January 28th is National Plan for Vacation Day.
According to U.S. Travel, 55% of Americans left vacation time unused in 2018.
Busy lives, long hours, or working two jobs don’t even leave much freedom to think about vacation trips, but that is where advance planning can be a real benefit. Trip planning, making reservations in advance, and scheduling time off with your employer before anyone else does can ensure you get some well-deserved time off.
If you are considering the Shenandoah Valley for a vacation this year, here are 10 ideas to get you started:
Capon Springs & Farm Resort
Capon Springs in West Virginia is an all-inclusive mountain resort where you can completely relax – less than two hours from DC. Here you can explore 4,700 acres of breathtaking scenery, feast on farm- fresh eggs and delicious baked goods prepared on-site daily; or rejuvenate with healing spring water. The grounds are arranged like a small village, so everything is within easy walking distance. This resort attempts to create a tangible feeling of belonging and many guests refer to it as their “home away from home.” Sometimes, even marriages have resulted between owners, guests and co-workers. Their 2020 Opening Date is April 30.
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Last November, The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. To those who have seen the museum the honor is no surprise. With four major galleries, changing exhibitions, a café and museum store, the MSV has all the classic attributes of a conventional museum. But they also have seven acres of water-feature gardens, a variety of musical performances, youth workshops and other special events for kids, lectures on many topics, and other community programs. Oh yes, a trail system on its 214 acres is underway.
Cooter’s Place in Luray features Daisy’s Diner, Dukes of Hazzard Museum and Replica Cooter’s Garage with General Lee, Cooter’s Tow Truck, Boss Hogg Caddy, “Cooter’s Garage Band” and appearances from Cooter himself. Cooter does a free concert every Saturday from 1pm-3pm, and there are free Bluegrass concerts every Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. They also host the popular Shenandoah Jamboree—last year a series of six shows from June to December. (Watch our Events Calendar for 2020 dates as we get them.) Cooter’s Good Ol Boys Fest held in the town of Shenandoah last August drew about 16,000 fans over the two-day event.
Shenandoah National Park
(See banner photo at top) Delaware North is the concessioner for Shenandoah National Park (as well as Peaks of Otter), and has been managing the lodging, food service, and retail operation in the Park since 2013. Last year they spearheaded the reopening of Big Meadows Wayside at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. The popular historic camp store, gift shop, and restaurant has been undergoing renovations since the previous winter. No trip to the Shenandoah Valley region is complete without motoring down the 105-mile Skyline Drive or hiking some of the 500+ miles of trails. Steep waterfalls, 75 scenic overlooks, deep canyons, high Blue Ridge peaks and abundant wildlife make the Park ideal for any outdoor-oriented family. While the Park itself is open year-round, most facilities are closed for the winter. Openings will begin in April. Information on lodging, dining options, campgrounds and many programs such as “Night Skies” is available here.
Visit Valley caverns any time of year, where the underground temperature is constantly in the 50s. Luray Caverns—the East Coast’s largest and most popular—is now more accessible than ever with a new step-free entrance and guided tours on lighted, all-paved walkways. See cathedral-sized stone chambers with ceilings 10-stories high, towering rock formations, crystal clear Dream Lake, the Great Stalacpipe Organ and other natural wonders. Luray Caverns is open every day of the year, and entry to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum, and Toy Town Junction is included with every Luray Caverns ticket.
Massanutten Resort comprises 6,000 acres of recreational opportunity. Stay at a condo or hotel and enjoy the Indoor/Outdoor WaterPark (expansions planned for this summer), Ski and Adventure Park area, two golf courses, a Mountain Bike Park, farm-to-table dining experiences, shopping and a day spa. No less than 12 dining options offer just about anything a worn-out skier could want. Taking the kids? There is a Family Adventure Park with Canopy Tours, a Kid’s Adventure Course, ziplining and more. The popular ValleyFest—a festival celebrating beer, wine and music—is schedule for May 23. Their Summer Jam, featuring live music, food trucks and more, is set for July 3.
Now staging more than 300 shows and events a year, the Wayne Theatre in Waynesboro offers a wide-ranging slate of plays, films, dance, and concerts, plus educational workshops, a changing art exhibit, and more. In Waynesboro’s growing arts and culture scene, The Wayne is an anchor attraction. Commenting on the upcoming season, Director Tracy Straight said, “Arlo Guthrie is coming to The Wayne on March 3rd. This is his Alice’s Diner Tour. The Grand Gala will be March 20th to support Arts Education. The season brings the flair of Bollywood with Namaste of India, classic films, live performances, and musicals. We’ll present Leagally Blond–the musical, Little Shop of Horrors and The Importance of Being Ernest. That’s just a hint of what’s to come!
Grand Caverns is located in Grottoes, about 19 miles south of Harrisonburg. It is the oldest, continuously operating show cave in the United States, conducting tours since 1806! The main Grand Caverns walking tours are offered daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and are about a mile and a half. But a new Historic Trails Adventure Tour was launched last year that takes you deep underground and further into the history of the cavern while following the same, original pathways used as far back as 1804. This tour is three hours long; you must be 16 or older and wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, and closed toed shoes with good tread. Helmets, headlamps, knee pads and gloves are provided. Also, save some time for a “down and dirty” tour of the Fountain Cave– helmets, headlights, knee pads & gloves are provided—you’ll need them.
Virginia Safari Park
Located in Natural Bridge (though not associated with Natural Bridge Zoo), near Lexington, the park is about a three-hour drive from Washington, DC. Opened in 2000, the park operates daily from mid-March to November. Probably the most popular aspect of the park is the slow, three-mile drive where animals of almost any sort will poke their nose through your window in search of a snack. The park has a specialty grain that visitors can use to feed the animals, and you can jump into a tractor-drawn wagon for even closer contact. Another choice is 10 acres of walk-thru exhibits, which feature Tiger Territory and Cheetahs, a Giraffe Feeding Station, Petting Area, Kangaroo Walk-About, a Bird Aviary, Reptile House and more. In all, more than 1,000 animals inhabit the park.
Located in scenic Shenandoah County, Bryce Resort will unblock your adrenaline for good. Choose from a state-of-the-art mountain bike park with white-knuckle downhills, ziplining, golf, water sports on Lake Laura, rock wall climbing, adventure racing or a full slate of skiing, snowboarding and tubing in season. A busy calendar of special events, summer camps, Euro-bungee, and disc golf, make up just some of the other action. Excellent dining can be enjoyed at the Copper Kettle Restaurant. No lodging is currently available at the resort, but there are many options nearby, and planning is underway for a campground this summer.
Banner photo courtesy National Park Service