The 10 Best Things to Do in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. All hosted affiliate links follow our editorial & privacy policies.

We love our home in Harrisonburg VA because it’s close to so many wonderful Shenandoah Valley attractions and activities.

Nature lovers and history buffs alike flock to this area all year-round for the national parks, vibrant Blue Ridge Mountain towns, and the plethora of festivals and activities.

The Shenandoah Valley begins about 90 miles west of Washington DC and is around 140 miles long.

It ends in Rockbridge County, with the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghenies to the west.

Trails such as the historic Civil War Trail, the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, and the Fields of Gold Shenandoah Valley Farm Trail can provide frameworks for planning fantastic Blue Ridge Mountain road trips.

Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway offer an array of wonderful hiking trails, waterfalls, and some of the most remarkable scenic vistas in the Eastern US.

Read on for our in-depth guide to the best things to do in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, including our favorite caverns, hiking trails, waterfalls, and more!

READ MORE: Fall in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia: 10 Places to See Fall Foliage


Are you planning a trip to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley?

Check out our tips for some of the best Shenandoah Valley hotels and tours:

Top Shenandoah Valley Hotels

  1. Hotel Laurance (boutique historic 5-star Luray hotel w/apartment rooms)
  2. Piney Hill B&B w/Cottages (charming Luray accommodations w/ breakfast & views)
  3. The Village Inn (pet-friendly Harrisonburg inn near the Blue Ridge Parkway)
  4. Friendly City Inn B&B (quiet Harrisonburg inn w/delicious breakfast & garden)
  5. Hotel 24 South (downtown Staunton hotel w/breakfast & indoor pool)
  6. Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Staunton IHG hotel off I-81 w/good breakfast)
  7. Steeles Tavern Manor (B&B & cabins located between Lexington & Natural Bridge)
  8. Cider House B&B  (1790 farmhouse in Waynesville w/delicious breakfast)

Popular tours and activities near Train Rides in the Smoky Mountains:

  1. Shenandoah National Park: Self-Driving Audio Guide (self-guided tour along Skyline Drive)

  2. Luray Caverns, Shenandoah & Skyline Drive All-Day Tour (pickup from DC & Falls Church VA)

Need a car rental for your Shenandoah Valley trip? Find the best rental car options here!


Things to Do in the Shenandoah Valley Guide

  1. American Shakespeare Center
  2. Crabtree Falls VA
  3. Frontier Culture Museum
  4. Fun in Downtown Harrisonburg 
  5. Hiking in the Shenandoah Valley
  6. Main Street Staunton
  7. Natural Bridge State Park 
  8. Luray Caverns
  9. Ride the Shenandoah Valley Limited 
  10. Skyline Drive

READ MORE: 10 Festive Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley VA for Christmas

Photo Courtesy of Blackfriars Playhouse

1. American Shakespeare Center

The American Shakespeare Center is one of the Shenandoah Valley’s most exciting cultural offerings, growing out of a traveling troupe formed by local educators in 1988.

Our favorite attraction there is the Blackfriars Playhouse, a year-round repertory theatre with three seasons.

This 300-seat, Renaissance-style theatre is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor playhouse in England.

In the Spring of 2024, Blackfriars is putting on 3 must-see classics, Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Whether you come for one, or all three, you’ll be glad you did!

READ MORE: 15 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples

Crabtree Falls in Virginia, George Washington National Forest
Crabtree Falls in Virginia, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. Crabtree Falls VA

Shenandoah Valley waterfalls are truly magical, with cascades of water surrounded by lush vegetation and wildflowers.

Not to be confused with the Crabtree Falls in NC, this stunning series of waterfalls is located 30 miles south of Staunton VA, in an area known for pristine fishing streams, historic farms, and hiking trails.

Located 6 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls VA features a total drop of around 1,200 feet!

The first waterfall overlook is just a short walk on an easy trail. But if you continue to climb the more challenging 2.7 miles uphill, you’ll be rewarded with four other overlooks offering spectacular waterfall views.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Virginia Waterfalls for Hiking

Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton VA

3. Frontier Culture Museum

The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton VA is an open-air living history museum. In our experience, it’s one of the best museums in the Shenandoah Valley.

Historical interpreters tell stories of Native American tribes in Virginia, and the Scots-Irish and other Europeans who settled in this area. 

They also describe the painful journey of enslaved Africans to the first permanent colony in America.

As you walk the paved 2-mile loop, you’ll experience the daily life of farming households in the 1600s and 1700s in England, Ireland, Germany, and West Africa. It’s a great way to learn about the history of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Small Towns in Virginia to Visit

Downtown Harrisonburg

4. Fun in Downtown Harrisonburg

Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg VA has a fun-filled downtown area that makes it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Surrounded by farms, orchards, and wineries, Harrisonburg is the first official culinary district in the State of Virginia

The sheer diversity of places to eat in Harrisonburg VA is truly astounding for a town of 51,000 people, with 80+ locally-owned restaurants that showcase the best farm-to-table food in the Shenandoah Valley. 

