48 Hours in the Shenandoah Valley: Wine, Oysters, Lavender, Style + More
I’ve spent a lot of weekends in the Shenandoah Valley area. My grandmother and grandfather lived on Bryce Mountain Resort. Just a two-hour drive from Richmond, the road trip with family and friends was always adventurous, unplugged and in-tune with nature. Pit stops to visit Lurray Caverns and pauses to take in the Blue Ridge Mountains are some favorite memories I keep close today. As I’ve gotten older and explored more of the area, I appreciate my grandparents’ great taste to choose such a stunning and calming region to settle down among.
I fell more in love with the area after a sunny adventure last weekend. I’ve been looking forward to sharing it with you! As I write this, I’m at home (Lake Anna, VA) with my mom planning a ceremony for my grandmother. She passed away this Monday. I can’t help but think about her as I record this journey for you. She was always sharp witted, taught me about fine dining and cooking, and drank bourbon every day. Her cultured past and surprising perspectives are traits I’d like to keep with me during my travels as well as my day-to-day life. I hope you enjoy her influences on my writing and personality.
Without any further delay, here’s my take on a weekend in Harrisonburg and Rockingham Counties…
Where to Stay
When we pulled into Old Massanutten Lodge, we knew we’d love it. The long driveway leading back to the large estate was unassuming and barely marked. An old red station wagon was parked out front next to a whimsical and enchanted garden. It was dusk and the whole property seemed to glow. As we stepped onto the large and open porch, the owner Margie popped up and welcomed us with glee. She toured us around the six-acre estate and offered us fresh made cookies before she showed us to our room. There were endless nooks, benches, and gardens ready for book reading or long conversations.
Our room had amenities I would hardy expect for a B & B, like an adjustable mattress, separate bathtub and shower, and more. We asked for a gluten-free breakfast the next morning. She knocked that out of the park with fresh fruit and herbs from her garden served with omelets made with eggs from her daughter’s chickens with freshly sliced cheese, tomatoes and basil. After our adventures of the day, it was the perfect place to come home to relax and unwind. We fell asleep to the sounds of the woods with our windows open. She’s looking for someone to take over her beautiful little plot of paradise… give her a buzz if B & B lifestyle is something you’d love.
Where to Shop
Obviously, this is my first thought before a trip. Harrisonburg and Rockingham Counties have both fashion and art you’ll be glad you stumbled upon.
For Art: Start with something out of the ordinary along the Artisan Trail. This collection of artists studios and storefronts is where you’ll meet the creative and big-dreaming people who make up this region. For example, I met Barb of SoLace. She’s been creating handmade and died silk for decades and has opened her studio into a storefront that features other local artists like Bruce Dellinger who sketches magnificent portraits and landscape with his mouth (he’s quadriplegic). I reached out to touch dozens of other items like handmade butterfly earrings and ready-to-wear pendant necklaces.
For Fashion: I’ve been to Harrisonburg a time or two before. I needed a refresher, but I knew there were a few fabulous boutiques waiting for me in the downtown area. My first stop was the Yellow Button. The store carries brands like French Connection and Free People, all styled and organized alongside locally made jewelry and accessories. I fell in love with items from Emily Warden Designs, whose work is also around the Richmond area. I learned about Yellow Button’s Button Box, which is a style subscription service worth consideration.
After falling in love with 100 other items, I stepped out to head to Bluetique. This spot has a lower price tag and a trendier vibe. Rompers, funky shades, bright patterns, and more filled the walls of this pretty little spot. Keep an eye on the sales here. I walked away with two pairs of shoes for $35. I will definitely be sharing them on the blog soon!
Where to Eat
As you know, my friends and I gravitate towards the music. Clementine always has solid selections on the calendar. I’ve seen a band or two here before when my BFF attended grad school at JMU. When I asked around for dinner suggestions, Clementine was on everyone’s list I met. We went ahead and committed and we were not disappointed. We ate shrimp and grits and grilled salmon to the tune of the Judy Chops, a soul and country-infused folk band. Definitely reach for a specialty drink, too. The bartender’s gin cocktail was just what the doctor ordered.
Other spots in town to try include Billy Jacks for wings and burgers, Beyond for asian-fusion tapas, the Joshua Wilton House for fine dining, and Bella Luna Wood-Fired Pizza, which I tried during a wine festival at Sunny Slope Farm.
Where to Drink
For something totally different: Purple Wolf Vineyards is a new addition to the winery list in the Harrisonburg area. The vineyard is the baby of White Oak Lavender Farm. Sort of. The owners of White Oak have created paradise just outside of Harrisonburg. The lavender farm’s fields produce essential oils, candles, chocolates, room sprays, facial oil, lotion, cooking oils, and so much more available on site, throughout the region and the world. The daughter of the owners of the farm grew up helping to nurture the plants and eventually returned home to start a vineyard. Let me tell you, I tried all the wines. Not one disappointed. I took home two bottles of the lavender-infused red along with some other lavender goodies.
Did you know you can cook with lavender? I was fortunate enough to watch a lavender cooking demonstration from Taste about cooking with lavender. The culinary tour business showed us how to make a mignonette for oysters. She used local ingredients like apples and onions instead of traditional mignonette ingredients. We paired the mignonette with Big Island Aqualture oysters… I interviewed the gentlemen here.
More wineries: I also had the pleasure of trying out dozens of local wineries during a Wine Festival at Sunny Slope Farms. Narmada Winery, Bluestone Vineyard, Barren Ridge Vineyards, and Cave Ridge Vineyard to name a few. I discovered I really love Chambourcin wines. Love it when I discover something new like this!
For more of a party vibe: Two suggestions if you’re hunting for more of a party. You’ll want to visit Ruby’s Lounge, which is the downstairs space of Clementine. The bar scene is trendy and has a great patio for chilling and meeting new people. If you want to really get down, head to the Artful Dodger. This is wear you’ll go to sweat it out. The DJ pumps pop, old hip hop, and every other booty shaken song you love on the weekends. Other days of the week, you’ll find karaoke, salsa, and jazz. If tequila is your poison, hit up Magnolias for a hefty selection and cool vibe.
Follow along all week and next week for outfits from this fun and adventurous trip!
Until next time…