Shenandoah Valley

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV)

Friday, June 30, 2023

Back in the USA for almost a full month, we paid a visit with friends to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) in Winchester, Virginia.  By car, the Museum complex is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Reston Town Center, but it feels like a different world. Reston Town Center is decidedly urban; Winchester Virginia, next door to where the Museum is located is rural. Instead of high rises, it and the surrounding area is a mix of rolling hills, working farms and vineyards. 

A photo of a pond situated in the gardens of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

The Museum has periodic exhibits and various types of activities. (For a schedule of events, exhibitions and directions see In addition to the Museum gardens we saw an exhibition entitled Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects ® Made with Lego Bricks ®. The exhibition celebrated nature with a display of various wildlife animals, all constructed with Lego ® Bricks. 

Photo of a polar bear and cubs constructed entirely from Lego bricks

The animal statues were actually pretty difficult to photograph because the temptation is to get up close to take a picture. But that is like getting a close-up view of an impressionist painting. You wind up getting a view of the individual bricks (or dots of paint or pixels) while missing the overall effect. And the overall effectis pretty amazing. 

Beyond the animal statues were the gardens, which were immaculately laid out and maintained. There were walking paths, flower gardens, streams, a pond and park benches to sit on and just observe the surroundings.

Wide angle photo of a park bench in a seating area in the garden of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.
Photo of Black-Eyed Susan flowers in the gardens of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Photo of a stream running through the gardens of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
A wide angle photo of a walking path in the gardens of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

All in all, the MSV was pretty impressive and well worth a visit if you are in the area. 


Autumn in the Shenandoah Valley

The Shenandoah Valley, with its spectacular vistas is a wonderful place to visit in Autumn as the trees begin to change colors. There are small towns and farms to visit as well as B&B’s wineries, breweries, campgrounds and RV parks. We prefer to do our camping in hotels with nice bars, so the campgrounds are not in our plans. 

We recently took a short trip to Shenandoah Valley and stayed in the Iris Inn. The Iris Inn describes itself as a luxury retreat overlooking the Shenandoah Valley.

The Iris Inn

It’s an apt description. We stayed in the Main Inn for a night so we could walk around the various paths in the woods of the valley. Unfortunately we were met by pouring rain, so that idea was scotched. Nevertheless we did see some of the spectacular sights of the Shenandoah Valley and will return someday. 

Here (below) are a couple of landscape photos from the trip. 

A landscape photo taken in the forest in Shenandoah Valley on a rainy morning,
Photo of Ttees in Shenendoah Valley as they begin to shed thier leaves in Autumn.


The Shenandoah Valley and Virginia Countryside

We got a chance to get away for a quick trip over the Labor Day weekend, so we took a drive to the Virginia Countryside. Virginia is a fairly large state by area, but not densely populated like the North East. The landmass is just under 43,000 square miles with a population of about 8.5 million people. For comparison purposes consider New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation.  NJ has a population of about 8.8 million, (about the same as Virginia) but a landmass of only 8.7 million square miles—which is only 20% as much as Virginia. 

The upshot is that there is a lot of beautiful unspoiled country to see in Virginia. For instance, forests cover 62% of the State. There is quite a bit of wildlife. There are over 1 million white-tailed deer. Carnivores include black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and skunks. The skunks can generally be seen on the beltway heading toward the district. 

Photo of farmland in Virgina with the morning fog burning off.

There are lots of parks in Virginia, both State and Federal. The bigger ones include Great Falls Park, the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. Almost 40% of the  Shenandoah National Park has been declared to be a wilderness preserve. A particular interest of ours is the Virginia Natural Bridge State Park. 

An old barn in a Shenandoah Valley meadow; the Blue Ridge Mountains are in the background.

The park includes a 215 foot arch that serves as a natural foot bridge over Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James River. It is estimated to be almost 500 million years old. In 1774, Thomas Jefferson bought 157 acres of land, including the Natural Bridge, from King George III for 20 shillings. Jefferson built a log cabin with a guest room on the land and had many famous visitors including John Marshall, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Sam Houston and Martin Van Buren. (Note).

Photo of a woman tourist walking toward the landmark Natural Bridge in Virginia.
Natural Bridge, Virginia, USA — September 7, 2020. Tourists walk along a hiking trail by a stream under the landmark Natural Bridge in Virginia.

On our trip we saw the spectacularly beautiful countryside of the Shenandoah Valley, visited the Natural Bridge, took a ride along the Skyline Drive, and stayed in the small town of Lexington, VA. 

Blue Ridge Mountains from the Skyline Drive

The Shenandoah Valley and its surroundings are sights that should not be missed. Here are a few photos of from the trip.