12 May, 2021
A family-friendly guide to Waynesboro

A family-friendly guide to Waynesboro

Waynesboro, a small town with about 22,000 inhabitants, is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and lives up to the motto “Waynesboro: Where good nature comes naturally”.

In addition to being close to the Shenandoah Valley’s numerous natural attractions and hiking trails, Greater Waynesboro has other types of trails that display wall art, vineyards, and even a tunnel. Waynesboro has a trail for everything. And i love that!

Use this three-day itinerary as your own guide to this beautiful region of Virginia.

Related post: The 5 Best Virginia Scenic Hikes For Families

Day 1 – Visit the Grand Caverns

Grand Caverns is 15 miles north of Waynesboro and is a great place to start your journey to the region.

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Photo credit: Taryn White

Of the eight caves in Virginia, Grand Caverns was the first to open and is the oldest continuously operating show cave in the country. Formerly known as Weyers Cave, the cave was opened for sightseeing in 1806.

Like other caves in the United States, Grand Caverns has an abundance of beautiful stalactites, stalagmites, and river stones. However, Grand Caverns has two unique features that set it apart from other caverns.

First, Grand Caverns has an abundance of shield formations which are flat surface formations that resemble shields. While some caves don’t have shield formations, Grand Caverns have more than 250 of them.

Second, while most of the caves in the Shenandoah Valley have horizontal layers of limestone, Grand Caverns have vertical layers of limestone that were likely unsettled by powerful tectonic forces.

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Photo credit: Taryn White

Another unique feature of Grand Caverns that you won’t find in other caves is a piece of American history. Grand Caverns was visited by both Union and Confederate Civil War troops who explored the caves by candlelight. More than 200 of them have their names carved in the stone.

Our favorite parts of this stunning national natural monument were the colorful “Rainbow Room” and the breathtaking Grand Cathedral Hall, a dramatic 70 foot high cave room, the largest on the east coast.

After touring the caves, dine at Stable Craft Brewing, a working horse farm and restaurant in a modern, repurposed barn.

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Photo credit: Taryn White

The brewery is part of the Shenandoah Beerwerk Trail and offers a wide variety of beers on tap, as well as five indoor dining areas and two outdoor patios. Meals include a mix of Mediterranean and hop-inspired dishes such as vegan sweet potato steaks, smoked pork and grits, and keg-aged beer kegs. Children will love the hot chocolate all year round!

The nearby Barren Ridge Vineyards are also well worth a visit, as are the wonderful wineries, ciders, and breweries of the Nelson 151 Craft Beverage Trail.

Day 2 – tunnels, vineyards and hills

It is always fascinating when abandoned relics from the past are revived through innovative projects for adaptive use. This is exactly what a regional public-private partnership of county and community leaders achieved with the reopening of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel for public use in November 2020.

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The Claudius Crozet Tunnel was designed by French engineer Claudius Crozet and built with labor from Irish immigrants and enslaved people. It was originally funded by the state of Virginia as the first rail link between the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Ohio River Valley.

At the time of its first opening on April 13, 1858, it was the longest railway tunnel in the world at about a mile in length.

Visiting the tunnel is an adventure. The 2.25 mile up and down trail to the tunnel goes through a mossy forest next to a stream. It’s a great short hike for families and those looking for a moderate walk.

The average temperature in the tunnel is around 50 degrees all year round. Therefore, wearing a jacket is highly recommended. And since there is no artificial lighting in the tunnel, it is important to bring a flashlight, otherwise you won’t get far!

The dark and cool conditions of the cave only added to the intrigue and interest of my daughters in the trail, and at times we could feel cool drops of water seeping through the bricks.

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After a fun hike through the tunnel, head to Crozet for lunch at the Green House Coffee, a charming, green-painted cafe with delicious food. Although the cafe is closed for indoor dining, it has a small outdoor dining area. During lunchtime the place is very busy with customers who go there to pick up lunch, dine on the terrace or eat in their cars.

