Some of the most memorable and best things to do in Shenandoah Valley include gorgeous scenic drives and breath-taking hikes on ands near Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, staying in romantic hotels, and sampling USA’s best craft beer.
Shenandoah Valley Virginia is an area of astounding natural beauty and amazing history. For your next Virginia vacation, consider the following cool, happy, and fun Shenandoah Valley attractions.
Where is Shenandoah Valley? Shenandoah Valley is located between two mountain ranges—Blue Ridge mountains to the east and Allegheny (Appalachian) mountains to the west—and stretches 200 miles—from the Potomac River in the north to the James River in the south.
This custom map of Shenandoah Valley shows places mentioned in this article.
More than 45 million US residents can trace their family history and heritage to ancestors who lived or migrated through Shenandoah Valley Virginia. I can! How about you?
Oh, and I do not even include any things related to one of USA’s most famous rivers, the mighty Shenandoah River.
Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley Virginia
Did you know that George Washington had his first job, won his first election, and had his earliest military encounters in Shenandoah Valley?
Shenandoah Valley is also the birthplace of the most educated US President (Woodrow Wilson) and a country music legend (Patsy Cline), along with the final resting place of Lord Fairfax (owner of 5.5 million acres of pre-Colonial Virginia) and Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Using Visit Virginia current regions, Shenandoah Valley stretches 150 miles from the Virginia border (north of Winchester) to just south of Natural Bridge, and includes the Virginia counties of Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren.
Historically, Shenandoah Valley stretches south to Roanoke but I am following the current Visit Virginia designation.
Thank you to various tourism departments for inviting McCool Travel to experience Shenandoah Valley.
These Shenandoah Valley attractions are listed as you travel from north to south.
1. Tuscarora Trail
While the AT—Appalachian Trail that is—is still the king of hikes, the Tuscarora Trail is a worthy substitute throughout Shenandoah Valley.
In fact, the Tuscarora Trail has been in development for many years and is now a complete AT bypass, covering 220 miles from Shenandoah National Park to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
As Visit Winchester says, “The Tuscarora Trail is truly a hidden gem, but may not remain so once people realize there’s alternative for Old Rag to get beautiful valley vistas.” We hiked to Eagle Rock, from a nondescript parking lot on the VA/WV border and had the trail and beautiful valley vistas to ourselves.
In October, this trail is truly a Virginia hidden gem. As local legend Patsy Cline crooned, CRAZY. Tuscarora Trail is managed by Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
After hiking the Tuscarora Trail, a magnificent place to eat in Winchester Virginia is Sweet NOLA’s. NOTE: Sweet Nola’s is now closed but the owner/chef now works at The George Washington in Winchester. The George Washington is one of our favorite Romantic Hotels in North America.
2. Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park
Only in Shenandoah Valley can you visit Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway in the same day (or even hour). You can also walk for days—or an hour—on the most famous hike in the United States (Appalachian Trail), visit several caverns, and explore endless gorgeous small, scenic, country roads.
— Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is one of the most accessible US National Parks, located only 75 miles from Washington, DC. Skyline Drive runs 105 miles, along the entire length of Shenandoah National Park. There are dozens of majestic scenic stops with access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the Shenandoah Mountains.
Plan your Shenandoah Park visit: Shenandoah National Park Day Trip Planner.
— Skyline Drive / Blue Ridge Parkway
Many have called Skyline Drive the greatest scenic drive in America, especially in fall when the colors are changing. At the southern end of Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park, continue your glorious long road trip on Blue Ridge Parkway for another 469 miles. During many Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway road trips, we have seen bicyclists, motorcyclists, classic cars, and vehicles of all types. If you drive all 574 miles of Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, congratulations, you have covered about 25% of the Appalachian Trail—which parallels and meanders along both scenic roads. Oh, we have also seen black bears bumbling across the road and trails.
3. Shenandoah Spirits Trail / BeerWerks Trail
Sticking with the trail theme, after some Tuscarora Trail hiking and Skyline Drive driving, Shenandoah Valley has dozens of places to quench your thirst. While some places have been operating for many years, the Shenandoah Spirits Trail and Shenandoah BeerWerks Trail links them together for a better tourist experience.
The Shenandoah Spirits Trail offers something for every adult. The trail includes 27 wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries between Winchester and Harrisonburg. Most also offer food (local Route 11 potato chips, if nothing else) along with non-alcoholic beverages (like craft root beer or ginger beer). Check their website before visiting because new places are opening every week.
