Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg invites you to embark on a journey that seamlessly blends the charm of the past with the vibrancy of the present.
With roots dating back to the 18th century, Harrisonburg is a city that holds a significant place in Virginia’s historical tapestry.
Founded in 1779, it has witnessed the ebb and flow of time, leaving behind a legacy that can still be seen today.
In this article, we will delve into the rich history of Harrisonburg and provide you with valuable information to ensure your visit is truly unforgettable.
Things to Do in Harrisonburg, VA
1. Visit the Virginia Quilt Museum
The building that houses the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia, has its own unique history. The museum is located in the historic Warren-Sipe House, a beautiful structure that dates back to the 1850s. Originally built as a residence, the Warren-Sipe House has witnessed the changing landscape of Harrisonburg over the years.
Over time, the Warren-Sipe House has been repurposed and transformed into a space dedicated to preserving and showcasing the art of quilting. In 1995, the building was renovated to become the home of the Virginia Quilt Museum, allowing guests to appreciate the beauty and historical significance of quilts within this historic setting.
At the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, tourists can immerse themselves in the rich world of quilting and witness the intricate artistry displayed in a collection of stunning quilts. As you step inside the museum, you’ll be greeted by a treasure trove of quilts that showcase the creativity, craftsmanship, and cultural significance of this timeless textile art form.
2. Explore the Shenandoah Valley Cultural Heritage Museum
Located about 33 miles away from Harrisonburg in Edinburg, this museum is less known by most tourists. The Edinburg Mill was originally constructed in 1848 by George Grandstaff and Jacob Sibert. It was initially built as a grist mill, serving the local agricultural community by processing grain into flour and meal. During the American Civil War, the Edinburg Mill played a significant role. In 1864, Confederate forces used the mill as a strategic location during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The mill’s location along Stony Creek made it a valuable water source and provided a defensive advantage.
Following the Civil War, the Edinburg Mill continued to serve the local community. It operated as a grist mill, sawmill, and even a cider mill at different points in its history. Over time, it became a central gathering place for the Edinburg community.
The Edinburg Mill now serves as a museum and event venue. Visitors can explore the mill’s history through exhibits and displays, learning about its role in the local community and the events of the Civil War. The site also hosts various events, including festivals, concerts, and craft shows. The Edinburg Mill stands as a testament to the rich history of the Shenandoah Valley and the important role it played during the Civil War. It continues to be a cherished landmark, preserving the heritage of the region for future generations.
3. Go on a hike or nature walk at the nearby Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is a magnificent natural treasure nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Encompassing around 200,000 acres (80,937 hectares), this vast park stretches across the crest of the mountains, spanning approximately 105 miles (169 kilometers) from north to south.
Established in 1935 and dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the park owes its existence to the hard work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, who meticulously crafted the park’s infrastructure and trails. One of the park’s most renowned features is the awe-inspiring Skyline Drive, a 105-mile scenic road that winds along the spine of the mountains, offering captivating vistas of the surrounding landscapes.
As visitors travel this picturesque route, they are treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley, where mountains, valleys, and lush forests intertwine. Moreover, Shenandoah National Park boasts an incredible array of biodiversity, showcasing the wonders of nature.
4. Take a stroll through the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a captivating botanical garden located in Harrisonburg. Spanning over 125 acres, this enchanting space showcases a diverse collection of trees, plants, and flowers, offering visitors a serene and immersive experience in nature. The arboretum is named in honor of Edith J. Carrier, a prominent philanthropist and advocate for environmental preservation.
Established in 1985, the arboretum has since become a cherished destination for nature enthusiasts, students, and the local community. It features several themed gardens, including a wildflower meadow, a shade garden, and a native plant garden, each highlighting different facets of Virginia’s natural beauty.
Whether seeking a peaceful retreat, a place for learning, or simply a connection with nature, the arboretum offers a captivating and rejuvenating experience for all who venture within its grounds.
5. Visit the Harrisonburg Farmers Market
The Harrisonburg Farmers Market is a vibrant gathering place where locals and visitors alike can indulge in an array of delicious food and discover unique products. From heirloom tomatoes to crisp apples, the market showcases the best of the region’s agricultural bounty. In addition to farm-fresh produce, you can savor artisanal cheeses, homemade jams, freshly baked bread, and locally sourced meats.
