Summer is normally a vacation season. However, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many people to cancel, postpone, or radically alter their summer vacation plans. For most older Americans, that means remaining at home this summer.
While a “staycation” can be difficult in an urban setting where dining and entertainment venues are closed or restricted, it can be a relaxing option in a place known for outdoor recreation. Fortunately, Bridgewater and the Shenandoah Valley is just such a place. For residents of Bridgewater Retirement Community, here are some ideas for the perfect Bridgewater Staycation.
Town of Bridgewater Parks
The Town of Bridgewater may be small, but it boasts eleven parks. With each no more than a few miles from BRC’s campus, you can spend a few minutes or an entire day exploring all they have to offer. From a bird sanctuary and walking trails to horse trails and indoor tennis courts, Bridgewater’s parks allow residents to get out and enjoy summer fun right here in town. BRC residents are eligible for a free B-Rec Membership, which allows access to all the parks’ amenities. One of the parks even features a nine-hole par 3 golf course!
Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive
Further afield (but not too much further) are several national, state, and regional parks offering breath-taking scenery and beauty. The famous Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park is a mere half-hour drive from BRC. Visitors drive across the state to visit this East Coast crown jewel of the U.S. National Park system. Plus, both George Washington and Jefferson National Forests offer lesser-known but equally stunning scenic drives. Natural Chimneys Park and Grand Caverns are even closer. Each park offers outdoor activities and sports, including fishing, water sports, and hiking.
Culture and history
Virginia is rich with cultural institutions and historic landmarks. Harrisonburg, the rapidly growing city next door, is home to both James Madison University and the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center. A short drive south provides access to the Frontier Culture Museum and the P. Buckley Moss Museum, home of the famous American folk artist. The Cyrus McCormick Farm’s museum is closed due to the pandemic, but you can still enjoy the historic grounds and interpretive trail. Or, consider a drive to Raphine to visit Wade’s Mill. An actual working mill, Wade’s Mill is both a piece of history and a source of local, sustainable artisan flour and grains.
Mother of Presidents
Virginia is often heralded as the Mother of Presidents, as eight of our Chief Executives were born here. For a dose of presidential history nearby, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is just thirty minutes south of Bridgewater in Staunton, and the magnificent Monticello is an easy one-hour day trip. For any American history buff, Thomas Jefferson’s stately home and the University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded, are must-sees. Plus, Herbert Hoover kept a hunting and fishing retreat you can visit inside Shenandoah National Park. Take the guided tour—it will forever change your view of President Hoover!
Main Streets Worth Exploring
The Shenandoah Valley is packed with charming main streets.
Just thirty minutes south, you’ll find Staunton which frequently tops national “Best Main Street” lists for its historic architecture, local art galleries, charming boutiques, acclaimed restaurants and renowned Shakespeare theatre—the American Shakespeare Center. To help accommodate social distancing on weekends, Staunton has closed its main street to vehicular traffic and is allowing its restaurants to use the street for outdoor dining.
Further south, you’ll find Lexington. Like Bridgewater, Lexington features a charming Main Street hamlet packed with history. From farm-to-table restaurants and inviting boutiques to historic institutions such as Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, Lexington offers much to explore. Many Lexington establishments have signed a “PACT Pledge” to deliver a “consistent, dependable, and sustained” level of safety for visitors during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The 2020 pandemic may have put the brakes on air travel and ocean cruises. But the staycation can be just as diverting—if you’re staying in the right place.