We love exploring the immensely walkable Downtown Harrisonburg, where you’ll find the best Harrisonburg restaurants, breweries, independent shops, and museums.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Harrisonburg VA & Rockingham County

Massanutten Ridge Trail

5. Hiking in the Shenandoah Valley

With its great camping, fishing, hiking, and opportunities to view wildlife, Shenandoah National Park attracts more than one million visitors each year.

The park offers 9 spectacular waterfalls and 500+ miles of scenic hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia

One of our favorite Shenandoah hiking trails is on nearby Massanutten Mountain.

The 4.5-mile Massanutten Ridge Trail offers stunning views of the mountain resort area, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Shenandoah Valley.

READ MORE:  The 10 Best Virginia Mountain Resorts to Visit

best restaurants in Staunton VA
Main Street in Staunton VA

6. Main Street Staunton

Located 16 miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway (and just 11 miles west of Waynesboro), the lively town of Staunton VA is teeming with art, theater, and Southern hospitality.

In 2023, Staunton was recognized as having one of the Best Main Streets in America by Country Living, while The Washingtonian picked Staunton as a “Great Train Trip from DC.”

If you visit, take the Downtown Staunton Trolley, which offers a nostalgic way to explore the historic district while sampling Staunton restaurants and cute shops.

Known as “the Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley,” Staunton is also home to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, the Virginia Scenic Railway, and great live music scene.

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

The back of Natural Bridge
The back of Natural Bridge, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Natural Bridge State Park

Located about 15 miles south of Lexington VA, the Natural Bridge State Park is a National Historic Landmark with connections to America’s founding fathers.

With its hiking trails, waterfalls, forests, and mountain vistas, this park is a mature-lover’s playground.

The 200-foot tall stone bridge has been drawing visitors ever since it was owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Look closely and you’ll see George Washington’s initials, which were carved into the stone in 1750.

There’s also an outdoor experiential area as well as a Children’s Discovery Area, providing outdoor adventure for the entire family. Campsites are available year-round at the Blue Hollow Campground.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA

Luray Caverns Organ in Luray VA
Luray Caverns Organ, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. Luray Caverns

Underneath the Shenandoah Valley town of Luray, you’ll find some of the best views the area has to offer.

Luray Caverns are the most famous of the many Shenandoah Valley caves. Not just because they’re the largest and most visited caverns in the eastern US, but because of the otherworldly sights (and sounds) in their depths. 

These Virginia caverns are well-lit, with paved pathways allowing for easy exploration of the cathedral-like rooms, massive stone columns, and clear reflective pools.  

Visitors will also get a chance to see/hear the world’s only Stalacpipe Organ, which covers over 3.5 acres. It’s considered the world’s largest instrument, according to the Guinness Book of World Records!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Luray VA (Gateway to Shenandoah)

Shenandoah Valley Limited
Shenandoah Valley Limited

9. Shenandoah Valley Limited

All aboard the Virginia Scenic Railway’s famed Norfolk & Western J-Class No. 611!

The Shenandoah Valley Limited treats passengers to a nostalgic 3-hour, steam-powered train ride that offers stunning views of the valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

This enchanting journey begins at the depot in Goshen VA and takes visitors through the gorgeous wilderness of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Different excursions are available throughout the year, including Santa’s Scenic Railway, a special Christmas train ride offered in December. We also love to go in October to view the breathtaking Virginia Fall foliage.  

READ MORE: The 7 Best Train Rides for Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Skyline Drive view of Massanutten Mountain

10. Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway that runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge MountainsIt starts in the north at Front Royal and goes south to Waynesboro, where it becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Skyline Drive delivers an array of Virginia wildlife (including Deer and Black bears) and breathtaking views of Shenandoah National Park.

We usually take time to stop at some of the park’s 75 scenic overlooks, and eat lunch at one of the designated picnic areas.

Located at MP 51, the Big Meadows Lodge is an Autumn favorite for locals. Their Spotswood Dining Room has seasonal specialties and incredible mountain and valley vistas.  –by Heather Taylor & Jon Weaver

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 universities brought Jon and Heather to Harrisonburg Virginia in the 1980s and the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley has kept them there to this day. Heather has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and 10 years of experience as an editor and technical writer for online training sites. After college, Jon worked several years at a weekly newspaper before joining his family business which he ran until retirement. Jon and Heather enjoy traveling and sharing their stories with others. Locally, they love exploring the towns and mountains of the Blue Ridge near their hometown of Harrisonburg VA.