Beyond the delectable food offerings, the market is a treasure trove for shopping enthusiasts. Local artisans and craftspeople showcase their creations, including handmade jewelry, pottery, textiles, and unique gifts. You’ll have the opportunity to connect directly with the makers and learn about the stories behind their craft. Harrisonburg Farmers Market is a must-visit destination that celebrates the local flavors and talents of the area.
6. Attend a performance at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts
This state-of-the-art venue showcases an impressive array of theatrical productions, including plays, musicals, and contemporary dramas. With its diverse program, visitors can immerse themselves in the magic of live theater, experiencing everything from timeless classics to innovative and thought-provoking performances.
The Forbes Center’s commitment to artistic excellence, coupled with its modern facilities and acoustically exceptional performance spaces, ensures that every show is a memorable and engaging experience. Beyond the sheer entertainment value, the center plays a vital role in the local community, fostering a thriving arts scene and supporting emerging artists.
By attending a show at the Forbes Center, tourists not only have the opportunity to enjoy world-class performances but also contribute to the growth and vitality of the arts in the region. Whether you’re a theater enthusiast, a music lover, or simply seeking a memorable cultural experience, a visit to the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts promises to be an unforgettable journey into the realm of artistic expression.
7. Go shopping and dining in downtown Harrisonburg
The city is home to several shopping centers and districts where you can find a wide range of stores and boutiques. Downtown Harrisonburg is a charming hub for shopping, featuring locally-owned shops, specialty stores, and art galleries. Here, you can browse for unique gifts, fashionable clothing, artisanal crafts, and much more. Additionally, Harrisonburg has a variety of shopping centers, such as the Valley Mall, which houses a diverse selection of popular national retailers.
When it comes to dining, Harrisonburg boasts a vibrant culinary scene that caters to diverse tastes. From farm-to-table establishments serving locally-sourced ingredients to international eateries offering flavors from around the world, there is something to satisfy every palate. Downtown Harrisonburg is particularly renowned for its diverse dining options, with an array of restaurants offering everything from contemporary American cuisine to ethnic delicacies.
8. Visit the Explore More Discovery Museum
When you visit the Explore More Discovery Museum you can expect a world of wonder and excitement for both children and adults alike. This interactive museum offers a range of engaging exhibits and activities that encourage curiosity, creativity, and hands-on learning.
As you explore the museum, you’ll discover a variety of themed areas designed to captivate young minds. From a miniature farm where children can engage in pretend play and learn about agriculture to a science zone filled with experiments and interactive displays, there is something to pique the interest of every visitor.
The museum also features rotating exhibits, ensuring that each visit provides a fresh and stimulating experience. It’s a place where imaginations are sparked, and young minds are inspired to explore the world around them.
9. Take a tour of the James Madison University campus
A tour of James Madison University (JMU) campus will be a captivating experience that showcases the university’s vibrant atmosphere and exceptional facilities. As you explore the campus, one of the notable highlights you can see is the iconic Wilson Hall. This grand building with its majestic columns serves as a symbol of JMU’s rich history and academic excellence. Additionally, you will come across beautifully restored historic buildings like Keezell Hall, which provides a glimpse into the university’s past.
The JMU campus boasts a harmonious blend of traditional and modern architecture. You will have the opportunity to admire the striking designs of the Health and Human Services Building and the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, showcasing the university’s commitment to innovation and creativity. As you stroll through the campus, you will also encounter lush green spaces, meticulously manicured lawns, and vibrant gardens that provide serene spots for studying and relaxation.
10. Go on a brewery or winery tour of some of the local establishments
Harrisonburg, VA and its surrounding area offer a delightful selection of breweries and wineries, making it a perfect destination for beer and wine enthusiasts. One of the most popular destination for beer lovers is Brothers Craft Brewing. They offer guided tours where you can explore their state-of-the-art brewing facilities, learn about the brewing process, and sample a variety of their craft beers. From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, Brothers Craft Brewing has a diverse range of beers to suit every palate.
In terms of vineyards, Bluestone Vineyard is a charming winery nestled in the scenic Shenandoah Valley, located just outside the city. They offer vineyard tours where you can explore their picturesque grounds, learn about the winemaking process, and indulge in tastings of their award-winning wines. Bluestone Vineyard specializes in producing premium wines from grapes grown on their estate.
