The Shenandoah Valley, bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to its east and the Appalachians to its west, offers visitors a mix cultural experiences, artistic venues, wineries, upscale restaurants, and natural wonders. The Chesapeake Bay Balloon and Wine Festival is an example of the many events hosted in the valley too. Shenandoah Valley is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland with the offerings like the 6,000-acre Massanutten Resort. The resort has an indoor waterslide complete with a kiddie area and indoor surfing. These are 25 of the best things to do in Shenandoah Valley
1.Museum of the American Revolution
© Museum of the American Revolution
Housing an unequaled collection of weapons, documents, and personal items from the Revolutionary War, the Museum of the American Revolution strives to show how this nation fought to become independent. Inside the iconic red brick building in downtown Philadelphia, lies an architectural wonder with a spiraling wood staircase, large windows, and an ornate ceiling. The museum explores why the American colonists became revolutionaries, even though a large majority of them were British subjects. Museum of the American Revolution provides entrants with several exhibits from that era, including clothing, furniture, and pictures. The museum is located near Independence Hall and is a must-see to put other nearby sites in context.
101 South Third Street, Philadelphia, PA, Phone: 215-253-6731
2.Annapolis Maritime Museum
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Boasting Chesapeake Bay’s best source of local ecology and rich maritime history, Annapolis Maritime Museum offers visitors the chance to be educated about the Back Creek that overlooks Chesapeake Bay. This free museum, founded in 1990, is housed inside the McNasby Oyster Company, Annapolis’ last oyster packing plant. The historic museum showcases archival documents, objects, and photographs that total nearly 10,000 thousand. The museum is in possession of the Oyster Wars Cannon. The cannon was originally housed on the Leila, a steam-powered patrol boat. The boat was used to fight oyster pirates. The museum also offers virtual exhibits, provided by the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County.
723 2nd Street, Annapolis, MD, Phone: 41-295-0104
3.Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center
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Emphasizing non-violence and peace to celebrate and share Jesus Christ’s story, Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, offers a place for such teachings and beliefs. The center offers hands-on guided tours with knowledgeable staff members. The field trips run on Thursdays, during the months of April and May, and again September to November. For those desiring a bus tour of the Shenandoah Valley where the center is located, the tour gives riders a close-up perspective of the Civil War. Also housed on the property is the Breneman-Turner Mill, a historic landmark built in 1800. The refurbished mill features exposed brick and hardwood floors.
1921 Heritage Center Way, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-438-1275
4.Chesapeake Bay Balloon and Wine Festival
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Triple Creek Winery in Talbot County’s Cordova hosts the grandest hot air ballon festival in Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Balloon and Wine Festival. The fun-filled annual event is held for three days and is an extravaganza of hot air balloons that are spectacular to watch, but also to ride. The ride-along balloons offer two types of rides, tethered to the ground rides allow riders the feel of being on a hot air ride, but staying in a stable place. The second type of ride is the traditional hot air balloon ride. Riders will be in the air for up to 45 minutes and are afforded the chance to see this lush valley from above.
11138 Three Bridge Branch Road, Cordova, MD, Phone: 410-924-4190
5.Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail
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Voted Eastern Virginia’s #1 Wine Trail, Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail in Leedstown offers wine lovers the opportunity to indulge in eight, award-winning wineries. Caret Cellars, Good Luck Cellars, Jacey Vineyards, The Dog and Oyster, Vault Field Vineyards, Rivah Vineyards at the Grove, Ingleside Vineyards, and General’s Ridge Vineyard combine to round out this fabulous wine tasting experience. These wineries provide events throughout the year, including a Fall Oyster Crawl that is the talk of Virginia. The majority of the wineries provide a picnic area to sit and enjoy the wines and fine cheeses in a natural setting.
5872 Leedstown Road, Oak Grove, VA, Phone: 804-224-8687
CrossKeys Vineyards in Mt. Crawford saw its first vines planted in 2001 and served its first vintage of 2006 wine in its brand-new tasting room in 2008. Situated on 125 acres with over 30 acres of fertile vines, this Shenandoah Valley family-owned winery produces 12 different grapes that are utilized in the making of award-winning wines. The winery also features The Bistro at CrossKeys, offering impressive cuisine prepared by experienced chefs to go along with the assorted wines. The Bistro is a must for those staying nearby. It serves Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner, plus special events like birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings.
