With a population just under 5,000, this little town is an outdoor-lover's paradise. But there’s definitely nothing small about the amazing nature’s playground that is Luray, Virginia.
Luray, Virginia, was just named one of the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2018 by Smithsonian Magazine. And it's no wonder: this place is surrounded by some of the state's very best natural beauty.
Two of the most famous of these natural beauties are the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. The 2,190-mile-long Appalachian trail winds through 14 eastern states, from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north. With 554 of those miles running through Virginia, the state contains more miles of the trail than any other! The trail's gorgeous overlooks reveal a mix of forest and farmland.
The Appalachian Trail (or "A.T." for short) winds through the Shenandoah National Park, and you can cross the trail 30 times without ever getting out of your car.
Photo by Benjamin Hays, courtesy of Appalachian Trail Concervancy photo database
There are also "A.T. Communities", like the very town of Luray in Page County. As one of the trail's access points, the town has recognized the importance of providing resources to hikers who frequent Luray. The Luray & Page County Visitor Center provides information about local services and attractions to hikers and all other visitors alike, while the nearby retailer Appalachian Outfitters (located on Main Street just seven miles from the A.T.) is the town's most complete backpacking supplier, making sure hikers have all the apparel, footwear, and gear they need to make the most of their trek.
The Warehouse Art Gallery in downtown Luray provides free tent space exclusively for A.T. hikers, while many places in town (Fairview Grocery, Outlanders Deli, and Main Street Bakery) provide meals to go, packaged perfectly to fit in a backpack. Luray really comes together to make sure all hikers feel welcome and taken care of when making a stop in this charming town!
Photo courtesy of Luray Downtown Initiative Inc. Facebook page
But if you're not the outdoorsy type, no worries: there's plenty for you to do in Luray. Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. It takes about three hours to drive the entire length of the park on a clear day. This is the perfect way to explore the breath-taking vistas and fall foliage from the comfort of your vehicle -- no hiking required! You may even catch a glimpse of deer, black bears, and wild turkeys crossing your path, so drive carefully.
Another trip-worthy reason to visit this town is the Luray Caverns. Known as the largest caverns in the eastern U.S., they offer guided tours along well-lighted, paved walkways that lead visitors through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10 stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn.
Luray celebrates these beautiful natural creations, more than four million centuries in the making, on the annual Discovery Day, which takes place on August 11 this year. This celebration, featuring the Grand Illumination, will mark 140 years since the discovery of the caverns. Guides in period costumes will tell tales of Luray Caverns’ history in special candlelit sections throughout the caverns, which will be open for public tours starting at 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. After dusk, enjoy a fireworks display along with music from the Luray Singing Tower.
Downtown Luray will never leave you bored. If the art scene is what you're after, there are several self-guided walking tours you can take to discover sculptures, murals, photographs, and paintings of local and regional artists. If you're a foodie at heart, Luray will not let you go hungry with a wide selection of restaurants and cafes to satisfy any appetite. And last but not least, don't forget a souvenir from one of the many shops to remember your adventures.
For the full list of Smithsonian Magazine's 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2018, click here.
Have you been to Luray, Virginia? What do you enjoy most when you go there? Let us know in the comments below!