With the arrival of cold weather, many of our outdoor activities come to an end, and my thoughts turn to the idea of staying home and enjoying a piece of cheese and a glass of wine nestled by the fireplace. If that little voice is telling you the same…well, let me give you reasons to put down that glass of wine and cheese and plan a day or two, or three, trip to Staunton and the surrounding area.
Winter time in the Shenandoah and Piedmont wine country has a rhythm all its own, so leave the hibernation to our fine forest friends and take your activities outdoors.
Many visitors get their first taste of Virginia’s wine country during the summer when everything is at their peak season. However, now is the season when the crowds have returned home or to school and the area tends to be quieter, omitting a charm all its own. With the trees bare, the vistas are incredible, “I never saw that home on the hill before.” And the friendly folks in the valley have more time to spend with you.
Travel & Leisure magazine named Staunton as one of “America’s Favorite Mountain Town.” Southern Living Magazine declared Staunton as “The perfect place to base any exploration of the valley.”
Explore the History of Staunton
Nestled within its hilly landscape and winding streets, Staunton offers a glimpse into the Victorian era with its quaint streets filled with shops, art galleries, museums, antique shops, and eateries.
Staunton’s rich history of arts and culture goes back to its day as a 19th-century rail junction and a center for travelers to stop over and enjoy opera, vaudeville, and a lively nightlife. The tradition lives on today, and the town is alive with entertainment.
In one day, visitors can be swept away by a Shakespearean play at the renown American Shakespeare Center, open year round. The Center is the only replica of Shakespeare’s indoor theater in the world. Visitors can also take a free ride on a Victorian Trolley with stop offs and pick up. Many enjoy shopping at one of the over 90 unique shops along Beverly Street or the historic Wharf District.
Downtown offers the opportunity to visit the Trinity Episcopalian Church with original Tiffany stained glass windows, the Antique Fire Engine Museum, and Camera Heritage Museum.
If you are a Civil War buff pay a visit to the Thornrose Cemetery with a 22-foot marble statue of a Confederate soldier standing to guard over 1,700 fallen Southern soldiers graves. A Confederate Breastworks is only a short drive away. Augusta Military Academy Museum is a few miles away on Route 11 North. The Stonewall Brigade Band performs concerts at Gypsy Hill Park every Monday during June, July, and August. The band is the oldest continuous community band in the nation. Check their website stonewallbrigadeband.com for their concert schedule.
For the individual who loves history, we have only begun. Staunton was home to more than a few famous Americans and is the birthplace of the 28th president, Woodrow Wilson. His home is now a cultural center with excellent live theater, ongoing revitalization and living history exhibitions.
Visitors can get a whole different feel for another part of American history at the Frontier Culture Museum, an outdoor living history museum. It houses four original farms sites from Germany, Ireland, and England, brought over stone by stone, and brick by brick and carefully restored, and an Appalachian farm that shows the cultural influences of the other farms. An African village adds to the Museum’s unique and educational story about the contributions of enslaved Virginian’s to the food, music, dance, and medicine of the Commonwealth.
Unique Gifts & Local Artisans
During the holidays if you are looking for the unusual, starting in November through December, the Smith Center, across from the Visitor Center, offers historical displays and a unique holiday shopping experience. The Center features the art and fine crafts of Virginia artist and artisans. Blow your own Christmas glass ornament at Sunspots, and watch the professional glassblowers create beautiful vases, bottles, and ornaments to sell in the showroom.
The Local Taste of Staunton
As you can see Staunton is a historic town with a lot to see, but after all, we are a food, wine, and craft beer magazine so let’s go back to downtown. There are restaurants where a diner may experience a wide array of food from traditional fare to more exotic meals at more than 25 restaurants all within walking distance.
Start your morning at Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, a natural and organic store/café serving gourmet coffee and an excellent breakfast. Cranberry’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Kathy’s Restaurant recently received the Virginia Living magazine’s award as the best breakfast in the Shenandoah Valley. May we suggest their excellent pancakes?
For lunch, a fun experience is the Yelping Dog Wine Bar. The Yelping Dog features a large selection of cheese plates, charcuterie and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches like the Guac n’ Goat, or try the #9 made with caramelized onions, shredded gruyere, and swiss on sourdough bread with a parmesan crust.
We like to end the day with an ice-cream from Kline’s Dairy Bar, making homemade ice cream since 1943 or a visit to the Split Banana.
The Brewers of Staunton
I should also mention that Staunton has five breweries in town and a wine tasting room from one of our local vineyards. First known for some of the best wines in the Commonwealth, the valley is also now known for craft beer. For Virginia Craft Beer lovers, a weekend could be created around visiting the five Tap Rooms.
There is even a Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. Follow the trail and “Drink in the Shenandoah Valley” www.beerwerkstrail.com
International Fare in Staunton, VA
Maybe you want to add the taste of India, Thai, Italian or Mediterranean food to your weekend. You can find it all in Staunton, Virginia.
If you enjoy India food, the Taste of India offers a lunch buffet. If Thai is your thing, the Thai Staunton Restaurant on Greenville Avenue is an attractive restaurant serving authentic Thai food.
For the lover of Italian food, Staunton offers a wide variety from Little Marie, a family restaurant, to Emilio’s, offering excellent Italian cuisine along with an extensive wine list and white cloth table dining.
For an evening out Aioli Mediterranean Tapas restaurant offers inventive small plates, called tapas and an excellent selection of entrees, all artfully presented.
A Weekend Escape
Lodging options include the beautiful renovated Stonewall Jackson Hotel along with a plethora of motels, inns, and bed & breakfasts.
Staunton is indeed one of our “Favorite Mountain Towns.”
For more information on upcoming Winter event visit www.visitstaunton.com.
If you enjoy weekend getaways, check out our article on Scott’s Addition in Richmond.
Looking for a great place for a cup of coffee or healthy shopping, check out Cranberry’s Grocery.