Tucked away just off Route 81, there’s a day trip waiting to be made to the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory and Shenandoah Caverns, two classic examples of one-of-a-kind Virginia roadside attractions. The Route 11 Potato Chip Factory, located in Mount Jackson, has been in operation since 1992 and offers a unique opportunity to discover how small-batch potato chips are created. Just down the road are the Shenandoah Caverns and a host of other museums and attractions affiliated with the natural wonder. These two sites, combined with the numerous cafes, restaurants and scenery dotting the journey there, make for the perfect day trip to take with family and friends.
On the way, there are several options for breakfast or a snack. The Market Salamander in Middleburg features locally sourced ingredients and indoor and outdoor seating. Breakfast options include wraps, sandwiches, French toast and baked goods. Annie’s Kitchen Table Nourish in Haymarket offers fresh, local ingredients and daily breakfast specials along with freshly baked bagels, biscuits and croissants. For a snack break or an early lunch, stop by the Red Truck Rural Bakery in Marshall for specialty baked goods like moonshine cake, granola, muffins and cookies. Sandwiches are available to go. Each restaurant is just a few miles off of Route 66, which eventually leads to Route 81 and then Route 11 Potato Chip Factory about 30 miles down the road.
Before arriving at the factory, call ahead to make sure there will be a fry viewing, which showcases the chip-cooking process through large windows inside the factory. Watching hundreds of potatoes careen through large metal machines, almost like a starchy waterfall, is fascinating enough on its own, but the friendly employees in the front of the store and the happy-to-wave chip-makers make the experience more fun.
While tours of the factory itself are not permitted, the smell of the particular chip being made pervades the dual gift shop and fry-viewing room that is decorated for visitors and adds to the surprising intrigue of the humble potato chip. Luckily, the 11 varieties of chips are available for tasting, from the lip-puckering Dill Pickle to the zingy Mama Zuma’s Revenge.
The Route 11 Potato Chip Factory is no small fry in the chip-making world, with numerous accolades and a dedicated following, making it a great destination for a unique day trip that won’t soon be forgotten.
If you’re still hungry for more after visiting the factory, the nearby Shenandoah Caverns offer another attraction with organic rock formations like the Diamond Cascade and the Bacon Formations. Admission to the caverns also includes admission to several local museums such as The American Celebration on Parade, a museum of renovated parade floats that have been featured in everything from presidential inaugurations to Rose Bowl parades, and The Yellow Barn, which is a museum of antique farm vehicles ranging from tractors to model trains.
On the way home from this singularly Virginian day trip, if you aren’t busy snacking on the Route 11 potato chips you picked up at the factory, stop by the Front Porch Market and Grill in The Plains for dinner and choose from soups, salads, all-day breakfast and a variety of entrees ranging from steak to fresh fish. The market attached to the restaurant provides an opportunity to browse for gourmet goods, specialty tools and wines