The 10 Best Things to Do in Waynesboro VA (Augusta County)

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[Updated June 26, 2023]

It’s been said that the most important considerations when it comes to real estate are “location, location, location.” 

If that’s truly the case, then the town of Waynesboro VA might as well be sitting on a gold mine

With a population of 22,000+, this delightful mid-sized mountain town is located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, with the South River (a tributary of the Shenandoah River) running right through the heart of it. 

Staunton VA lies just to the west, while the southern entrance to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park lies just a few miles to the east, as does the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The area was historically a major crossing point in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Today, I-64, I-81, and the Appalachian Trail are all in or near downtown Waynesboro, as are numerous Civil War landmarks

Suffice it to say that there’s a diverse array of things to do in Waynesboro VA, including a thriving cultural scene, great downtown restaurants, green spaces, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation all around. 

Read on for our in-depth guide to all of our favorite activities and attractions in Waynesboro, Virginia and Augusta County! 

READ MORE:The 15 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Virginia


Resorts & Hotels in Waynesboro VA

Wintergreen ResortExpansive 4-season resort with condos, golf courses, restaurants, snow skiing, and spa about 15 miles from downtown. 

Residence Inn Convenient location right off I-64, with indoor pool/hot tub, full kitchens, and free breakfast included.

Best Western Plus Budget-friendly and 5 miles from Blue Ridge Parkway & Skyline Drive, with heated indoor pool, fitness center, and full breakfast.


Best Things to Do in Waynesboro VA Guide

  1. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
  2. Get Cultured on the Waynesboro Street Art Trail
  3. Go Deep at Grand Caverns
  4. Hike the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel
  5. Learn the History Behind Swannanoa Palace
  6. Sample Downtown Waynesboro Restaurants
  7. See a Show at the Wayne Theatre
  8. Spend a Day in Shenandoah National Park 
  9. Take a Walk on the South River Greenway Trail
  10. Visit the Russell Museum
Sun Rays on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Sun Rays on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

1. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Located less than 5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway’s North Entrance, Waynesboro VA makes a perfect base for exploring all the best overlooks, hiking trails, and waterfalls the world-famous scenic route has to offer.

Some of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks on this section include the Afton Overlook (Milepost 0.2), View Shenandoah Valley (MP 2.9), Ravens Roost Overlook (MP 10.7, a great place to catch the sunset), and Twenty Minute Cliff (MP 19.0), whose panorama views are simply spectacular. 

Popular Blue Ridge Parkway hikes nearby include the 3.8-mile Humpback Rocks Loop via the Appalachian Trail (MP 5.8); the short, but strenuous Plunge Trail at Wintergreen Resort (MP 13.6); and the 13.3-mile Three Ridges Loop Trail (MP 13.1), which is beloved by backpackers.

There aren’t many Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls in this area. But we had a lovely time exploring the 0.9-mile Upper Shamokin Falls Trail at Wintergreen Resort and the picturesque White Rock Falls (MP 19.9). It has a sweet little swimming hole perfect for cooling off mid-hike, and large rocks that make a great place for a picnic. 

READ MORE: The Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hotels & Cabin Rentals

Mural on the Waynesboro Street Art Trail in Waynesboro Virginia
Mural on the Waynesboro Street Arts Trail

2. Get Cultured on the Waynesboro Street Arts Trail

The lines dividing graffiti from street art have grown increasingly blurry in recent years.

But the downtown Waynesboro Street Arts Trail proves that you’ll know the difference when you see it.

Borrowing influences from traditional Appalachian culture to modern street culture, this is one of the coolest Blue Ridge art attractions this side of Asheville’s River Arts District

You can download the free Traipse App for a scavenger hunt-like guide to the marvelous murals in downtown Waynesboro, many of which use the town’s industrial architecture and pristine mountain backdrops to great effect. 

Seeking out the imaginative murals will also steer you towards some of the coolest Waynesboro Attractions, from the historic Wayne Theatre to the gorgeous green space of Constitution Park! 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Bristol TN/VA

Tour Guide at Grand Caverns in Grottoes VA
Tour Guide at Grand Caverns in Grottoes VA

3. Go Deep at Grand Caverns

Originally known as Weyer’s Cave, this National Natural Landmark was discovered in 1804 by Bernard Weyer as he tried to retrieve his hunting trap. Operated as a tourist attraction since 1806, it is now billed as “the Oldest Show Cave in the U.S.”

Located 15 miles north of Waynesboro in Grottoes VA, Grand Caverns ranks alongside Luray Caverns among the most impressive caverns in Virginia we’ve visited. 

They’re filled with the usual array of stalactites (which descend from the ceiling), stalagmites (which grow from the ground up), flowstone, and other geological features.

But Grand Caverns is also home to an impressive assortment of massive circular shield formations, which you rarely see at other Shenandoah Valley caverns.

It’s also full of history. During the Civil War (particularly Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign), the cave was visited by Confederate and Union soldiers, more than 200 of whom left their signatures on the cave walls.

