Spring has Sprung: Field-Trip Fun in Luray and Page County
With warmer weather and the arrival of Daylight Saving Time, the month of March makes way for longer days of fresh-air fun in Luray and Page County.
Field trips are a great way to take the classroom outdoors as you head out of the house for a much-needed reprieve from cabin fever. Beat wintertime blues, reboot your kids’ week, and welcome spring’s arrival with a hands-on educational trip to Page County that’s as fun as it is informative.
Whether it’s a day trip or a weekend getaway to Virginia’s Cabin Capital, Luray and Page County in the Shenandoah Valley offer wide-open spaces steeped in history and surrounded by beauty. From the storied Shenandoah River, the underground wonders of Luray Caverns, and the scenic serenity of Shenandoah National Park, to the county’s agrarian past, historic districts, and railroading roots, there’s always more to explore, learn, and discover during a day of field-trip fun in Luray and Page County.
WANDER IN THE WONDERS BELOW (AND ABOVE) AT LURAY CAVERNS
Did you know that stalactites hold tight to the ceiling, while stalagmites might grow to meet them? Learn this and so much more at Luray Caverns as you take in the underground wonder along all-lit, paved walkways and get an up-close look at delicate stone formations, mirrored pools, and enormous chambers filled with towering columns. Stop to marvel at Dream Lake, the Saracen’s Tent, “fried egg” rock formations, and the Great Stalacpipe Organ as you learn about Geology’s Hall of Fame.
“Take a spin through time” at the Caverns’ Car and Carriage Museum as you view more than seventy-five historic vehicles, then see several thousand toys and train-related artifacts from yesteryear as you “experience the real ‘Toy Story’” at the Toy Town Junction.
Continue your field-trip fun above ground at other on-site attractions, with admission included with your ticket. Step back in time at the seven-acre Shenandoah Heritage Village museum complex as you tour the re-creation of a small, 19th-century farming community. Get lost in the many stories you’ll find at the village’s indoor Luray Valley Museum as you inspect items from pre-contact Native peoples to artifacts from life in the Valley’s 1920s.
Just across the roadway (Route 211), gaze up at the 117-foot Luray Singing Tower — officially known as the Belle Brown Northcott Memorial — and learn about the functioning carillon that was erected in 1937 in memory of Col. T.C. Northcott’s wife. At 117 feet in height, the Luray Singing Tower contains a carillon of 47 bells. The largest bell weighs 7,640 pounds and is six feet in diameter. The smallest weighs 12 1/2 pounds. Delve deeper into Luray’s — and the nation’s — history by learning about the nearby “Limair” sanitarium, the first air-conditioned home in the U.S. built by Northcott in 1901.
EXPLORE SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
The whole family can enjoy the hands-on exploration of the diversity of life within Shenandoah National Park. Together, you can discover the wonders of the park and learn how to preserve natural and cultural treasures in your own community.
History in Shenandoah National Park is evident at every turn along Skyline Drive. Learn about the park’s rich history as you travel the 105-mile National Scenic Byway, passing by developed areas like Big Meadows, Panorama, and Dickey Ridge that tell stories of the park’s past. See some of the more than three hundred historical structures in the park that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, varying from buildings and lodges, to bridges, stone-lined ditches, log comfort stations, and small-scale retaining walls and culverts.
Explore more along more than five hundred miles of hiking trails and learn more with plenty of wildlife to see. Stop by one of the park’s visitor centers to watch a park film, stroll through exhibits, browse a bookstore, or ask a ranger any questions you may have.
If your family is looking for a fun new way to explore the park, visit SNP’s TRACK Trails at Fox Hollow Trailhead (mile 4.6 on Skyline Drive), Limberlost Trailhead (mile 43), or Blackrock Summit Trailhead (mile 84.4). Find TRACK Trails activity brochures at the trailheads and use them to discover the park with new eyes. Learn more about the TRACK Trail program by visiting Kids in Parks.
Fourth-grade students and their families will benefit from free admission to fee-collecting parks, public lands, and waters by downloading a paper pass from the “Every Kid in a Park” website.
