Drive time from NoVA: 1 hour and 30 minutes
There are many small towns in the Shenandoah Valley lying between Shenandoah National Park and the Allegheny Mountains. In this fertile valley, agribusiness is a way of life that delivers bountiful rewards. Some of Virginia’s best produce comes from here, as do celebrated beverages—wine, spirits and craft beer. The smells, sounds and scenery, will restore your sense of peace, which explains why spending time in Shenandoah Valley has become a nationwide passion. The quaint town of Woodstock is one of the Commonwealth’s best getaways for those seeking a simple, low-key getaway where sweeping views abound.
Where to Stay
The northern section of the Shenandoah Valley has a variety of accommodations. For groups or large families, consider the expansive Shenandoah River Lodge in Woodstock, with scenic views of the Shenandoah River. For couples, try the comfortable Hampton Inn & Suites. Small families or a pair of couples will enjoy the rustic 12-room retreat, The Inn at Narrow Passage. Cycling enthusiasts should take a look at Hopewell House Bike & Breakfast in Strasburg, an inn whose owners have extensive knowledge about local biking trails. There are also several rental homes listed with Airbnb.
Sit down for a country breakfast at Sunrise Cafe in downtown Woodstock—eggs accompanied by homemade sourdough bread and caramelized biscuits. After your meal, pick up provisions at Shaffer’s Barbeque for locally sourced sandwiches and salads to-go that you can scarf post-hike. Drive up to Wolf Gap Recreation Area on the border of West Virginia. Located inside the George Washington National Forest, this 1930s camp was home to the African-American Civilian Conservation Corps. Follow the orange-blazed Mill Mountain Trail to Big Schloss’s castle-like boulders. This moderately challenging 4.5-mile hike offers a monumental payoff—270-degree views of the Shenandoah Mountains and valley below. Wonder at a palette of foliage tinted orange, scarlet and sunshiny yellow.
Explore downtown Woodstock, with a visit to the Shenandoah County Historic Courthouse on Main Street. This Greek Revival building was constructed in 1795, and functions as a historic landmark, visitor center and museum. Woodstock has independently owned boutiques, like The Virginia Farmhouse, with an array of Virginia-made foodstuffs and beverages, along with crafts by local artisans. Three French Hens is chock-full of quirky signs and antique decor. Fall is the ideal time to visit Mowery Orchard, where you’ll find some of Shenandoah Valley’s best autumn produce, including apples, pumpkins, gourds and hard ciders from nearby Showalter’s Orchard & Greenhouse.
Snag a table at Woodstock Brewhouse. Located inside a former clothes factory, its Sexi-Mexi pizza or beer-braised bratwurst pairs perfectly with the homebrewed beer on tap and an assortment of Virginia wines.
Seven Bends State Park opened in fall of 2019 with over 1,000 acres and 4 miles of river frontage with hiking and biking throughout.
Drive to Strasburg to see the street art known as the Staufferstadt Mural Project. Staufferstadt honors Strasburg’s original name when the village was founded in 1761. Strasburg commissions new artists each year to add to the lively, imaginative artwork adorning its historic buildings. When you’re ready for brunch, stop in Cristina’s Cafe, a family-owned coffeehouse serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some menu highlights are its daily desserts, quiche-of-the-day and grass-fed burgers.
Pop into Strasburg Museum to examine the genuine red caboose, Strasburg pottery and Civil War artifacts. Or check out Box Office Brewery inside a former movie theater, where flights of beer are served in film reels. For a unique experience, head to Posey Thisisit Llama Farm in nearby Maurertown. This working/teaching farm’s owners, Joyce and daughter, Jamie, welcome visitors with handfuls of llama-approved treats. The calm beasts gently lick them out of your hand, and yes, it tickles. The farm sells llama-wool hats and decor.
Before sunset approaches, drive up to Woodstock Tower, where the blue ridges dazzle with undulating waves of magenta and violet. You’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River as it snakes its curvy path between two mountain ranges. The new 1,000-acre Seven Bends State Park opened this fall; a riverfront park with hiking, biking trails and fishing opportunities. Reserve a table at the neighborhood’s No. 1 eatery, Woodstock Café. This destination restaurant will win your heart with its elegant food that sources most of its food from local markets, including Adam’s Apples and Herbs, Mowery Orchard and Autumn Olive Farms.
The Woodstock Brewhouse has live music on Thursday nights.
Stop by Shenandoah Caverns’ family of attractions. Open seasonally, American Celebration on Parade is a warehouse filled with floats from the Rose Bowl, Thanksgiving Day parades and presidential inaugurations.
Drive around the corner to Route 11 Potato Chip Factory to see one of the 11 flavors of potato chips manufactured from start to finish.
On your way home, visit the Fort Valley Nursery Garden Center & Cafe to dine among the whimsical plants and outdoor decor.
This post originally appeared in our September 2019 issue as part of the Weekend Getaways cover story. For more travel content, subscribe to our newsletter.