Staunton, located in the heart of Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, packs plenty to see and do in its compact 20 square miles. With five National Historic Districts and a downtown area comprised of more than one hundred businesses, including shops, restaurants and art galleries, Staunton offers visitors its own rich milieu of Old South history and charm as well as a convenient location from which to explore the Shenandoah Valley.
Staunton’s downtown area attracts sightseers to its beautifully restored buildings, many originally constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors can park their cars and walk easily through the five National Historic Districts where they will discover unique places to shop, eat and learn about local history.
Downtown Staunton attractions include the 124-room Stonewall Jackson Hotel, an example of Colonial Revival architecture that houses the world’s only working Wurlitzer organ. After a 2005 renovation to restore and preserve many of its original features, the hotel was placed on the National Trust of Historic Hotels of America. Nearby Trinity Episcopal Church, which dates back to 1746, is famous for its Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Antique lovers visiting Staunton can enjoy browsing the antique shops in the Wharf District, adjacent to the train station, as well as Beverly Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. The Wharf District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is known for its role in Staunton’s development into a booming commercial center and its Victorian-era architecture.
As President Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace, Staunton is home for the presidential library bearing his name. Located in the antebellum mansion in which Wilson was born, the library includes an interactive World War I trench exhibit complete with lights and sounds that simulate the battle experience for soldiers engaged in combat. Each spring Staunton’s Historic Garden Week includes a tour of the museum’s gardens, designed after the president’s death by his widow.
Outdoor enthusiasts visiting Staunton can enjoy Betsy Bell Wilderness Park, a 70-acre nature preserve situated within the city limits. This Staunton attraction offers a 1,959-foot-high viewing platform, which provides eastward views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. Mountain bikers can test their endurance on the access road that leads to the summit, and hikers can choose from several trails to explore the natural area as they head to the park’s expansive summit views.
Theater lovers can plan an evening at the American Shakespeare Center. A Staunton attraction which opened in 2001, the center’s Blackfriars Theater is a playhouse that serves as host for internationally recognized Shakespearean actors who perform Shakespearean works staged as they would have been during Shakespeare’s time. The playhouse offers year-round theatrical events on its stage.
Among popular Staunton attractions is the Frontier Culture Museum. Located at the city’s limits, this living history museum features original and reproduced buildings that represent contributions of early immigrant settlers, including an Old World English farm, an Irish Forge and a German Farm, as well as an 1820s American Farm and an Early American Schoolhouse.