A Guide For Things to Do in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful place to visit, filled with charming small towns, friendly folks, farm-to-table eateries, and sensational scenery. I’m ashamed to admit that I lived in neighboring West Virginia for over 40 years and never once made it to see the majestic Shenandoah Valley and its Blue Ridge Mountains. That all changed when my travels brought me on a whirlwind tour of the area, starting with Harrisonburg.
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. There are also adorable towns around the area offering even more to see and do in the area. Here is my guide for things to do in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
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.
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 farm land to play and roam about with hay rides, 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.
Harrisonburg has excellent shopping, with several specialty boutiques and the Hugo Kohl Fine Jewelry, not only a place to buy vintage and heritage pieces, but also a one-of-a-kind historical museum experience that includes a guided tour. The tour was so interesting, explaining how simple historic hubs paved the way for this creative jewelry market.
What to See in Harrisonburg
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.
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.
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 as well as an animal encounter, games, and self-guided tour. The landscape is definitely one you’ll want to capture in dozens of photographs. I loved seeing the families and bachelorette parties on the property taking selfies and group photos.
Virginia has several art installments spelling out L-O-V-E that make for great photo ops. There are a couple of noteworthy ones in the area, with my favorite being one with flip-flops attached to one of the letters. Keep your eyes open for them.
Where to Eat in Harrisonburg
The most popular breakfast spot in Harrisonburg is Heritage Bakery & Cafe. Taste the delicious pastries and quiche, as well as the flavorful iced teas. If homemade pop tarts are one the day’s bakery choices, don’t miss them. They have a perfectly buttery and flaky crust, with a perfect amount of filling to icing ratio! Heritage Bakery’s cute French-inspired space offers indoor and outdoor seating.
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. I’m sure the Fried Green Tomatoes will make my Top Eats of 2019 post—they were that good! The salads are filling and tasty, too, namely the Shenandoah Chopped Salad with charred corn, avocado, and honey lime vinaigrette.
Two local favorites are Jack Brown’s and Billy Jack’s Shack. Jack Brown’s offers killer gourmet burgers and for dessert, Fried Oreos. They have daily burger specials with great flavor pairings such as cream cheese, pickled jalapeños, 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, serving Chicken & Waffles Benedict and Breakfast Nachos.
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 one-year-old Hotel Madison is an excellent place to stay in downtown Harrisonburg. It is within walking distance to many attractions and has sophisticated common areas, an indoor pool, plus spacious accommodations. The attractively designed rooms have kitchenettes which is great for families trying to save money. The hotel is also pet-friendly.
Nearby in McGaheysville, is the Massanutten Resort, boasting 6,000 acres of mountain fun. This enormous complex (with several types of 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 restaurants on the property. Though the pool and waterpark are included for guests, there are packages for purchase available to visitors.
Harrisonburg: A Town Worth Exploring and 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 really 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 too exploring.
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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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