Category Archives: Virginia Tourism

Jenna Bush Hager to Keynote Fundraiser for Virginia Women’s Monument in RVA

Adèle Goodman Clark’s name is not well known but a monument honoring her as well as other groundbreaking women will be the recipient of a September fundraiser featuring Jenna Bush Hager as the keynote speaker.

Located in Capitol Square, the Virginia Women’s Monument, subtitled Voices from the Garden, is the first of its kind in the nation recognizing the full range of Virginia women’s achievements, from the first president of a bank, to the chief of the Pamunkeys, to women’s sufferage, to a 1700s newspaper publisher. The monument recognizes and honors their achievements.

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Tourism: Night Sky Festival and Eclipse at Shenandoah National Park

Celebrate the night sky in Shenandoah National Park by attending the Second Annual Night Sky Festival. Join in the fun Friday, August 18, through Monday, August 21, at various locations along Skyline Drive:

– Guest presentations by astronomy experts
– Ranger programs
– Constellation tours
– Solar scope viewing
– Telescope viewing
– Junior Ranger programs
– Audio-visual presentations
– Hands-on activities

The weekend will culminate on Monday, August 21, with the 2017 solar eclipse that will cross the continental United States, the first since 1979. While Shenandoah National Park will only experience 80-85% coverage of the sun at approximately 2:40 pm, and will not experience a total eclipse, it is still a great place to join a Ranger to learn about why a solar eclipse happens, what to expect, and how to view it safely. Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6) AND Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51)

Below are workshops and events available throughout the weekend:

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Summer 2017: 40 Things to Do In and Around Staunton, Va

Voted as one of America’s Top 20 Main Streets by Travel and Leisure magazine, the central Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton was also named one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America by Smithsonian magazine as well as many others who have discovered this quaint corner of Virginia.

With views east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and west toward the Appalachians, Staunton is an historic slice of Virginia that offers restored Victorian homes, cozy downtown shops, and small-town atmosphere. Patriotic holidays find Beverley Street, the main thoroughfare that is lined with restaurants, store fronts, the Dixie Theater, the city courthouse, and old-fashioned lamp posts, lined with American flags. Be sure and check the Staunton Convention and Visitor Center Calendar of Events for all the latest happenings including art exhibits and live entertainment.

There’s lots to do during the carefree summer months so here are some places and events, in no particular order, that may appeal to those visiting the area.

1. Trolleys
A great way to get around downtown, Staunton’s two trolleys pick up and discharge passengers at stops located throughout the city. It’s one of the best deals around, and offers a way to see the city without driving. Cost is $0.25 a ride or free to visitors with tokens from the Visitor Center. More information can be found at the Staunton Visitors Center on New Street.

2. Wright’s Dairy-Rite
Ever heard of the country group The Statler Brothers? They grew up hanging out at the 1950s-era Wright’s Dairy-Rite Drive-In, and it is very much the same today. Pull to the curb, order from the authentic call box, and have a carhop deliver your freshly-cooked meal while listening to 50s music — hamburgers, onion rings, ice cream goodies, fries, and lots more. Or go inside to the 1950s-decorated interior complete with tables, booths, and a historical display of those who have visited over the years including the Statler Brothers and Virginia Governor/U.S. Senator George Allen. It’s a local favorite.

3. Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room
Ox-Eye Vineyards is owned by John and Susan Kiers who lovingly renovated an historic building in the Wharf area of downtown Staunton. The Tasting Room offers wine tastings of their varied selections of reds and whites. Ox-Eye Vineyards displayed at the 2012 Shenandoah Valley Wine and Jazz Festival at the Frontier Culture Museum, and in April 2013 the Washington Post named them one of the Top 10 Mid-Atlantic wineries to visit. Where did the name “Ox-Eye” come from? It’s the name of the common field daisy with a yellow center and white petals that grows all around Ox-Eye Farm. Hint: If you like white wines, try their Riesling and White Ox.

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Bluegrass Music Sunday at Humpback Rocks Farm

If you’ve not been to Humpback Rocks Farm’s concert series, you may want to plan a visit to western Virginia and get lost in the music of the mountains.

