Visit the Charming Towns of Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley has so many worthwhile towns to explore. Here are some of my favorite places around the region:
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Martinsburg is located in the panhandle of West Virginia about 90 minutes from DC. Don’t miss Main Street’s interesting collection of restaurants and local artisan studios. An important historical site here is the B&O Railroad Round House on 100 Liberty Street Martinsburg, WV. For the Kids, By George is a children’s museum showcasing history’s most important events in this region for the last 300 years. There are lots of interactives where kids experience life on the American Frontier.
The Roundhouse played an important role during the Civil War, as both the North and South fought over its control. Stonewall Jackson burned down the original building. It was rebuilt after the war, and became a different kind of battle ground during the first National Labor Strike of 1877.
For casual diner-style meal in Martinsburg, stop in the quaint and friendly Blue White Diner. This traditional southern diner serves breakfast all day. If you prefer something more upscale, you’ll get a first class meal at Boyd’s Steakhouse. Check out their locally made moonshine!
Don’t miss dessert at Martinsburg’s beloved Everything’s Cheesecake Bakery.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
History lovers and hiking enthusiasts should head to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (about 90 minutes from Washington DC). Some highlights include the Historic Lower Town, operated by the National Park Service. The best place to start is by parking at the Visitors Center and then take the shuttle, which runs non-stop and eliminates the difficult parking situation.
The shuttle drops you in the Lower Town where living history actors demonstrate life during the Civil War in a collection of buildings and museums. Lower Town has an information center with daily ranger tours at 2 pm. If you’re on your own, stop in the Boarding House, Dry Goods Store and Blacksmith Shop, but don’t miss the John Brown Museum and Black Voices exhibits. There are also five serious hiking trails in the area, and because of the powerful confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers here, every view is astounding.
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Shepherdstown is a college town with lots of great shops, restaurants and culture. Every weekend in the warm weather months, the town has a fantastic Farmers Market and the historic Victorian homes and gardens are a sight to see!
Encircling this friendly community are mountains, streams and wildlife. It’s a great place to stage a bicycle trip on the C&O Canal or go kayaking down the Potomac River. If you want to make a weekend of it, stay at Triple AAA the four diamond resort Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WV. This German themed resort has the best views of the Potomac River and outstanding German cuisine.
In the historic downtown of Winchester, Virginia, old and new architecture straddle each of the quiet streets lit by black iron street lamps.
There’s a compact, centralized retail district sprinkled with a mix of Victorian and colonial-style buildings. Birds are singing, and the tree-lined street is lively. The pedestrian mall has blocks of charming shops.
Don’t leave without a visit to the magnificent Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. The gardens are exquisite! This wonderful museum has exhibits on history of the region and an excellent collection of fine art and crafts, especially the magnificent doll house collection.
If you’re grabbing some lunch in downtown Winchester, one cool place is the Snow White Grill. It was a favorite hang out of hometown hero, Patsy Cline.
Maybe stop in a shop or two, or drive to nearby Middletown via Rt. 11 to check out Cedar Creek Battlefield and the Belle Grove Plantation. One of the National Park Service’s most recent acquisitions, the elegantly restored plantation was the former home of Nelly Hite, sister of President James Madison. Although, the battle of Cedar Creek raged around her mansion, it remained miraculously unscathed.
A little over two hours brings you to the legendary Luray Caverns to see one of the most amazing natural sights on the East Coast. Even when it’s scorching hot outside, the temperature inside the Caverns remains 56 degrees year round. Buried deep beneath Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Luray Caverns are viewed while walking over a series of well-lighted paved walkways, stairs and bridges. Knowledgeable guides lead the tours and explain how the towering stalagmites and stalactites were originally formed, some with 10 story high ceilings. Luray Caverns is at the foot of Skyline Drive. But save that for another day! For more information about these towns and attractions click here.
Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.