By Hope S. Philbrick
Sometimes, you just want to enjoy some quality time with the girls. Leave responsibilities at home, let loose and have some genuine fun. However you most want to spend time with your gal pals, from challenging outdoor adventures to relaxing spas, tasty treats to incredible shopping opportunities, immersive art experiences and more, Shenandoah County, Virginia has everything you need for a perfect getaway.
Shenandoah County is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains, Allegheny Mountains, and Appalachian Mountains at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley. National Forest covers 26 percent of the county and the North Fork of the Shenandoah River meanders through with seven bends. Six historic towns are strung along U.S. Route 11, each with its own unique treasures.
Whether you and your friends are planning a bachelorette party, reunion, or simply looking for an excuse to escape routine, Shenandoah County invites you to unwind, play, and catch up. Here are some great ways to have fun.
Dazzling artistry can be found in abundance in Shenandoah County. Stroll Downtown Strasburg to see eight eye-popping murals by world-renowned muralists. The large-scale works use a stunning variety of colors, subjects, and artistic styles and are part of the Staufferstadt Mural Project. Tour the Shenandoah Museum of Contemporary Art’s biennial exhibit, a thought-provoking show curated by Rupert Ravens in three different locations in Strasburg. A wide range of works are on display, from paintings to sculptures to videos, including some interactive pieces. Explore the Shenandoah County Artisan Trail, a curated collection of over 75 artists’ studios, agri-artisan farms, art-related venues, restaurants, and points of interest that are locally owned and offer some authentic, artisan handcrafted ties to the area’s rural culture.
When traveling with your besties, take time to snap a memory or two. Of course Strasburg has eight great backdrops with its murals. In Woodstock, pose with the LOVEwork installation knowing each letter has local significance: L is the town’s iconic Swiss Guard; O is a hot air balloon; the V vines reflect Tree City USA; and E is the famed Woodstock Tower. In Mount Jackson, the historic Meems Bottom Covered Bridge is a photogenic crossing over the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, originally built 1892-1893. If posting your selfies on social media, tag #loveva, #discoverwoodstockva, #woodstockartstock, and/or #visitshencova.
Play duckpin bowling at Shenandoah Bowling Lanes, Virginia’s oldest bowling alley. Nostalgic charm hovers over this six-lane, 1940s-era alley where pins are placed by antique mechanics, balls roll on wooden lanes and tracks, and scores are still tallied without computers. On the third Thursday of every month, bring your team to Trivia Night at Swover Creek Farms and Kitchen & Farm Brewery, which is located on a farm in Edinburg that’s been in continuous production by the same family for over 100 years. Test your knowledge in four categories in a relaxed, friendly competition over craft beer and artisan pizza.
Whether you plan to stick to your diet or splurge, we’ve got you covered. From Southern to ethnic, steaks to vegan, upscale coffees to sweet treats, Shenandoah County restaurants serve a wide range of fare to satisfy cravings. Farm-to-table is a way of life here, so expect to see local products on menus at new eateries like Chophouse as well as established favorites like Woodstock Café. Don’t miss Route 11 Potato Chips, a local institution that’s been proving not all chips are equal for more than 20 years. Small-batch quality shines through each flavorful crunch, from the flagship Lightly Salted to the fiery Mama Zuma’s Revenge to the tongue-tingling Appalachian Salt & Cracked Pepper. Sip your way along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, a tasty collection of more than 40 breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries.
Honor the highs and lows of friendship with two unique experiences. For an eagle’s-eye view of Shenandoah County, climb Woodstock Tower in the George Washington National Forest. From that vantage point overlooking Woodstock you can see the seven bends in the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Don’t forget your camera! (If you snap a selfie, remember safety first!) Then venture underground at Shenandoah Caverns, the only caverns with elevator service in the state of Virginia. A steady 56 degrees year-round, these spectacular caverns are filled with formations including stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstones, straws, columns and more. The hour-long guided tour covers one mile on crushed gravel paths and passes through 17 “rooms” where lighting artfully illuminates key features.
Downtown Woodstock, the fourth oldest town in Virginia, boasts an eclectic mix of art galleries featuring local artists such as 7East and Cary’s Studio, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and antique shops like Three French Hens (art and antiques), Spring Hollow Antiques (18th, 19th, and early 20th century furniture and accessories) and Nate & Main (home, art and garden goodies). Downtown Strasburg has an impressive cluster of antique, retro and vintage shops within easy walking distance of one another, including Strasburg Emporium (collectibles and furniture), Vilnis Antiques (upscale American, English and Continental furnishings), and Clementine Vintage (quirky mix of old and new). Take your pick among the more than 75 stops along the Shenandoah County Artisan Trail to find treasures like ceramics at Laughing Orange Studio, woven goods at Posey Thisisit Llama Farm, paintings and drawings at Wolfgang Neudorfer’s studio and workshop, and much more.
Shenandoah County is a natural playground with 178 miles of trails and 100 miles of rivers and streams. From farmland to steep mountainsides, bendy rivers to rocky overhangs, we can challenge every sort of adventurer, from timid to daring. Want to jump out of a plane? Skydive Shenandoah specializes in first-time tandem jumps and also offers instructions for experienced daredevils. Prefer to keep your feet on the ground? Big Schloss is a popular 4.4-mile round trip trail in the Wolf Gap Recreation Area that offers amazing views and is rated a moderate challenge. Climb Mill Mountain and, once at the top, walk across a wooden bridge and scramble onto boulders for a 360-degree view of the area where Virginia and West Virginia meet. Want to split the difference? At the Bryce Resort Zip-line Adventure zoom up to 40 miles per hour as high as 85 feet above the ground traversing down ski slopes and through trees on a course connected by 11 stations. Or explore rough mountain terrain horseback riding at Fort Valley Ranch. Well-trained horses and expert guides do the hard work so you can enjoy the invigorating experience. Find more adventure ideas here.
Trust the pros at Spa 122 & Salon with your skin and muscles, no matter how sensitive and ticklish you may think you are. Products are all natural and plant based, and each esthetician and therapist customizes pressure to suit your needs and personal preferences. A wide range of services is available, including massage, facials, body treatments, nail services, waxings, and even medi-cosmetic services such as microdermabrasion, Botox, chemical peels and more. Seasonal treatments incorporate in-season scents and components, such as the fall radiance facial that includes exfoliation with pumpkin enzymes. Whatever service(s) you choose, you’ll leave feeling better than when you arrived.
From familiar national brand hotels to one-of-a-kind hideaways, Shenandoah County has overnight accommodation options to suit any budget and preference. To make the most of your time together, you and your girlfriends might share a vacation rental home like Slate Hill School House. This private retreat is located in Fort Valley, Shenandoah County’s valley within a valley amid the George Washington National Forest. Built in 1871 and used as a schoolhouse until 1939, the structure was renovated in 2013 and is now thoroughly modern (including Wi-Fi) with three bedrooms and two baths; up to seven people can sleep comfortably in the two-story retreat that also offers a formal dining room, living room/library and den. Cute décor nods to the structure’s history and the property offers singular views of Passage Creek and Massanutten Mountain. Find more lodging ideas here.