42 miles S of New Market; 142 miles SW of Washington, D.C.; 92 miles NW of Richmond

The birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, our 28th president, Staunton (pronounced "Stan-ton") is equally proud today of its Blackfriars Playhouse, a stunning replica of one of Shakespeare's theaters, which brings the Bard to the Shenandoah and makes Staunton the valley's prime performing-arts center. Along with Wilson's first home, many 19th-century downtown buildings in Staunton's revitalized historic district have been refurbished, including the train station and its adjacent Wharf District, now a shopping and dining complex. The mostly female Mary Baldwin College, whose pastoral campus lies across the street from the Wilson birthplace, lends a university atmosphere to this downtown in renaissance.

Settled well before the Revolution, Staunton was a major stop for pioneers on the way west. The Frontier Culture Museum on the outskirts of town explains the origins of the unique Shenandoah Valley farming communities. In the early 1800s, this was the eastern terminus of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (now U.S. 250), a major mountain road linking the Shenandoah Valley and the Ohio River. When the Central Virginia Railroad arrived in 1854, Staunton became even more of a regional center.

Plan to spend at least a full day exploring one of Virginia's best small towns and an evening at the theater.