Exploring Counties Series: Staunton
Exploring Counties Series: Staunton
The independent city of Staunton (pronounced stan-ton) in Augusta County, Virginia was called “A seat of culture in the Shenandoah Valley” by Southern Living magazine in 2020. Nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains, Staunton is your last significant sized community heading westbound before you enter the Virginia Highlands. Because Staunton is located at the junction of I-64 and I-81, the city of Charlottesville is just 45 minutes away, Harrisonburg 30 minutes, and Lexington 40 minutes. The proximity to each of these makes Staunton an ideal place to reside if you’re looking for a mix of outdoor rural life with a yearning for refined city tastes. We’re glad you found us and are reading our Exploring Counties Series: City of Staunton.
With roughly 25,000 people, a cost of living almost 20% below the national average, dozens of large employers, several post-secondary education institutions nearby, a historic downtown district with art galleries and independently owned restaurants, sprawling outdoor spaces including public parks and golf courses, and national forests, Staunton is a great city for young families, professionals, and retirees alike. Whether finances allow for the purchase of a home under $150K or nearing the $1M threshold, you will be able to find something that meets your criteria. With a median age of 40 years-old, Staunton has a fairly even spread young, working age, and retired citizens. Along those lines, there are several high and low skill jobs available from the top employers including Western State Hospital, Staunton City Schools, Mary Baldwin University, Walmart, Fisher Auto Parts, and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Staunton has three primary elementary schools, and one middle and high school. Several private preschools and primary schools are also located within the city’s limits. Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School, which offers more advanced curriculums in arts and humanities or sciences for gifted students, is just a few miles away in nearby Fishersville. While Mary Baldwin University and the highly specialized Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind are just a few blocks away from downtown Staunton, Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute, and Washington and Lee University are all within a 45 minute drive.
What’s there to do in and around Staunton? If you want to stay local or go for a drive, prefer to be outside or need to stay inside, or want to be active or lazy, you’re in luck! Residents of Staunton have lived there for decades and have not yet experienced everything the area has to offer. Architect Thomas Jasper Collins designed nearly 200 buildings downtown during the Victorian era, thus simply walking down the sidewalk on a warm spring day and admiring the various complicated, asymmetrical shapes, decorative trim, steep roofs, and towers is a pleasure. Other popular outdoor activities in Staunton include a day at the Frontier Culture Museum where you can tour farms from three different continents as they were in the 17th through 19th centuries, spending an afternoon in Gypsy Hill Park where you can catch a concert at the pavilion, feed the ducks, swing with your children, swim in the pool, and walk or ride the 1.3 mile circular paved road, and on your way home, make a stop at the Staunton Farmers’ Market to purchase hand-picked local valley produce.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, go underground at Grand Caverns in Grottoes (pro tip: it’s a great way to beat summer heat) or take a drive on farm-lined backcountry roads to Natural Chimneys Park where you can listen to a concert or attend Natural Chimneys Jousting Tournament, what’s lauded as the “oldest continuously held sporting event in North America.” Sherando Lake Recreation Area is tucked away in a hollow, below the infamous Blue Ridge Parkway. Several trails, two lakes, and bathroom, camping and picnic facilities make the ideal mountain setting for a day trip or long weekend. The popular Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian Trail are a mere 20 minute drive. If you’re looking for a sweet treat and don’t mind a scenic drive with hairpin turns, sweeping curves, and switchbacks, each spring the small mountain town of Monterey hosts the Highland County Maple Festival where you can sample and purchase anything maple related.
If the weather is not cooperating, Staunton has breweries, galleries, museums, restaurants, shops, and theaters for entertainment and relaxation. If history is your forte and the local Civil War battlefields are soggy, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum details the life of the United State’s 28th president and more. Blackfriars American Shakespeare Center is a historical re-creation of Shakespeare’s playhouse offering performances of Shakespeare’s and other playwrights’ masterpieces. If you’re looking for a unique piece of local art to highlight a newly decorated room, check out the Potter’s Daughter studios. Landscape and portrait oil paintings and earthy colored clay pottery from a wood-fired kiln are the owner’s specialty. Bonus: before you go, make an appointment for a deep tissue, hot stone, or relaxation massage. The Virginia Made Shop has apparel, consumables and decor from around the state including peanuts from the Tidewater, stone ground corn, flour, and grits from nearby Wade’s Mill (which you can also visit and watch the process), and pancake syrups from the orchards in the Shenandoah Valley.
When it’s time to grab a bite to eat, why settle for run of the mill mass-produced chow when there are fresh, locally-sourced, made to order independent eateries and watering holes? For a full farm to table meal, Zynodoa Restaurant serves brunch and dinner. Executive Chef Luke Dodwy and General Manager Jessica Goode gather their ingredients and menu items from sources across the state. Just a few of the purveyors are Apocalypse Brewery in Forest, Critzer Farm in Crozet, Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, and Planet Earth Diversified in Ruckersville. Newtown Baking and Kitchen uses only organic flour, and locally-sourced dairy and free-range eggs in their products which include artisan breads, pastries, and homemade pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven. Shenandoah Valley Brewing serves up nothing but beer. Catch a game on television or play one of their stocked board games with friends while you drink a fresh-poured cold brew. Some of their flagship beers are Glenhaven Scottish Ale, First Brigade IPA, and St. Mary’s Porter. If you’re more into wine, Ox-Eye Vineyards has a tasting room in Staunton’s historic Wharf district. There, you can try more than a dozen white, red, and seasonal wines.
Staunton truly is a sophisticated small city that happens to be Western central Virginia. It offers activities and education for the young, job opportunities for families, and an enriching environment for the retired. We want to find exactly what’s right for you, so be sure to read some of our other Exploring Counties Series!