(UPDATED APRIL 2022) Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful place to visit, filled with charming small towns, the friendliest folks, and incredible scenery. Harrisonburg, is one of the most well-known towns in the area, and one that is an epic place for a road trip or weekend getaway. Here is where to stay, play, and eat on your visit to sensational Harrisonburg, VA.
What to Do in Harrisonburg
Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is a landmark in itself. With beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and plenty of outdoor opportunities, you will have no trouble getting outdoors in this serene destination. The valley offers hiking, biking, golfing, hunting, and climbing, plus water sports like kayaking, tubing, and fishing.
Home to James Madison University (JMU), Eastern Mennonite University, and Bridgewater College, Harrisonburg packs a powerful punch with Virginia’s first Culinary District and a Great American Main Street. You can easily stay in the 40-block downtown radius and walk to many points of interest, including adorable local boutiques, cute cafes, and art attractions.
A Heritage Jewelry Shop
Harrisonburg, Virginia, has excellent shopping, with several boutiques and the Hugo Kohl Fine Jewelry, a place to buy vintage and heritage pieces. Tours are also available at this one-of-a-kind historical museum. You’ll learn the story behind these lovely creations and how the molds were nearly discarded as trash. It is quite fascinating!
Explore the Attractions
Bring the kids to downtown’s Explore More Discovery Museum, a special place for them to have a hands-on experience in their own size TV studio and science lab. Harrisonburg also has another attraction, “A Dream Come True Playground,” a family-fun spot with separate equipment (swings, drawl wall, rocks, arches) for 2 to 5-year-olds and 5 to 12-year-olds. Back Home on the Farm offers children 240-acres of farmland to play and roam about with hayrides, a cow train, carousel, corn maze, and pig races.
Pursue culture at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. Check the website to see what touring productions and concerts are going on. Another fun activity is to put your mystery solving skills to work at the House of Clues Escape Room.
At Ruby’s Arcade, try out duckpin bowling (a hot activity that is easier than traditional bowling), billiards, darts, and more.
What to See in Harrisonburg
A real gem in Harrisonburg is the Virginia Quilter’s Museum. You don’t have to quilt to appreciate the Virginia Quilter’s Museum, dedicated to new and antique quilts, made with unique styles and designs from various regions. During my visit, a couple had brought in an antique quilt to be analyzed by a professional. We learned that the piece was pre-Civil War just by seeing how the colors look under a magnifier and how the pieces were stitched.
White Oak Lavender Farm
You have two possibilities for fun at the White Oak Lavender Farm and Purple WOLF Vineyard. Learn how lavender grows (and buy your own plant if you wish) on the farm, then sample a wine tasting of Traminette, Voignier, and Chambourcin varietals, to name a few. There are many great photo-ops on the property and an animal encounter, games, and self-guided tour.
The White Oak Lavender Farm landscape is one you’ll want to capture in dozens of photographs. I loved seeing families and bachelorette parties on the property taking selfies and group photos.
Shenandoah National Park
Be sure to pencil in time for a drive along Skyline Drive, the scenic route through the lush mountains of the Shenandoah National Park and get a stamp in your national park passport en route. If you have time, it is an excellent place for a walk or hike, and don’t forget to admire the plentiful trees and beautiful mountains.
LOVE Art Installments
Virginia has several art installments spelling out L-O-V-E that make for great photo ops. There are a few unusual ones in Harrisonburg, with my favorite being one with flip-flops attached to one of the letters. Please keep your eyes open for them.
Where to Eat in Harrisonburg
Harrisonburg had amazing restaurants with creative recipes and tantalizing descriptions. My meals were most memorable and priced just right. From quiche to coffee, deviled eggs to exotic nachos, it was all good.
Heritage Bakery & Cafe
The most popular breakfast spot in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is Heritage Bakery & Cafe. Taste the delicious pastries and quiche, as well as the flavorful iced teas. If homemade pop tarts are one of the daily choices, don’t miss them. They have a buttery and flaky crust, with a perfect amount of filling to icing ratio. Yum! Heritage Bakery’s cute French-inspired space offers indoor and outdoor seating.
Black Sheep Coffee
A second spot for really great coffee is Black Sheep Coffee, an adorable space with excellent coffee, great pastries and sweets, and great souvenir and logo items. If you don’t care for coffee, Black Sheep also has a wide array of teas and specialty sodas. The fresh scones and quiche are top-notch.
For lunch or dinner, head over to the Montpelier Restaurant and Bar at the Hotel Madison. This American-style eatery has two delicious appetizers that cannot be missed: Goat Cheese Stuffed Fried Green Tomatoes and Deviled Eggs. Both are off-the-hook delicious!
Montpelier’s salads are filling and tasty, too, namely the Shenandoah Chopped Salad with charred corn, avocado, and honey-lime vinaigrette.
Two favorite local eateries are Jack Brown’s and Billy Jack’s Shack. Jack Brown’s offers killer gourmet burgers and, for dessert, Fried Oreos. Daily burger specials have interesting flavor pairings, such as cream cheese and jalapeño jelly. Known for craft beer, mix, and match sliders (try the Greg Brady topped with Mac & Cheese and Martin’s BBQ Chips), and all things bacon, Billy Jack’s Shack is one of four locations and has a weekend brunch with Chicken & Waffles Benedict.
Pale Fire Brewing
Stop by the Pale Fire Brewing Company for a taste of Harrisonburg’s locally-brewed beers. Not sure which ones to try? Salad Days Saison and Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale are the two best-sellers.
Where to Stay in Harrisonburg
The stylish Hotel Madison is an excellent place to stay in downtown Harrisonburg and is within walking distance to many attractions. The hotel has many sophisticated common areas, a gorgeous lobby, an indoor pool, plus spacious accommodations.
Hotel Madison’s attractively designed rooms have kitchenettes, which are perfect for families trying to save money. You can also bring your pet along to this pet-friendly location.
In nearby McGaheysville is the Massanutten Resort, boasting 6,000 acres of mountain fun. This enormous complex (with several room accommodations) features a year-round indoor and a seasonal outdoor waterpark. There is also a ski and golf resort, spa, zip-lining, entertainment venues, and onsite restaurants. Though the pool and waterpark are for guests, there are packages available to purchase for visitors.
Harrisonburg: A Town Worth Getting to Know
Harrisonburg is such a fun place to explore! I’m so glad I got to experience the Shenandoah Valley and some of its vibrant communities. Harrisonburg is one that resonated with me as being a small town with a bigger city feel.
Have you discovered this beautiful part of Virginia yet? Hopefully, this guide of what to do in Harrisonburg will help give you a jump start exploring.
Thanks to Visit Shenandoah Valley Partnership for hosting my travels to this stunning part of the country. As always, opinions and review are 100% mine and unbiased.
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