Watch this hilarious video of Irish comedians sampling Shenandoah Valley’s Route 11 potato chips.
— Shenandoah Vineyards
Shenandoah Vineyards, in Edinburg, is the second oldest Virginia winery. Not only is the wine really good but the views are magnificent.
— Pale Fire Brewing
Also on the Shenandoah Spirits trail is Pale Fire Brewing in Harrisonburg. Pale Fire has a classic music theme, so their brews have cool names like Lucille Oatmeal Stout and Major Tom IPA.
— Basic City Beer
The Shenandoah BeerWerks Trail includes only breweries and the list grows every week. Basic City Beer is in Waynesboro, which, co-owner Bart Lanham told us, won the title of cleanest water in Virginia. No wonder Miller Coors (definitely NOT a craft brewer) opened a plant nearby.
— Stable Craft Brewing
Also in Waynesboro, Stable Craft Brewing is owned and operated by an award-winning chef so the food might even be better than the beer (shhh, do not tell Chris, the brewmaster). The restaurant/draftroom are located in a magnificent repurposed stable and the grounds are gorgeous.
Visit five Shenandoah Valley wineries with local experts Shenandoah Wine Tours. Their $49 rate covers transport and a lunch, in addition to the five winery tasting. How fun!
See also Great Craft Beer Places to Celebrate in USA
4. Shenandoah Valley Scenic Roads
Shenandoah Valley can be driven through in a couple of hours on I-81, which many people consider the most scenic interstate highway in the United States. But, it is still just a highway, with belching trucks, lumbering snowbird RVs, and dazed-eyed drivers in a hurry to get nowhere.
US Route 11 parallels I-81 through Shenandoah Valley, is a more fun alternative to the super highway, goes through most of the Shenandoah Valley commercial centers (mostly small towns), and even has a couple of drive-in theaters along it. Just off Route 11 in Mount Jackson, drive through the covered bridge on the way to the Route 11 Potato Chip factory.
During nine days in Shenandoah Valley, we continually found ourselves on incredibly gorgeous small roads with hardly any other vehicles. Dozens of roads numbered in the 600s and 700s were super fun in a rental Mazda Miata MX-5 and later in our own McCool vehicle.
Many wineries, farm stands, orchards, hiking trails, and attractions can only accessed from smaller roads.
See also 16 Magnificent Uniquely American Road Trips
5. Shakespeare in Shenandoah Valley
The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, gives audiences some of the pleasures that Elizabethan playgoers would have enjoyed during Shakespeare’s era. Its Blackfriar’s Playhouse is the world’s only re-creation of William Shakespeare’s indoor theatre. It is a special treat to attend a performance.
McCool Travel tip: try to buy a seat right on the stage and be part of the show. To visit or not to visit? VISIT!
6. Edinburg Mill Museum
Being on the road, seeing museums nearly every day, I become jaded toward them. I was really impressed with the Edinburg Mill Museum. The historic mill was saved when most buildings were destroyed during the Civil War. Museum exhibits focus on the culture and history of the Shenandoah Valley, including transportation, agriculture, education, home life, military, and more.
I loved the collection of old American Red Cross posters.
See also Fascinating Small Town Museums in Southeastern US
7. Lee Chapel and Stonewall Jackson House
Sure, these two attractions in Lexington, Virginia focus on the most famous Southern generals of the US Civil War but I list them together because of the unexpected storylines they weave.
*** Spoiler alert. If you do not want to know those surprising storylines, skip the next paragraph and proceed to the next photo.
Lee Chapel is on the campus of Washington & Lee University. General Robert E. Lee is buried in the lower level, along with most of his family. The Lee Chapel museum focuses on the connection between Lee and George Washington, which surprises many people. Visit and learn more. The Stonewall Jackson House is the only place that focuses on the life of General Thomas J. Jackson prior to the Civil War. This was the only house Stonewall Jackson ever owned and the house tour focuses on Jackson’s work, civil, and family life up until the Civil War.
*** Spoiler alert complete!
8. Natural Bridge State Park
Allegedly explored by George Washington as part of his surveying work for Lord Fairfax, Natural Bridge was later owned by Thomas Jefferson and officially became a Virginia state park in October 2016. The natural stone arch is 215 feet high and supports US Route 11 which goes right across it.
Allow extra time to walk to the waterfall and visit the Monacan Indian Village.
Allow an extra hour to visit nearby Natural Bridge Caverns. Bring a sweatshirt because it is always 52 degrees underground; even when it is 95 degrees outside.
