Everything you need to plan your visit!
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia is far more than a history or art museum.
Set on 214 acres, it is the largest green space in the city of Winchester.
The Glen Burnie House and gardens are also part of the museum complex, a truly enjoyable space for kids, history buffs, art afficionados and gardeners (or gardeners at heart).
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to plan a visit to the museum.
So, let’s discover the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, shall we?
What is the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley?
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) is actually an expansive complex offering several distinct spaces.
Each area at the MSV provides a different experience.
The “traditional” museum building houses art displays and items of regional, historical significance.
Glen Burnie House is a historic home, once owned by the founding family of Winchester. Its formal gardens are beautiful and inviting, and often house temporary large art installations.
The Trails at MSV are free, open every day and provide locals and visitors with an extensive trail system, places to picnic and unique spaces for kids (and kids at heart) to play.
The Museum Building at MSV
The museum building houses the gallery exhibitions sharing the history, art and culture of the Shenandoah Valley.
Permanent exhibitions include the Shenandoah Valley Gallery, the Founders Gallery, and the R. Lee Taylor Miniatures Gallery.
- The Shenandoah Valley Gallery shares the history and arts of the Shenandoah Valley,
- The Founders Gallery presents a rotating display of art and artifacts collected by the MSV and by benefactor, Julian Wood Glass Jr., and
- The R. Lee Taylor Miniatures Gallery displays an impressive collection of miniature houses built by R. Lee Taylor and William P. Massey. These are not the “typical” doll house, but miniature recreations of historic homes and places. Tiny details, like books with real writing on the pages, musical instruments with working strings, and candles made of wick and wax, draw visitors in. The more you look, the more there is to see!
Changing exhibitions at the museum rotate throughout the year, enriching the visitor experience.
When I visited, the changing exhibits gallery displayed John Chumley’s Valley, a collection of paintings capturing the artist’s life in the Shenandoah Valley.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley has many special exhibitions as well.
These installations travel from one museum to the next so they can be enjoyed across the country.
When I visited the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, I enjoyed several of these exhibitions. I saw Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects made with LEGO bricks, Contributions: African Americans in the Shenandoah Valley, and Tiny Ridge.
Check the website for the changing exhibitions at the MSV offered when you visit.
A dedicated space in the galleries building is used for for changing exhibitions like John Chumley’s Valley.
Other installations might be found in the Glen Burnie House or in the gardens around the Glen Burnie House.
Glen Burnie House and Gardens at the MSV
Original portions of the Glen Burnie House were built in the late 1700s by Robert Wood, the son of Winchester founder James Wood.
In the 1950s, Wood’s descendant, Julian Wood Glass Jr. restored and renovated the property, eventually adding six acres of gardens with the assistance of his partner, R. Lee Taylor.
After Glass died, as a condition of his will, the house and gardens were opened to the public for tours in 1997.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley has been a good steward of this historic property, completing a two-year renovation in 2014.
Today, visitors can enjoy a display of decorative objects collected by Glass. Don’t miss the porcelain statue of “George Washington” which bears a striking resemblance to Benjamin Franklin!
Interpretive panels installed throughout the first floor tell the story of the house and its people through many generations.
There’s also an R. Lee Taylor miniature of the house itself which shows how it looked while Glass and Taylor used the home as their personal residence.
The Glen Burnie Gardens are just as impressive as the collections inside the house!
Several distinct gardens surround the Glen Burnie House. These include the “Grand Allee,” which uses forced perspective to make the space look more grand.
There’s also a rose garden, a perennial garden, the family cemetery, an herb garden, an Asian garden complete with tea house, and more.
During my visit, I got to enjoy Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects made with LEGOs, an incredible display nestled among the gardens!
It’s one of many temporary installations that come to the MSV each year.
While the LEGO exhibit has moved on, Garden Lights is coming November 16 to December 3 and tickets will be available beginning September 5. This popular exhibit lights the formal gardens in stunning color, with laser light displays and 1,000 LED flowers to make the night glow. Hot cocoa, mulled wine and other concessions will be available.
A mobile friendly download makes it easy to tour the Glen Burnie Gardens, even if you don’t know the difference between a daisy and a dandelion!
As a budding gardener, I was truly inspired by the amazing variety of gardens they incorporated into six compact acres.
Trails at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Spread across 90 acres, the Trails at the MSV feature outdoor art installations set among miles of trails through fields, woods and wetland areas.
Use this downloadable map of the MSV Trails to make exploring easier!