11. Attend a Harrisonburg Turks baseball game
If you are into baseball, then this is an activity you should not miss especially during the summer days. The Harrisonburg Turks, a collegiate summer baseball team typically play a regular season schedule during the summer months. The specific frequency of their games can vary from season to season. However, in a typical season, the Turks participate in a schedule that includes multiple games per week, often playing on weekdays and weekends.
The schedule usually spans from late May to early August, with home games taking place at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg. It’s worth noting that for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding the Harrisonburg Turks’ game schedule, it is recommended to visit the team’s official website or check with local sources such as the team’s social media channels or sports news outlets.
12. Visit the Massanutten Resort
Located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley near Harrisonburg city, the Massanutten Resort offers a wide range of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. Nestled amidst the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, this sprawling resort is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation and entertainment. One of the highlights of Massanutten Resort is its extensive ski and snowboard facilities, which cater to both beginners and experienced winter sports enthusiasts. With a variety of slopes, terrain parks, and a dedicated snow tubing area, it’s the perfect destination for a thrilling winter adventure.
13. Explore the Dayton Farmers Market
A day at the Dayton Farmers Market, for a first-time visitor, is an enjoyable and immersive experience that offers a taste of local flavors, unique crafts, and a vibrant community atmosphere. Located in Dayton approximately 9 miles southwest of Harrisonburg, the driving distance between the two towns is typically around 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic conditions and the specific route taken this bustling market brings together local farmers, artisans, and vendors, showcasing a wide array of products and goods.
When you arrive at the Dayton Farmers Market, you’ll typically find a lively and colorful scene. The market is housed in a large indoor/outdoor space, and during peak seasons, it is filled with vendors offering fresh produce, baked goods, meats, cheeses, flowers, and much more. The market’s atmosphere is often bustling with activity as shoppers peruse the various stalls and interact with vendors.
As you explore the market, you’ll have the opportunity to sample local produce, taste freshly baked goods, and discover unique handcrafted items. From homemade jams and jellies to artisanal crafts, the market showcases the talents and offerings of the local community. Many vendors are often happy to share their stories and provide insights into their products, making it a great opportunity to engage with the friendly locals and learn more about the region.
14. Go on a ghost tour of some of the city’s haunted locations
In Harrisonburg, Virginia, ghost enthusiasts have the opportunity to embark on a spine-chilling ghost tour that unveils the city’s haunted past and takes you to some of its most eerie locations.
Court Square, the historic heart of the city, sets the stage for eerie tales of restless spirits and mysterious occurrences. Old Town Cemetery, an ancient burial ground, reveals ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena that have intrigued visitors and locals for years.
The Joshua Wilton House, a 19th-century bed and breakfast, whispers stories of paranormal activity within its historic walls.
The Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center, once inhabited by former owners, carries an air of ghostly presence and inexplicable happenings.
And the Lucy F. Simms School, a former segregated school, immerses you in its haunted history and the lingering spirits said to still wander its halls. Led by knowledgeable guides and storytellers, the ghost tour offers a perfect blend of history, folklore, and spine-chilling encounters.
Be prepared for an unforgettable experience as you explore the haunted side of Harrisonburg’s past, surrounded by tales of spectral encounters and unexplained phenomena that will send shivers down your spine.
15. Visit the Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum
The Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum is a hidden gem for history and firefighting enthusiasts visiting the city. The museum offers a captivating journey through time, providing insights into the evolution of firefighting techniques, equipment, and the courageous men and women who have served as firefighters in Harrisonburg. You can explore a variety of exhibits that display vintage firefighting apparatus, including antique fire engines, hand-drawn hose carts, and other historic artifacts.
One of the highlights of the museum is the opportunity to witness the progress made in firefighting technology over the years. From the traditional manual tools to the modern equipment used today, the exhibits demonstrate the advancements that have enhanced the efficiency and safety of firefighters.
Guided tours are often available, led by knowledgeable volunteers who share fascinating anecdotes and historical facts about the exhibits. These tours offer a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by firefighters throughout history and provide a glimpse into the daily life of those who serve in the Harrisonburg Fire Department.
