A Playground of Mountain Majesty
The early Native Americans who lived in this region called it Shenandoah, which means “daughter of the stars.” Part of the 200-mile-long Great Valley of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley is known for its majestic scenery and lush valleys nestled between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny mountains.
The region is a vast outdoor playground. George Washington National Forest has many accessible outdoor recreation opportunities for nature lovers. Visitors with visual impairments have a rope trail marked with braille signs at the Lion’s Tale Trail near New Market. Nearby is the Story Book Trail, a half-mile wheelchair-accessible trail leading to an impressive view of the Shenandoah Valley. Close to Covington are the National Children’s Forest Trail plus Cole’s Point Fishing Site with a fully accessible pier.
For additional sports activities, visit Massanutten, a four-season resort in Harrisonburg, providing alpine skiing instruction for people with a variety of disabilities through its Massanutten Adaptive Ski School.
The Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway hop from ridge to ridge with stunning panoramic vistas of mountains and meadows. Visitors have a wide range of accommodations, campgrounds, scenic overlooks, historic sites, and attractions to enjoy.
Beneath the valley’s floor are huge limestone caverns 30-million years in the making featuring a variety of unique formations.
Photo Courtesy of Shenandoah Caverns
Shenandoah Caverns contains excellent examples of these fanciful formations and has an elevator to take visitors to see the Diamond Cascade and the Grove of the Druids. Visitors with visual impairments have hands-on exhibits so they can experience the fantasies in stone.
Down the Valley is New Market, site of a Civil War battle in which the youthful cadets of Virginia Military Institute, in spite of being greatly outnumbered, received their “baptism of fire” and halted the Union Army. Farther south in Lexington, the ties to the Civil War continue. It is the location of Virginia Military Institute, which was also the home of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. General Robert E. Lee’s tie to Lexington was as president of Washington College (now known as Washington and Lee University). The museums tied to these events and people are accessible to a variety of disabilities.
Outside Staunton is the Museum of Frontier Culture, a historical attraction showcasing the waves of pioneers who settled in the valley.
Photo Courtesy of Museum of Frontier Culture
The Frontier Culture Museum provides outstanding experiences for visitors with disabilities, such as a tactile lesson in how to spin flax into thread or watching the museum’s captioned video before beginning a tour in American Sign Language.
The largest city in the Shenandoah Valley is Roanoke, called the Star City of the South. Its main attraction is Center in the Square. This accessible complex includes a fine arts museum, history museum, theater and a science museum, featuring a dazzling arcade with light, color and sound. The Mill Mountain Theatre located at Center in the Square offers services for guests with disabilities. Accessible seating is available for guests with mobility impairments. Amplified audio units as well as sign-interpreted performances are also available for guests with hearing impairments, the third Saturday matinee. For guests with visual disabilities, there are regularly scheduled audio-described performances the second Saturday matinee.
Another popular Roanoke attraction is the Virginia Transportation Museum, which houses the South’s largest collection of transportation artifacts, from wagons to rockets. The special emphasis is on railroading.
Photo Courtesy of Virginia Museum of Transportation
This museum is wheelchair-accessible and has amplified audio units for guests with hearing impairments and tactile exhibits for persons who are blind or have low vision.
African American history is showcased east of Roanoke in the Booker T. Washington National Monument. A working 19th-century farm, the park tells how an African American man rose from slavery to become a prominent educator and statesman.
Photo Courtesy of Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau
Visitors will discover the natural wonders and the friendly people of this great valley. They will have one-of-a-kind experiences and leave with warm memories of the “daughter of the stars.”