Luray, Virginia, and the surrounding mountains is a popular tourist destination and one of the best places in the Southeast. This small town is packed with things to do and see, from art, wine, outdoor activities, and great food. Read on for your ultimate guide to this wonderful area.
Virginia is a state brimming with history, charm, and natural beauty. Among its rolling hills and scenic landscapes is the quaint and delightful town of Luray, in Northern Virginia. If you’re planning a trip and looking for the best things to do in Luray, Virginia, you’re in for a treat.
From the natural wonder of Luray caverns to the awe-inspiring majesty of Shenandoah National Park, there’s something for everyone here. Let’s dive into what awaits you in this hidden gem of a destination.
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
First on your list of things to do in Luray, Virginia, should undoubtedly be a visit to the magnificent Luray Caverns. Luray Caverns is one of the largest caverns in the U.S., and it is stunning.
As you descend into this subterranean wonderland, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering stone columns, shimmering pools, and delicate stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over millions of years.
The sight of the towering stone formations, the sound of dripping water echoing through the caverns, and the cool, damp air make for an unforgettable experience. A guided tour will lead you through well-lit paths, showcasing the caverns’ most notable features like the Giant’s Hall, the Dream Lake, and the spectacular Saracen’s Tent.
But the Luray Caverns offer more than just a visual spectacle. Here, you’ll also find the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a lithophone that uses the caverns’ stalactites to create hauntingly beautiful music. It’s the world’s largest musical instrument of its kind, and hearing it in action is a truly unforgettable experience.
After exploring the depths of Luray, it’s time to ascend to the heights at Shenandoah National Park. Spanning over 200,000 acres, this national park is paradise for the outdoorsy types in your family. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates breathtaking landscapes, Shenandoah National Park is the place to go for outdoor recreation.
The park’s jewel is the Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that winds through the park, offering panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are over 75 scenic overlooks along the drive where you can stop, take photos, or simply take in the views of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley. You might even catch sight of some of the park’s wildlife, like white-tailed deer, black bears, or wild turkeys.
In addition to the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park is home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs. The trails lead you through lush forests, past cascading waterfalls, and up to stunning viewpoints.
History buffs will also enjoy a visit to the Shenandoah Heritage Village, a recreation of a 19th century farming community, complete with period historical buildings and gardens.
The Luray Valley Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Shenandoah Valley from the 1750s to the 1920s. The Luray Museum is actually part of the Shenandoah Heritage Village, but I thought it was worthy if its own section to tell you a little more about it.
The museum’s collection includes artifacts from Native American tribes, early European settlers, and African American communities. These artifacts tell the story of the people who lived in the Shenandoah Valley, their cultures, their struggles, and their triumphs. The focal point of their collection is a 1536 Swiss Bible, which provides a visual display of the European struggle for religious freedom and their drive to resettle in the New World.
Next on your itinerary of things to do in Luray is a visit to the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum. This museum is a great place for automobile enthusiasts, housing a collection of over 140 transportation items and over 50 autos. The extensive collection is a testament to the evolution of transportation, offering a captivating narrative that both automobile enthusiasts and history buffs will appreciate.
The museum’s collection includes everything from sleek sports cars to sturdy farm vehicles, all meticulously restored and maintained. The museum’s centerpiece is an 1897 Mercedes Benz, one of the oldest running cars in the country. On display is also a 1908 Baker Electric, a full-electric vehicle built over a 100 years before electric vehicles became more mainstream.
The Car and Caravan Museum also houses a collection of antique caravans, showcasing the history of road travel in America. These restored caravans offer a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era, from the simplicity of early designs to the luxury of later models. Whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, a visit to the Car and Caravan Museum is a journey through time that’s sure to captivate you.
Best of all, admission is included with general admission to Luray Caverns, so take advantage of the ticket and check it out! This is a great place for the car lover kids in your family too.
Another must-visit attraction in Luray is the Singing Tower, also known as the Belle Brown Northcott Memorial. This 117-foot tall carillon tower houses 47 bells and offers regular bell concerts that fill the air with melodic tunes.
The tower is surrounded by a beautiful garden, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing stroll or a picnic. And the tower’s gothic architecture, combined with the beauty of the surrounding gardens, provide a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon stroll or picnic. Whether you’re a music lover, a history buff, or simply someone who appreciates beauty, the Luray Singing Tower is a must-visit.
Free recitals are held regularly throughout the year, so check the schedule on their website and try to catch a live performance on the carillon while you’re in town.
Bill McChesney from USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Luray Zoo is a rescue center that’s home to animals from around the globe. They have over 80 exhibits of reptiles, including one of the largest collections of venomous snakes on the East Coast. Other animals that call the zoo home are primates, felines, birds, and mammals.
The zoo is a sanctuary for animals that have been rescued from unfortunate situations, providing them with a safe and loving environment. They also provide a new, loving home for retired zoo animals from conservation programs, unwanted pets, and other retired zoo animals.
The kids will love the petting area, where you can get up close and feed some of the animals. Luray Zoo offers daily animal encounter shows and private tours that offer behind-the-scenes looks at the animals and their care. Plus, the petting zoo gives you the chance to get up close and personal with some of the friendliest animals.
