Staubton's downtown area is full of well-preserved historic buildings, and worth a visit. Many of the buildings were design by Thomas Jasper Collins, a local architect who was active in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Downtown Staunton numerous shops and restaurants, as well as a theatre and the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel. The historic district is compact and easily walkable.
Woodrow Wilson, the US president during World War I, was born in Staunton in 1856, while his father served as a minister there. Today, the house in which Wilson spent his first few years is open for tours. The tours take about 30 minutes and cover the house and the storyof Wilson's early life. Next to the house is another building that houses a museum about his life, with particular focus on his presidency. Within the museum, there is an interesting exhibit about World War I, as well as Wilson's presidential limousine. There is also a small Presidential library on the grounds for historians and other scholars can use for their research. Give yourself at least an hour to tour the museum, plus 30 minutes for the house tour.
We went to Luray on Sunday, July 6th. It was GREAT. They really had their process down, and it worked well. There wasn't much of a line to get in when we got there around 11 AM, and we went right down in. They had friendly, talkative guides posted at various points throughout the cavern to tell guests about it, answer questions, take photos, and point them in the right direction down the path. We moved at our own pace through a nicely lit and well maintained trail. The trail itself is actually paved and bricked throughout which was nice for the average tourist just walking through. Conservationists and hardcore spelunkers would cringe at the damage they caused in doing that, but it was done many years ago when those things might have seemed less important.
It is a steady 54 degrees F in the cavern all year long, so some people might want to take along a light jacket, though we didn't need them. There were many families with strollers who seemed to manage the trails just fine. The only steps are the ones entering and exiting the caverns.
We both gave Luray Caverns two thumbs up!
We visited Monticello on Saturday, July 5th.
Get there early in the day. The tickets are sold with a future time on them, then you get on the shuttle bus and go up to the house. There can be a delay of hours in the time the shuttle drops you off and the time your tour starts because of the numbers of people ahead of you. We were lucky - we only had to amuse ourselves for an hour and a half before our tour started. You can use this time to visit the souvenir shop, and tour the gardens, cemetery and paths on your own.
The house itself was a bit of a letdown. Well, not the actual house, I guess, but the tour guide and the other guests. Several times our tour guide should have answered guest's questions with "I'm not sure, but I'll find out" instead of guessing (incorrectly) at the answer. There were several other guests who were obnoxious also - shoving others aside to be at the front of the line, etc. We also felt that they didn't do as much with it as they should have. No period clothing, no animals in the stable, no demonstrations or actor types to really get the interest of the guests and explain the way things were in Jefferson's time. That would have really perked things up.
This Living History museum is dedicated to the early settlers of this region. They came from many places, but the largest number came from England, Ireland, and the Rhineland-Palatinate (now western Germany). These hardy people tamed a wild frontier. Their lives, very tough by our standards today, are preserved here.
There are three different parts, each one dedicated to one of these groups of pioneers. From the entrance, pay admission, pick up a map, and follow the circular path. It runs roughly counterclockwise, from the Rhineland section to the Irish one (representing County Tyrone) to the English one (representingWorcestershire). There is also a blacksmith shop. Finally, there is an example of a 19th century American homestead. Each place has costumed guides, who discuss the lives of the settlers.
This church has some fine architecure and more importantly some elegant stained glass windows. The windows represent main precepts in the episcopal faith and are done in muted colors that add to their beauty.
Remember, this is a Church that is open to the public (not an official tourist site). If you are going to take photos of the stained glass from within the church, please be courteous and be sure that it will not interfere with any church activities.
This is a little half-hour side-trip that you can bank on being interesting.
The Museum Of Bank History has some local and some federal trivia and memorabilia about the banking industry and the part banks played in history. Some of the instruments on display are 200 years old. The attendants have a short spiel about local banking and the growth of commerce in Staunton and they will answer questions (if they are not too difficult or technical).
We got there the week before the 4th of July, 2005 . Other Virtual Tourists have highlighted the English/Irish portions so I will fill-in info about the German-American section.
The large parking lot with Native American monuments and the gift shop on one side and the Museum entrance on the other. Pay your money get your ticket and walk through the barn archway and enter an 18th-19th century world of farm living.
Farm plots are just as they would be in the 18th century: home, barn, wood shed, corral, pasture, small farm fields, ponds, (paved paths are for safety and handicap-access). Each home has a summer-family who don't just play the part of a farm family but actually convince you they ARE the farm family that built the place. If you don't ask them questions, they go about their daily chores. But if you do request information, they will gladly stop and tell you everything you ever wanted to know about their culture and times. You are welcome to wander anywhere on each of the farms but there are warnings posted about going into the corral areas where the cows, horses and sheep are kept. We were lucky enough to be there a week after a calfing.
The German-American section was flaxing the day we were there. Family members were in the fields harvesting the flax stems in bindles. Some were threshing out the chaff. The old woman was soaking stems and crushing them to make fibers which she would later dry and dredle into long strands. Finally she would spin them into wafts on her spinning wheel. The flax could be bleached and metal/herbal dyes added for color before being used as thread to make fabric and clothes.
The children tended to the cows and sheep and fed the chickens. The fields had to be weeded and fire wood chopped. And the younger woman in the home did the cooking which took much of her day to prepare and serve.
And this was only one of the four culture areas featured in the museum. It took us well into 4 hours to see and smell and hear it all and of course buy some souveniers.
The visit to Wilson's birthplace consists of guided tour through the Staunton Presbyterian Manse and self-guided tour through galleries of Woodrow Wilson Museum placed in seperate chateau style building. There is one of Wilson's cars on display there. Apart from that I saw well maintained gardens around the houses. There is also a small museum shop. The admission cost $8 and to my surprise half of it for locals.
The tour is quite interesting for someone interesting in history and I've got to know much more about Wilson.
There are numerous beautiful old houses around the Thomas Woodrow Wilson birthplace. They are built mostly in late Victorian and late 19th and 20th century revivals style. Some houses are very large and have to cost very much.
The district bounded by E. Beverly, N. Market, E. Frederick and Kalorama Sts is called Gospel Hill Historic District and has been registered as a Virginia Historic Landmark.
You can enter every home at the Frontier Museum. When we went into the Irish home there was a fire going with food cooking on this slab. This particular day they were cooking red cabbage with apples. YUM!
There is a timber-frame farm on display at the museum. It was located in Hartlebury Parish, Worcestershire in the West Midland area of England. The Jacobean brick chimney dates to 1692. There is also a German Farm at the museum and the American Farm.
The walking tour map relates that this farm stood near the vilage of Drumquin, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The buildings are all open for inspection. There are various things going on in these houses and it depicts daily life in Ireland.
If you enjoy visiting Old World European and pre-Civil War American heritage you will enjoy a day at this Museum. Several different homes have been moved from Europe to a setting that reflects their original local and their lifestyle in that particular country.
This place offers more than 50 programs that give a taste of life as it was in time gone by.
This is the perfect place to learn about the town, and about any other attractions nearby. The staff are very helpful.