These trails are FREE and open to the public daily, from 7:00 a.m. to dusk.
Most of the trails (all but the Valley Trail and the stairs by the Silo) are accessible, utilizing switchbacks to keep inclines at a gentle grade. Trails are paved or covered with compact, crushed stone.
If you’re traveling with a dog, leashed dogs are welcome on the trails. Please, be sure to clean up after them!
The art installations invite guests to explore and enjoy the space!
Some of the most kid friendly spots on the trails at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley are:
- The Picnic Mounds — a grouping of small hills great for rolling,
- The Stumpery — a series of wooden stumps designed for climbing and jumping (see photos below),
- The Silo — be sure to step inside to enjoy the kinetic sculpture, and
- Surroundings: Sound Installation — a unique display where guests discover how position changes sound!
A small sign at the base of the Stumpery reads:
Play on the stumps. Don’t fall on your rumps. #MSVTrailsStumpery, 2022
Inside the Silo, which sits alongside the driveway at the entrance to the MSV, you can find this mobile.
Weather conditions sometimes make them move, but there is a crank to turn the mobile. Interactive art is really fun!
MSV: Beyond the Museum Exhibitions
The museum galleries, Glen Burnie House, gardens, and trails make this a great place to visit in Winchester, VA. And, they offer much more to the community and visitors alike.
A dedicated makerspace is available to both museum members and guests. Special programs and activities for kids make it easier for them to understand and appreciate. Recently added, the museum provides sensory backpacks to those who might need them.
Makerspace at the MSV
Makerspace is a dedicated arts space in the main building at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Discover a new artistic pursuit or hone your skills as you use the tools provided here.
Makerspace has pottery wheels, a kiln, robotics kits, sewing machines and a 3D printer all in a dedicated space.
Not only that, but Makerspace sells kits for pottery, quilting and print making. You can try your hand at something new before investing in your own tools.
Hours and rates vary, with discounts for kids and museum members. Check the Makerspace page to learn more!
Kids’ Programs at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
When I visit a museum or attraction to include on this website, I evaluate how kid-friendly it is.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is among the most kid-friendly places I have been.
And that’s no easy feat!
Museum staff have created a number of interactive exhibits and kid-friendly “scavenger hunts” to make the MSV approachable for kids.
Additionally, the Trails at the MSV incorporate kid-friendly climbing structures and wide open spaces that allow kids to be… kids!
When you visit the MSV, look for the scavenger hunt pamphlets to inspire kids to learn through play and observation.
- The Garden Wildlife Scavenger Hunt uses illustrations to highlight things kids might see in nature. They can look for shelf fungus on trees, turkey vultures, muskrat holes and more. This scavenger hunt indicates how difficult some things are to find. For instance, the sweetgum tree is very easy to spot. The Carolina Chickadee, however, is very difficult to spot — especially in the heat of the day when birds are resting.
- The “Can You Find This?” scavenger hunt includes illustrations of pieces found in the Gardens of Glen Burnie. A handy key on the back labels each one and includes where to find the structures in the gardens!) During my visit, I saw many kids with this pamphlet in hand actively trying to find the next statue. Parents said they love the hunt.
- A young visitor told me that the MSV has added the Tale of Benjamin Bunny to its vegetable garden. Cleverly placed, adults can enjoy the garden as kids hunt for the next piece of the story. I’ll admit, I had a lot of fun taking the adventure for myself!
The Trails at the MSV are truly built for families to enjoy!
Sensory needs and Accessibility Planning
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is accessible for those with physical challenges and for those with special sensory needs.
Accessibility: The MSV’s gallery building has elevators with wide doors to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. They even have wheelchairs available for guests to borrow. The only trail not accessible is clearly marked on the MSV trails map.
More recently, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley began offering backpacks for those with special sensory needs. I got a sneak peek into a backpack the week before they were introduced.
The backpacks include headphones, fidget toys, a timer, and a social narrative to help kids understand what to expect. It also shows families where the bathrooms and quiet places are.
Special events at the MSV
Year-round, the museum offers special events and programs to museum members and visitors.
Here are some types of programming you can expect. Of course, offerings vary throughout the year.
The museum offers Senior Hours at the MSV. Those aged 60+ can visit the galleries in the main building one hour before the museum opens to the general public. They can explore on their own or take a guided tour with a museum educator. Museum admission for this event is free.
Trail talks designed for various age groups introduce the habitats and ecosystems found in the Trails at MSV.
