With the COVID-19 crisis throwing travel plans into chaos, it may be tempting to give up on the idea of a vacation this year. But the benefits of some time off are well-documented. Taking advantage of paid vacation time improves your health, your happiness, your family relationships, and even your productivity at work. If you want to take a break, but aren’t able to make travel plans we have a solution: a Front Royal staycation! Block out some time to rest, rejuvenate, and explore your hometown!
If you’re lucky enough to live in the Front Royal area, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation right on your doorstep. Not sure where to start? Read on! We’ve rounded up some of our best ideas to make your Front Royal staycation feel like a vacation. You should find something below to suit everyone in the family. And don’t forget: your Front Royal staycation will help the small local businesses that have taken a hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis.
(COVID-19 policies change frequently. Avoid disappointment! Be sure to double check directly with the company for any policy updates before you finalize plans.)
DISCOVER FRONT ROYAL
Front Royal Staycation Dining
One major perk of vacation is taking a break from the never ending tasks of meal-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. On your Front Royal staycation, you should make sure you still give yourself a break. In fact, since you’ll be saving money on travel and lodging, consider enjoying an extra fancy dinner or two. You might be dying to get out of your house and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. The good news is that many restaurants are now reopening with limited and outdoor seating.
COVID-19 has a lot to answer for, but it may also give you a chance to enjoy an old favorite restaurant in a whole new way. In an effort to follow COVID-19 guidelines, several local restaurants have added outdoor dining, and even carry out or delivery services. Outdoor dining definitely has a vacation feel to it. If you don’t feel like going out, you have the chance to enjoy your favorite restaurant in the comfort of your home.
Some Front Royal favorites that have added a COVID-19 carry out service include The Element, the Front Royal Brewing Company (also offering delivery), and Pavemint Taphouse,. Or bring home an old favorite such as Spelunkers Burgers or Melting Pot Pizza.
See here for a more extensive list of Front Royal dining options.
Front Royal Outdoor Adventure Staycation
Enjoying the great outdoors is a great way to have some summer fun while observing COVID-19 guidelines. Front Royal is the perfect place for a range of outdoor staycation activities (to suit varying levels of adventurousness!).
Nothing says “summer” like relaxing on the river. Many people happily travel for hours to spend some time on a scenic river in the summer. If you live in Front Royal, you don’t have to. A Shenandoah River staycation is at your fingertips! Front Royal’s river outfitters have reduced services due to COVID-19, but if you’re interested in boating or tubing, Front Royal Outdoors has limited river trip offerings. And if you have your own boat, Skyline Canoe is offering a shuttle service so you can enjoy a trip down the river without having to worry about getting back to where you left your car. Fishing and swimming at public river access points are great options for enjoying the river while complying with social distancing guidelines. Water enthusiasts can easily plan a whole week of different river activities in and around Front Royal.
For another day of outdoor summer fun, consider hiking or biking one of Front Royal’s popular trails. Pack your own picnic, or stop at Blue Wing Frog and have them pack one for you.
Other options for outdoor fun in and around Front Royal include rock climbing, golfing, and horseback riding stables. You can even enjoy a horseback ride through the Shenandoah National Park.
It wouldn’t be a summer vacation without some ice cream. Don’t forget to cool down at the end of the day at one of Front Royal’s favorite ice cream spots. Try The Apple House Ice Cream Stand, the ever popular Spelunker’s, or C&C’s Frozen Treats on Main Street.
The Indoor Front Royal Staycation
If being outdoors and active in the heat of summer doesn’t sound relaxing, don’t worry. There’s still plenty to do in Front Royal. And many indoor-based businesses have established COVID-19 policies that allow them to remain open. Here are some slower-paced ideas for your Front Royal staycation fun in Front Royal.
If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon in town, Front Royal’s quaint Downtown area is an excellent choice. Happy Creek Coffee, and Main Street’s Daily Grind are two of the town’s most popular coffee shops. If you’re not a coffee lover, The Vine and Leaf offers teas and fine wines. Peruse the shop or enjoy a beverage in the “sipping room.”
