20 miles SE of Strasburg; 174 miles NW of Richmond; 70 miles W of Washington, D.C.

At the northern end of the Skyline Drive, Front Royal has the valley's widest array of outdoor activities: golfing; horseback riding; and canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and inner tubing on the sometimes lazy, sometimes rapid South Fork of the Shenandoah River. And if you didn't disappear into the caverns in Luray, you can go underground here. If you're not headed into the great outdoors, you can see the town's sights in half a day.

Strategically located on a plain near a pass in the Blue Ridge and at the juncture of the north and south forks of the Shenandoah River, Front Royal was named for a royal oak that stood in the town square during the Revolutionary War. In those days, it was a wild and woolly frontier way station at the junction of the two trails that later became U.S. 340 and Va. 55. During the Civil War, it was home to the infamous Confederate spy Belle Boyd, whose close contact -- to say the least -- with Union officers led to Stonewall Jackson's surprise victory at the Battle of Front Royal in 1862.

Across the mountains to the east are two wineries and the nationally famous inn and restaurant in "Little Washington."