WanderLove Road Trip Along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Waynesboro
Ready to pack the car full of kids, gear, and snacks, and get out of town for the weekend? Load up the playlists and head north along the 1-81 corridor. Explore the sites and towns along the way, making sure to include a leisurely drive along a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Finally, make Waynesboro your home base for a few days of fun before heading home.
Route section #1: I-81 to Blue Ridge Parkway
Start your adventure by heading north on I-81 through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley to Lexington. Follow Route 11 and then Route 56 west to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Tye River Gap, Milepost 27.2. The magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 569 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Refer to the interactive map for info about trails, campgrounds, waystops, road closures, and overlooks.
Where to Eat
They’re hungry already? Fill up on comfort food and 50s-themed nostalgia at Natural Bridge’s Pink Cadillac Diner. Another great place to feed the crew before traveling on the Parkway is White’s Travel Center in Raphine. White’s is designed for travelers on the long haul, and you’ll find numerous fast food options if you're in a hurry. We suggest grabbing some takeout to make a picnic at one of the Parkway’s fantastic overlooks.
There are many great places to pause along this stretch of your journey, but keep an eye out for a few of our favorites...
Buchanan Swinging Bridge: Just a quick hop off the highway, your family will thrill to see this 366-foot long, 57.5-foot high pedestrian bridge that spans the James River and dates back to 1851.
Natural Bridge: Stop to gawk at Natural Bridge State Park’s 215-foot limestone arch, discover living history at the Monocan Indian settlement, and hike the seven miles of trails. Kids will also get a kick out of feeding the animals in the drive-through habitats at Virginia Safari Park.
Parkway and nearby: Two short but wonderful hikes are Crabtree Falls and White Rock Falls, which travel along or to waterfalls. The Parkway has numerous opportunities to pull over and admire the scenery.
Numerous hiking trails in the Glenwood and Pedlar districts of George Washington and Jefferson National Forest can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. If your family is into fishing or paddle sports, the portions of the James and Maury Rivers that make up the Upper James River Water Trail meander for 74 miles. Bikers should pedal the 7-mile Chessie Trail that stretches along a former railroad bed hugging the Maury River and connecting Lexington and Buena Vista.
Where to Stay
If your family likes camping, make reservations at the Natural Bridge/Lexington KOA, where you can camp or rent a cabin. Camping cabins are barebones, but deluxe cabins include room for six, kitchenettes, and cable TV. Another good bet is the Montebello Camping and Fishing Resort, which has camping, cabins, and fun amenities like trout fishing, a playground, and a 4-acre lake for paddling.
Route section #2: Blue Ridge Parkway to Waynesboro
Waynesboro is called the Gateway to Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and at just four miles away from the entrances, it’s an ideal place to rest and replenish after a long day of driving and outdoor fun. Waynesboro has much to offer the road-tripping family, including family-friendly places to eat, a wealth of outdoor experiences, and a downtown filled with shopping, dining, and culture.
Where to Eat
Waynesboro is home to many restaurants with amenities like outdoor seating and kid-friendly menus. Take everyone for BBQ or fried catfish at The Fishin’ Pig where kids eat free on Wednesdays, and there is live music in the outdoor “Pig Pen” every weekend. Benny Stivale’s in downtown serves up 28-inch pizzas that require two plates for a slice! And if your entire party enjoys burgers, try Tailgate Grill for classic beef burgers and shareable portions of crispy french fries. Don’t forget to round out your meal with fresh, custard-style ice cream at Kline's Dairy Bar or delicious soft serve at Willy’s Ice Cream.
For craft beer fans, Basic City Beer Co. is sure to please. This kid-friendly microbrewery offers taproom or outside seating for sipping cold brews and enjoying brick oven pizza, shareable small plates, and "fancy-full" hot sandwiches, while the younger set stays occupied with games like corn hole and skeeball. Stable Craft Brewing is another solid option with a beach volleyball court, corn hole golf (yes, you read that right), and horses for the kids to pet.
Nurture the budding artist in your family with a trip to the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, a working studio and gallery with a gift shop all in one, and the P. Buckley Moss Downtown Gallery. For educational and stimulating activities for both the older generation and kids, check out at the Waynesboro Heritage Museum which features timely, pop-up exhibits throughout the year. Or try the Plumb House Museum, a site along the Civil War Trail, and the Russell Museum which houses the astounding art legacy of Walter and Lao Russell.
Download the Traipse app for an adventure that’s part walking tour, part scavenger hunt and discover the thriving mural scene in Waynesboro, which has been nourished in recent years by the annual Virginia Street Art Festival.
Treat the family to the wholesome experience (and photo opps) of picking pumpkins together at Troyer's Fruit & Produce Farm. The farm is offering their ten-acre corn maze again this year, plus seventeen acres from which to pick your perfect pumpkin! Another nearby place to catch shots of the family solving a corn maze and enjoying other outdoor activities is Skeeter’s Maze Adventure.
The South River Greenway stretches 1.2 level miles along the South River and is perfect for a family stroll or bike ride. Take in views of the city, the Blue Ridge Mountains, our river-themed LOVEworks, and the water, which is habitat to many species of fish and birds.
Waynesboro boasts a robust park system with walking trails, playgrounds, and a 9-hole, par 31 Frisbee golf course at Coyner Springs Park. Additional golfing options can be found at Waynesboro Golf and Games, which has a par 3 course for both traditional golf and soccer golf, as well as a mini golf course. If fast cars are more your speed, cheer for your favorites during the drag racing at Eastside Speedway on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Let the kids get some energy out on a short hike! Visit Shenandoah National Park for the Blackrock Summit hike, which is a 1-mile addition to the Track Trails for Kids program and includes an activity to go along with the hike. Nearby Humpback Rocks can be accessed at Mile Post 5.8 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The steep mile up to the overlook pays off with heartstopping views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys. For an easier stroll that gives a look at the geology of the area, try Greenstone Overlook at MP 8.8.
Where to Stay
Your whole family will be happy staying at the locally-owned and newly renovated Best Western PLUS. This pet-friendly hotel has an indoor heated saltwater pool and is close to downtown Waynesboro, shopping, and dining. If you’d rather camp, try the North 340 Campground with its sports fields, basketball court, and playgrounds, or Sherando Lake, which has a sandy beach, swimming area, and miles of hiking trails.
Waynesboro is fun in all seasons. Make sure you plan your next road trip for when the leaves are full of fall colors and the local farms are selling pumpkins. Consider other Virginia road trips at Virginia.org/WanderLove.