But even if Virginia’s Civil War history isn’t your thing, the entertaining Grand Caverns tour is really a must-do if you visit Waynesboro. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Caves and Caverns in Virginia

Ladies Walking in Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel in Waynesboro VA
Ladies Walking in the Blue Ridge Tunnel

4. Hike the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel

Speaking of historic sites that are equally compelling for those who couldn’t care less about history, the Blue Ridge Tunnel was built in the 1850s, during the construction of the Blue Ridge Railroad.

At 4,237 feet, it was the longest of four tunnels engineered by Claudius Crozet to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains at Rockfish Gap.

It was used by the Virginia Central Railroad until 1868, then for decades by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

The Crozet Tunnel was ultimately abandoned and replaced by a new tunnel in 1944. But it was named a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1976.

Over the past decade, the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation has worked to stabilize and restore the tunnel, which was opened to the public as a linear park with trailheads on both sides in late 2020. 

At around 2.25 miles one way, with very little elevation gain, it’s one of the coolest hiking trails we’ve ever taken. There are waterfalls, bats, and cool geological features inside, but no lights whatsoever.

So be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight and any other hiking essentials you may need for the 4.7-mile round-trip trek.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Historic & Covered Bridges in Virginia

Swannanoa Palace in Waynesboro VA
Swannanoa Palace

5. Learn the History of Swannanoa Palace

Located above Rockfish Gap, this gorgeous Italian Renaissance Revival mansion was built in 1912 for millionaire philanthropist Major James H. Dooley (an executive for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway) and his wife, Sarah “Sallie” O. May. 

It took 300+ workers 8 years to build the 23,000 square foot Swannanoa, with marble mined in North Georgia, terraced gardens, and a 4,000- piece Tiffany stained glass window bearing the likeness of Mrs. Dooley.

Unfortunately, the Dooleys passed away in 1922 and 1925, and Sallie May’s sisters sold it to the Valley Corporation of Richmond in 1926. 

The 763-acre estate briefly became the Swannanoa Country Club & Golf Course. But it went bankrupt during the Great Depression, and remained empty for 12 years before the property was purchased by A.T. Dulaney’s Skyline Swannanoa Inc. They leased it to artist/author Walter Russell and his wife, Lao, for the next 50 years. 

Over the last 20+ years, Dulaney’s heirs have been doing extensive renovations on the fabulous property, which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register.

Swannanoa is currently rented out for weddings, private parties, photo shoots, and guided tours, which are filled with 100+ years of fascinating historical info. Contact Sandi Dulaney at 540-885-5653 for more info. 

READ MORE: Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains? A State-by-State Guide

Lunch at Stella Bella and Lucys in Downtown Waynesboro
Lunch at Stella, Bella & Lucys

6. Sample Downtown Waynesboro Restaurants

Downtown Waynesboro is much more quiet than bustling cities like Roanoke or Asheville, but its restaurant scene rivals those we’ve explored in small towns such as Hendersonville NC and Blue Ridge GA

Although we were only there for 4 days, we found quite a few foodie-friendly Waynesboro restaurants that were worthy of recommending. 

We had lunch at The River Burger Bar, and loved their Bacon Pimento Burger and Salmon BLT. Alex’s Taco Truck on East Main St is a great place to pick up traditional tacos and beef tongue burritos for an afternoon picnic. And Stella, Bella & Lucy’s is a fantastic lunch/brunch place, with excellent sandwiches, salads, teas, and treats! 

If you love traditional southern-style BBQ, The Fishin’ Pig has all the tender smoked meats your heart desires. We also loved the jazzy vibe of our dinner at the New Orleans-inspired Green Leaf Grill, and the swanky cocktails and mezza (a.k.a. tapas) we had at the hip Heritage On Main (two of our favorite Waynesboro restaurants). 

If you’re looking for gourmet coffee, pastries, or sandwiches, don’t miss The French Press!

READ MORE: The Best Restaurants in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA for Foodies

The Wayne Theater in Waynesboro VA
The Wayne Theater

7. See a Show at the Wayne Theatre

Another iconic landmark in Waynesboro, the Wayne Theatre opened in 1926 as a vaudeville/movie house.

It was advertised as the “finest theatre in the Shenandoah Valley,” with a small orchestra to entertain audiences before the show. 

This theatre was updated and expanded in 1949, but it was completely gutted by a fire in 1980. After that, the owners tried converting it into a twin cinema before closing up shop permanently in 1999.

It was set to be demolished before locals formed the Wayne Theatre Alliance in hopes of renovating the theatre. The newly restored Wayne Theatre reopened to the public in 2016, offering theatrical performances, live music, and movies. 

Today the theatre is the cultural heart of the community, with more than 300 performances and special events each year. They also offer workshops, lecture and speaker series, art exhibits, art education programs for students, masterclasses, and more.

