Shenandoah Valley, VA, is not only a picturesque area compliments of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s filled with fun things to do. There’s delicious mom and pop dining, comfy lodging, and the activities are ideal for both kids and adults. From an organ buried in a cavern to views that will make you happy sigh, here are 21 of the best things to do in Shenandoah Valley, VA.
Disclosure: I was hosted by the fine folks listed in this article to give you the scoop on where to visit in Central Shenandoah Valley. All opinions are my own!
This month, I hit the road and headed to Central Shenandoah Valley. It turns out there was so many things to see and do that our tour was split up into three areas: Northern, Central, and Southern.
And, while all three areas looked like fun, I chose Central Shenandoah Valley because of its rich American history, fun activities, and beautiful scenery. Here are my picks for the next time you visit.
Central Shenandoah Valley Activities
Harrisonburg, VA, is a must-see, in my mind. It’s filled with fun American history and is not only quaint, it’s highly walkable. There’s plenty of parking in the downtown area and, man, are the locals friendly.
Harrisonburg Farmers Market – When I visited, I found plenty of delicious, locally grown produce at very reasonable prices. I also shopped around for handmade jewelry, bath products, & lotions. The Summer Market is on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8am – 1pm; the Winter Market is Saturday only from 9am – 1pm.
2. Hugo Kohl Jewelry Boutique & Workshop – Sure, his jewelry is absolutely gorgeous, but it’s the process behind each piece’s creation that’s truly fascinating. A collector of vintage hubs, each of his pieces are handmade and the attention to detail is stunning.
3. The Virginia Quilt Museum – Even if your house isn’t filled with Grandma’s quilts, visiting the museum is a lesson in Americana and art at the same time. Filled with both antique and modern pieces, learning the history behind each is worth the visit.
4. White Oak Lavender Farm – Sure, it’s a picturesque place to visit, smells amazing, and its products have lavender in them (yes, even the wine!), but it’s an actual farm with cute animals, a winery, and all-around fun place to relax.
In Rockingham County:
5. Silver Lake Mill – Ever wondered how all of the fancy kitchen pieces for sale in Monticello or Mount Vernon came from? Located in Dayton, VA (very scenic), the Mill is so much more than a cute gift shop filled with take-homes. I toured all the floors and learned about the process of adding decorations to china and it’s fascinating!
6. SoLace Studios – What started as a silk marbling studio in Elkton, VA, is now home to hundreds of local vendors’ wares. You’ll find everything from wooden creations to jewelry to scented items and knitted socks.
7. Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park – Another must-do, Skyline Drive is super popular with folks looking to get a taste of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m not going to lie, the drive can be steep at times, but the rest spots along the road make it totally worth it.
In the Shenandoah/Luray Area:
Massanutten Country Corner – Part farm market, part Garden Shoppe, part barrel furniture store, the Luray, VA, shop is cute and quaint. If you love goats, you’ll dig the cuties that hang out beside the store. World of note, behind the Corner is very scenic, as is the drive to get there.
Luray Caverns – THE shining star in Luray, VA, it’s a must-visit when checking out Shenandoah Valley. It’s the largest cavern system in the Eastern United States and your cell phone will be on photo overdrive once you get down below.
You’ll get to walk through rooms that are over 10 stories high, listen to an actual organ with “stalacpipe” resonating notes, and see a lake that looks like glass. New this year is handicapped ramp access and new exit.
Shenandoah General Store – If you’re looking for a trip back in time, you’ll definitely want to visit Shenandoah General Store. Filled with old-fashioned candy, toys, and gifts, it does have some modern touches. I purchased body lotion scented like Fruit Loops and it’s so good. Plus, it has those famous Virginia peanuts that everyone adores.
Central Shenandoah Valley Lodging
Massanutten Resort – An all four-seasons resort, Massanutten has lodging to fit everyone from solo travelers to giant families, an indoor water park to die for, and tons of onsite activities. There’s golfing and hiking in summer, skiing in winter, and restaurants are open year round.
Shenandoah Woods – you may never have heard of Stanley, VA, but if you’re headed that way, it’s a place you’ll never forget compliments of the cabins at Shenandoah Woods.
I had the pleasure of staying in the Somerset Cabin with a bunch of other writers (it sleeps 16) and it was absolutely delightful. Sure, I could go on about the indoor hot tub, outdoor swings and fire pit, and massive kitchen, but it was the calmness and serenity that was refreshing.
Hotel Madison – when I was asked which area of Shenandoah valley that I wanted to visit, a major reason for choosing the Central area was compliments of its ties to American history.
Hotel Madison, named after James & Dolly Madison (the university is bang next to the hotel), is new and lovely. The rooms are spacious and the theming, modern and hip. I also loved the proximity to Downtown Harrisonburg – it’s maybe a 10 minute walk. It’s also dog-friendly, if you’re looking for a place for you and Fido.
Central Shenandoah Valley Dining
Montpelier Restaurant and Bar – Keeping with the Madison Hotel talk, Montpelier is located in its lobby. I dined there on my first night in the area and, while in-hotel restaurants sometimes get a bad rap, this one was very good. If you like Deviled Eggs, definitely give theirs a go. Also, the Beer Braised Chicken is worth every bite.
Heritage Bakery and Cafe – Located in Downtown Harrisonburg, this spot is THE go-to coffee shop and bakery. The theming is French farmhouse chic and the coffee is delish. Love sweets? There’s a fresh selection everyday. My choice for breakfast is definitely the Avocado Toast.
Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn – I love popcorn and Shirley’s definitely did not disappoint. Sure, there are the classic flavors, but definitely try the Jelly Bean and Afterburner for something creative and tasty.
In Central Shenandoah Valley:
Thunderbird Cafe – In McGaheysville, VA, you’ll find a super cool diner with a classic feel. The menu has all of the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, but check out the specials for creative takes on common dishes.
When I visited for lunch, I had an Espresso Taco and it blew me away. Large enough for two to share, it was fluffy, chocolately, and that kick of coffee flavor was enough to keep me going through lunch.
Hall of Fame Sports Grill – It’s both a museum and restaurant, and the combination is downright fun! The BBQ is delicious, the atmosphere fun, but it’s the love of the American sport that really shines. If you love catching a game, there’s a baseball field right out back.
Blue Elk Coffee Shop & Roastery – Elkton, VA, is where you’ll need to head to for a hip, laid back coffee shop. Open everyday but Sunday, it’s a spot to enjoy coffee with the company of locals. The shop roasts its beans in-house and prides itself on offering the freshest coffee possible. Plus, there are plenty of charging stations.
Smiley’s Ice Cream – Smiley’s wasn’t on our official itinerary for the visit, but with several ice cream lovers on the tour, the pit stop was a must. Located in Mt. Crawford, it’s the only farm to table ice cream joint I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I was able to head out back and actually see the cows, learn about milking, and then head inside to taste-test the final product. Yum!
Box Car Deli – Truth? I didn’t have the pleasure of visiting the actual deli in Shenandoah, VA, but I did have the pleasure of trying its sandwiches and sides. Each sandwich is named after a train part which is super cool considering the town’s history with trains. Bonus: prices are very affordable.
Campfire Grill – If you like a super-varied menu (think elk steaks), a gorgeous location in Massanutten Resort, and a fun atmosphere, this restaurant will be right up your alley. I’m not an adventurous eater so I stuck with the chicken and dumplings (delicious!) but, if you are, you’ll be happy you test-drove the menu.
Tip: Check for live entertainment nights or S’mores on the Deck fun!