McCool Travel tip: buy a combo ticket for both attractions and save $8.
Heading further south down I-81? See our favorite Virginia destination for music lovers.
Where to Stay in Shenandoah Valley VA
The George Washington, Winchester
Part of the Wyndham Grand collection, The George Washington Hotel Winchester VA is a relaxed luxury resort with a fabulous indoor pool and many other creature comforts. The property received the 2018 certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor and is located less than 75 miles from Washington DC.
The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, Stephens City
Located less than 15 miles from the above The George Washington Grand Hotel in Winchester is an absolute gem property. The Inn at Vaucluse Spring is a relaxed luxury B&B situated on 44 gorgeous acres in the northern section of Shenandoah Valley. If you have the opportunity, stay in the Mill House which might just be the best setting anywhere in Virginia.
Thank you for reading 8 Great Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley Virginia. Plan a road trip to the sites listed here with these guides from Fun in Fairfax VA :
- Northern Shenandoah Valley Road Trip: Winchester to Harrisonburg
- Southern Shenandoah Valley Road Trip: Staunton to Lexington
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32 thoughts on “8 Great Things To Do In Shenandoah Valley Virginia”
visit the Camera Heritage Museum! lots of history and technology and of course cool cameras! 1 W. Beverley St. in Staunton.
Thank you much for the suggestion, David. I will have to check out the Camera Heritage Museum on my next trip there.
So, y’all, what is new in the Shenandoah Valley? I am planning on another visit soon.
Just saw that Stable Craft celebrated their 3rd anniversary. Woo hoo!
The Shenandoah Valley looks to be quite beautiful. I’d love to do that Skyline Drive and some of those smaller roads, too.
The smaller roads are my favorite parts. And the farmstands, wineries, and coolness along them,
My girlfriend loves wild sits so I’ll tell her about this place before we decide for our next adventure — thank you and cheers! 😉
Excellent. Let me know when you and your girlfriend visit Shenandoah and how you like it.
Thanks for sharing this informative article on things to do in the Shenandoah Valley. This Falle we are traveling to the Smoky Mountains, and will be driving the western end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will need to plan a trip to this area in the future.
Hope you have a great trip, Jeff. Let me know if you discover other cool stuff.
What a gorgeous view! And look at your car, so fancy and beautiful. I’ll love to have a drive along this beautiful road!
Thank you, Chloe. Travel Happy!
I’m pretty familiar with the area, I use to live in MD for quite some time. The students I use to teach would go near there on field trips and such.
Nice. Thank you, Reginia.
I’ve never been to Virginia, Charles. Your post makes me want to explore the Shenandoah Valley.
You should, Doreen. I might even be publishing more enticing material in the near future.
Didn’t realize there was so much to do in the Shenandoah Valley. Love the beer trails that breakfast at Stable Craft Brewing looks delicious!
Oh, Sue, I have barely scratched the surface. When you visit Shenandoah Valley, let me know. I will meet you there and we can explore together!
Love a pretty country road with fun surprises along the way!
Absolutely. Thank you.
Looks like the Shenandoah Valley is loading with interesting things to do. Your posting here has put it on my radar for the future.
Excellent. My job is done. Let me know when you do visit.
Thanks for introducing Shenandoah Valley in Virginia which I didn’t know about it! I hope it doesn’t get too cold in the winer… :S @ knycx.journeying
Hmmmm, some parts do get cold. There are some ski areas in Shenandoah Valley, also.
I’d love to visit that area to do some hiking! Seeing view people on trail is definitely unusual and lucky!
If you do, let us know. Would love to hike with you. Or meet you at the ice cream shop after, at least!
that brewing sounds really great. Nothing better than a freshly brewed beer followed by some fine food from a proper chef!
In a great setting, too.
Thanks for sharing… Planning to go back nxt year:)
Excellent. During fall? Or another season?
It’s funny that you mentioned the comment about so many Americans being able to trace their ancestors back to the Shenandoah valley region, because that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I read this! I do genealogy as a hobby, and I see that part of the country pop up constantly! I have never been to this region sadly, but it reminds me so much of rural Kentucky (where I’m from)- especially the covered bridges and beautiful fall colors!
If your ancestors lived or migrated through Shenandoah Valley, you should visit. The library in Winchester is amazing. I was able to pinpoint the location of an obscure referenced “McCool Spring” from a land plat from the 1750s. Fun stuff.
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