NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Something Old – Something New in Staunton, VA

By: Michelle Harper

Staunton OldtownStaunton, VA is more than just home to the most awarded country music group, the Statler Brothers; it is also one of the best places to have a “one of a kind” experience. Located at “the crossroads of the Shenandoah Valley” off of I-81 on Exit 222 (follow 250 W), it is probably the only town in the world where you can see a Shakespearean play in a recreated Elizabethan theater at Blackfriar’s Playhouse (10 South Market St), watch a live glassblowing demonstration at Sunspots Studios (202 S Lewis St)and purchase a deluxe coconut scraper (Yes, we found them at Zelma’s - 114 E. Beverly St) from a unique boutique all within walking distance from each other in this newly revitalized “old town”.

Staunton OldtownOld Town Staunton offers a unique opportunity to travel back in time. You don’t have to study architecture to appreciate the beauty and unique structure of many of the old buildings that have been carefully preserved. It is this dedication to preservation that has allowed Staunton to be awarded the 2002 Great American Main Street Award. For those seeking the true turn-of-the century experience, you won’t want to miss the annual Victorian Festival April 23 – 25 where you will find street performers, horse drawn carriage rides, costumed re-enactors, an old fashioned carousel, Victorian teas and so much more. As a bonus, this same weekend Sun Spots Studios is hosting its annual Hot Glass festival which offers the unique opportunity to watch glass blowing artisans in action.

If you prefer to just stroll through the town without crowds, we recommend you visit on a Sunday when many of the stores are closed. This will offer you the best opportunity to thoroughly explore the area at your own pace. However, if it is the full-blown shopping and dining experience you desire, Saturday would be the best choice. Either way, you will not be disappointed.

Wright's in StauntonIf it’s the era of the 1950’s you crave, a slight detour from old town is in order to Wright’s Dairy Rite (I-81, exit 222, 250W left on to Rt. 11 1 city block). This local landmark has been serving burgers and malts to the crowds since 1952. It is one of the few remaining restaurants that still offer curb service right from your car.

StauntonHowever, those of you who choose to venture inside will also find something slightly different as customers literally call in their order on their own personal phone located at each table. With the oldies blaring from the jukebox, nostalgic decorations and oversized booths, all that is missing is a poodle skirt and a “heyyyyyy” from the Fonz. The service is great and the price can’t be beat. This is more than a meal, it’s a memory.

Whether it’s the turn of the century, the 1950’s or 2004, Staunton offers something for every time traveler. As Staunton continues to revitalize its old town district by blending new businesses while carefully preserving its rich 250 year old heritage, there will always be something old and something new to discover with each visit.

For more information visit: or
For more information on Blackfriars Playhouse visit:
For more information on Sunspots Studios visit:
For more information on Wright’s Dairy Rite visit
For local history Augusta Military Academy in Fort Defiance

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