It’s also fun to take your time exploring Front Royal’s selection of unique shops. Royal Bookshop is a charming used bookstore that’s a walkable distance from Main Street. Arts and crafts lovers will have fun painting their own pottery at The Kiln Doctor. Or for an activity that has you in nature, but out of the sun, take a tour of Skyline Caverns.
For beer and wine lovers, Front Royal has plenty of opportunities for a relaxing afternoon or evening. On Main Street, try ViNoVa Tapas and Wine Bar or the Front Royal Brewing Company. Or take a drive into the country for an afternoon at one of several scenic wineries and breweries in the Front Royal area.
COVID-19 has led to many disappointments. It’s not easy to deal with the cancellation of a summer vacation. But a week of Front Royal staycation fun may be just what you need to lift your spirits.
Spring with its restrictions sprang into oblivion quickly and the outlook for summer is not looking much less restrictive. Gym space and time is limited; running in the heat is not fun; and public swimming pools are closed. So, what is the best physical activity in the summer of 2020 in our beautiful Shenandoah Valley?
Riding a mountain bike on one of our scenic trails could be the answer!
Mountain biking is the ideal experience for anyone who wants to exercise and connect with nature. There are some skills that mountain bikers need to possess while acknowledging the difference in mountain bikes, biking styles, techniques, and terrains.
Everyone knows any physical activity is good for you. We have all heard about the “runner’s high.” But when you do any activity that gets your blood flowing and triggers the release of endorphins.
You never get bored with mountain biking as the trail is always changing. No route is ever the same. The texture of the dirt on the trail is different and there can be more rocks, fallen branches, or other unexpected obstacles.
Mountain biking gets you places much faster than hiking. In warm weather everything around is more beautiful. The stillness and majesty alone are worth it.
Here are a few of them to get you started on your mountain biking journey:
Special considerations on bicycling on the Skyline Drive
Bicycling is permitted along Skyline Drive and on paved areas in the park. Bicycling (road and mountain bikes) is not permitted on trails, unpaved roads or in grassy areas.* Because Skyline Drive is a two-lane road with steep hills and numerous blind curves, cyclists are urged to use extreme caution.
Visitors should be prepared to operate their bicycles during periods of low visibility, or while traveling through a tunnel, or between sunset and sunrise, by exhibiting on the operator or bicycle a white light or reflector that is visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red light or reflector visible from at least 200 feet to the rear. During periods of fog, reflectors will not provide necessary safety for bicyclists. Lights on both the front and rear of the bicycle are required. Mountain areas can experience dramatically different weather than what is being experienced in the lowlands, so be prepared!
Donations were received by the Shenandoah National Bicycle Coalition and Planet Bike of 150 lights to be given to visitors at the entrances for safety of the bicyclists arriving without a rear light. Lights are supposed to be dropped off as the visitors exit.
*Bicycling from Skyline Drive is permitted on Rapidan Fire Road for approximately one mile. At the end of this mile, there is a sign indicating no bicycles are permitted beyond that point.
BIKE TRAILS AND BIKE PATHS
Local Trails & Greenways
414 E Main St Front Royal
Sherando Park Mountain Bike Trails
Address: 200 Landgrant Ln.
Stephens City, VA 22655
Phone: (540) 665-5600
Address: Luray Ave.
Front Royal, VA 22630
Phone: (540) 636-4600
Elizabeth Furnace Recreational area
Address: Fort Valley, VA 22652
Phone: (540) 984-4101
Buzzard Rock Trailhead
Address: 3087 Mountain Rd.
Front Royal, VA 22630
Shenandoah River State Park
Address: 350 Daughter of Stars Dr.
Bentonville, VA 22610
Phone: (540) 622-6840
Address: 250 Rockland Park Way
Front Royal, VA 22630
Phone: (540) 635-7750
255 Lakeview Circle
Stephens City, VA 22655
Phone: (540) 665-5678
Low Water Bridge Campgrounds
Address: 192 Panhandle Rd.
