Check out what’s new in Luray and Page County this year

Sue Bland

There’s a reinvigorated feel to the arts, dining, and accommodations in the Luray area. (Sue Bland)

Luray and Page County, Va., long famous for Luray Caverns and the Shenandoah National Park, is buzzing with outdoor recreation, new restaurants, shops, a brewery and distillery, art galleries, a sculpture studio, and a community performing arts center. The Hawksbill Greenway runs beside a stream through town and hosts free concerts beginning in May. Nearby, you can paddle the Shenandoah River or saddle up for a trail ride.

From Shenandoah National Park’s newly renovated Skyland and Big Meadows lodges, to the town of Luray’s high-end hotels, overnight choices seem endless. A stay in the national park puts you near spectacular views from Skyline Drive and steps away from a delicious meal. There are even grab-and-go food options to fortify you on your hike. Elsewhere in the area, you can cozy up in a bed-and-breakfast, enjoy a cabin or campground, or take advantage of an overnight package at Luray Caverns Golf Course.

The Mimslyn Inn offers an enchanting glimpse into the romantic 1930s with its sweeping staircase, gorgeous mountain views, large public rooms, and manicured grounds. An outdoor pool surrounded by new and beautifully renovated historic cottages offers private luxury for couples or groups.

Gathering Grounds is a patisserie that also serves contemporary American cuisine. (Gathering Grounds)

Closer to town, the Hotel Laurence is a posh choice appointed with a mix of contemporary linens, collectibles, and a little French sensibility. General manager Gail Kyle serves breakfast with fresh fruit and scrumptious pastries from the local restaurant, Gathering Grounds. This patisserie serves contemporary American cuisine with family pie recipes, local foodstuffs, and flexible dietary choices.

Luray was a farm-to-table community before it was cool, and innovative new restaurants are making the dining scene even more delectable. In addition to Gathering Grounds, creative restaurants within steps of one another include: Baby Moons, a 1950s-themed hot dog, burger, and shakes spot owned by a couple who celebrate their love for that era; Main Street Bakery and Catering, with breads and treats made daily; and Moonshadows Restaurant, to open by mid-May with two floors, outdoor garden seating, and table tops cut from former Mimslyn Inn doors.

A craft brewery with beers made from hops grown by the owner opens in May, too. Close to town, the River Hill Distillery makes and sells whiskey — bourbon and corn liquor — as well as fruit wines. You’ll enter through a horse pasture, where friendly horses gallop up to greet you.

Luray claims the title of “Cabin Capital of Virginia,” and Allstar Lodging, celebrating its 15th anniversary, operates nearly 100 cabins and vacation home rentals in the Luray-Page County area alone. Choose from pet-friendly, riverfront, or river-access options. Some rentals even come with paddling boats and gear.  

“We want to give our guests opportunities to create memories with their friends, families, and loved ones,” said Allstar’s Carlos Ruiz.

Closer to the Shenandoah National Park entrance, Cece Castle welcomes visitors to Brookside Cabins, a very updated version of the 1950s-style roadside accommodations along a stream. The seasonal restaurant will be good for your appetite and your wallet.

The new Hotel Laurence combines French sensibility with contemporary linens and collectibles. (Hotel Laurence)

 

Other attractions

Luray Caverns, a U.S. Natural Landmark, has attracted visitors since the late 1800s. Sightseers come for the magic of the 400 million-year-old underground limestone wonders, the shimmering reflecting lake, and to hear the manmade Stalacpipe Organ.

The caverns complex now includes the Luray Valley Museum. It is filled with art and heritage of the local area, including one of the oldest Bibles brought to the New World, a Conestoga wagon, and a letter signed by Davy Crockett, “King of the Wild Frontier,” when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The museum’s stunning collection shows how the earliest westward settlers built a permanent culture from immigrant artisanal ingenuity. Caverns vice president Rod Graves and family have spent a lifetime collecting the artifacts, and even historic buildings, that make for a great experience. A garden maze and challenging ropes course, plus the Car and Carriage Caravan and new Toy Town Junction, make for a full day of active fun and learning.   

Across from the caverns is the Luray Zoo, a rescue for reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammals. The owner developed a special affinity for reptiles as a child and has a few of his own Davy Crockett-style stories to tell about animal wrangling, including alligators. You’ll be amazed at the 150-year-old tortoise you’ll see swimming in a tank here and the exotic creatures inside and out. A petting zoo with goats and llamas and a gift shop top off the fun.

Also on Route 211, the sculpture studio of Jim Mayes, owner-operator of the Luray Warehouse Art Gallery, displays his and other sculptors’ works on the studio lawn. The gallery in town has a wide variety of art, and a stage welcomes talented artists to perform weekly. An amazing equine sculpture here is made entirely of horseshoes.

Up on the Massanutten Mountain range, Fort Valley Ranch welcomes riders to enjoy the hilly trails in the George Washington National Forest and offers camping, bunkhouse accommodations, and corrals for those who travel with their own horses.

Entrepreneur and town council member Leah Pence wants the world to know “the town is turning” as she prepares to open another lodging and dining spot come fall.

 

For more information, visit Luray-Page Co. Tourism: visitluraypage.com

 

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