Our recent family trip took up the mountains of Virginia and right beside Shenandoah State Park. We stayed in a cabin out of the way on the side of a mountain that overlooked some fields and another mountain range. The scenery was beautiful and peaceful and would have been a wonderful place to escape alone too. As a family, we were looking for adventure and history. We would have taken a hike or two, but I happened to be restricted to a boot, and it was hard enough to climb stairs to our room every day.
On the way up to VA, we made a stop at a cat cafe in St. Augustine called the Witty Whisker Cafe. We all love cats, so a little break to pet kittens and let them chase around toys, is always a blast. This cafe also had a lot of beautiful cat-related art from a local artist. It is a recommended stop when in St. Augustine. For lunch, we visited the Grilled Cheese Gallery again. So delicious!
The area of Virginia we were in, was known for the caverns, as well as the national forest. Near us, there were 3 caverns we could visit, but the girls picked Shenandoah Caverns. Their cool colorful lights in the cavern, are probably what lured them in. There was also a mini museum in the store with all types of large pieces that were previously in parades.
Warning before visiting the caverns, especially if you are from a warm area like us. The temperature drops a good 30 or more degrees as you descend into the earth. We were in shirts and shorts because it was summertime and nice and pleasant in VA. I always have a sweater because of my constantly changing body temperature, but we had to buy souvenir sweaters for the girls. I am glad we were warned before we went down, but save yourself money and bring a sweater when you go.
The rock formations underground were amazing. One of our favorites was the bacon waves that formed on the ceiling of the cavern. They really looked like pieces of huge bacon that were hanging out on the roof. There were all types of stone and the lights created wonderful shadows.
On another day we needed something to fill a little time so we ventured to the Luray Zoo. It is a small tiny little place that probably only houses animal rescues, but we did enjoy feeding the sheep and llamas and looking at the crazy snakes and turtles.
We were lucky enough that the cabin owners also had tubes and took us on the little tubing experience down the South Fork Shenandoah River. The water was very calm and rarely over waist deep. It was almost like tubing down a lazy river, but the river was a million times wider. The exit was just as tricky as getting out of a lazy river. If I didn’t have to walk to the drop point every time, I could have taken that lazy ride 20 more times.
I wish I was not in a boot because the Shenandoah National Park was beautiful. We choose to simply take a drive in a huge circle through the winding mountain roads. There would be no hikes, but we did stop at a few overlooks to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the skyline. Every now and then, we were high enough to be in the clouds. It is a dramatic change from our barely sea-level home.
My favorite stop was on the way home. We stopped at Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. We had a child-friendly tour set up and an hour to kill, so we stopped for lunch at Michie Tavern. It is a rustic tavern with low ceilings and old-fashioned pewter plates and mugs too. The meal is buffet style, with fried chicken and all the sides. Watch your head when you step in, but it is beautiful and the food is delicious.
If you have children, I recommend the family-friendly tour for Monticello. The kids were lent stuffed animals to take on the tour and it was their job to point out whenever their animal was shared. There were also props that they were able to hold and try you on this tour. The kids sat on the floor with the tour guide and it made it interactive. The adults still received a lot of information and could ask any of our questions too. I have always enjoyed touring historic homes.
Outside there are lots of gardens and cellars that you can explore on your own. They covered a lot of Jefferson’s enslaved wife, Sally Hemings and his other children. We love learning a lot about our history, hands-on and in real life. If you can visit, I think you should!