Known for its magnificently preserved architecture, and compact walkable downtown area, Staunton is a destination well worth exploring. Acclaimed as one of the “Best Small Towns in America” by Smithsonian and one of America’s “Favorite Mountain Towns” by Travel + Leisure, Staunton is one of Virginia’s most charming downtown vacation destinations. Explore the city’s celebrated main street, check out the stunning architecture, and peruse the offerings of dozens of gift shops and art galleries. A wide range of restaurants, wine bars, coffee houses, and small-batch breweries serve up plenty of local flavor after you work up an appetite.
Stay for a few days and take in a show at the American Shakespeare Center, or visit the Frontier Culture Museum or the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum. Music lovers will find plenty to enjoy in the summer with frequent outdoor concerts and a series of music festivals. For those who would like to do some road tripping along with your rail excursion, Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway are located within 30 minutes drive of the train station.
Staunton is reportedly one of the oldest cities west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first settlers arrived in the 1720s from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and eastern Virginia. Many were German-born or the Pennsylvania-born children of German-speaking Protestant immigrants, or came from the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. English and African-Americans were also among the early settlers. In 1736, Colonel William Beverley, an enterprising and wealthy planter successfully petitioned the Governor for land and secured a patent for 118,491 acres, an area that embraced a large part of today’s Staunton and Augusta County. Soon thereafter, in 1747, Staunton was named after Lady Rebecca Staunton, the wife of Governor Gooch. Strategically located at the intersection of the Great Wagon Road and early thoroughfares to the American frontier west, Staunton prospered as a major center for trade.
Staunton’s commercial growth was greatly enhanced with the arrival of the Virginia Central Railroad in 1854. After the Civil War, the Virginia Central Railroad quickly grew and Staunton transformed into a thriving center of commerce and wealth. Most buildings in the downtown area date from these boom years of 1870 through 1920.
Today Staunton has six contiguous historic districts that are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Wharf Historic District, Beverley Historic District, Gospel Hill District, Newtown District, Stuart Addition District, and Villages of Staunton District. Before or after your ride, we hope you’ll enjoy a leisurely stroll along cobblestoned streets lined with warehouses and rail depots, architectural remnants from the heyday of the railroad’s “boom” years. The National Trust for Historic Preservation proclaimed Staunton as one of a “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in the USA.
In Staunton and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley region, you’ll find plenty to see and do, and much to discover. Many of our riders stay overnight; see nearby hotels and inns.
The friendly staff at the Staunton Visitor Center is standing by to help you make the most of your visit. The center is located at 35 South New Street, just a few blocks from the Staunton Train Station. For assistance via phone, please call (540) 332-3971.
Ready to learn more? Continue here: Shenandoah Valley
Aboard the Virginia Scenic Railway, you’ll get a front-row seat to some of Virginia’s prettiest views, including the legendary Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Depending on the excursion you choose, you’ll roar through tunnels, speed over bridges, race past scenic fields and forests, and climb over mountains.