Summer in the Shenandoah Valley
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Get Outdoors this Summer in the Shenandoah Valley

May 1, 2023
Kayaking By Kelli Williams

Beautiful outdoor spaces are plentiful in the Shenandoah Valley. Visitors can challenge themselves by hiking or biking Shenandoah National Park or paddling the Shenandoah River. But, they can also enjoy nature at a slower pace by exploring Skyline Drive or strolling the gentle paths through an arboretum. Another good option is to simply eat (or drink!) outside at one of the many Shenandoah restaurants, breweries, and wineries. Here are some of our favorite outdoor places and spaces for your summer getaway in the Shenandoah Valley:

Parks and Natural Wonders

Summer’s long days and warm weather provide ample opportunities to explore the Shenandoah Valley’s parks and natural areas. Plan a visit to Natural Chimneys Park or Seven Bends State Park for hiking, picnicking, photography, and accessing the water.

A photo of the limestone towers of Natural Chimneys Park, where a family is camping in the summer.
  1. The seven limestone towers rising above Natural Chimneys Park (Mt. Solon) are all that remain of a 500 million-year-old bed of limestone worn away by geological forces and receding seas. Besides the photogenic 65 to 120-foot “Cyclopean Towers,” the park boasts a campground, pool, wading access to the North River, and a meadow below the towers for picnics and play. Visitors can hike the trails looking for wildlife. The park is also home to the family-friendly Red Wing Roots Music Festival, which draws some of the biggest names in roots music each June. More people flock to the park in September for the Grindstone Running Festival, where participants tackle courses ranging from 13 to 100 miles.
  1. Seven Bends State Park (Woodstock) is named for the undulating North Fork of the Shenandoah River it borders. Visitors can hike eight miles of trails for stunning views of the river and mountains. They can also launch their small crafts from two hand-carry boat launches. Large families can host get-togethers at the picnic shelter, and small groups can picnic at tables throughout the park. Seven Bends is dedicated to providing “water and land-based outdoor recreational and educational opportunities” while preserving “scenic viewshed and geological, natural and historical resources.” After you finish your adventure in the park, stop by Woodstock Brewhouse for a craft beer and a snack on the outdoor patio.

Urban Spaces

The Shenandoah Valley is home to many charming towns and small cities, each with its own unique character, culture, and history. From the quaint streets of Winchester to the scenic beauty of Lexington, visitors will find downtowns to love throughout this picturesque region.

A photo of downtown Staunton, VA, during their summer Shop and Dine Out Downtown event.
  1. Staunton’s street scene comes alive with community spirit, delicious smells, and sounds of conversation and music during Shop and Dine Out Downtown. Each weekend from April-October, Staunton closes several blocks of Beverley Street so visitors can take advantage of the weather and dine and shop alfresco. Over 30 independently-owned businesses and restaurants participate. Visitors can shop at unique boutiques and specialty stores for gifts, books, clothing, handmade jewelry, and regional art. Dining choices range from casual to fine dining with an emphasis on farm-to-table dishes and local craft beer and wine. Enjoy the views of Victorian architecture and take a self-guided tour of one of the Queen City’s historic districts. 
  1. Perfect for jogging, pedaling, and walking with kids and pets, the paved South River Greenway (Waynesboro) stretches for two miles along a section of the South River. The level shared-use trail connects two Waynesboro city parks and showcases natural and man-made landscapes. It’s also a good place to learn about the local environment. Look for interpretive signage providing information about the site’s history and the wildlife living around the river. You can also see public art including the river-themed LOVEworks installation and murals featured on the Street Arts Tour. Amenities include a covered pavilion, an observation deck, benches, exercise stations, and bike repair stations. Anglers and kayakers can access the river at several different points.

Arboretums

Not only are arboretums terrific places to access the outdoors and enjoy nature, but they also showcase important species and provide educational experiences. Relax, learn, and discover at a Shenandoah Valley arboretum.

A photo of the main building at the Blandy Experimental Farm in the summer.
  1. University of Virginia’s 700-acre Blandy Experimental Farm (Boyce) is a research facility and home to Virginia’s state arboretum. Visitors can take guided and self-guided tours through gardens of native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. The themed and native plant gardens include a ginkgo grove, an herb garden, and the Boxwood Memorial Garden, home to the largest collection of boxwood varieties in the country. Walking trails wind through woodland, meadow, and wetland habitats that are home to a variety of birds, insects, and animals. The farm is popular for photoshoots, plein air artwork, and programs like bird and wildflower walks, trees and plants for children, and the annual Mother’s Day weekend Garden Fair. 
  1. Dedicated to research, education, and preserving native species, Edith J. Carrier Arboretum (Harrisonburg) is one of the highlights of the James Madison University campus. Visitors can walk over three miles of paths winding through the quiet gardens, green spaces, and habitat areas. See what native wildflowers are in bloom and relax and connect with nature in the arboretum’s pollinator, herb, and serenity gardens. Kids will love the duck pond and the new At Home in the Woods Family Garden that’s perfect for natural play and photo opportunities. Finish your adventure with a meal at one of Harrisonburg’s abundant outdoor and patio dining options. See the Harrisonburg-area Trail Guide for more outdoor fun.

Visiting an outside attraction is a wonderful way to relax, experience natural beauty, get some exercise, and even learn about the area’s history. Get outside and find your new favorite Shenandoah Valley outdoor space!

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