Seven Things You Should Not Miss in Staunton, Virginia
1. Watch, Purchase, or Create Your Own Glass Art
The skill of glassblowing is a unique talent that involves inflating molten glass with the aid of a blow tube. The end result is a beautiful and delicate piece of art. Each and every piece is one of a kind. Sunspots Studios has been in the business of glassblowing for more than 20 years. For a truly thrilling experience, make a reservation to assist in making your own ornament. Your creation will be ready for pick up or shipment the very next day. Want the perfect anniversary activity and gift? Two people can combine their breath to create one ornament together. It is certainly a conversation starter for when friends and family ask about the blown art ornament in your home.
This family-owned and run studio has become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Located in the historic downtown shopping and dining district, they are open Wednesday through Sunday every week from 11am until 5pm. Visitors can be mesmerized by live glassblowing demonstrations every day that they are open. The shop is filled with ornaments, glass flowers, hand-blown hummingbird feeders, wishing rocks, and fun glow in the dark items. You are certain to find a gift for yourself or a loved one at home.
2. Hunt for Treasure in the Antique Shops
Antique shops are full of hidden gems, local history, and odd finds. A big part of the fun of an antique shop is the hunt. It is taking the time to explore and poke around and discover. Honestly, you do not have to buy anything to enjoy an antique shop. You can walk around and make up stories about what room that romantic painting used to be in. You can dream about a fancy party where you can wear that exotic piece of jewelry or swanky dress. Of course, buying things is also part of the fun. Go into a shop with your significant other and split up until you both find a quirky gift for each other. Shop together with the goal of finding the perfect keepsake to remember your trip.
Staunton, and the surrounding area, has many antique shops. You can fill an entire weekend getaway just by visiting these shops. Update your wardrobe with previously loved clothes and accessories from Nanny June Vintage Clothing. You are sure to always be on time when you purchase a one of the many styles of clocks from Once Upon a Time Clock Shop. O’Briens Antiques and Art is known for their 18th and 19th century furniture. You will find seven shops in one location at 17 E. Beverly Antiques. Set aside enough time to wander through the 10,000 square feet of antiques at the Staunton Antiques Center. Last, and certainly not least, is the Factory Antique Mall; it is the largest antique mall in the country. Do not worry about getting hungry while you shop, Tasty Bites has homemade cooking.
3. Step Back In History at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum
Did you know that the 28th President of the United States was born in Staunton, Virginia? Sitting atop a hill in the Gospel Hill historic district is the Greek Revival manse which was the residence for the minister of the Presbyterian Church. The Wilson family was one of many minister’s families to live in the manse over the years. Woodrow Wilson’s childhood home was dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941. Visitors today can take a guided tour of the home and look at what things would have been like for the family in 1856 when Woodrow was born.
The Shenandoah Valley home with period furnishings and family treasures is only part of the draw of visiting the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum. There are seven galleries open that offer perspectives on Wilson’s presidency, suffrage, prohibition, and World War I. A highlight for many guests is the restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine. There is a state-of-the-art exhibit that allows visitors to experience a snippet of life for World War I soldiers as they engaged in battle. Kids, and the young at heart, can connect with the exhibits through a fun scavenger hunt. The research library is open by appointment. The museum is open seven days a week.
The historic gardens are located behind the manse. The quiet respite is open to the public dawn to dusk each day. Visitors may enter free of charge to stroll through the gardens or relax in one of the gazebos.
4. Shop in the Main Street Boutiques
Staunton’s Main Street is known for unique shops and restaurants. We have a couple of favorites that you should not miss:
Made; By the People, For the People prides itself on being a modern-day general store. The veteran-owned business was established in 2013 by a family who found themselves drawn to Staunton. After years of repeat visits, they made this happy little town their home. Shop here for quirky gifts and books, vintage clothing made in America, and artistic endeavors created by local, regional, and domestic artists.
Latitudes Fair Trade Store specializes in “unique, high quality, handcrafted and fairly-traded products from around the world.” More than just a business, the shopkeepers seek to honor and respect everyone along the supply chain who makes the goods found in this store. The Staunton location is one of three shops in the family business. It opened in September 2015 and expanded two years later. Visit to find clothing, jewelry, textiles, journals, soaps, and global chocolate, spice, and snacks.
5. Watch a Play Indoors or Outdoors
The Blackfriars Playhouse is the only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater in the world. Once a 13th century monastery, Shakespeare’s company started performing at the original Blackfriars Playhouse in London in 1608. Tickets for the plays were costly, often 12 times as much as they were for the outdoor performances. Sadly, the theater was lost in the Great Fire of London.
After many years of research, this re-creation was built in 2001. Visitors can take a 45-minute in-depth tour of the theater Monday through Saturday. The theater, of course, presents many of Shakespeare’s classics. It also highlights contemporary shows. Be sure to check the schedule of events and purchase tickets for a show during your visit to Staunton.
If you prefer to watch a show under the stars, visit during from late May until late August to see a play at the Oak Grove Theater. The theater opened in 1954 and has blossomed into an annual summer season featuring five plays. Each show runs for seven consecutive nights. Guests are invited to bring a picnic to enjoy before the show starts. The 2023 line up has been announced and tickets are available for purchase.
6. Visit a Museum
Staunton has three distinctive museums that are sure to provide an afternoon of interesting discovery.
The Antique Fire Engine Museum houses the last remaining 1911 Robinson fire engine. Affectionately called Jumbo, it is the oldest motorized fire engine in the state. The museum is located inside of a working fire station. Visitors can request a tour of the station if staff are available.
In a world where it seems like our phones can do everything, it can be easy to forget that photography is an amazing skill. The Camera Heritage Museum is a reminder of the history of this art form. The museum has a collection of over 6,500 cameras, most of them antiques. Visitors can also see camera accessories and old photographs.
The Frontier Culture Museum is the “biggest open-air living history museum in the Shenandoah Valley.” Visitors can learn about hundreds of years of local history from costumed historical interpreters. The life and customs of Native American tribes, European settlers, and enslaved Africans are all portrayed here. All of these groups contributed to the folk culture of the area. Exhibits include an Eastern Woodlands Indian community, a log church built by African Americans before 1850, and portrayals of the Valley of Virginia in the 1760s, 1820s, and 1850s. The exhibits also expand outside of the Virginia to show West Africa in the 1700s, England in the 1650s, and Ireland and Germany in the 1750s. The museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
7. Drive Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of gorgeous scenery through the Appalachian Mountains. There are multiple pull off spots where you can get out to take a few pictures. If you are lucky, you may see some deer or other wildlife along the drive. There are several entrances and exits for the parkway. Drive a few miles or make a lengthy journey out of it. The Iris Inn is an easy starting point for those who want to drive the entire length or a good home base for those who want a one-day adventure. Staunton is just 13.7 miles from The Iris Inn.