After lunch, take a leisurely stroll down the 1km family-friendly Upper Lake Loop Trail in Mint Springs Valley Park. During the summer months, Lake Obere is a popular place for swimming. Part of the lake turns into a beach.

Drive part of Shenandoah National Park’s beautiful Skyline Drive and stop at McCormick Gap Overlook or Calf Mountain Overlook for scenic views. Check out the Blackrock Summit, an easy 1 mile loop trail that’s part of Kids in Parks’ TRACK Trail program.

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Photo credit: Cameron Davidson

After exiting Shenandoah National Park, indulge your taste buds with local organic kombucha from Blue Ridge Bucha, which features refreshing flavors such as organic ginger, elderflower sunrise, and wild pear.

For dinner, The Fishin ‘Pig Waynesboro offers a variety of delicious grilled dishes and Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant has live music in the warmer months and has a large outdoor dining area called the Pig Pen.

Day 3 – visit Downtown Waynesboro

As a street art lover, my goal is to visit street art communities all over the world, from Colombia to Chile. These neighborhoods are like open-air museums that illustrate narratives and stories you won’t find in the mainstream.

Waynesboro’s street art scene has grown significantly in recent years. As a result, the city created the Waynesboro Street Arts Trail and a free interactive scavenger hunt that lets you learn more about each mural and explore unique parts of the city.

One of our favorite murals was “Father and Child”, painted by Nils Westergard, which shows the beautiful connection between father and daughter.

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Photo credit: Taryn White

For lunch, head to the River Burger Bar, an upscale burger joint that serves allergen-friendly, vegan, and vegetarian dishes. The food is delicious! Across the street, The French Press serves light fare and a variety of drinks and coffees with trendy names like “Dirty Chai”.

The South River Greenway is a 2 km path that runs along the South River in downtown Waynesboro. It has its own stop on the Street Arts Trail at the LOVEworks sign in Constitution Park. There is also an arboretum and tree-lined areas that are great for bird watching.

The terminus of the greenway is in the historic Port Republic Road district, which is also well worth a visit. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the community was founded by newly freed slaves after the Civil War. The historic Shiloh Baptist Church and the Rosenwald Community Center, which is home to the Waynesboro African-American Heritage Museum, anchor the community – by appointment only.

After visiting the South River Greenway, head back to the city center and visit the Waynesboro Heritage Museum, which houses a collection of thousands of local artifacts, historical documents, and furniture.

For dinner, visit the Heritage on Main, a five-minute walk from the museum. This family-friendly restaurant serves a variety of beers and drinks, as well as American and Italian dishes such as pasta, seafood, steak and burgers.

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Don’t forget to save space for ice cream at Kline’s Dairy Bar, which has been a local favorite since 1943.

Where to stay in Waynesboro

While there are several hotels to choose from in the Waynesboro area, there is one standout location that will take your stay to the next level.

The Iris Inn is a luxury inn with cabins and cottages built with access to nature in mind. The rooms are thoughtfully designed, spacious and airy with access to the deck and several large windows that let in natural light. The beds are so soft and cozy that it is difficult to get out of them – until you remember that an extraordinary shower experience is waiting for you.

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Photo credit: Taryn White

Free mineral water, foam care products and chocolate truffles are included in the price. You can also add breakfast to your stay. We chose the B&B Experience which includes a delicious chef cooked breakfast and a welcome tray of crackers, cheese, grapes and wine.

With Skyline Drive only minutes from the property, the hotel is an ideal base for exploring Shenandoah National Park. At the end of each day, it’s best to take a seat and watch the beautiful sunset with a glass of Virginia wine.

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Photo credit: Taryn White

Have you visited Waynesboro before? Tell us in the comments.

TARYN WHITE is a travel writer and founder ofTHE TRAVEL WISHLIST. After visiting all 50 US states and more than 75 countries, she sees the trip as transformative and has a passion for family, wellness, and the outdoors. To see more of her incredible journeys, keep following herINSTAGRAM!

The post A Family-Friendly Guide to Waynesboro first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.

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