From Winchester to Staunton: 10 Attractions Worth the Stop off I-81

by Patricia Keppel | Posted: Jul 28, 2016

Comments: 19 Comments


Whether you are driving down I-81 for a quick day trip or simply “passing through” the northern part of the interstate to a much further destination, this 95-mile stretch of road has a surprising amount of attractions that make for great pit stops. Take a break and venture off Interstate 81 when making the drive between Winchester and Staunton to visit a few of these interesting and fun destinations.


Patsy Cline’s House

Exit: 315

Patsy Cline House

Take a tour of famed country singer Patsy Cline’s home located in Winchester. The preserved home is a testament to the star’s humble roots and stands as a monument to one of the most beloved entertainers of all time. Although she moved to Nashville to pursue her musical career, Patsy Cline lived at the Winchester home longer than any other place, and she always considered the town her true home.


Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

Exit: 315

glen burnie house

The Shenandoah Valley plays a significant role in the history of Virginia, and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley has over 11,000 artifacts from the region in their permanent collection. The museum aims at preserving the cultural identity of life in the Valley through this collection, the Glen Burnie House, which dates back to the 18th century and is bordered by seven acres of gardens, and a series of rotating exhibits. The permanent collections include a group of miniature houses that show how the resident’s way of life has changed over the centuries, and individual items from those residents that explore the history of the Shenandoah Valley and its effect on Virginia culture overall. Decorative arts are a big part of that, with furniture, paintings, textiles, and ceramic pieces making up a large part of the collection.


Dinosaur Land

Exit: 313A

Dinosaur land

This quirky stop has been around for over 50 years, and while some of the dinosaur statues definitely show their age, it doesn’t stop Dinosaur Land from being any less entertaining. Step into the souvenir shop before entering the park and roam aisles of peculiar knick-knacks, from fireworks to stuffed dinosaurs to collectable minerals and gemstones. The selection may seem a bit odd, but you’ll find yourself wandering the rows of souvenirs picking up armfuls of wonderfully random items. Once you finish up in the shop, begin your tour with a picture in the mouth of the large shark statue and a pose in front of the Dinosaur Land sign. Walk around the park and read about dinosaurs that roamed the earth millions of years before us. If you have kids, this is a must-visit destination along I-81.


Belle Grove Plantation

Exit: 302

Belle Grove Plantation

The estate of President James Madison’s sister Nelly and her husband, Isaac Hite, Belle Grove Plantation may not be as famous as Monticello, Mount Vernon, or Montpelier, but the plantation is no less stunning. This historic plantation was built in 1797 sits just north of Shenandoah National Park on 283 acres of the original 7500 acres of land that was used for growing crops, raising cattle, and operating a distillery along with several on-site mills. Take a tour of the Manor House and the surrounding outbuildings, then walk around the grounds to see the gardens designed by the Garden Club of Virginia, the apple orchard, and the slave cemetery.


Virginia Caverns

Exit: Multiple exits listed below

Luray Caverns

There are a total of four caverns just a few miles off of I-81 between Winchester and Staunton, and no matter which one (or all five if you want!) you visit, you’ll be astounded at the natural beauty of these remarkable landmarks. Heading north to south along the interstate, you’ll find these caverns off of the respective exits:

Shenandoah Caverns: Exit 269

Endless Caverns: Exit 264

Luray Caverns: Exit 264

Grand Caverns: Exit 235


Virginia Museum of the Civil War

Exit: 264

Battle of New Market Reenactement

The Virginia Museum of the Civil War displays relics, and preserves the story of the Civil War in Virginia, focusing specifically on the Battle of New Market and how local Virginia Military Institute Cadets played a role. Watch the Emmy Award-Winning film “Field of Lost Shoes”, the story of the 257 young Cadets that fought in the Shenandoah Valley. After experiencing the museum and the film, allow yourself about two hours to tour the extensive battlefield grounds.


Massanutten Water Park

Exit: 247A

Massanutten Resort

Bring along your swimsuit and cool off at Massanutten’s Water Park. With over 80,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor water park attractions, your kids will love this detour. Eight water slides, an Adventure River, hot tubs, and the Flow Rider, a manmade surfing attraction that creates an endless perfect wave, will keep the family entertained for hours. Those that want to stay dry can check out the state-of-the-art arcade, filled with the latest games and entertainment. If you decide to take a break from all the driving, stay overnight at this gorgeous Virginia resort and make it a complete family vacation only a few miles off of I-81.