Bentonville, VA 22610
Phone: (540) 635-7277
Sky Meadows State Park
11012 Edmonds Ln.
Delaplane, VA 20144
Shenandoah River State Park
350 Daughter of Stars Dr.
Bentonville, VA 22610
Whitney State Forest
Address: Lee, Morton Ridge
Warrenton, VA 20186
Phone: (804) 492-4121
Cedar Creek & Belle Grove
Address: Middletown, VA 22645
Phone: (540) 869-3051
Shenandoah National Park
17157 Skyline Dr.
Front Royal, VA 22630
Shopping for Bicycle or Bicycle Repair
Do you need a new bike or maintenance/repairs done on your bike? Here are some bike sales and repair shops to check out.
Mountain Trails Front Royal
120 E Main St.
Front Royal, VA 22630
Blue Ridge Bicycles
2228 Papermill Rd # G
Winchester, VA 22601
Shenandoah Bicycle Company is open and operating, ready to assist you!
135 South Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
4414 Costello Way
Haymarket, VA 20169
Some final, yet important considerations:
Remain on open forest roads
Watch over the environment
Ride carefully, remain in control
ALWAYS be prepared
Remember: You are responsible for your own safety
and for the safety of those around you.
Shenandoah is absolutely gorgeous right now. But its beauty changes season to season: from autumn leaves, to frozen water falls, to flowering rhododendron, to amazing vistas, to picture- perfect swimming holes. Front Royal Brewing Co. sits right here at ground zero. Our home town and namesake is where the legendary Shenandoah River actually begins – the north and south forks come together on the edge of town to begin their journey north as the meandering Shenandoah. But we’re also where the Skyline Drive begins, and where the Shenandoah National Park ends. When you decide to come here, you’ve come to the perfect spot to experience this amazing region.
You have many good options, from a picnic on the Skyline Drive to hikes on Old Rag and the many other justly-famed mountain trails in the Shenandoah Valley. Numerous blogs, apps, websites, and travel guides can tell you all about these popular destinations.
But since we are about being local here at Front Royal Brewing Co., we thought we’d pick the brains of some of our best local customers to give you options you may not have thought of. Front Royal Brewing Co. is a hiker haven of sorts. Our landlord offers “Base Camp Front Royal,”which is a free shower-locker-laundry facility for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. For most of the summer you’ll see these hikers sitting at our bar, spinning yarns about what they’ve seen and done in the mountains. But for many of our local customers, these mountains have been their personal playground for a lifetime.
One such local is Chris German. Chris’s day job is guiding people on river trips down the Shenandoah, but his real passion is discovering amazing hikes and places to go in these marvelous mountains. Here are his favorites, all right here a few miles from Front Royal. Note: we don’t give all the details you may need for some of these trips, so check the links and your favorite hiking site for more information. We like Hiking Upward.
Best For: View, Easy Hike; 4-7 Miles
This is the quintessential hometown hike. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone from Front Royal who hasn’t taken this beautiful and easily-accessible day-hike. You can turn it into a two-hour out-and-back walk that almost any reasonably healthy adult of any age can handle, or you can shuttle from one end of the ridge to the other and hike all day. You’ll meet extended families, couples on dates, serious rock climbers, and hiking aficionados from all over the east coast. It truly has something for everyone.
The culmination of the hike is, of course, Buzzard Rock (the name comes from the population of buzzards, gliding on the updrafts), an outcropping extending for several hundred yards along the ridge, with sheer drops on the west side of 300 feet or more. Hence the rock climbers. They seem to always be there, with their ropes and gear – and fearlessness. The views are awesome. To the west is Fort Valley and the Massanutten Range, a beautiful wilderness area that has the look and feel of Colorado, not Virginia. To the East is the town of Front Royal and the surrounding farms and countryside. There’s even a somewhat surreal view to the north of the fish hatchery and its many round ponds.
The eastern trailhead (3087 Mountain Road, Front Royal, VA) has a somewhat limited parking lot, and during peak season, cars will sometimes overflow and park on the road. DON’T be tempted. The police do ticket. If the Mountain Road lot is full, try driving around the mountain to the western trailhead at Elizabeth Furnace. The hike from there is longer and more strenuous but even more beautiful. (If you have two cars, you can also shuttle-hike from lot to lot). Another word of caution. Many sites also list the Buzzard Rock Overlook hike, which is not the same as either of the Buzzard Rock hikes described here. The Overlook hike also leaves from Elizabeth Furnace, but takes you west of Passage Creek up the Massanutten ridge towards Signal Knob, with a view of Buzzard Rock to the east, but not a trip to the rock itself.
