Thursday, October 6, 2011

Roadtrip Shenadoah Valley

Named after the river that winds most of the way through it, Shenandoah Valley (also known as “Daughter of the Stars”) is a place of scenic beauty and spectacular natural landmarks.

Shenandoah Valley
Photo by jpmueller99, Flickr

A key area of conflict in the American Civil War, Shenandoah Valley offers many opportunities—in the form of trails, marked historic sites and re-enactments—to reflect on its history and the significance of the fierce battles that finally put an end to slavery.

Although you could travel from Salem to Winchester in about three hours, you would miss many of the unique and memorable experiences Shenandoah has to offer.

Slow down, take in the surroundings and enjoy a three-day road trip.

Day 1

Starting in Salem, get onto Interstate Highway 81 and head northeast to Buchanan. There, you can walk the famous Buchanan Swinging Bridge (parts of which date back to 1851!), explore some less-familiar Civil War sites, watch a movie at Botetourt County’s oldest standing theatre and browse through antique stores and art galleries on Buchanan’s historic Main Street.

For a bridge on a grander scale, head a bit further up the highway and visit The Natural Bridge, “20 stories of solid rock, carved by the fingers of nature”.

Natural Bridge
Photo by mikemac29, Flickr

Next, drive for just over an hour up to Grottoes, and stop in at Grand Caverns, America’s oldest show cave. Explore rooms with names such as Persian Palace, Grand Ball Room and Dante’s Inferno! And if you’re there in September, stay and enjoy the annual bluegrass festival!

Bed down in Grottoes for the night.

Day 2

If you’re travelling on a Saturday, make your next stop Broadway for the Farmers Market, where you can buy fresh local produce, baking, coffee and crafts.
Next, head up and across to Luray, and lose yourself in The Garden Maze. There are more caverns here, if you didn’t get your fill at Grand Caverns; or you could visit the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum or the Singing Tower.

The Garden Maze
Photo by sd, Flickr

Keep travelling northeast till you reach Middletown. Witness a re-enactment of The Battle of Cedar Creek, or a Moonlight tour of Hupp’s Hill, then find a place to settle in for the night. Maybe the Battle of Cedar Creek Campground?

Day 3
Drive a short distance northeast to White Post, and prepare to meet some prehistoric wildlife at Dinosaur Land!

Dinosaur Land
Photo by marc.benton, Flickr

If you’re in White Post in October, don’t miss the Historic Long Branch Hot Air Balloon Wine and Music Festival.

Historic Long Branch Festival
Photo by Rick Collier, Flickr

Finally, check out the beautiful town of Winchester, where you can visit George Washington’s Office Museum, Wilson’s Wild Animal Park or Rocking S Ranch (for some horse riding). And if you’re there in late April/early May, the Winchester-Frederick County comes alive with The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. It’s a huge event, with over 250,000 people attending each year!

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival
Photo by M.V. Jantzen, Flickr

View Directions to Front Royal, VA, United States in a larger map

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