Wander the historic mountain farmstead, hike Humpback Rock trail to a rock outcropping with a view across the Shenandoah Valley to the Appalachians, picnic under the trees, and soak in the beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains as you listen to talented musicians entertain guests in the shade of the big tree near the cabin.

This Sunday, July 16, the Bill Wellington String Band will be on stage at 2:00. All concerts are FREE in the series that continues through October 1.

July 16 – The Bill Wellington String Band
Aug 6 – Harmony Hill
Aug 20 – Grassy Ridge
Sep 3 – The Mutton Busters
Sep 17 – Blue Mountain Sunrise
Oct 1 – Uncle Henry’s Favorites

Humpback Rocks Farm is located at Milepost 5.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Entertainment for 2017 includes some favorite bands from the past, and several new ones. Power and sound equipment have been upgraded, thanks to Friends of the Blue Ride Parkway’s Humpback Rocks Chapter and the generous donations of friends. Volunteers are always welcomed to help with set-up, table attendants, clean-up, and parking attendants to help with overflow crowds.

Come prepared to have fun. Bring a chair, and don’t be surprised if clogging breaks out!

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Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks Farm 2017 Free Concert Series

If you’ve not been to Humpback Rocks Farm’s concert series, plan to visit the Blue Ridge and get lost in the music of the mountains! Wander the historic farmstead, hike Humpback Rock trail, picnic, and soak in the beauty of Virginia while you kick back to listen while talented musicians entertain guests under the big old tree near the cabin.

And it’s all FREE on select Sunday afternoons at 2:00pm on the farm located at Milepost 5.8. Bands will include some old favorites and several new ones. Power and sound equipment has been upgraded, thanks to some generous donations, and there will be more concerts this summer than ever before.

June 18 – Farm Use String Band
July 2 – The Lovell Coleman Band
July 16 – The Bill Wellington String Band
Aug 6 – Harmony Hill
Aug 20 – Grassy Ridge
Sep 3 – The Mutton Busters
Sep 17 – Blue Mountain Sunrise
Oct 1 – Uncle Henry’s Favorites

This is possible through Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway — Humpback Rocks Chapter. Roles for volunteers are available: help with set-up, table attendant(s), clean-up, and parking attendants to help with the overflow crowds, all while enjoying fabulous mountain music! Follow the Humpback Rocks Chapter Friends on Facebook for the latest on participating bands.

Mark your calendars and then join in the fun! Bring a chair, lunch or snack, and be ready if clogging breaks out. Most of all, come prepared to have fun. See you on the mountain!

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Festivals, Saunders Brothers, Blue Ridge Mountains … just another day in paradise

By Lynn R. Mitchell

[Editor’s Note: With the unofficial start of summer behind us, here’s a rerun column about the variety of events and activities available in the Shenandoah Valley.]

??????????It’s summer with all the festivals and events that are available in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond so today we decided to spend the day just going where the wind took us. We plopped our straw hats on the back seat — I burst out laughing when I saw them and had to take a picture — and off we went. Our first stop was at our friends’ house near Crimora for a garage sale. After visiting a while and paying for our purchases, we headed to Waynesboro where the first day of the 2014 Extravaganza was going on.

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We were fairly early to this annual event that features spectacular fireworks, ahead of the crowds that began showing up by the time we left. Crafters, artists, games, pony rides, carnival rides, food vendors, and live entertainment … there was plenty to do. We enjoyed talking with local photographer Brent McGuirt (www.brentmcguirtphotography.com) whose stunningly beautiful work showcasing the Shenandoah Valley and beyond was on display. (Check out his Facebook page for his latest works.)

It was great to run into Bill and Jean Ann Bolling who were spending the weekend nearby in the cool of the mountains.

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What’s Blooming in the Yard Today….

What was blooming in the yard today? After two nights with 30-degree overnight temps which required covering tender plants and flowers with plastic, everything not only survived but seemed to thrive in today’s sunshine and temps in the mid-60s. Purple salvia continues to bloom into its second week while the pink and white peonies blossomed under the hothouse-like plastic.

Irises

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Spring Creeps Into Shenandoah National Park

May 2017 … green is creeping up the ridges in Shenandoah National Park. It was a road trip along Skyline Drive to see the shades of green, wildflowers, and even ridges where winter was still clinging in the form of leafless trees….

