Sensational scenic Shenandoah short-sabbatical suggestions
May 16, 2009 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Travel Filter: Planning trip from NC to Appomattox and Shenandoah Valley VA for Memorial Day weekend. Looking for off the beaten path, cultural or natural destinations and any other "must see" recommendations on food, lodging or attractions

Family is doing a road trip to Shenandoah VA from NC. The only set destinations are Appomattox Court House National Historic Park and Shenandoah National Park for the nature trails (and maybe some battlefields around there).

We will probably set off from Roanoke VA Saturday morning after a late Friday night drive from NC, Appomattox most of Saturday, Shenandoah Sunday and Monday morning, arrive home Monday evening.

The plan is pretty loose, there are lots of little gaps there for a great local restaurant or interesting town or whatever attraction or little gem you can think of.

3 main things I am looking for are:

1) amazing things not many people know about (trails, museums, battlefields, mines, restaurants, beautiful drives, you name it)
2) good indoor destinations in the Shenandoah area in case the weather does not cooperate.
3) good trail recommendations in Shenandoah.

Our goal is to keep to rural/scenic driving and natural and historic oriented destinations (but any ideas welcome). We will probably stay well west of Richmond, but as long as we can hit Appomattox for most of a day and Shenandoah on another full day anything is possible.

We have done the "big" attractions in Virginia - Monticello, Williamsburg, Natural Bridge, and want to avoid them only because we don't really want to fight a big crowd. Otherwise those type of things are perfect.

Thanks in advance for the help!
posted by DetonatedManiac to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Forgive me if this seems too obvious, but the Blue Ridge Parkway seems to be an appropriate venue. There is a lot going on in Virginia during May. The Parkway begins, or ends the direction you will be going, as the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah. The scenery is beautiful, the spring flowers are in peak season, and the forests are their brightest green. Can you tell I love the BRP?
posted by netbros at 11:00 AM on May 16, 2009

If you are into Civil War history you could keep busy for a day in Lexington VA. I thought the Museum of Military Memorabilia was particularly cool. The lady the gives the tour is the window of the guy that collected all the uniforms. Talking to her for an hour is a real treat. If anybody on the trip is a horse person there is a major horse show at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington this weekend. The Green Valley Book Fair is near Harrisonburg, although it will be the final weekend so the stock might be a bit picked over.
posted by COD at 11:18 AM on May 16, 2009

The Billy Goat Trail in the Shenandoah is really fun, great view. You can take your choice of paths, there's one part that is pretty easy, there's another with a fairly difficult rock scramble (this part is tough going if you're not used to that kind of thing - I'm not used to it & def needed some help from friends getting over some of the rocks). Seconding the recommend to take Skyline Drive.. so gorgeous.
posted by citron at 1:10 PM on May 16, 2009

The Frontier Living Center is a terrific living history center in Staunton, VA, in the Shenandoah Valley. I visited there for much of a day, learned a lot, and chatted with a blacksmith who was still a little put out about the "Late Great Unpleasantness" (c. 1861-1865).
posted by musofire at 2:51 PM on May 16, 2009

If you come up to Staunton, check out Kline's Dairy Bar for a tasty hometown treat. I second the Frontier Museum in Staunton. There are some small caves north of Staunton you can go visit, too. East of Staunton (about 10 miles, past Waynesboro), there's an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway right where begins (and the Skyline Drive ends. As kids we went hiking up to Humpback Rock (parking at the Humpback Gap Overlook) - it's a steep climb up to spectacular views.

Further south, the Peaks of Otter is a delightful spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway and much closer to Roanoke, as is Poplar Forest which is in Forest (near Bedford). It was Thomas Jefferson's summer house - he designed it and it's a lovely counterpart to Monticello. Since it's warm enough, there should be ongoing archaeological work. Bedford is also the home of Booker T. Washington birthplace/museum, the National D-Day memorial (placed in Bedford due to the record-high mortality rates of the boys and men sent to WWII from the town) and of course, HolyLand USA, a sprawling tour through the events of Jesus' life.

In Natural Bridge, you can eschew the Bridge for Foam Henge and the Monster Museum.
posted by julen at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2009

It's certainly not off the beaten path, but the Old Rag hike really is fantastic (in good weather). I ran into a black bear cub there once, but it's a great hike, with amazing views at the top.
posted by dilettanti at 8:00 PM on May 16, 2009

Pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke, or Buena Vista. Visit Crabtree Falls, then get back on and hike Humpback Rock. After that there's a visitor's center that you can picnic or pee. Get off the parkway again and go to Staunton. Eat at Mill Street Grill, and stay at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. Tell them you are an ASR visitor and you can get the $89.00 rate. Don't ask any questions, just do it. Shakespere Theater is next door, and everything is in walking distance. The whole town is full of archetectural beauty. During the week, every night there is free music at Gypsy Hill Park in the evenings. Head on out to Goshen Pass the next day and work your way to Lexington, there are nice things the poster above mentioned. Goshen is a beautiful drive and our motorcycle club rides there often, still after 22 years here it still takes my breath away. When you get to Afton mountain if you go on the parkway there is a tunnel through the mountain...if you ask someone they will tell you where the entrance is. Lots of beautiful wineries over at Afton, my fave is Veritas. Have fun!!
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:39 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

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