A number of activities are designed to help guests appreciate the Gardens at Glen Burnie. Some examples include a Pollinators garden walk, yoga in the gardens and “avant garden,” an opportunity to pick flowers from the gardens and create a flower arrangement to take home.
After hours events provide a unique perspective of the museum and grounds. MSV at night provide a chance to explore the gardens after dark. Other special events require advance purchase tickets.
To purchase tickets to upcoming special events for all ages, check out the complete list on the MSV website. Prices vary.
Plan your visit to the MSV
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is located at 901 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA.
What are the operating hours at the MSV?
Because the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and the Trails at the MSV have different hours and admission policies, I address them separately here.
The Trails at the MSV: The trails around the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley are open every day from 7:00 a.m. to dusk. They are FREE — no admission fee required!
The Galleries at the MSV:
- The galleries and gardens are closed on Mondays and major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day).
- From January through March, the galleries and gardens are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- From April through December, the galleries and gardens AND the Glen Burnie House are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
How much is admission to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley?
Admission rates vary based on age and special exhibitions at the museum. Special events, as noted above, have their own rates. We include current rates, based on the LEGO installation being included, to help you plan your vacation budget.
Typical admission rates for the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley:
- Adults, 18-59, $15
- Seniors, 60+, $10 (FREE admission for Senior Hour each month)
- Youth, 13-18, $10
- Kids, 5-12, $5
- Kids, 4 and under, FREE.
- Trails, FREE for all.
- MEMBERS, FREE. Discounts on special events.
- Parking is FREE.
The museum participates in many reciprocal and special programs, including:
- Museums for All — FREE general admission for EBT cardholders,
- Blue Star Museums — FREE admission Memorial Day through Labor Day for active duty military and their immediate family. The museum has opted to include this to retired military service members as well. ID required.
- Reciprocal admission program for American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program and NARM.
- FREE WEDNESDAYS — thanks to a donation from a corporate sponsor.
For current admission rates, the best thing to do is check the museum’s website.
How should I dress for the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley?
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is an expansive space.
Whether visiting just to see the galleries or to explore the gardens and trails, dress comfortably.
The museum recommends:
- Comfortable shoes for walking, not flip flops or heels,
- Comfortable clothes for exploring the gardens and trails.
- Bring a rain coat or umbrella. The gardens remain open in rain, but close with thunder and lightning, so bring an umbrella or rain coat if it might rain.
- Shirts and shoes are required for all spaces at the museum.
NOTE: If you do visit in the rain, free lockers are available to hold wet jackets when you visit the galleries!
How long should I plan to visit the MSV?
If visiting during a special exhibition in the gardens, plan on spending at least four hours enjoying the museum galleries, gardens and trails.
If coming “just” to see the galleries, plan on spending an hour here.
If visiting the gardens and galleries, allow two hours.
I spent almost four hours here and could have stayed longer!
What tips do you have for visiting the MSV with kids?
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley encompasses a very large space, so a little planning will make your visit more enjoyable.
- When visiting the galleries and the formal gardens at Glen Burnie House, use the scavenger hunts and kid friendly guides to make the visit more engaging.
- I noticed that kids wanted to spend a lot of time in the miniatures gallery. I encourage parents to let them explore, though if time is tight, have them choose three of the miniatures to really study! I use the word “miniatures” lightly — these reproduction houses are enormous and quite intricate!
- Take a break after visiting the gallery have a snack as you enjoy the unstructured space on the trails.
- Pay attention to the weather and explore the trails when it’s not too hot and not raining!
- If kids do better knowing what to expect, use the Social Narratives to help them know what to expect.
I visited the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley to see the Trails at MSV. I wondered how they would compare to the Art Park at the North Carolina Museum of Art. They did not disappoint. But, I had no idea the galleries and Glen Burnie House and gardens would be so interesting. They are so much more than history and art at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.
The special programs and installations grab your attention and hold it for hours!
It’s well worth visiting when you’re in Winchester. It’s also a great day trip destination from Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Washington or Baltimore.
Road Trip Tip! If traveling through the area, take a break and enjoy lunch on the trails at the MSV. Enjoy a walk on the trails and a relaxing lunch — it’s way better than the crowded playground at a fast food restaurant!
To learn more about Winchester, visit these sites:
- Discover Winchester, Virginia — the Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau,
- Museum of the Shenandoah Valley — website for the museum reviewed in this post
- Hike the Tuscarora Trail to Eagle Rock Overlook — for the best views of the Shenandoah Valley,
- The George Washington Grand Hotel — Where to stay in the heart of Old Town Winchester.