Route 33 east of Harrisonburg as it approaches Shenandoah National Park.

Swift Run Gap entrance station.

Blackened trees are a reminder of the April 2016 Rocky Mount forest fire that burned thousands of acres in the southern section of Skyline Drive.


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Ox-Eye Vineyards Offers Wine Tastings and Fun in Downtown Staunton

A hidden gem to Staunton is being discovered by visitors as well as locals. On Saturday we joined friends for the Sears Hill Bridge dedication in downtown Staunton and enjoyed lunch at the Clocktower Restaurant before walking to the Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room on Middlebrook Avenue. The day was beautiful so we sat outdoors on the patio and enjoyed a tasting and glasses of award-winning wine from Ox-Eye Vineyards.

 

Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room is located in the Historic Wharf District of downtown Staunton in a 1904 building designed by noted architect T.J. Collins. After sitting vacant for years, it was carefully and tastefully renovated by the Kiers.

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Back Creek Farms pure maple syrup … Highland Maple Festival

Originally published March 2014….

If you’re looking for personality, look no further than Pat Lowry who, with his wife Valerie (in the background talking with a customer) owns Back Creek Farms Sugar House. His quick smile and friendly conversation combined with an ease around newcomers make this fourth-generation farmer a natural salesman. Each year during the Highland Maple Festival they have a tent set up on Main Street in Monterey near the Courthouse where their pure maple syrup, crafted on the farm in the southern end of the county, is sold along with maple fudge and other products.

Pat noted that this year sugar water production was down 75 percent because of the cold winter. “Some days it might not start until 4:00,” he said, referring to sap rising in the sugar maple trees, “and then stop at 6:00 when the sun goes down.” That affects not only the amounts available but also the taste. This year it is exceptionally yummy.

We’ve been purchasing their syrup from the festival for a number of years but were pleasantly surprised to see it for sale last summer in the gift shop at Monticello. The Lowrys have found a number of other outlets as well.

This year Back Creek’s syrup has a buttery-caramel taste and is thick and rich and oh so good on pancakes and anything else.

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David Rockefeller Dies at 101, Family Saved Colonial Williamsburg

David Rockefeller died Monday. He was 101 years old, the grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr., last survivor of John D. Rockefeller Jr’s children, the youngest of his siblings. As heir to the Standard Oil fortune, David Rockefeller was a billionaire who made his way in the world as a banker, a philanthropist, and a patron of the arts with an art collection estimated to be worth $500 million.

John D. Rockefeller’s children and grandchildren were taught that with great wealth comes great responsibility, and over the years numerous projects have been the benefactors of the family’s generosity.

The citizens of Virginia and the nation benefitted greatly from the Rockefeller family’s generous philanthropy that made possible the restoration of a forgotten and run-down Colonial Williamsburg, a premiere living-history museum that is known around the world. The family’s financial support of Williamsburg exceeded $100 million over the years, beginning in the 1920s when David Rockefeller’s father became involved in the restoration and re-creation of this national treasure.

America owes a great deal of gratitude for this influential family’s part in preserving a very important part of our history.

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Shenandoah Mountain to Sapsuckers, a Photo Trip Through Maple Syrup Country

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon Saturday morning when we left our house in western Augusta County on the annual trek to Highland County’s Maple Festival. The air was cold, and we had experienced a wintry mix of rain, sleet, and snow the previous night. Our destination had snow on the ground before more fell on Friday so we were hopeful there would be plenty of photo ops since the last time I had photographed the festival in snow was 2013. Road trip!

I clicked a photo of the sunrise from the road, and then we turned west onto Route 250, pointed toward the Appalachians. By the time we reached Deerfield in far western Augusta County, the ground was covered in snow and from that point on we were in snow until we returned home. The temperature was hovering just above freezing, and we still had to cross four mountains before reaching Monterey. Driving up Shenandoah Mountain, the fog set in, snow was deeper on the sides of the road, and snow plows passed going in the other direction. Mr. Mitchell, who had worked for VDOT while in high school, gave a wave to the drivers we passed. Thanks to them, we were about to make this trek on clear roads. The top of Shenandoah Mountain was socked in with fog and the historical overlook was empty — no view to be seen in all that fog.

