Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley

The Shenandoah Valley is usually associated with natural scenic beauty, quiet mountain getaways and idyllic trips along a trail or down a river. But every year about this time, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester turns the Valley into something else entirely.

The 91st Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival will be held April 27 – May 6, is more than 40 events, many of them ideal for family fun. While the full list if a bit long to capture here, you can expect: live music competitions, dances, carnival, dinners, luncheons, wine festival, a 10K Race, the Coronation of Queen Shenandoah, two large parades, and celebrities. (Find a more complete schedule here. ) Over 90 years, it has earned a variety of awards from Fordor’s Travel, the American Bus Association, USA Today and many other outlets.

Winchester is located in the northern end of the Valley, about 70 miles northwest of Washington, DC. Even if you can’t make the Apple Blossom Festival, there is still a great deal to see and do.
Some highlights:

Stroll the walking mall in Historic Old Town and discover specialty retail shops of all kinds, and find almost any type of dining in the many outdoor cafes and restaurants. Violino Ristorante Italiano, on North Loudoun St. is highly recommended. Or, just enjoy a summer concert or outdoor movie.

Now through July 22, visit the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley to see the thrilling exhibit, “Hear My Voice—Native American Art of the Past and Present.” Based on the notion of dialogue, this exhibit explores conversations between Native American artists and their art across centuries, a continent, and 35 indigenous cultures. Organized into three themes, or types of dialogue, the exhibition explores how Native American artists relate to the natural world, their community, and the outside world and how those relationships affect their identity and work.

Just outside Winchester in Stephens City (the second oldest town in the Valley) you’ll find the Newtown History Center, one of many small Valley museums devoted to a local area. Here you will see displays or Stephens City craftsmen, Civil War history, and town history.

The Shenandoah Summer Music Theater just announced their schedule of Broadway musicals for its 35th season: see Newsies from June 21-July 1; West Side Story from July 5-15; and Mamma Mia! from July 19-29.

In Middletown, a bit south of Winchester, is the historic Belle Grove Plantation. On Saturday, April 7 you can volunteer at the Civil War Trust’s annual hands-on event to help battlefields and historic sites across the country. Volunteers are needed for fence repair and painting. If you are interested, visit here to register.  Belle Grove is also the site of the “longest-running” beer party in the state—the “Of Ale and History Beer Festival” will be held May 12. The following weekend, May 19, Belle Grove hosts the Farm to Fork Fondo. Choose a distance to cycle and stop to eat at farms along the way.

Also in Middletown, lovers of American history may tour Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park,  Start at the Visitor Contact Station, on Main Street in Middletown. Right now the Station is open Wednesday – Sunday; starting May 2 they are open daily.

Need lodging? The George Washington Grand  and  The Clarion Inn and Conference Center  should high on your list of options.

Start your visit to Winchester at the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center, at 1400 South Pleasant Valley Road.

Photo courtesy Renee Bayliss, Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitor Bureau