6011 East Timber Ridge Road, Mt. Crawford, VA, Phone: 540-2324-0505
7.Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
Housed on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a public, woodland sanctuary that provides researchers and guests an ideal space to observe nature at its best. The Shenandoah Valley is an ideal setting for a botanical garden and the Carrier Arboretum, with its 125 acres of trails and forest. It’s perfect to observe the many species of flora and fauna. The arboretum offers guided tours of up to 25 participants, these tours are led by knowledgeable staff members and include the Stream Riparian Plantings, Woodland Wildflower, and the Arboretum Trees tours.
780 University Boulevard, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-568-3194
8.Explore More Discovery Museum
Previously called the Harrisonburg Children’s Museum, the Explore More Discovery Museum is a not-for-profit establishment that concentrates on multi-sensory and interactive learning experiences. The museum believes in a hands-on approach to learning with exhibits that promote an appreciation for science. Exhibits include Friendly City Medical Center that allows visitors to learn about the body, how it works and how to keep organs healthy. The Take Flight exhibit features an actual fuselage of a Beechcraft King Air 90. This favorite exhibit lets visitors imagine being the pilot and taking control of the instrument panel and gear.
150 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-442-8900
Fort Harrison, a historic Fort in Dayton that was built on land purchased in 1749, was appointed by the House of Burgess to become a fort from 1754 to1763 during the French and Indian War. Originally built on 120 acres, Fort Harrison at the time was the permanent residence of Captain Daniel Harrison of the local militia. The original Fort/home was built using limestone and walls that were two feet thick. The Fort has four chimneys, one in each of the four rooms, that helped provide heat during the cold Shenandoah Valley winter months. The Fort remained in the Harrison family until 1821. In 1978, an organization was established to purchase the home and restore it.
335 Main Street, Dayton, VA, Phone: 540-879-2280
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10.Fort Valley Ranch
Fort Valley Ranch, in the National Forest of the Massanutten Mountains provides guests the opportunity to become a “cowboy” in the majestic Shenandoah Valley. The ranch offers multiple things to do and enjoy like guided horseback tours, bunkhouse-style cabins for sleeping, wagon rides, and guest ranch packages. Riding trails consist of 90-minute, one-hour, and half-day rides, that weave through George Washington National Forest. Full-day rides are available as well. These rides come with a sack lunch. For those wanting a true cowboy adventure, Fort Valley Ranch offers packages to stay at the ranch in well-equipped private bunkhouses.
299 South Fort Valley Road, Fort Valley, VA, Phone: 540-933-6633
11.Fridley Gap Loop
Outdoor enthusiasts in Virginia will fall in love with Fridley Gap Loop, located in George Washington National Forest. Providing over nine miles of scenic hiking, Fridley Gap Loop has a something every experienced or novice hiker wants, and that is beautiful scenery and fresh air. The loop has a gradual elevation gain of 2,600 feet and showcases nature at its finest with a stream and small rock waterfall. Sparse trees allow open views and sightings of wild animals. The park also features an old-fashioned swimming hole, complete with large boulders to jump in from and a large camping area.
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Surrounded by lush trees that turn colors in the fall, Hillandale Park in the beautiful town of Harrisonburg offers a 74-acre oasis that is truly breathtaking. The park provides a number of amenities and more than enough scenic views to keep visitors coming back. Hillandale Park features two asphalt courts for basketball, a sand volleyball court, and two-pitching areas for horseshoe. This wonderful park also has a walking trail of 1.3 miles that has exercise equipment scattered along the way focusing on cardiovascular health, strength, and flexibility. Other amenities include 12 picnic shelters, a reproduction of a log cabin, and numerous restrooms.
801 Hillandale Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-433-9168
13.Hostetter Museum Natural History
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On the campus of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, the Hostetter Museum Natural History provides visitors with over 6,000 items and artifacts. Established in 1968 and named after D. Ralph Hostetter, this fact-filled learning center provides guests with a multitude of specimens and fossils, as well as live snakes and star fish. The museum provides a discovery room to get visitors started, which has of a few live species. This room also has a stuffed 12-foot Kodiak bear to get the real feel of the size of this huge beast. Hostetter Museum also showcases a Disco Rock Room filled with minerals and rocks with a black light.
