Now that you're pretty much ready to come out of winter hibernation (hell-oooo, temps in the high 60s!), it's time to get some fresh air. And because that hip fresh air is so popular nowadays, Shenandoah National Park (3655 U.S. 211 Luray, Va.) has a few tricks up its sleeve.
You can explore the Stony Man mountain, the Appalachian Trail or Shenandoah's wilderness and leave the park a happy camper -- but there's more to this park than just a hike or two.
One option: Grab your books and head to the horse stables
. Choose either a one-hour ($42.50) or two-and-a-half-hour ($80) guided tour along the forested trails, or for the tots, pony rides are $6 (15 minutes) or $12 (30 minutes). Call 540-999-2210 for more info. Rides begin for the season on March 30.
Lay your stirrups down for the night at one of three lodges
at the park. The lodges may not be as classy as the Four Seasons, but what can you expect when you need to use mile markers for directions? Take, for instance, Skyland Resort, which features rooms from $109-$273 per night. You can also catch a cooking demo
Friday and Tuesday nights from the executive chef for $10. Skyland Resort reopens March 29.
The night skies program
at the park will put you in the personal space of astronomers Jim Richberg and Frank Green for a night at the Big Meadows area (mile 51.3). Use multiple telescopes to view planets, nebulae and distant galaxies. Times and dates vary throughout the season.
If you want to taste the good life, find a Virginia wine tasting event every Thursday at Skyland Resort. Different vineyards will be featured every week throughout the month of April.
For directions, use the mileposts on the west side of Skyline Drive to help you find points of interest. Instead of using GPS to find the entrance to the park, this PDF
will come in much more handy when driving. You can also call 888-896-3833 for reservations and more info.
The park is about three fours and 40 minutes south of downtown D.C.