At the bottom of Shenandoah Mountain we passed through the sleepy berg of Headwaters. The little general store, a popular stop for many over the years, is closed and for sale. Fog lifted for a bit at the lower elevation …


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Highland’s Laurel Fork Sapsuckers On Top of the World

Originally published in March 2014….
Okay, these guys get the prize for best view … and that’s saying a lot in Highland County where it’s impossible to find a bad view. Located on top of Alleghany Mountain that straddles the Virginia-West Virginia line ten miles west of Monterey, Laurel Fork Sapsuckers has the highest elevation of the seven sugar camps. How high? Try 4,400 feet. The breath-takingly spectacular scenery alone is worth the drive. They are also the newest camp. The land has been in the family for four generations but the camp has been operating since 2010 and features eighteen acres of sugar maples. This was our first visit but it won’t be our last.

Earlier in the day we had been to Duff’s Sugar House south of Monterey so when we left we took Rt. 84 from Duff’s to Rt. 600 at Back Creek and followed it north to Rt. 250, a drive we’ve done many times in the past. The pavement turns to gravel as this scenic back road climbs the ridge that parallels the Back Creek valley, and it was muddy and soft in many places but frozen over with ice in others. When we emerged onto Rt. 250, it was only a few miles further west to Laurel Fork Sapsuckers Sugar Camp. Why not, we thought … let’s go!

First thought when we turned at the very unassuming looking yard sign that said “Laurel Fork Sapsuckers:” Top of the world. Second thought: Oh my gosh, there’s so much mud. The sun was shining, snow was melting, and the parking area just off Rt. 250 was soft as we backed into a grassy-muddy spot.

A young man was standing nearby, dressed for the cooler-than-Monterey weather at that high elevation, and he walked toward us as we tried to get our bearings. Where was the sugar house? Where were the people? All I saw were a couple of parked cars, what looked to be an abandoned house, and mountains as far as the eye could see.

The young man was named Ladd and he pointed toward the road that continued up the mountain beyond the parking lot and disappeared into the snowy woods. That’s where everything was located, he told us. The road was bordered by deep snow which made it a gully that had a river of water running downhill.

“You need four-wheel drive to get up there,” he told us. Hmm … our four-wheel drive had moved away when our daughter married.

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Late Winter Snow Mixes With Spring Flowers in Shenandoah Valley

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” —Hal Borland

As a frigid breeze blew across my front yard Monday afternoon, I decided to take my camera and snap some pictures of our blooming plum and cherry trees because snow was moving in later in the evening. The temperature had dipped into the teens over the weekend, already causing blossoms to fall to the ground, limply piled up under the trees, but enough were left on branches to get some decent photos. Icicles were on the wind and I shivered as I reached out in the stiff breeze to steady a branch with one hand while focusing my camera with the other.


Pink and fragile-looking, these little guys are hardier than expected. The blooms in these pics had withstood the teen temps but I wasn’t sure they could withstand snow along with cold. So I clicked away, walking around the trees to try differing angles to showcase them in the best way possible.


Monday night the snow showed up right on time although we only saw about three inches instead of the 4-8 inches that had been in the forecast. However, what we got was pretty and so I returned to the trees Tuesday morning, again with camera in hand, to get pictures of soft pink blossoms covered in fluffy white snow.

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Moving Dirt at Frontier Culture Museum for Chick-Fil-A, Bojangles, Aldi, More

Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia’s property on Richmond Road. Photo take March 8, 2017. (Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

There’s no way you could have missed all the earth moving equipment the past weeks in front of the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia (FCMV) on Richmond Road (Rt. 250) in Staunton or, for that case, on the opposite side of the road where the city of Staunton is clearing land for retail development.

But in front of the FCMV, facing onto Richmond Road/Rt. 250, are spaces where Chick-Fil-A, Bojangles, Aldi, and other retail will be going up. It’s been in the planning for several years as the Museum worked with developers to design and lay out the space, and bring in tenants.

Chick-Fil-A had originally planned to be open a year ago. A delay with the property slowed their plans.

I wrote 18 months ago about the owner of Charlottesville’s Bojangles telling us he would be opening a location in Staunton.

There are also proposals to perhaps have a hotel and another restaurant so stay tuned to see what else will join Sheetz in that popular location that will be very accessible to travelers on I-81.

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