Luray, Virginia, is only two hours from the Washington, DC Metro Area so that you can make a day trip of it. But there is more than enough to keep you busy for a full weekend.
It is beautiful country – both above and below ground – being next door to the Shenandoah National Park and the Scenic Skyline Drive also worth exploring. But let us not wander too far afield from Luray just yet, there is so much to do here, and it is all family-friendly. For outdoor activities, you can also bring your four-legged friend and, if they are small enough, even carry them into the caverns.
1. Explore the Huge Caverns Hidden Beneath the Surface
Luray is known for its underground Luray Caverns of stalactites and stalagmites, and this is no small cave. Easily walked with man-made paths that expand over 3.5-acres underground. Everything is wheelchair and baby stroller accessible. There are no worries about being claustrophobic – like when caving or spelunking – all caverns are expansive, and some are even multiple stories high.
Discovered in 1878 by five local men exploring, the caverns date back to the Tertiary era (an old geological term), meaning somewhere between 66-million and 2.6-million years old. Slow and steady is the growth as they estimate that a mere inch of new development for a stalactite takes 120 years.
Feel free to visit any time of the year or weather conditions. It is always 54 degrees inside (summer or winter), and the 87% humidity will have everyone “glowing” by the end of your 1.5-mile tour.
Visit their website to purchase tickets in advance. You may also buy tickets at the door. The cost of your ticket also grants you free entrance to a few other great activities listed below.
2. Giggle and Laugh at the Toys of Yesteryear
Stepping into Toy Town Junction brings a quick smile and memories of what it was like to be a child. If you used to have a train set, this is your nirvana with over 30 sets in various town settings to review in minute detail. There is even a circus train with all the animals, tents, clowns, and jugglers! I connected with Raggedy Ann and Andy, baby strollers, old tricycles, and red flyer wagons from my childhood.
The price to review this remarkable collection is free – as part of your Cavern Ticket. Make sure to stop by the Fudge Store and Candy Shop close to the entrance and accessible on the way out – to appease your sweet tooth.
3. Travel in Style – With and Without Motors
The Car and Carriage Caravan Museum next door shows more than 140 wheeled vehicles dating as far back as the 1760s. Some are luxury vehicles like the Mercedes or Rolls Royce. Others are practical, like the milk delivery truck, and some show the unique styles through the years, including one-off designs that any avid collector would covet.
Starting in the early days with man-powered models like unicycles and tricycles, there is even a “horse tricycle” designed to look like a horse, typically used by circus clowns in the 1920s.
Another unusual item is the 1882 Steam Fire Engine from Manchester, including the fire hats, hose nozzles, and other tools used by firemen of the day. There is a carriage built for Portuguese princesses and other nobility from the mid-18th century and a life-size model of the Conestoga wagon used to cross the new world’s frontier.
If interested in rare models of old cars, how about the 1903 Winton, 1906 Ford Roadster, 1932 Rolls-Royce (a gentleman’s heating wagon), the 1931 Morgan Super Sport, and the 1928 Mercedes Model S Tourerwagen.
And not to be missed is the 1935 Hispano-Suiza Drophead Coupe. I had never seen one before, and while not an avid car buff, I loved seeing these well-preserved collector trophies. The price of admission is covered by Cavern Ticket.
4. Live the Pioneer Life – Well, Maybe Relive Just a Bit
At Shenandoah Heritage Village, visitors can stroll from building to building of this restored 19th-century village filled with historical items and artifacts from as early as the 1750s. Step back in time as you explore what life used to be like for our ancestors. See, how pioneers dressed, rifles including a display for Davy Crockett, Native American Pottery, hand-stitched quilts, and artful drawings.
Visit the Blacksmith Shop, the old Church, two homesteads, and a school for African American children. It will take about an hour but it’s worth the time to show your kids how life was like before social media or television.
5. Pan for Priceless Gems at Stonyman Mining Company Gem Sluice
Offer your family members the opportunity to “pan for gold!” Well, maybe not “real gold” but local gems, and with your ticket, you also receive a coupon for a free piece of Ukanite and $1 off any gem bag. I treasured a piece of “fool’s gold” from my childhood until I understood what “fool” meant.
6. Display Your Strength and Balance at the Rope Adventure Park
Lots of stairs, some ropes to hang onto, steps to balance on in mid-air – what is not to enjoy! Make sure to capture everyone in their “Kodak moment” – whether graceful or clinging to one of the rope rails for safety. It is a bit like the jungle gyms of our childhood playgrounds but with the added challenge of three levels, and we are out of practice. So “man up” and take the challenge! If nothing else, it makes for a great story later.
7. Race Each Other Through the Garden Maze
While you may have played in a corn maze during the Fall season, this one is available year-round—all hedges and more challenging to see through, so it is even more fun. Whether you team up boys vs. girls or adults vs. kids (and yes, the kids always win), this will be so much fun for all. And while some may say it is a tourist trap, it is 100% free (included in the Cavern ticket), so relax and enjoy it. Time to bring out the child in you to play.
8. Listen to the Bells Toll at the Singing Tower
This structure was built in 1937 as a memorial to Belle Brown Northcott, the wife of Colonel T.C. Northcott. It is a Carillon – an Old-World instrument originally from Belgium.
A keyboard – like a piano or an organ – accesses bronze-cast bells with a clapper for each. Go to the website for schedules. Many also enjoy just exploring the surrounding park area around the tower.
9. Look for Hidden Treasures in Historic Luray
Downtown Luray – the historic district – offers family-run cafes, knick-knack or clothing shops, and antique stores to explore. For over 200-years, this town has served this area of Virginia wedged up close to the Shenandoah Valley and beautiful scenic drives through the mountains.
While welcoming visitors, this is also a very close-knit community. If you would like to spend the weekend, there are old motels (restored like they would have been in the 1950s), larger boutique hotels, or your standard hotel chains from which to choose.
Go to Tourist Information to quickly find the latest town activities, wineries, brewpubs, and local restaurants.
Enjoy Luray, VA – a welcoming, beautiful, and wholesome experience that is safe and fun-filled for the entire family.
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Last Updated on February 25, 2021