Your bucket list should include all the things you want to do before you die. It won’t just keep you busy, it will also help you figure out how best to spend your days engaged with things that matter most to you. Though your list is probably long and varied, it might include things like jumping out of an airplane, shooting down a zipline, or crossing the finish line of a 100-mile endurance race. Did you know you can do these things right here in the Shenandoah Valley? From thrills to learning new skills, here’s your local guide to living your best life while working through your list.
Explore the Animal Kingdom
Watching Tiger King during lockdown probably inspired you, well, not to open a tiger farm, but at least to have more experiences with wild and exotic animals. A good place to start is at the 180-acre drive-thru Virginia Safari Park (Natural Bridge), where more than 1,000 animals roam free.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center is a hospital for native wildlife that attempts to rehabilitate injured animals and return them to the wild. They help more than 2,000 patients each year!
The center also provides education for the public on topics such as preserving habitats and what to do if you find a sick or injured animal. The center offers programs and summer camps for kids and training for veterinary students.
Visitors can enjoy a wildlife walk that allows them to meet “teaching” animals that are unable to return to their natural habitats.
Spoil Your Senses with Food and Entertainment
Is eating food fit for royalty on your bucket list? If you’re a foodie, indulge in an award-winning meal at the Joshua Wilton House in Harrisonburg. Tom French, the executive chef, interned at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. He’s been named Top Chef Harrisonburg, and his seasonal menu emphasizes fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
Menu items include specialty cocktails, Prince Edward Island mussels, duck breast with creamy mushroom farro and blackberry gastrique, and flourless chocolate tortes. Located in Harrisonburg’s historic downtown district, the restaurant and inn are situated in a classically-restored Victorian home.
Breathe in the Outside Air
One of the coolest things to do near Waynesboro is to explore the Blue Ridge from 500 feet underground while inside the Blue Ridge Tunnel. The trail follows an old railroad line through the restored and stabilized Claudius Crozet Tunnel.
When it was constructed in the 1850s, the tunnel was the longest of its kind at 4,264 feet. It’s now a favorite of hikers, bikers, and history lovers alike.
Learn the difference, once and for all, between a stalagmite and a stalactite at Luray Caverns, the largest cavern in the Eastern U.S. Lighted and paved walkways lead visitors past subterranean geological wonders like the Stalacpipe Organ. Additional cavern attractions include the 75 classic vehicles at the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, the tests of nerves and agility on the Rope Adventure Park, and the pleasantly perplexing one-acre ornamental hedge maze. You can also get underground at Grand Caverns (Grottoes), America’s oldest show cave, and Endless Caverns in New Market, which features an on-site museum devoted to the history of parade floats.
700-acre Blandy Experimental Farm (Boyce) is a University of Virginia research facility and home to Virginia’s state arboretum. Visitors will see native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees, including 25 Virginia Champion Trees, which are the largest of their kind in the state.
The boxwood garden contains the state’s largest collection of boxwood varieties. Explore the themed gardens, native plant trails and more with guided and self-guided tours.
Get your thrills in almost too many ways to count at Massanutten Resort. Ski, snowboard, and ice skate during the winter weather. The Indoor Waterpark is open all year and includes massive slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and areas for even the youngest children. In warmer weather, visitors can explore the treetops on the canopy tour or rocket down the 800-foot Mega Zipline, ride mountain bikes on the Western Slope or hurtle downhill without having to pedal back up on the lift-served Mountain Bike Park.
Will this finally be the year you conquer your fear of heights and learn to fly? New Market’s Skydive Shenandoah provides beginners with instruction, guidance, and equipment for their first jump. After you complete the series of jumps in the basic course, you can even work toward your professional license. Hang gliders and paragliders should check out Capitol Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association for tips on finding instructors and accessing launch sites. Valley favorites include Edith’s Gap Launch Site and Woodstock Hang Gliding Site.
If you weathered store shortages, worried about putting food on the table during lockdown, and are disgusted by the amount of waste humans create, you’ve probably imagined being a lot more self-sufficient. The Homesteaders of America organization believes in a simple life of “modern and conservative homesteading” with gardens, farm animals, and more. This community seeks to educate and connect with like-minded people. Check out the Homesteaders Conference at the Warren County Fairgrounds on October 7th and 8th, 2022.
For more bucket-list ideas, explore all of the unique cities and towns in the Shenandoah Valley!