Wandering Through the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
by Taylor Deer
A Road Trip or Weekend Bucket List
From 2009 to 2013, I attended and graduated from James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia – located in the Shenandoah Valley. Although I got comfortable being within the JMU bubble, I was lucky enough to make lifelong friends from the local area who exposed me to the beautiful and fun hidden gems within the “Valley”.
I am sure many of you are trying to figure out why you should travel to the Shenandoah Valley, so I’m happy to give you a list of recommended sites and activities that will get you excited to plan your next weekend getaway.
The beautiful Shenandoah Valley runs through the western side of Virginia. The major interstate that goes straight through the Valley is Route 81. If you are taking a road trip, here are great places to stop at and explore:
Visit James Madison University
Obviously, my first suggestion is visiting James Madison University –Go Dukes! I love my alma mater and there are more than a number of reasons why I chose to go to JMU. One of the main reasons was because of the University’s picturesque campus. By enjoying the stunning views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains; walking through the beautiful blue-stone buildings; relaxing on The Quad; eating at the dining halls (JMU is one of the top rated colleges for campus food according to the Princeton Review); looking at the gorgeous gardens and immersing yourself in the JMU atmosphere, you will understand why it is considered the “Disney World” of colleges.
Visit Downtown Harrisonburg
Indulge in crafted food, enjoy a delicious beverage, shop and explore the talented artwork in historic Downtown Harrisonburg – the city JMU is located in. Although there are so many new restaurants, bars and shops that have opened since I graduated JMU, some of my favorite places that are still there are Clementine, Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, Billy Jack’s Wing & Draft Shack, The Artful Dodger, Union Station Restaurant & Bar, Capital Ale House, Kline’s Dairy Bar, Greenberry’s Coffee Co. and The Yellow Button.
The Shenandoah Valley Vineyards
The Shenandoah Valley is one of the country’s best wine producing regions. There are several amazing vineyards along the “Valley’s” wine trail, but my two favorites that were in close proximity to JMU were Crosskeys Vineyards and Bluestone Vineyard. Just imagine sipping local wines while gazing at the beautiful mountains and countryside that Western Virginia offers; you are guaranteed to be amazed!
If you are visiting the Valley in the winter months, make sure to ski the slopes or snow tube at Massanutten Resort. When visiting the Resort in the summer, you can enjoy swimming at the indoor waterpark, go karting, golfing or having fun doing adventurous activities such as horseback riding or biking through the woods! The great resort is located just short of 20 minutes from JMU in McGaheysville, VA.
Hiking Virginia’s Highest Mountain Peaks
Get lost in nature by hiking one of the Valley’s many trails. I love Reddish Knob as it is one of the highest points in the area, offering breathtaking views that overlook mountain peaks in both Virginia and West Virginia.
Downtown Staunton, Va.
Explore Downtown Staunton, only 20 minutes south of JMU! Go back to the Renaissance period at the American Shakespeare Center or enjoy a refreshing beer at a brewery.
The Shenandoah or Luray Caverns
The Shenandoah Valley has a special place in my heart from living there for four years. The mountains offer a warm welcome and the people are genuine and kind. This place truly became home to me and I recommend everyone to visit (even if it is through a road trip) and get to experience all that the area has to offer. If you have any questions, please send me an email at Taylor@sitinmyseats.com.
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