LEARN ABOUT LURAY’S RAIL DAYS AND PAGE COUNTY’S HERITAGE
It doesn’t take long to realize that the railroad in Luray is an active one, with trains passing through the downtown area regularly throughout the day. Take in the sights and sounds of the locomotion commotion from the other side of a fence behind the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, then head inside the 1906 depot to learn about the nation’s railroad boom and Page County’s part in it. Learn about the former Norfolk and Western Passenger station as you explore the Page County Railroad Club's self-guided museum, located inside the Visitor Center. Feel transported to yesteryears as you view displays, old photos, and a large diorama with model trains in the restored depot made to resemble the 1930s and ‘40s.
Across the tracks at the 1969 Page Public Library next door, peruse genealogy and history rooms. Explore archives from the county’s 154-year-old newspaper and take turns at a microfiche reader as you learn about journalism’s changing role in the nation and read headlines from a bygone era. Take a break just outside the library’s front entrance at Inn Lawn Park, then get an up-close look at the nearby Page County Heritage Association's Massanutten School. Peek inside the 146-year-old, one-room school to catch a glimpse of original double desks, a century-old cast-iron stove, a flag pole used during the Civil War, and an 1880 schoolhouse bell.
Continue your field-trip fun in the Luray Downtown Historic District, and read about Luray’s development and topography as you walk along Main Street, past century-old storefronts, silos, and dozens of original murals and artworks, many depicting the county’s agrarian heritage.
A short uphill walk on Main to South Court Street leads to the 187-year-old Page County Courthouse. Learn about Romanesque Revival architecture as you view the two-story, four-bay structure, built by Malcolm F. Crawford and William B. Phillips, who worked under Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia. At the Page County Veterans Memorial, located in front of the courthouse, read the names of more than 80 county residents who made the ultimate sacrifice during World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and Operation Desert Storm.
STEP BACK IN TIME IN STANLEY AND SHENANDOAH
Head to the Town of Stanley — a ten-minute drive from Luray — to explore the first of the county’s two other small towns. At Ed Good Memorial Park, see a first responder memorial featuring a steel beam from the World Trade Center, and reflect on 9/11 while your kids learn about that day in history. Gaze up at the Blue Ridge Heritage Project’s Chimney Monument and read the names of 135 Page County families who were displaced during the creation of Shenandoah National Park, then lead a discussion about the national park, the people who once called the land home, and the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work to help develop more than eight hundred parks across the nation.
Learn more about the railroad boom in the county’s most southern town on Shenandoah’s First Street as you take in the scenes of an active rail yard — the only active station between Roanoke, Va., and Hagerstown, Md. Head across the street to the Shenandoah Town Office to learn more about the town’s history and its 1890 boom in a special museum room. Get a closer look at a 1917 red caboose railroad cabin car that sits on the property of the Shenandoah Heritage Society’s Stevens Cottage, and see railroad artifacts including lanterns, a conductor’s uniform, and a coal stove.
MORE FIELD-TRIP FUN — IN PERSON OR FROM AFAR
• Explore Shenandoah National Park using the park’s Junior Ranger Activity Book — a fun way to learn about the plants, animals, and history of the park. Kids ages 7 to 12 will have lots of fun becoming a Shenandoah National Park Junior Ranger.
• Experience Shenandoah National Park in a whole new way through web-based interactive programs.
• Test your Caverns I.Q. and find fun and easy experiments to bring geology to life on Luray Caverns’ online resource page.
• Print a free Town of Luray Junior Naturalist Booklet for kids ages 4 to 12 and upon completion, follow directions included in the booklet to obtain a Junior Naturalist Badge and sticker.
• If Civil War history in the Page Valley interests you, stop by the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center for historical brochures and a list of Civil War markers in and around Luray and Page County. Learn more about the history of Page County during the Civil War, check out Page County's Historical Markers, and view a Historical Marker Database.
• Visit Luray’s sixty-four-year-old rescue zoo for a unique experience as you tour outdoor exhibits, a reptile house, and a petting zoo.
• View “mural maps” of the Appalachian Mural Trail and build your own itinerary with directions and detailed information of the artworks you select, then snap a selfie in front of your favorite mural, upload it to the Mural Trail’s Selfie Page, and receive a free T-shirt in the mail that reads, “I hiked the Appalachian Mural Trail!”
• See more than a thousand creative works by more than ninety regional artists at the Warehouse Art Gallery. View large sculptures, bone sighs, stained glass, paintings, handmade furniture, pottery, photography, jewelry, and much more as you explore the ten-thousand-square-foot gallery in Downtown Luray.