We caught their wonderful production of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in an open-air theatre on the side of a mountain at Wintergreen Resort, and were truly impressed with the level of talent involved!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA

Mountain Laurel at Shenandoah National Park Overlook
Mountain Laurel Blooming in Shenandoah National Park

8. Spend a Day in Shenandoah National Park 

The Blue Ridge Parkway was conceived by President Franklin D Roosevelt to connect Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Just a few miles east of Waynesboro, the BRP becomes Skyline Drive, which stretches 105.5 miles through Shenandoah National Park. So a visit to the southern section of the park is really a must-do day trip. 

Skyline Drive takes you through the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, with 76 scenic overlooks providing stunning sights of the dynamic landscape all along the way. 

Some of our favorite views can be found at Hazeltop Ridge Overlook (Milepost 54.5), The Point (which requires a very short hike at MP 55.5, and offers spectacular sunsets), Brown Mountain Overlook (which also has a great trail at MP 77), and the Rockytop Overlook (MP 78). 

If you’re up for slightly more challenging hiking trails, check out the Bearfence Mountain Summit (MP 56.4), Frazier Discovery Trail (MP 79.5), and/or Blackrock Summit (MP 84.4). 

READ MORE: The 10 Best National Parks in Virginia

LOVE Sign in Waynesboro VA
LOVE Sign along the South River Greenway Trail

9. Take a Walk on the South River Greenway Trail

If hiking trails with elevation gain and the occasional rock scramble are not your speed, the South River Greenway Trail offers a lovely little stroll right in the middle of downtown Waynesboro. 

Stretching 1.2 miles, from the Loth Springs Parking area on Arch Avenue (behind the YMCA) to the Port Republic neighborhood, this paved walking path takes you right alongside the South River. 

The river itself is very popular with local fly-fishing enthusiasts, and offers catch-and-release fishing for trout. During our visits, we also saw ducks, geese, and various other birds along the river as we walked. 

There’s a 24 X 36-foot Dominion Shelter along the trail with several tables, which makes a picturesque picnic spot. It can be reserved for a half day or full day for a fee, and has electricity, but no grill and no restrooms.

The green space around the river will be part of the new South River Preserve, a 26-acre park that broke ground in early 2022.

READ MORE: 20 Beautiful Birds of Virginia

Four Freedoms Sculpture at the Russell Museum in Waynesboro Virginia
Four Freedoms Sculpture at the Russell Museum

10. Visit the Russell Museum

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Waynesboro, Virginia, the Russell Museum certainly fits the bill, and makes for an informative stop after visiting the Swannanoa mansion. 

This Virginia museum is home to the University of Science and Philosophy (USP), which was founded by Walter and Lao Russell in 1948 and was based at Swannanoa until their lease ended in 1998.

The museum features countless works of art by the Russells (including sculptures, paintings, drawings and more), as well as various letters of correspondence with their myriad famous friends. 

According to their site, the University was formed “to give to the world The Message of the Divine Iliad, by Walter Russell, a scientific explanation of God’s ways and processes in the construction of His universe, and the message of a Living Philosophy, by Lao Russell, for illuminating man’s Cosmic way of Life in his long journey of life from the dark to God’s Light.”

We honestly weren’t sure what to make of the USP stuff. But it was fascinating to see Walter Russell’s artwork, which included remarkable sculptures commissioned by famous friends such as Franklin D Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Thomas Edison. 

His busts, paintings, wood carvings, and illustrations were truly exceptional, and you can only imagine how spectacular the Swannanoa palace must have looked when his art filled its halls. 

READ MORE: 10 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples

Sunrise at Wintergreen Resort in VA
Sunrise at Wintergreen Resort

Waynesboro VA FAQ

1. What is Waynesboro VA known for?

Waynesboro VA is known as the starting point for the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a  gateway to Shenandoah National Park. The Virginia mountain town is also known for unique landmarks such as the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel, Swannanoa, and Grand Caverns (a National Natural Landmark). There are also several important Civil War sites, due to the famous Battle of Waynesboro


2. Does Waynesboro VA have a downtown area?

Downtown Waynesboro features excellent shops and restaurants, including the River Burger Bar, Green Leaf Grill, Heritage On Main, and Stella, Bella & Lucy’s. It’s also home to Constitution Park and the South River Greenway Trail, which offers a walking path and opportunities for in-town fishing. We also love the Waynesboro Street Arts Trail, whose massive murals give the small town a hip, modern vibe. 


3. Is Waynesboro, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley?

Waynesboro and August County are nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, which includes much of western Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Famous for its wineries, natural attractions, and the Shenandoah River, the region is bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians to the west, and the Potomac and James Rivers to the north and south. 


4. Does the Appalachian Trail go through Waynesboro, Virginia?

The Appalachian Trail in Virginia is about 3 miles east of Downtown Waynesboro, so some of Virginia’s best hiking trails make for easy day trips. Some of the best AT trails near Waynesboro include the 3.8-mile Humpback Rocks Loop, the 2.8-mile Dripping Rock South Trail, and the 1.8-mile Blackrock Summit Trail in Shenandoah National Park. Waynesboro, Virginia is also an official Appalachian Trail community!  –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett



Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.