Simply Appalachian magazine celebrates “all things Appalachian” — which includes places to visit — throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains. Here is another in the series of destinations to see, share, savor, shop and stay.
Encircled by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, the Alleghenies to the west, the James River to the south and the Potomac River to the north, the Shenandoah Valley is a 200-mile long slice of heaven. To the earliest American settlers, it represented “way out west,” and its beauty stunned those bold enough to trek there.
Luray sits in the center of the valley. The seat of Page County, the town of Luray was founded in 1812. Surrounded by natural splendors, steeped in a rich history and overflowing with culture, Luray offers small town charms with something to interest everyone.
It’s the kind of place where the locals all know each other. Even today, only about 5,000 people call it home year round. Learn about the things to see, activities to share, food to savor, stores to shop, and places to stay in Luray, Virginia.
The first thing to do is to stroll down Main Street. Luray harkens back to a time when Main Street was just that. The whole flavor of the town is displayed here, including its history, accommodations and personality. Downtown Luray is a registered National Historic Site. History buffs, shoppers, music fans and festivalgoers will all want to convene here.
· To begin your explorations, swing by the visitor’s center, which is right in the heart of downtown Luray. Here you can get maps, suggestions and a schedule of events going on in the area, such as the Page County Heritage Festival on October 10–11.
· A few blocks down Main Street, you can check out the Page County Courthouse. Established in 1834, this building is a downtown landmark and worth a visit for its architectural style.
· Five minutes outside of town to the west, you can find the Luray Caverns, a natural masterpiece you absolutely must see on your visit to Luray. These are the most popular caverns in the Eastern U.S., and they even sing and whistle from the winds that blow through them.
· History buffs may want to make a trip to White House Bridge, about nine miles from Luray on Lee Highway. Confederate general Stonewall Jackson crossed this bridge with 17,000 troops in 1862 on his way to outflank the Union army at Front Royal.
· Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is one of the most breathtaking drives in a region of breathtaking drives. Since it has only a few entrances, it’s mostly a peaceful, uninterrupted ride. The Thornton Gap Entrance is just 17 miles outside Luray along Route 211.
Luray can make you think you’re in a different time and place. The uncanny underground vistas of the caverns contrast the pristine beauty of the mountains. And numerous museums and monuments allow you to share the experience of early settlers and confederate soldiers. Home to such a patchwork of experiences, Luray helps you to celebrate the diversity of experience that makes life in the Southern Appalachians so unique and rich.
· The Apple Cottage Organic Teaching Garden on Main Street is an educational facility for sustainable living, healthy eating, natural healing and living in harmony with nature. A visit to the garden is great way to learn something valuable while having a fun time.
· Out by the Caverns is the Luray Rescue Zoo, a private zoo of about 250 rescued animals. A heartwarming place to see all sorts of mountain creatures, the zoo also offers educational programs to teach about wildlife protection and animal rescue. All profits go to rescuing and caring for animals.
· For a great outdoor family activity, visit Bear Mountain Ziplines. Try the Mama Bear Zipline course, which features seven lines through scenic landscapes at up to 35 mph. Professionals guide you, but give you enough leeway to have a safe but invigorating experience.
· East of town, down Route 211, is Appalachian Adventures. Families and individuals can rent ATVs, jet-skis and canoes; ride horses; go fishing; rent a “party boat;” or go on a guided hunt or hike. This is the place to unwind and spend a fun day playing.
Luray offers a nice blend of restaurants. From upscale to downright indulgent, all will leave you feeling fulfilled and right at home.
· West Main Market is located right in the heart of the downtown historic district. As convenient as it is delicious, you can get great on-the-go foods. Grab a few sandwiches to take with you to the park.
· Further down Main Street, you shouldn’t miss Circa ’31, a beautiful vintage restaurant that reinvents Southern classics for a luxurious, but homey experience.
· If you like barbeque, follow Route 211 west of town to Triple Crown BBQ, a local favorite. They smoke their meats daily. The owners boast of refining BBQ techniques learned in VA and the Carolinas over generations.
· Skyland Resort Restaurant, located at milepost 41 along Skyline Drive, offers a truly unforgettable experience. Enjoy signature fine dining while feasting your eyes on the Shenandoah Valley.
Downtown Luray can satisfy antique hunters, fashion lovers and even bargain shoppers. Aside from your general good buys, you can find treasures here that you can’t find anywhere else.
· Court House Country Shoppes and Antiques on Main Street features locally made furniture and housewares. A charming, eclectic shop, it sells big and small things to help you commemorate your visit.
· Named the #1 place to shop in Luray, Hunt and Peck is a resale shop right in the middle of downtown. It’s worth browsing the aisles just to check out the local flavor. Besides, you never know what you might find there.
· The Warehouse Art Gallery serves as a cultural center, but it’s also a great place to shop. Support local artists and the local art scene by purchasing one-of-a-kind pieces.
· Shenandoah Moon, also right in downtown Luray, features locally made, eco-friendly clothing and jewelry. The store sells items not available anywhere else.
Page County is known as the “Cabin Capital” of Virginia. You don’t have to go for a rustic experience while you’re here, but accommodations range from primitive and secluded to luxurious and classy.
· Miller’s Cottage in downtown Luray has comfortable, casual and convenient lodging. Warm and welcoming, as well as in walking distance from anything you might need, this is a great place to stay with the family.
· Rustic Retreat, while 10 miles outside of town, gives you the Shenandoah Valley in all its splendor. Locally made appliances and private acreage fully immerse you in another time and place.
· Truly a charming, Southern inn, the Mimslyn Inn offers comfortable lodging, several restaurants and a spa. You may be tempted to stay and pamper yourself, but remember to get out and see the town.
· The Little Red Barn is just what it sounds like. Old timey, but with new amenities, the barn offers a fun getaway for two.
Luray is a quaint town, beautiful and exciting year round. It’s hard to believe how much you can see, share, savor, shop and stay in this small area in the Shenandoah Valley. Make plans to visit soon.