Best For: Falls, Swimming; 3-9 miles
This is the perfect summer hike, in swimming attire. Falls to gaze at, pools to swim in, water slides to make you squeal. But if you’re out here in winter, it’s also a fabulous winter hike. Look for a day when temperatures have been in the teens for several days and you’ll be amazed at the frozen water falls. Awesome!
Overall Falls, if you do the full trip, is an 8 mile loop. But you can customize it to your liking. It includes the highest waterfall in the Shenandoah National Park – a 93 foot drop. But it also includes three more falls, spectacular in their own right – one at 63 feet, another at 36 feet, and one more at 29 feet. This area is also prime bear habitat, so keep a sharp eye. The stream going over these falls is low volume so the hike is best in spring when water flow is high.
The hidden surprise on this hike is a series of swimming holes, off the beaten track, that include pools deep enough to dive into off the rock cliffs, gentle water slides you can scoot down on your rear, and a myriad of other small pools to lounge in. Much better than a manufactured water park off the beltway!
You can start this hike from the top or bottom; however, we suggest beginning at the bottom at the Thompson Hollow trailhead. The swimming area is about a mile up the trail from Thompson Hollow. After a mile, the trail comes to a T intersection. Swimming area is down the mountain to the right. Continue to the left to get to the falls.
GOONEY CREEK SWIMMING HOLE
Best For: Swimming; 50 yards
While we’re on the topic of swimming; holes, we have to tell you about this one. A classic you won’t find on any trail guide. Gooney Creek is a small but beastly creek dropping straight out of the mountains into the Shenandoah River – kayakers adore this creek after a spring rain. But at its mouth, just before it empties into the Shenandoah, it offers up a beautiful, deep, wide swimming hole with rock cliffs and an Olympic-sized pool that’s perfect for an August day. If you need to cool off after a day of hiking definitely check this out.
To get there, take VA 340 south from Front Royal about 5 miles to Gooney Creek Campgrounds. Walk about 50 yards upstream to the swimming hole.
LITTLE DEVIL STAIRS
Best For: Strenuous Hike, History; 6 miles
Locals like this hike for two reasons. First, it’s a mood thing. Try it on a misty, foggy day. The clouds hang in the valleys and shoulders of this valley, as if an artist put them there. The hike follows a deep draw into the mountain, along a small creek and over a series of natural rock stairs. Very cool experience.
The second reason, though, is a touch of local history. Early last century, Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive was private property, owned by thousands of mountain people - farmers, herders, lumberjacks, hunters. Hundreds of years before that, immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and the Continent of Europe had migrated into those mountains to eek out a living and became the authentic Appalachian Mountain people many of us have heard or read about. But during the New Deal, this region was appropriated by the Federal Government and the locals were force off their land – many settled right here in Front Royal. About two miles into this hike, you’ll come across grave sites these early mountain people left behind as well as a Park Service marker, memorializing their experience.
SIGNAL KNOB OVERLOOK
Best For: Driving to View, 0 hiking miles
We’ll close with a drive-through. For those of you who may be tired of hiking but still want an amazing Shenandoah experience, you’ll need to plan ahead a little for this one: wait till sunset. From Front Royal, drive south on the Skyline Drive just a few miles to Signal Knob Overlook, which gives you a perfect west-facing view of the sunset over Signal Knob. Absolutely spectacular! What local teenager wouldn’t love to end a picnic date sitting on the wall of the overlook, holding hands, watching those hues of red, orange and purple fade into night. Even a middle-age couple would love that!
And when you’re in Front Royal, stop by Front Royal Brewing Company. We’re always churning out new beers and even offer what we call our Trail Series: new, cutting-edge brews straight from our experimental cellar. They come in limited supplies, but are just perfect after hiking and swimming in Shenandoah. We also have amazing food every day and live music on the
weekends. Hope to see you soon!
Discover Front Royal