(UPDATED JULY 2022) With the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains as its backdrop, Luray (pronounced Loo-ray) is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway or short day trip in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. The local offerings are enticing, while the outdoor attractions and nature preserve are a great draw in themselves. Here are some reasons why I love the charming town of Luray, Virginia, and what to see and do on your visit.
Luray Caverns is a US Natural Landmark and next to the Shenandoah National Park in the charming town of Luray. Luray Caverns recently opened a step-free entrance to the caves, making it one of the most accessible in the whole country.
Inside, the 60° Luray Caverns offers lighted, paved walkways through geological formations that will make your jaw drop. Admire the stalagmites and stalactites as you walk through 10-foot rooms with towering calcite formations and delightful draperies. This National Historic Landmark caverns will educate and entertain everyone in the family.
Other things to see, adjacent to the Luray Caverns property, are Toy Town Junction’s collection of trains and toys from different eras, the Luray Valley Museum, a recreated 19th-century farm community and buildings, and Car and Carriage Caravan displaying 140 items dating back to 1725.
Admission to all three of these comes with your ticket to Luray Caverns. Kids will love the Garden Maze, gem mining, and Rope Adventure Park, too. Luray Caverns is open 365 days a year.
A Historic Hotel of America in Luray, VA
The Mimslyn Inn is a beautiful place to stay in the Blue Ridge Mountains and a destination in itself. The historic hotel opened in 1931 and has been in operation since. The charming property holds a Grand Gazebo, landscaped terraces and gardens, and picturesque mountain views that certainly enrich your stay.
There are different types of accommodations at the Mimslyn Inn; a variety of suites and historic rooms, as well as the cottage collection. The pastel-colored cottages (and manor house) sit behind the Mimslyn Inn and have fireplaces, front porches with seating, jacuzzi style tubs, kitchenettes, and stylish interiors. I stayed in the Jewell Hollow Cottage with two queen beds.
An outdoor salt-water pool is available for all guests, as well as the outdoor barbecues, fitness room, spa, game area, and hammocks.
Feast on a delicious breakfast or lunch (including themed Sunday brunch) at Circa ’31 on the lobby level of the hotel. For dinner, try The Speakeasy Bar & Restaurant on the lower level. This restaurant has a huge menu, live entertainment several days a week, and great food. I recommend the Cheese Fondue (served with apples, bread, and pretzel bites), Pulled Pork Sandwich, and Pork Chops with a decadent bacon Gouda cream sauce.
Mimslyn Inn is a member of Historic Hotels of America, a designation I try to look for when traveling.
Decadent Food and Drinks
Gathering Grounds Patisserie & Cafe is my top pick for foodies in Luray, Virginia. This homey coffee bar and cafe serve top-notch meals, gourmet sandwiches and soups, incredible coffees and teas, and a killer selection of pastries. For breakfast, try the quiche or breakfast wrap with green chilies.
Save room for the desserts- Gathering Grounds has the best cakes in the country! The peach cake with spiced icing was heavenly. If you bring your dog to the patio, ask for its free puppacino.
If you need a boxed meal for river or hiking adventures in charming Luray, the Mimslyn Inn offers “to go” meals. Main Street Bakery is another option with yummy pastries, coffee, soup, quiche, and bread.
Luray is home to Hawksbill Brewing Company, famous in my book for the Hooray for Luray IPA and Brown Cow Chocolate Milk Stout. You may also want to check out River Hill Distillery for bourbon and corn whiskey or Wisteria Vineyard for Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Traminette, to name a few.
Luray, Virginia offers a lovely backdrop and physical location in the beautiful Shenandoah River for kayaking, rafting, tubing, and canoeing. Shenandoah River Outfitters, Inc. is a one-stop-shop for all of these fun water activities, as well as tent camping, log cabin rentals, and lessons.
The close-by George Washington National Forest features a perfect spot for horseback riding. You can also venture into Shenandoah National Park and take a guided tour of the attractive area. Enjoy an easy hike on Storybook Trail (handicapped accessible path) and many other famous spots on the Appalachian Trail, only 15 minutes away from downtown.
Cyclists love the allure of Luray, too. With so many scenic backroads and fresh mountain air, it is a big draw for pleasure riding or organized races.
While in Luray, don’t miss Hawksbill Greenway, a two 1/2-mile loop for hiking or biking on this designated Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail and Bird Sanctuary.
Shenandoah Woods is a little slice of heaven in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was fortunate to stay in the Somerset Lodge (in Stanley, VA, but still part of Luray County) during my travels and didn’t want to leave! The premiere property comfortably sleeps 16 but can fit 20. With five bedrooms (four have private baths), five and 1/2 bathrooms, an outdoor hot tub, theater, pool table, gourmet kitchen, fire pit, front porch with rockers, and 1,000 square feet of decking and patio space, I’m sure you can see why.
The Somerset Lodge was very clean and had modern conveniences, such as super fast Wifi and an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Calm, serene woods surrounded the property and afforded pleasing views and ultimate hiking opportunities. Other vacation rentals in the Shenandoah Woods group are 14 romantic log cabins in all sizes and two full family-sized homes.
Experiencing Skyline Drive
Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive entrance is only 10 minutes from downtown Luray. Hop on the iconic road (the only one in the national park) for magnificent photo-ops, hiking trails, and over 100 miles of gorgeous scenery. The views are fantastic—be ready for dozens of photos.
Interesting Attractions and Downtown Shopping
Luray’s downtown Main Street offers unique shopping from jewelry makers, silk dyers, art galleries, and potters. You’ll get a dose of Southern hospitality as shop keepers welcome you into their space and appreciate you being there.
Luray also has a famous Singing Tower, a carillon of 47 bells, known as Belle Brown Northcott Memorial. This unique attraction has a live carillon player scheduled for many concerts in spring, summer, and fall. If you’ve never heard a live performance, I encourage you to check it out.
An off-the-wall attraction that really made me smile was Cooter’s Garage from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show fame. Here, you will find a museum of fun-filled treasures from the TV show and movie including toys, The General Lee, Cooter’s Tow Truck, Boss Hogg’s Caddy. The property also features Daisy’s Diner and a huge gift shop. There is often live entertainment at Cooter’s Garage, and you can see Cooter (Ben Jones) himself on Saturdays.
Hooray for Luray
If I heard this slogan once on my visit, I heard it a dozen times. I can see why the town is so enthusiastic! Luray, Virginia is truly a lovely place to visit. Hopefully, you will want to add Luray to your future travel plans.
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