Exploring Virginia’s I-81 attractions

By Mike Steely

Many of us know that Interstate 81 begins just east of Dandridge as I-40 turns south but many people probably don’t know that I-81 continues all the way to Alexandria Bay, New York, and from there enters Canada.

It’s an interesting but busy route for trucks and the intestate flows up through the Shenandoah Valley, an area full of history, cave attractions and beautiful scenery. Just off the highway beyond Bristol there are also many state parks, the usual services to travelers, and connections with other intestate routes.

Within a day’s drive from Knoxville is the Shenandoah Caverns. Although there are several tourist caves along the route, Shenandoah is different for a couple of reasons. While it features a well-done guided tour with multi-color lights on the formations, it also boasts two other attractions: a self-guided tour of Americana business window displays called Main Street of Yesteryear and a separate building, American Celebration on Parade, displaying various parade floats.

The attraction is located just off I-81 near Mt. Jackson, Virginia, in Quicksburg, and there’s lots of free parking. Admission to the caverns is $25 per adult and a veteran and senior citizen discount is available. Children are admitted for $13.

The floats, collected over the years by Earl Hargrove, are from presidential inaugurations, the Rose Parade, New Orleans events, etc. The admission is covered with your cave ticket and you won’t believe the size and beauty of most of the retired parade floats. Hargrove started his collection of floats in 1949 with pieces from the President Harry Truman inauguration parade.

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