do a walking tour, sample restaurants and art galleries, check out a winery or even bring your own picnic to enjoy the rustic beauty of Front Royal at your leisure.
Front Royal history
Front Royal originally went by the name of LeHewtown, after a French Huguenot by the name of Peter LeHew who owned 200 acres of land there in 1754. By 1788, the tract of land became Front Royal. Less than 100 years later, in 1854, rail service was added to the town and eventually, with its extension to Strasburg, the town became a factor in the Battle of Front Royal that occurred on May 23, 1862.
Since then, the area has become a recreational haven as well as a successful area for lumber, agriculture, manufacturing and grain mills.
How to get there
The trip to Front Royal from anywhere in Northern Virginia is relatively easy, but the rural area itself can be a dead zone for cell phones. While the dead zones are perfect for people trying to separate themselves from their work life, they can be a nightmare for navigational systems. So before you go, it’s important that you know how to get to Front Royal and write down the directions, just in case.
Front Royal is just off I-66, which makes getting there a dream. As you drive down the highway, you can watch the landscape change from clogged-up traffic and sound barriers to open highway and lush green mountains.
For directions click here.
What to do
When it comes to things to do in Front Royal, there is no shortage. When you arrive, make a quick stop by the Front Royal Visitor Center if you’re in need of plans.
As the “Canoe Capital of Virginia,” it is obvious what one of the most popular things to do in Front Royal is. You can catch a ride with the Front Royal Canoe Co., which does much more than just what its name suggests. Canoe, kayak or tube the Shenandoah with one of their experienced guides, or just rent one of their vessels and take off on your own.
You can find yourself in the Shenandoah National Park almost by accident in Front Royal. With the Appalachian National Scenic Trail so close, it’s a shame to just ignore it. Whether you’re a hiking aficionado or not, don’t be afraid of the mammoth trail just because of its reputation as the Everest of long-distance hiking trails. There are areas with low grades that allow for a gentle and enjoyable hike for all kinds of people.
Virginia is known for its exciting and beautiful horse country, but not all of us can be steeplechasers. If you want to hop on the back of a horse and explore trails in the beautiful Virginia countryside, you don’t have to own your own horse. Just stop by one of the following farms that offer trail riding for people of all equestrian ability.
If golfing is how you like to wind down after a long workweek, then you’ll be in a perfect position to do so with four different courses in and around Front Royal with the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains to keep you inspired.
Downtown Front Royal is a beautiful historic district that features architecture from the mid-1700s to the mid-1900s. Walk around, visit quaint shops and eat at locally owned restaurants. Make sure to stop by The Apple House and pick up some of their barbecue or their apple butter doughnuts. Just walking around and soaking in the small-town atmosphere or breathing the fresh mountain air is enough to make you forget any trouble that you left back home.
For a map of downtown Front Royal, click here.