Small but mighty, Staunton is the place to go whether you want adventure or just a charming place to relax. The food scene continues to grow and impress, a renowned Shakespeare company stages shows year round and hiking rewards the persistent with sweeping views of this mountain town tucked in the Shenandoah Valley. It just doesn’t get much prettier than this.
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Photo by Meredith West
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Photo by Meredith West
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Performers take the stage at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse.
Photo by Noah Pilchen
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Glassware for sale in Sunspots Studio.
Photo by Meredith West
Check out some of our favorite local restaurants, watering holes and activities and see why we can’t get enough of Staunton.
Aioli 29 N. Augusta St. Can’t decide what you want for dinner? How about a little of everything? Aioli, a Mediterranean restaurant about a block away from Mary Baldwin College, offers Spanish-style tapas, perfect for sharing with a group. Start with some sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna, bacon-wrapped quail and baked bruschetta, and round it out with a blackberry lemon crisp or dark chocolate mousse. AioliStaunton.com The Shack 105 S. Coalter St. Don’t be fooled by the name. Chef Ian Boden made the move from Charlottesville to Staunton in early 2014, and the goal was simple: fresh, local, delicious food without the fanfare. The 26-seat restaurant, which Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post raved about only months after its opening, serves up an ever-rotating menu of items like pimento cheese, crispy pork belly, seared rockfish and housemade sorbet. It fills up quickly, so go ahead and make a reservation beforehand. TheShackVA.com Zynodoa Restaurant 115 E. Beverley St. Elegant meets local at Zynodoa, where the menu includes indulgent, Southern-inspired dishes like chicken croquettes, fried oysters and seared duck breast. Zynodoa prides itself on serving locally sourced ingredients. With an extensive wine list and close proximity to downtown Staunton, it’s a great place to start (or end) your evening out. Zynodoa.com
Queen City Brewing 834 Springhill Rd. The first brewery in Staunton since Prohibition, Queen City Brewing, which opened in 2003, pours its 22 beers seven days a week. On tap you’ll find everything from a creamy ale and full-bodied lager to a crisp, refreshing summer shandy and pale ales. For the kids and DDs, the brewery also serves up housemade sodas like root beer, cherry cream and orange cream. QCBrewing.com Yelping Dog Wine 9 E. Beverley St. Equal parts wine shop, bar and restaurant, Yelping Dog Wine is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy a drink (or two). Order one of the eight wines available by the glass or pick a bottle off the shelf and open it right there with no corking fee. The wine and beer are the stars of the show, but cheese platters and sandwiches are also available. YelpingDogWine.com Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery 7 S. New St. Looking for a lighter, healthier pick-me-up during your weekend? Check out the juice bar inside Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, located in downtown Staunton. Order a classic juice of freshly-squeezed fruits and veggies like apples, carrots and oranges, or go for one of the smoothies like Red ‘n Raw (carrot and apple juices, banana, strawberries, cherries) or Blueberry Thrill (blueberries, banana, cranberry juice, protein powder). GoCranberrys.com
American Shakespeare Center - Blackfriars Playhouse 10 S. Market St. Based in Staunton, ASC sends a touring troupe all over the world. Fortunately for locals and visitors, it also puts on productions all year at Blackfriars Playhouse, a 300-seat space that was built as a replica of Shakespeare’s first indoor theater in London during the Renaissance. Don’t miss opening night of The Rise of Queen Margaret (Henry VI Part 2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7. AmericanShakespeareCenter.com Appalachian Piecework 38 Middlebrook Ave. At Appalachian Piecework, find vintage quilts, rugs and hand-woven bags and baskets. The pieces in this antique shop and textile studio will surely remind you of a pleasant visit. AppalachianPiecework.com Betsy Bell Wilderness Park 525 Betsy Bell Road The road is steep with loose gravel and it’s an intense climb for hikers and bikers alike, but it’s so worth it. With its breathtaking views of Shenandoah Valley, the observation deck at the summit is the perfect spot for a picnic or maybe one of those bottles of wine from Yelping Dog. The 70-acre park is open 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Staunton.va.us Frontier Culture Museum 1290 Richmond Ave. Travel back in time at the Frontier Culture Museum, which highlights the life and contributions of pioneers who came to America during the 17th and 18th century. Exhibits include replicas of West African, English, Irish and German farms, plus an 1850s American Farm, an early American schoolhouse and the Mount Tabor log church. General admission is $12 for adults, $11 for students and $7 for kids 6-12. On Saturday, Sept. 4, 24 food trucks and six Virginia breweries will be parked at the museum for the second annual Virginia Food Truck Battle. General admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the gate. FrontierMuseum.org Sunspots Studios 202 S. Lewis St. Ever tried your hand at glass-blowing? For $40-50 per person, Sunspots Studios, experts will walk you through the process of creating a blown ornament in whatever color you'd like. Be sure to call ahead to make your reservations. If you're just browsing, the studio also features a gallery and live glass-blowing demonstrations every day. Sunspots.com