After your exciting day at the zoo, you might find yourself in need of some relaxation. Perhaps the best place to unwind is Valley Cork, Luray’s premier wine bar and restaurant. This locally-owned establishment offers a selection of over 50 regional and international wines, as well as a menu of gourmet small plates that are perfect for sharing.
Valley Cork is more than just a wine bar – it’s a community gathering place where you can meet new people and enjoy the finer things in life. The knowledgeable staff can recommend the perfect wine to pair with your meal, or help you discover a new favorite.
If you’re having an event in the area, Valley Cork creates some of the most amazing boards and grazing tables anywhere. They are stunningly beautiful and filled with delicious bites to keep your guests happy.
With a rotating selection of wines and a seasonal menu, there’s always something new to try. Plus, with regular events like wine tastings and live music, Valley Cork is a must-try gathering spot in the Luray area.
Credit: Loren Biser. PublicDomainPictures.net
The Storybook Trail is a 0.4 mile paved walking path that gives you the opportunity to explore Massanutten Mountain at a leisurely pace. Be on the lookout for fossils on the trail, and of course don’t miss out on the wildlife there, including the birds!
Along the way, you’ll find interpretive signs that tell the story of the area’s history and ecology. Because it is paved, it’s a great spot for families and can accomodate both wheelchairs and strollers. Just check it out before you go, though, because you may need to make plans to get to the path. There isn’t a paved area connecting the parking lot to the trail so that might require some advance planning.
The trail ends at a beautiful overlook, where you can take in panoramic views of the valley below.
Print off or save this map before you go to help you plan your trip there.
In Luray, one of the best places to grab a brew is at the Hawksbill Brewing Company. This local brewery prides itself on using locally-sourced ingredients to create unique and flavorful craft beers.
At Hawksbill Brewing Company, you’ll find a wide selection of beers to suit every taste. From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts, there’s something for everyone. They pride themselves on locally produced beer, using hops grown in the Luray area. They also use local honey and blackberries, and are always experimenting with new recipes that can highlight the delicious ingredients found in the Shenandoah Valley.
But Hawksbill Brewing Company is more than just a brewery – it’s a part of the community. With regular events like trivia nights and live music, it’s a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
Next on your list of things to do in Luray, Virginia, should be a thrilling escapade at the Rope Adventure Park. This park offers a unique blend of physical challenge and fun, inviting you to test your agility and strength.
The Rope Adventure Park offers different levels of difficulty, so there’s a good challenge there for everyone. You’ll traverse through rope bridges, cross wooden obstacles, and climb vertical nets, all while being safely harnessed. This adrenaline-pumping activity will not only test your physical capabilities but also your problem-solving skills as you navigate through the course.
The Rope Adventure Park has the Low Ropes Course, which is the perfect place for the littlest ones in your family and is closer to the ground, where they can begin to explore their balance. The High Ropes Course is great for older kids and kids at heart, and this is the course where you can test your abilities in a safe environment.
For the art enthusiasts, a visit to the Warehouse Art Gallery is a must. Housed in a restored warehouse, this gallery provides a platform for local and regional artists to showcase their talent.
The Warehouse Art Gallery is home to a variety of art forms, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and mixed media. The artworks displayed are a testimony to the vibrant art scene in Luray, Virginia.
Aside from the artwork, the Warehouse Art Gallery also regularly hosts events and workshops, ranging from art classes and workshops to live performances and artist meet-and-greets.
If you’re looking for a tranquil escape amidst nature, Lake Arrowhead should be on your list of things to do in Luray, Virginia. This 39-acre lake was constructed in 1971 for flood control, and today it also happens to be the perfect spot for day of relaxation and outdoor activities.
The lake’s maximum depth is only 43 feet, it has a gradual sloping entrance, and water is fairly clear for this area, so it’s a nice place especially for those who may be a little uncomfortable around the water. There’s a white sand beach here too, along with a swimming area.
The angler in your family will enjoy vying for some largemouth bass, catfish, crappie. The rest of the family can relax at the playground area, enjoy the horseshoe pits, or have a cookout under the picnic shelter.
Be sure to end your adventure in Luray with a visit to the Gathering Grounds Patisserie. This charming café is the perfect spot to indulge in a variety of delicious pastries and refreshing beverages.
From freshly baked croissants and muffins to decadent cakes and pies, the Gathering Grounds Patisserie is a haven for dessert lovers. For breakfast, you can enjoy one of their pastries or oatmeal, a breakfast wrap with eggs and ham, or a variety of bagels and croissants.
They’ve got a great lunch menu too, complete with appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. Check out their Mediterranean Wrap, with spinach, basil, tomatoes, red onions, black olives, feta & cream cheese and finished with a balsamic vinegar.
The Bottom Line
Luray, Virginia is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. From the exotic animals of the Luray Zoo to the stunning views of the Massanutten Storybook Trail, the whole family will enjoy a trip here. If you live near the area, it’s a great place for a day or weekend trip, but there is more than enough here for a great family vacation too.