By Jessie Herman
Alexandria, VA – It’s easy to fall in love with a place like Woodstock, Virginia. Situated just 90 minutes west of the D.C. metro area, I discovered this tiny town a few months back while exploring with my friend Kim and our dog. And I have been thinking about a weekend away in the Shenandoah Valley ever since.
Woodstock welcomes everyone, but if you want to venture through this beautiful town as if you were a local, here’s what I suggest.
A journey to Woodstock starts with the journey itself. There’s nothing quite like a road trip for leaving the chaos and commotion of city life behind. Driving west, the captivating blue-grey of the Blue Ridge Mountains floats on the horizon, a natural wonder showing itself gradually, allowing you to take in its beauty at your own pace.
Woodstock’s main stretch, appropriately named Main Street, is lined with eclectic shops. Park for a bit, spark your curiosity, and peek into some of Woodstock’s fine small businesses.
If you’re hungry after the drive from the D.C. area, stop into the Woodstock Café at 117 S. Main Street. Owners Jose Arevalos and Nikki Grant encourage newcomers and locals alike to expand their palettes with an ever-rotating menu of locally sourced items. A big favorite is the well-received Cluck Norris sandwich, a delicious combo of tender chicken, cheese, and pesto mayonnaise. Or if you’re eating light to prepare for a hike, you won’t go wrong with the Southern Citrus Salad (bacon, almonds, balsamic, oh my)! Wash it all down with an Italian soda or two, then head back to the car. A whole day of adventure awaits you.
Seven Bends State Park
To get back in touch with nature, drive just a few minutes out of town to Seven Bends State Park. The Shenandoah Valley’s natural beauty is evident throughout Woodstock and beyond, but it really shines at Seven Bends.
Your first impression at the park will be a calmly flowing river flanked by wildflowers and a meandering walking trail. There is a shallow entry point to the river that invites you to a leisurely float downstream. Kim, ever wiser than I, had brought a couple of inner tubes. After blowing them up, we dropped gently into the current and let the Shenandoah River take us away.
About two miles downstream, we grabbed the tubes and easily stepped back on land in another section of the park where a variety of lush, colorful plants grew wild along the path. It reminded me of my grandmother’s garden.
The Woodstock Brewhouse
After a lazy float through Seven Bends, it was time to quench a building thirst. Back on Main Sreet, the Woodstock Brewhouse beckoned. Their deck is the best place for a cold pint or two, and you may soon realize that an afternoon snack is in order. A giant pretzel and fish tacos pair nicely with an easy-drinking blonde ale.
Of course, sometimes a midday snack becomes a midday feast, but is there a better way to spend a weekend?
If a float on the river and tasty bar grub leave you a bit groggy, it may be time to settle in for a quick nap. We stayed at a charming Airbnb managed by Serendipity Falls, where they specialize in that home-away-from-home feel. Kim, a frequent valley visitor, also recommends the Hampton Inn & Suites for a relaxing getaway.
After a quick recharge, you’ll likely have an appetite and a growing taste for wine. Go straight to Muse Vineyards, the award-winning vineyard situated right in the valley, right on the river! With European architecture and stunning mountain views, Muse is a hotspot for newcomers and locals alike.
Muse is well known as a dog-friendly property. Our pup was greeted by Emma, the vineyard dog, who guided us down the wine trail. Then the staff welcomed our canine companion with open arms and dog treats.
The large Muse tasting room is furnished with walnut that grew on the property. Following COVID precautions, tables are socially distanced, and servers follow suit. Muse’s indoor space is chic and comfortable and an ideal place for an evening of wine tasting.
To start exploring Muse’s offerings, we chose a couple of wine flights. Kim’s favorite was Thalia, the perfect match for oyster stew or even gefilte fish. I opted for Muse’s flagship red, Clio, a blend with equal portions of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, and a smidge of Malbec, aged in barrels for 24 months. It’s an exceptional, award-winning wine that’s versatile enough to pair with most foods.
As evening approached, we moved to Muse’s spacious outside area to take in the sky’s deepening pink and orange hues and order from Muse’s sophisticated menu. Dinner began with curried cauliflower soup and a savory charcuterie board, followed by smoked salmon bruschetta and brie nachos.
Muse offers an abundance of outdoor seating. With fresh glasses in hand, you can settle into a pair of Adirondack chairs surrounded by vines and watch the sun sink slowly below the horizon.
All good things…
After an eventful evening and restful night’s sleep, we returned to Seven Bends State Park. The sights and sounds of nature were a peaceful contrast to the non-stop noise back home and gave me a much-needed recharge.
Then it was time to pack the car and head downtown for a last pass down Main Street. At The Virginia Farmhouse, 114 North Main Street, is a mecca of local, handmade Virginia goods, including fresh, locally sourced meats and cheeses. A package of goat cheese and a jar of raw honey—the perfect pairing! And to keep this weekend in mind, a lovely, hand-thrown mug engraved with “Woodstock.” The Farmhouse owner, Vicki, told me that the mugs were made especially for the store. How could I resist?
With Farmhouse purchases and Muse wine in tow, Kim and I reluctantly said one last goodbye to the charming town tucked in the Shenandoah Valley. The drive home was effortless, if more somber than the initial drive down. As the Blue Ridge Mountains faded behind us, I thought about the memories I’d keep and the future visits waiting to be had.
There’s much to discover in Woodstock, from delightful shops and restaurants to the splendor of the Shenandoah Valley. After a weekend stay, you’ll dream of the places you visited, the food you indulged in, and how to return for another visit!
Jessie Herman is an adventure-seeking, dog-loving, creative producer working with Alexandria-based Istrico Productions and living in the D.C. metro area. She takes every opportunity to explore the region, particularly the Shenandoah Valley.