Staunton, Virginia is a hip little city with lots to offer anyone searching for a weekend getaway. Located in the southern part of the Shenandoah Valley, it lies about 30 minutes south of Harrisonburg.
Start out early Saturday morning and head south down I-81. Take a pit stop in Harrisonburg to explore Harrisonburg Farmers Market, on south Liberty Street. If you’re hungry you may think of having a bite to eat at Pure Eats, which is across the street from the market at the Ice House Building. I’d reconsider. You could venture on into the icehouse building though, which is where you’ll find Black Sheep Coffee. Black Sheep sources most of their coffees from a variety of Virginia roasters and has a few breakfast and lunch items on the menu. You could also just grab a sandwich and drink from one of the farm market vendors while strolling through the pavilion and admiring all of the fresh vegetables, baked goods, flowers and gifts. If this is your first time exploring this wonderful, little gem of a market, chances are it will not be your last.
Jump back in the car and continue heading south on I-81. For now though, bypass Staunton and continue on to Raphine Virginia to explore the historic Wade’s Mill. Wade’s Mill is a working, water powered, flour mill built in the 1750s by the Kennedy Family – some of the earliest settlers in The Shenandoah Valley. Browse through the store and pick yourself up some of their stone ground flours, cornmeal, grits, polenta and cracked wheat. They also have a small selection of kitchenware and gift items.
On your way back out Raphine Road, be sure to stop by Rockbridge Vineyard. Making wines at the vineyard since 1988, the winemakers have claimed numerous medals and twice received the coveted Virginia Governor’s Cup. After you’ve enjoyed the complimentary wine tasting, buy yourself a glass and rest your laurels in the Adirondack chairs nestled among the grape vines. Allow yourself this opportunity to pause and take in the beauty that surrounds you. We enjoyed the 2012 Rockbridge St. Mary’s Blanc, which is aged in barrels and is a full-bodied white wine with hints of pineapple and apple. An affordable wine at just $12 a bottle, we couldn’t help but to buy a few to take with us and enjoy on another day.
Head North on I-81 to Staunton and check into the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel. Located in the heart of downtown Staunton, it’s really the only place you’d want to stay to explore the city. The hotel was originally built in 1924 but underwent a complete renovation in 2005. The staff is friendly and attentive. You’ll experience that overall classic southern style but without all the fussiness that can sometimes come with it.
Everything is now within walking distance and the remainder of the day is yours to explore downtown Staunton. There are shops galore on Beverly Street – footsteps from the hotel. If you enjoy those antiquing and collectible type stores, you’ll feel as if you’ve struck gold. There are also many local artisan shops, bookstores, a Shakespearean Theatre and even the Woodrow Wilson library – the only presidential library in Virginia, according to their website. Regardless of what you do, after all your exploring, you’ll want to have dinner at Zynoda.
Located right around the corner from the hotel on East Beverly Street, Zynoda is an exquisite southern cuisine, farm to table restaurant. The menu changes based on seasonal availability but if you can, just choose the chefs tasting menu. If so, you are sure to experience the very essence of their locally sourced, southern fare. The restaurant is casual but upscale and the waiters knowledgeable and friendly. It’s a very popular restaurant so you’ll need a reservation to get in. It goes without saying that the food is delicious and artfully presented but one of my favorite things about this restaurant was reading from a chalkboard hanging above the kitchen that listed all of the local farms that they were currently sourcing the food from.
If you’re still on a high from that fabulous dinner and not quite ready to return to the hotel, I’d recommend walking up to Lewis Street. Venture down the hill and stop in to Redbeard Brewing company for a nightcap. You can try a single glass or do a flight but their beer is reasonably priced and quite good.
Staunton sleeps in on Sundays so most of the shops don’t start opening until around 11am or later. Not to worry though, you can have a delicious and healthy breakfast at Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery. Just a quick, short walk from the hotel, Cranberry’s is located on South New Street. They open at 7:30 am and there’s plenty of seating (indoor and outdoor) available once you’ve ordered from their menu. The store opened in 2003 and their goal is to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and organic grains to patrons. They also have a nice apothecary where you can spend some time browsing once you’ve filled up on breakfast.
Before heading back home, you’ve still lots of opportunities for more exploration. Take a stroll through the beautiful Gypsy Hill Park or consider visiting the Frontier Cultural museum –a living history museum that shares the story of the people who migrated to America and the life they created in the Shenandoah Valley. Minutes away to the north in Verona, you can visit what is now considered the largest antique mall in America –The Factory Antique Mall.
Whatever you decide while visiting, I know you’ll come away feeling Staunton’s strong sense of place–having witnessed the willingness and desire of its people to support one another. I’d even venture to say that visiting Staunton will give you a deeper appreciation for living here in the Shenandoah Valley.
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Tammy Batcha is a life-long resident of the Shenandoah Valley. A long-time commuter, she seeks to reconnect to her community. A board certified, health and wellness coach, she continues to study integrative nutritional theory while guiding others on a path to wellness.