Those of us who live in or near the Shenandoah Valley are fortunate indeed, for this is one of the most beautiful areas of the eastern United States. All we have to do is take a Sunday drive in the rolling hills dotted with picturesque small towns and well-tended farms with old stone homesteads to appreciate its grandeur.
If you're like me, you'll come here to see the view from the magnificent Shenandoah National Park atop the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park offers spectacular landscapes and a plethora of hiking and riding trails, including a portion of the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trial. The Skyline Drive -- one of America's great scenic routes -- runs the full length of the park and connects directly with the Blue Ridge Parkway, which continues south to North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains.
Outdoor enthusiasts can ride horses and go tubing, canoeing, or rafting down on the valley floor.
As it is throughout Virginia, history is a major reason to come here. You can see where George Washington carved his initials at Natural Bridge while surveying the valley and examine the Winchester office he used during the French and Indian War.
Union and Confederate armies see-sawed up and down the valley during the Civil War, when the North tried to cut off Robert E. Lee's supplies from this "Breadbasket of the Confederacy." Stonewall Jackson left Virginia Military Institute at Lexington to become a great Confederate general. The entire VMI Corps of Cadets fought heroically in the legendary Battle of New Market. After the war, Lee settled in Lexington as president of what is now Washington and Lee University, and both he and Jackson are buried there. As it surely must have been in their time, Lexington is one of the country's most charming college towns.
Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton in 1856, and a museum adjoining his birthplace pays tribute to this president's peace-loving ideals. Today his hometown is renowned for performing Shakespeare in its exact replica of the Bard's indoor theater.
Across the mountains you can take the waters in the same Warm Springs frequented by Thomas Jefferson and relax at one of the nation's premiere mountain resorts at Hot Springs.
Indeed, this 150-mile long valley and the mountains bordering it have something for everyone.