1200 Park Road, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-432-4400
14.John C Wells Planetarium
The John C. Wells Planetarium on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, offers a hybrid state-of-the-art facility that is an ideal location to learn about celestial navigation. Miller Hall is the setting of this spacious planetarium that features top-of-the line projection systems like the Goto CHRONO opto-mechanical star and the Digistar 5 Ultra-high-resolution digital projection system. Having a full dome helps this spectacular planetarium give guests a learning experience about space they will never forget. The planetarium provides visitors with free shows on Saturdays with a guest speaker. A solar telescope is also available on Saturdays by the sundial.
91 East Grace Street, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-568-6109
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Luray Caverns, discovered in 1878, is the United States largest cavern system in the eastern part of the country. These caverns, created by rainwater that soaks through the vegetation helped create this beautiful wonder with ceilings over 10 stories high, cathedral-sized rooms, and gigantic stone formations. The caverns feature columns of mudflows, mirrored pools, and its most famous feature, the Great Stalacpipe Organ, actually called a lithophone, which is musical instrument formed by pieces of rock. Entrance to this natural wonder was made easier by taking away the steps leading inside. Instead, guests are now able to utilize a paved walkway that loops around.
101 Cave Hill Road, Luray, VA, Phone: 540-743-6551
With more than 6,000 acres, Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville offers an all-season resort that is the envy of the entire East Coast. The expansive resort provides guests with eight body slides and tubes, indoor surfing, a kiddie area, and the Adventure River. Families can come to this wondrous park and learn to ski together in the winter. For over 40 years, Massanutten Resort has offered snow sports in the Shenandoah Valley that are unrivaled with sports like skiing and snowtubing. The resort provides other first-rate amenities like two beautiful golf courses, a day spa with complete rejuvenation and relaxation packages, and fine dining.
1822 Resort Drive, McGaheysville, VA, Phone: 540-289-9441
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17.Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing
Utilizing conflict-free material that is ethically sourced and carefully selected, the jewelry in the Museum of American Jewelry design and Manufacturing is made in its Harrisonburg workshop. The workshop, with tools, artwork, and machines that were destined for scrapyards make the magic happen when constructing these timeless pieces of jewelry. Located in historic downtown Harrisonburg in the refurbished Cassco Ice House, the plant features an expansive floor plan, high ceilings, and exposed piping. Visitors are invited to tour the museum and watch the artists who create the jewelry. Guests can have pieces created for them as well.
217 South Liberty Street #103, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-574-4306
18.Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
© Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester offers a gallery that is open year-round, while encompassing 214 acres of green space that is open seasonally. This expansive museum offers visitors seven acres of well-manicured gardens like, rose, vegetable, Asian, statuary, and perennials. Inside this stately museum, galleries house art depicting 18th- and 19th-century American and European fine arts. New to the Museum is “Vital Force”, a new exhibition that showcases art from twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The exhibit is composed by artists from the Shenandoah Valley or depictions from the Valley. Admission to this special museum is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors.
901 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA, Phone: 888-556-5799
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19.Paul State Forest
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Located in Rockingham County, Paul State Forest is land that once belonged to John Paul Jr, who graciously donated it to the state of Virginia in 1961. Spanning over 173 acres with an elevation of 1,400 feet, the forest is an ideal place for adults who love the outdoors. This idyllic park with its island of trees welcomes a plethora of woodland species. Some its regular dwellers are red-headed woodpeckers, as well as the red-bellied, hairy woodpeckers. The park also has a number of hiking and walking trails that are free of charge. Paul State Forest is an Environmental Study area.
Clover Hill Road, Dayton, VA, Phone: 540-459-3151
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20.The Heritage Museum Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society
Shenandoah Valley’s most extensive history museum and genealogy library is The Heritage Museum Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society. It showcases Rockingham County history through folk art and exhibits. Utilizing 14,000 square feet, the museum is a replica of a Valley farmstead in the 19th century and offers many exhibits that are below ground level. The museum provides visitors with artifacts from Native Americans and a scaled version of a potter’s kiln from the 19th century. One of the most popular exhibits is the “Electric Map”. The map illuminates the routes of the fighting forces in the Valley of 1862, featuring Stonewall Jackson.
382 High Street, Dayton, VA, Phone: 540-879-2681
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21.Valley Turnpike Museum
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Providing authentic history of early settler life in the Shenandoah Valley, Valley Turnpike Museum in Harrisonburg takes visitors back to how life was in the “Turnpike Era”. The museum is housed in the home of the city’s first mayor, which was built in 1853. The red brick colonial home features two stories, multiple fireplaces, and shuttered windows. The museum pays homage to US Route 11, formerly known as The Valley Turnpike, so named because of it being the major thoroughfare through the Valley. Visitors will learn of its beginnings – a path for buffalo – to its trail for Stonewall Jackson and the Civil War.
