Northern Shenandoah Valley..Full of Wonder and Beauty
I have been wanting to revisit this area for as long as I can remember. As a child, I traveled to Luray Caverns with my parents and had not been back since; I wanted to pass this beautiful experience on to my children.  What we discovered was a lot more than Luray Caverns..we discovered a getaway from Baltimore that is filled with splendor and awe-inspiring experiences.

I have been wanting to revisit this area for as long as I can remember. As a child, I traveled to Luray Caverns with my parents and had not been back since; I wanted to pass this beautiful experience on to my children.  What we discovered was a lot more than Luray Caverns..we discovered a getaway from Baltimore that is filled with splendor and awe-inspiring experiences. We began our journey with a stop in Harper's Ferry, WV. Surprisingly, this was merely a little over an hour from Baltimore with much to do.  We hiked and watched the water tubers below us float by on the Shenandoah River.  Tubing, kayaks and rafting tours are available nearby by several area companies. Stop in at the Harpers Valley Visitor's Center upon your arrival and pick up brochures and any information you need from the helpful staff.  My children, ages 9 and 12, enjoyed the town of Harper's Ferry. There are characters from the John Brown era dressed in costume in the different shops.  We dined at Historic Hilltop Restaurant, ( perched on a mountaintop with a breathtaking view of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and three States at once! Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia... very breathtaking!

Next we headed to Winchester, Virginia and the Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens. (  Glen Burnie has 25 acres of gardens and a tour of the gorgeous historic house. Winchester founder, Col. James Wood originally lived in the home, then his generations that followed did, as well.   Filled with original furniture, paintings, sterling and fine antiques, this tour is perfect for any antique aficionado.  There is  a beautiful piano that has been in the family for 175 years!  You will truly enjoy a visit to Glen Burnie.

We stayed in the Winchester area at the Holiday Inn. ( (  The room was very comfortable with an outdoor pool that the kids enjoyed on this hot August day. Close to the historical downtown area, filled with shops and a few restaurants.  We had dinner at The Cork Street Tavern. ( This is an area favorite and I can see why. The building was completed in the 1830's and survived the Civil War!  Our dinner began with an Onion Orgy, a loaf of homemade onion rings, which we all shared, as well as their homemade Mozzarella Sticks, which my husband proclaimed the best he ever had.   The tavern is known for their award-winning ribs, which my son tried and devoured.  I sampled the Barbeque Chicken, which had a delicious special tangy sauce.  Save room for dessert, the caramel apple granny was a hit! As was the warm Kentucky pie... luscious! Friendly service and delicious food make this tavern a true standout.

The next morning we headed to the Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Virginia. (  This was the home (1797) of President James Madison's sister, Nelly and her husband Major Isaac Hite, Jr. During the Civil War, the Battle of Cedar Creek took place around the mansion, yet it remained. In addition to the mansion, the original ice house, smokehouse and a slave cemetery still exist. A variety of events take place throughout the year, check their website for further information.  We then headed down Route 11, to the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory ( Sarah Cohen, began this company 11 years ago. If you haven't tried these chips, you will be in for a real treat. They are cooked by the batch method, with slices a little thicker than the average chip. This results in a more flavorful, crunchier chip.  Cooked in peaunt and sunflower oil, the chips are available in a variety of flavors including dill pickle and habanero..a spicy delight!  We enjoyed watching the chips being made and so can you! Fridays and Saturdays from 9am-5pm, watch the process and visit the gift shop. Sarah ships her chips all over the United States, Check
their website to see where you can get a bag in your area.  Further down Route 11, is the town of Strasburg.  We stopped off at The Museum of American Presidents and the Jeane Dixon Museum ( before lunch.  The Presidents Museum includes a display of mementos and artifacts from different Presidents through the years as collected by Leo Bernstein, a very successful Attorney and collector. In addition, children can dress in colonial costumes and
sit at vintage desks in a recreated one-room school house. My children enjoyed this fun activity.

The Jeane Dixon Museum is a fun place to peruse through. Featuring the her crystal balls, books and predictions that came true over the years. Enjoyed a delectable lunch at the quaint Hotel Strasburg (  Victorian Elegance in the heart of historic Shenandoah County, Hotel Strasburg furnishings are a mix of antiques and are all for sale!  If you stay in a room and love the lamp, the bed or the picture on the wall, ask how much it costs and it could be yours. Took a tour of the beautifully appointed rooms and each one has its own charm and personality. The gorgeous rooms and suites would make for a beautiful romantic getaway.  Lunch was in the dining room, which was exquisitely decorated, as well. I enjoyed the lunch buffet, that changes daily. The salad bar was extremely fresh with many choices.  There are several hot selections on the buffet, I sampled the chicken and peppers, roasted potatoes and cheesy casserole. The food was very tasty and expertly prepared by Chef Frank Asaro. A full menu is available, as well.  A house specialty Chicken Pot Pie, looked delectable.  The desserts are homemade and we sampled the blueberry pie and the chocolate peanut butter pie..some the best pies we ever had. The Hotel Strasburg is exquisite in every way. An afternoon visit to Shenandoah Vineyards ( was a refreshing one. My husband and I sampled several different wines and purchased a Johannisberg Riesling for us and some sparkling non-alcoholic grape juice
for the kids. We headed next to Shenandoah Caverns ( The
beautiful crystal formations include some unusual ones, such as the bacon formations, the Grotto of the Gods and the Oriental Garden.  We loved Rainbow Lake, it was magnificent  The one hour walking tour is a definite must on your visit to Shenandoah.

The America Celebration on Parade ( Exhibit,
outside the caverns, features floats and props from the Rose Parade, Presidential Inaugurals and more.  The kids enjoyed climbing aboard the floats and waving to the crowd.

We checked-in at the Quality Inn New Market (www.quality inn-Shenandoah which is an excellent location to many of the area attractions. The hotel was very inviting and the kids loved the free miniature golf course and The Johnny Appleseed Restaurant.  The homemade apple fritters and reasonable breakfast, lunch and dinners make this a terrific spot for a family visit.   Located just one block from New Market Historic District, there is lots to do. After a comfortable nights sleep, we visited the New Market Battlefield Park and Hall of Valor Museum (  We learned facts about the Battle of New Market and our kids were given an information sheet to complete in the museum. This made the tour even more interesting for them.   After our visit, we stopped by the Shenville Creamery and Garden Market ( for a cool break. We sampled their homemade ice cream and milk fresh from their dairy farm.  The farm market was a perfect place to purchase Virginia homemade products to take home.

Luray Caverns  ( was our next stop.  The largest caverns in the East, Luray doesn't disappoint.  Discovered in 1878, the caverns are enormous, filled with towering stone columns, crystal pools and spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.  The one hour walking tour is filled with excitement from start to finish.  The Garden Maze, adjacent to the caverns is one of the largest mazes in the Mid-Atlantic. The entire family will enjoy finding their way out of this one acre ornamental garden.  After leaving the caverns, we headed up the mountain and Skyline Drive to Skyland Resort.  Located at an altitude of 3703 feet, the view on the way up is awe-inspiring. The resort rooms overlook Shenandoah Valley below and deer and bear are prevalent. We saw many deer right in front of our balcony, Unfortunately, we didn't spot a bear or perhaps, fortunately.
We headed home with many beautiful memories of Shenandoah and look forward to going back to the beauty of the valley soon.

© 2004 Downtown Diane - Downtown Diane can be heard weekly on WQSR Radio 102.7, Fridays at 8:10 AM.