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Posted June 22, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Favorites places in valley worth visiting

I'm no Oprah, but these are some of my favorite things about the Northern Shenandoah Valley:

Fox's Pizza Den in Strasburg. I haven't found a cheaper place to grab lunch in town, and unlike so many other eateries that have come and gone,  it's stood the test of time.

Skyline Drive. There's no secret here - the drive and Shenandoah National Park are a destination for people from around the world. As a local, I've gotten to take advantage of the gorgeous views only a couple of times, but it's left me with lasting memories and a good, long look at a black bear up close.

Blandy Experimental Farm and the State Arboretum. This amazing local resource has unbeatable scenery and a host of programs going on throughout the year. We've attended their annual garden sale on Mother's Day weekend in the past and loved it.

Wayside Theatre. Not many small towns can offer professional theater with talented actors and musicians basically year round. The theater's resourcefulness in coming up with homespun productions in hard economic times has allowed it to survive, but doesn't seem to have affected the quality of the shows in the least.

Patsy's Pastry Pizzas. With two locations in Winchester, I can't think of a restaurant I like better for its pleasant lunchtime ambiance and creative (and yummy) specials. Sitting at a patio table on the downtown walking mall having a salad and a slice of dessert pizza from Patsy's feels like a special occasion instead of just a lunch break.

The Family Drive-in. Believe it or not, I plan to patronize the local drive-in for the first time this weekend. Having a baby with an early bedtime has made a night at the drive-in out of reach. But I can say without ever having been there that having an outdoor theater is something special to treasure: Fresh air, cinema, popcorn - what could be wrong with that? Not to mention, there aren't many of these left anywhere, so the valley is lucky to have one right in its backyard.

The Route 11 Yard Crawl. The northern valley is already a haven for thrift store shoppers and antique collectors. I love it that for one day each year, everyone from churches and civic organizations to restaurants and dedicates the whole turnpike to driving slow and discovering cheap finds. So many people zip through the valley at light speed on I-81, it's nice to take the old road and see all the unique spots that make up the real heart of Shenandoah County.

The Alamo Drafthouse. I didn't mean to make this list contain so many theaters, but what a neat place this one is. The Alamo takes going to the movies to a whole new level with cushy seats, the option of having a beer with your popcorn, and all sorts of special events and screenings for movie buffs. I would have killed to have a place like this to go when I was a teenager (and not for the beer).

Apples, peaches and farms in general. I don't want to single out a farm market or orchard as my favorite, but I love the multiple options for eating local offered here in the valley. To buy fruit or even most vegetables at a supermarket during the summer months is almost a crime when so many delicious homegrown alternatives are available.

• Contact Jessica Wiant at <a href="mailto:jessicawiant@gmail.com">jessicawiant@gmail.com</a

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