212 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-432-8935
22.Virginia Kids Trail
Spanning 100 miles from scenic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to picturesque Harrisonburg, Virginia, the Virginia Kids Trail has one goal – to help parents and kids interact together outside without the use of cell phones. The trail offers a unique way for families to experience and see what the Shenandoah Valley has to offer, including outdoor adventures with guides in the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest. The Trail also features Dinosaur Land, a playground with more than 50, life-size prehistoric dinosaur recreations, like a Stegosaurus, Coelophysis, Megalosaurus, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Visitors will find lodgings for overnight stays as well.
PO Box 481 Shepherdstown, WV, Phone: 540-533-1853
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23.The Virginia Quilt Museum
Picturesque Shenandoah Valley is the home of The Virginia Quilt Museum, a museum dedicated to the cultue and art of Virginia. The museum sits in the Warren-Sipe House, originally built in 1856. This three-story Victorian abode offers guests polished hardwood floors, large windows with shutters, and white columns out front. The museum features rooms with artfully and lovingly crafted quilts that are softly illuminated and hanging on the walls. The quilts, largely from Virginia quilters, feature vibrant colors and pictures that are sewn together from two or more pieces of fabric to make a padded, thicker material.
301 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA, Phone: 540-433-3818
24.Watermen Heritage Tours
Watermen Heritage Tours in Annapolis provides a unique insight into the men and women on Chesapeake Bay, and how new educational training has helped with the local economy. The tours, like the watermen, come in different varieties. The three basic tours are on land experiences, speakers and presenters, and on water experiences. Water tours include crabbing adventures, with Captain Brant Nordhoff. On land tours educate visitors on oyster seeding and the soft-shell crab business. Speakers and Presenters provide a more in-depth look into the life of watermen and how the fisheries and bay play a huge role in the life they live.
716 Giddings Avenue #42, Annapolis, MD, Phone: 443-261-2369
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The Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown provides historical background for the part this stretch of water played in the shaping of this nation. On the waterfront of Virginia, in the Chesapeake Bay, the museum offers visitors a wide variety of crafts, exhibits, and survival methods used by the early settlers in this area. The museum provides several educational and informative field trips. The field trips range from boatbuilding and archaeology to pirate topics. Being on the water, Yorktown played a greater role in maritime warfare. Due to weather constrictions, the museum is only open April through late December. Entrance for adults is $5.
309m Water Street, Yorktown, VA, Phone: 757-887-2641
25 Best Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley
- Museum of the American Revolution, Photo: Museum of the American Revolution
- Annapolis Maritime Museum, Photo: Xavier Cotton/stock.adobe.com
- Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center, Photo: Ruslan Gilmanshin/stock.adobe.com
- Chesapeake Bay Balloon and Wine Festival, Photo: Mariusz Blach/stock.adobe.com
- Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- CrossKeys Vineyards, Photo: alimyakubov/stock.adobe.com
- Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, Photo: Marc/stock.adobe.com
- Explore More Discovery Museum, Photo: creativenature.nl/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Harrison, Photo: alexsaz/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Valley Ranch, Photo: standret/stock.adobe.com
- Fridley Gap Loop, Photo: P&G/stock.adobe.com
- Hillandale Park, Photo: David Prahl/stock.adobe.com
- Hostetter Museum Natural History, Photo: Pavel Losevsky/stock.adobe.com
- John C Wells Planetarium, Photo: mojza/stock.adobe.com
- Luray Caverns, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Massanutten Resort, Photo: Angelov/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing, Photo: stock.adobe.com
- Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Photo: Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
- Paul State Forest, Photo: Paul Sparks/stock.adobe.com
- The Heritage Museum Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- Valley Turnpike Museum, Photo: Nejron Photo/stock.adobe.com
- Virginia Kids Trail, Photo: nachosuko/stock.adobe.com
- The Virginia Quilt Museum, Photo: melnikofd/stock.adobe.com
- Watermen Heritage Tours, Photo: Teri/stock.adobe.com
- Watermen's Museum, Photo: Aris Suwanmalee/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Country Gate Prod/stock.adobe.com