My kids love to dance and sing almost as much as they like to play chase and climb trees. If your kids are anything like mine, a visit to one of the Shenandoah Valley’s summer music festivals or outdoor concert series is certainly in order. The kids can run free outdoors and then break out their favorite dance moves as the impulse arises. From June’s street fair in Shepherdstown to August’s summer musical theater in Winchester, there is a musical event for every type of kid. No worries, parents, most often these family friendly festivals also offer local wines, craft beers, and yummy food so the entire family can happily enjoy the day together soaking up some sun and local bluegrass music.
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Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley between the Alleghany and Blue Ridge Mountains, the arts scene in Harrisonburg is just as vibrant and colorful as its natural beauty. From an exciting performing arts line up to galleries highlighting local artists, the city is home to the first designated Arts & Cultural District in Virginia and has something for everyone. Inside the city itself, the James Madison University Children’s Theater, part of the Valley ArtsFest, has a fun summer line-up for young families featuring familiar favorites like Fancy Nancy and Go, Dog. Go! for the summer of 2015.
Just outside the city families will find a few of the most family friendly music festivals that Virginia has to offer, The Summer Jam and Mountain Jamboree at Massanutten Resort, and the Red Wing Roots Summer Music Festival at Natural Chimney Park. These festivals allow families to relax in the natural beauty of the area while enjoying music from bluegrass to country to rock-n-roll.
Summer Jam and Mountain Jamboree
Massanutten Resort, just east of Harrisonburg by about a half an hour, has two family friendly music festivals on its summer calendar, the Summer Jam on the first weekend of July celebrating Independence Day and The Mountain Jamboree on final weekend of August. Of course, Massanutten Resort with its ski slope, waterpark, and jam-packed schedule of family activities is the perfect family getaway any day of the year; however it’s a feast for all of the senses on weekends when there is a live music festival. Kids’ activities for both festivals include: arts and crafts, petting farm, face painting, hoop dance, corn hole, and more!
The Summer Jam has been a staple on the resort’s summer calendar for over two decades now. There’s a full day of music from classic 60’s rock-n-roll to soul, funk, and R&B from local musicians living down the mountain in the Shenandoah Valley. Of course, in honor of the holiday, the night is capped off with fireworks at 10 PM. In contrast, the Mountain Jamboree features more of a country feel with musicians playing bluegrass and a more soulful rock-n-roll, but it still closes with a fireworks spectacle after the sun goes down.
Red Wing Roots Summer Music Festival
In 2014, a few thousand people enjoyed the second Red Wing Roots Summer Music Festival in Mt Solon about a half hours drive outside of Harrisonburg. The three-day festival is held annually at Natural Chimney Park so getting outdoors and enjoying nature is just as much a part of the event as the music. Hiking, biking, camping, and nature walks are all part of the program at the festival each year. It’s a convergence of laid-back outdoorsy fun and music that allows families to join up with friends and simply enjoy spending time together.
From the beginning, the organizers have made including children and families a priority at the Red Wing Roots Summer Music Festival. Kids are welcomed with a wide variety of activities; last summer the Virginia Folklife & Family Stage featured performances for children and families from several of the festival’s most popular groups including The Steel Wheels. In 2014, the kid’s activities also included: an Appalachian Story Time with a local story teller, arts workshops where kids had the opportunity to get creative, and concerts where kids got involved by making music together and learning dances. In 2015, kids, 12 and under are admitted to the festival for free making this event even more family friendly.
Historic Winchester, notably the training ground of teenage George Washington, is also hometown to the country music legend Patsy Cline. In the late 1940s and early 1950s performances in and around Winchester shaped Patsy’s future music career. It’s no wonder that The Bluemont Concert Series, which brings music to eight small towns in Virginia, hosts one of these music series in Patsy’s hometown of Winchester. The concerts are held throughout the summer beginning in late June at the at the Old Frederick County Courthouse in downtown. The Bluemont Concert Series is known for its family friendly concert atmosphere and its work with school groups year-round.
The arts scene in Winchester is defined by its past, present, and future. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, a site dedicated to preserving the cultural life and heritage of the region, hosts the Gardens at Night music series monthly throughout the summer months, and the Shenandoah University hosts the Shenandoah Summer Music Theater.
Shenandoah Summer Music Theater
The Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, being part of the programs at Shenandoah University, annually produces at least one family-friendly musical; this year they have two kid-friendly shows planned for the 2015 season, The Wiz and The Music Man. These full-length musicals are produced by a professional summer theatre in residence at Shenandoah University. Almost half of the performances for each show are matinees beginning at 2:30 in the afternoon making them easier for families to attend. Also, the summer music theater has revised their pricing system this year to encourage families to bring the kids along. At $15, youth tickets for ages 16 and under are now half the price of adult tickets and quite affordable.
Gardens at Night
The historic Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, which sits on land originally claimed by Winchester founder James Wood in 1735, hosts the Gardens at Night on the second Friday of June through September. Alongside the quality live music and free activities for children, the intricately landscaped Glen Burnie Gardens are dramatically lit for visitors to enjoy. Children under the age of twelve are always free at The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, and during the summer months military families enjoy free admission as part of the Blue Star Museums program.
There’s always plenty to do at the Shenandoah Caverns Family of Attractions, from touring the caverns to viewing a warehouse-size museum of American parade floats. In the spring, summer and fall months, The Yellow Barn hosts Shenandoah Summer Jamboree. a series of five country gospel concerts. The music and entertainment are family friendly so families can make a day out of visiting the attractions, grabbing a bite to eat for dinner in a nearby town, and then come back to enjoy the show which begins at 7 PM.
Shepherdstown, a university-town with a hip arts culture, hosts the Shepherdstown Street Fest annually in late June. With artisans, live music, kids activities, and our friends from Go Blue Ridge Travel and the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail in attendance, it is always a fun weekend for families to come out and enjoy this friendly West Virginia town. Take a walk on Shepherdstown’s German Street, browse the high quality arts and crafts available for purchase, take some time for the little ones to play at the Morgan Academy’s kids activity area all while enjoying the music. While in Shepherdstown, don’t forget to take the kids over to the “Little House,” a miniature, kid-sized house built on the Shepherd University campus over 80 years ago to attract children to the local summer school program – now a highlight for families visiting the university town. Your family’s trip to the Shepherdstown Street Festival might just become an annual family tradition.