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum

Exit: 225

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

Another interesting stop off of I-81 is the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum. It is located adjacent to President Wilson’s birthplace museum, a pre-Civil War manse that was converted to a museum, and both are open for tours. The museum follows the story of Wilson’s fascinating life, through significant moments that include his time as a professor and his Presidency. There is an interactive World War I trench exhibit that includes authentic weapons, a display of Wilson’s family heirlooms, and visitors can even check out President Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow limousine. Stretch your legs even further with a walk through the pristine boxwood gardens.


Sunspot Glass Blowing

Exit: 225

Sunspots Studios

The art of glass blowing is a skill that few have mastered, and watching these experts create beautiful glass sculptures is something everyone should experience at least once. Stop by Sunspot Studios in downtown Staunton for glass blowing demonstrations, available free of charge and seven days a week! Or call ahead and make reservations to try your hand at the craft with a “Blow Your Own Ornament” experience taught by the glass blowers. They produce ornaments, drinking glasses, vases, jewelry, and other art pieces that are available to purchase, but even a free class is worth the stop off in Staunton.


Frontier Culture Museum

Exit: 222

Frontier Culture Museum

The Frontier Culture Museum explores the history of farming and rural life, not just of Virginia or the United States, but throughout the world. Once only four farms, the outdoor museum has grown to include eight farms, a blacksmith forge, a schoolhouse, and a church. Each of these exhibits displays a select time period from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in Ireland, England, West Africa, Germany, America, and even a Blue Ridge exhibit that shows how Native Americans may have used the region.  These outdoor displays are complete with the livestock, breed animals, crops, and tools used, as well as the buildings and gardens that would have existed during the time periods. Learn about the history of agriculture while enjoying the scenic landscape of the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton.


With so many interesting pit stops, it may take you more than a day to travel this Virginia road. Still heading south along Interstate 81? Stay tuned for Part 2 of the I-81 detours article!





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Brenda Jennings says:

Frontier Culture Museum is EXCELLENT!

tremaine says:

so many things forgotten. Example new market battlefield. I mean how can we forget that?

TropicBird says:

These lists have been showing up on my Facebook wall and they are always good! This one is timely since we’re heading to Stephens City and the Family Drive-In as well as Dinosaur Land.

Janet says:

Don’t forget the Shenandoah Valley Cultural Heritage Museum at The Edinburg Mill in Edinburg VA.. Exit 279 on I-81 and it’s open year round. 3 floors of exhibits and 2 gift shops. Elevator, too.

Brenda says:

We hope you include Valley Furniture Country Interiors and The Miller House in Stephens City. Family owned for 45 years. Beautiful furniture and home accents. All furniture Made in USA.

Janet says:

Is there a trail in VA Beach that has accessed to waterfall and wild flowers?

Rebecca McCaa says:

In the next couple of months I’ll be driving to Virginia towards Staunton/Waynesboro. I understand there’s a Civil War event called Waynesboro At War. I would love some info on that. I am a CW buff, so this would be some kind of nirvana for me.

They haven’t listed it on yet, but I found this:

A nice addition to your itinerary might be the Silver Lake Mill in Dayton, VA. The mill was built in 1822. It has burned a couple of times…once by General Custer! The mill has been renovated and now houses a design company called LDA Creations. We decorate and manufacturer custom giftware and dinnerware sold to customers all over the country. Some of our bigger customers are Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon and Monticello. Hope to see you soon!

donna says:

actually there are more caverns along I 81 than is listed. besides the ones listed, shenandoah, luray, grandcaverns which was originally called wyers cave, endless caverns, there is skyline caverns in front royal one mile from the northen entrace of the skyline drive, natural bridge caverns and dixie caverns, which is at the lower end of I 81 in salem exit 132. i have been to the first 4 and natural bridge caverns but not to the other two. luray is ho hum compared to the others, you know everyone has been there, they don’t turn the lights off so you can see how dark it is in there. if you have never been on the skyline drive, go. it’s $20 unless you go on the days of the national park service birthday days, then it’s free. there are 3 places to stop and eat that aren’t very expensive, plenty of overlooks too stop and take a break or look into the valley. there are trails and waterfalls, a tunnel and places to get off of it and find gas or lodging.

Jean Barton says:

We will be going further down to Wise County and Tenn. Kent.Va. borders. What’s down there?

What are you looking for? I can recommend a few places depending on if you are looking for restaurants, outdoor adventure, breweries, etc., but Part II will focus more on that area and will come out in a few weeks!