Shenandoah County, Virginia has quickly become one of my favorite mountain areas to visit. This area made up of 6 quaint towns, is just a short drive from DC & Central Maryland. Rich in history, outdoor activities, and a growing wine and food scene you will want to plan an escape. Grab a few friends and rent a cabin, it’s sure to be an amazing time!
Winter In Shenandoah County
I don’t know about you, but after the holiday season winds down, and the winter blahs set in, I am ready to travel. Generally I head South, but this year I escaped to the mountains of Shenandoah County, VA. It’s only a three hour drive from home and easily accessible, well until you hit the mountains that is. My biggest tip for a winter trip here is make sure you have 4WD or AWD vehicles, the mountain pass can get a little scary.
Where To Stay
There has been a resurgence of Airbnb properties in Shenandoah County, and I had the pleasure of being hosted at Bear Lodge, in Basye. This lodge truly has it all! It sits atop Bryce Resort, so powder hounds can be at the slopes in 5 minutes.
The lodge is a spacious single-story 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom log home with lofted ceilings, large picture windows with ample natural light. Two nights was certainly not enough time in this stunning home.
As you enter the lodge you are greeted by an open floor plan with sitting area, fully stocked kitchen and dining room. I absolutely LOVED the coffee bar, it was well stocked with tea, coffee and hot cocoa.
There is a large living room with a 75 in tv, fireplace and a shelf stocked with games (there are more in the kitchen cabinets as well). This cozy space also walks out to the large deck on the back of the cabin. The string lights across the deck give it a really magical feel, especially with the snow on the ground.
As far as where to lay your head at night, this lodge can sleep up to 10 guests, boasting 5 bedrooms. It’s a perfect space for friends or multi-gen trips. Four bedrooms feature queen-sized beds, and are fully furnished with everything you need for a great night of sleep. Three of the five bedrooms have their own private bathroom as well. The fifth bedroom features a twin bunkbed. This room is also well stocked with books and toys for kids.
There is a large firepit off the front of the house and we enjoyed it even with snow on the ground and 20 degree weather. The owners keep the wood shed fully stocked and all the supplies you need for indoor our outdoor fires.
This lodge is truly a retreat, stocked with games, ample sitting areas for family time, and a kitchen stocked with everything from pans to waffle irons and more. If you need a break from family head to the swing bed on the sun porch for some quiet time. I could go on and on about how great this Airbnb is, but you need to go and see for yourself!
What To Do
There is no shortage of fun to be had in this area during the winter months. You can hit the slopes at Bryce Resort, or go on a stunning hike. This trip took me to a new to me vineyard and exploring caverns underground.
Cave Ridge Winery
Cave Ridge Vineyard is a family-owned and operated vineyard and winery located in Mt. Jackson, VA. Low rainfall and deep rocky soils make this an ideal location for growing the highest quality grapes used to make their Cave Ridge wines. We had the opportunity to enjoy the Igloo experience they offer.
The Igloos are the perfect way to stay warm, and still enjoy the outdoors and vineyard views. Each Igloo can accommodate up to 8 people. All reservations are for a two hour period and include a complimentary keepsake mug and one round of Mulled Wine for each guest. All Igloos are complete with a heater/ small electric fireplace, blankets, and cozy furnishings. This was the most quaint and fun experience. We had a dedicated host as well, who brought us anything we needed during our time. I wish this was a nighttime visit, as it would have been so magical seeing them lit up.
Shenandoah Cavers are a must visit when you are here! This year they celebrate 100 years of sharing their underground magic with visitors. One Sunday in 1884, the Neff brothers felt cold air coming from the ground, as as boys would do, decided to see what it was. They retrieved ropes and candles and scrambled down a 275-foot twisting and winding shaft. At the bottom, they discovered a huge, dark room filled with stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone.
In 1922, the Shenandoah Caverns opened to the public. The caverns look very much the same as they did when they were first opened. You will be escorted into the Caverns by a very knowledgeable guide, and they welcome any and all questions.
Your tour will walk you through 17 spectacular rooms and passageways. Tours take around one hour in comfortable 56-degree environment. Bring a light jacket/hoodie and comfortable walking shoes. There are also railings in the more difficult to navigate areas. This cavern is also handicapped accessible, as they have an elevator to the bottom and many wide pathways.
Tours happen on the top of the hour, but there is plenty to do while you wait. There is a playground outside as well as Gem Mining (seasonally) for the kids. Take a stroll down memory lane and experience Main Street of Yesteryear. Large department stores like Woodward & Lothrop and Kahn’s drew crowds every holiday season with these dynamic and creative window displays. Wind yourself down Main Street and see these displays come to life before your very eyes.
You can certainly spend an entire afternoon exploring this fun spot just off I-81!
Where To Eat
The food scene in Shenandoah County is growing with farm to table dining, food trucks and so much more. No need to eat at the standard chains, when the locally owned dining is so much better.
This creative breakfast spot is serving up sweet and savory pancakes, chicken and waffles, butterscotch blondies , and more with ingredients from local farms and orchards in the Shenandoah Valley. They believe it’s easier to source ingredients locally and produce food that is community-oriented. They are open 8a.m.- 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. I recommend not going during peak breakfast hours, as the wait can get quite long.
I chose the Chicken and Waffles with the Apple BBQ sauce and they were absolutely delicious. The sweet heat of the sauce with the delicate flavor of the homemade waffles paired perfectly.
I will fully admit this is my favorite place to eat when I visit this area. The owners and staff are always fantastic and the food is made fresh. Serving breakfast and lunch daily, the husband and wife team have made the café the place to eat when in Woodstock. This visit I enjoyed the 117 Brisket, sliced smoked brisket, cheddar, red onions, pickles, BBQ sauce, and mayo on multi-grain bread. It was as expected, fantastic. I really need to make a point to come for brunch, as I hear it’s the best in the area.
Route 11 Chips
Feeling like a snack? Head to Route 11 chips for the crunchiest chips, freshly made in their factory! I always have to stop here when I am in town, my kids would kill me if I didn’t bring home their Dill Pickle or Sour Cream and Chive Chips. If you are lucky, you may even visit during Sweet Potato chip season! Beware of Mama Zuma’s Revenge, it comes with a kick.
Shenandoah County, VA is a quaint slice of heaven outside the hustle and bustle of DC and Baltimore. Plan your next trip there, and experience their rush hour, I promise it’s worth it!