Dec 14, 201003:09 PMResident Tourist
Why You Should Go to Staunton
My personal limit for a reasonable weekend excursion is three hours in the car. More time than that and the travel-time-to-adventure ratio feels out of balance.
Here’s a spot that pushes up against the comfortable distance, but is worth the journey: Staunton, Virginia. (Don’t read that in your head as “Staw-nton”—it’s “St-ANT-on.)
Architecturally, the town is filled with riches. The Civil War did not ravage Staunton, and the charming storefronts and homes around Main Street are a testament to this. The place is stuffed with Victorian character and faded advertisements from the 20th century painted on vast brick walls. Woodrow Wilson's birthplace is here, too, for you Presidential trivia-types. You can take a walking tour led by a local expert for more information. You should also go for more than just a creamy shake from Kline's Dairy Bar…
The Blackfriars Playhouse, a replica of Shakespeare’s indoor London theater, presents the Bard’s plays all year. Get tickets for a play after your day of strolling and shopping and be sure to arrive early enough for the pre-show's high-energy hi-jinks.
We had a delicious cheesy pie at Shenandoah Pizza while a folk guitarist entertained, and all of Beverley Street was buzzing on Saturday night. It’s truly an artsy, groovster hotspot dotted with coffee shops and actors, yarn stores and poets. (But Sunday morning was a different story. Staunton was closed up tight with pursed lips and no breakfast. Our footsteps echoed along the previous night's vibrant sidewalks. We finally found a café open in the Wharf area—called the Wharf, but waterless, the train station is here—and sipped a perfect latté. The poets and musicians must have been sleeping or at church—or possibly both at once.)
Buy (or blow!) your own glass ornament at Sunspots Studios downtown. Your kids will be entranced by the free glassblowing demonstrations.
And I'm sorry to keep piling on the demands, but do not even think of heading home without visiting the Museum of American Frontier Culture where settlers' homes and farm buildings are tended to by staff in period clothing who share the stories of America's earliest immigrants. Yes, there are sheep to pet!
Next time I go, I have my heart set on taking Amtrak. Only $41 from Union Station to Staunton (a 4-hour journey by rail). You can easily walk from the station to the town and to most of the attractions. I love the idea of reading and gazing out the window on the lovely ride south and west into the Shenandoah Valley. Then the traveling becomes the adventure.