Whether you have a passion for firefighting history or simply want to gain a better understanding of the vital role firefighters play in our communities, the Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum is a place worth exploring. It offers a unique and engaging perspective on the heroic efforts of those who protect and serve the city of Harrisonburg.
16. Take a scenic drive on the nearby Skyline Drive
Taking a scenic drive on the nearby Skyline Drive, starting from Harrisonburg, offers a breathtaking journey through the natural beauty of the Shenandoah National Park.
As you depart from Harrisonburg, you’ll soon find yourself entering the southernmost entrance of the Skyline Drive. The road winds its way up into the mountains, gradually ascending to higher elevations. Along the drive, you’ll be treated to stunning panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley, with rolling hills and verdant forests stretching as far as the eye can see.
The Skyline Drive is renowned for its numerous overlooks, providing ample opportunities to stop, park your vehicle, and marvel at the majestic vistas below. Each overlook offers a unique perspective, allowing you to appreciate the grandeur of the Shenandoah National Park from different angles. From cascading waterfalls to colorful wildflower meadows, each view presents a picture-perfect moment waiting to be captured.
The Skyline Drive spans approximately 105 miles, and the journey can take several hours, depending on the pace and the number of stops you choose to make. There are also numerous hiking trails that branch off from the drive, providing opportunities to stretch your legs and explore the park’s hidden gems on foot.
A scenic drive on the Skyline Drive departing from Harrisonburg is a mesmerizing experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Shenandoah National Park. It’s a journey that promises breathtaking views, encounters with wildlife, and a profound appreciation for the natural wonders that surround you.
17. Attend the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival
The Rocktown Beer and Music Festival is an exciting annual event held in Harrisonburg bringing together the perfect blend of craft beer and live music. This highly anticipated festival takes place typically during the spring season, offering attendees a memorable experience filled with great tunes and delicious brews.
The festival’s lively atmosphere, with live music playing in the background as you mingle with fellow attendees, creates a vibrant and enjoyable experience. It’s a celebration of local talent, community spirit, and the rich craft beer culture that Harrisonburg has to offer.
As for the cost, ticket prices for the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival vary depending on the type of ticket and any available discounts. It’s advisable to check the festival’s official website or ticketing platforms for the most up-to-date information on ticket prices and availability.
18. Visit the nearby Luray Caverns
If you have some extra time during your visit to Harrisonburg, you should not miss the Luray Caverns. This place is located approximately 30 miles northeast of Harrisonburg and the driving distance between the two is typically around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic and the specific route taken. The scenic drive takes you through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, offering picturesque views along the way.
As you explore the caverns, you’ll encounter a multitude of breathtaking sights. One of the highlights is the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the largest musical instrument in the world, which uses the cave formations to create melodic tones that fill the air. Moving deeper into the caverns, you’ll come across Giant’s Hall, a vast chamber adorned with towering stalagmites and stalactites, showcasing the grandeur of nature’s sculpting. The ethereal Dream Lake reflects the formations above, creating a mesmerizing scene that feels like stepping into a dream.
The Saracen’s Tent, with its delicate drapery-like formations, demonstrates the intricate beauty of the cave. Additionally, the Wishing Well offers a charming spot to make a wish while marveling at the underground wonders. These are just a few of the remarkable sights you can expect to see when visiting Luray Caverns, where the timeless beauty of nature takes center stage and leaves visitors in awe of the stunning underground world.
19. Go on a guided kayak or canoe tour of the nearby Shenandoah River
Embarking on a guided kayak or canoe tour of the nearby Shenandoah River from Harrisonburg, VA, offers a fantastic opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of the region. The adventure begins by meeting your experienced guide at a designated location near Harrisonburg. They will provide a brief orientation, discussing safety guidelines, paddling techniques, and the route you’ll be taking on the river. Once the necessary gear and equipment, including life jackets and paddles, are distributed, you’ll be ready to launch your kayak or canoe onto the tranquil waters of the Shenandoah River.
The duration of the guided kayak or canoe tour is typically a couple of hours, allowing you to experience the beauty of the Shenandoah River without feeling rushed. The pace of the tour is generally leisurely, ensuring that you have ample time to appreciate the scenery, engage in conversation with your guide, and simply enjoy the peacefulness of the river.
20. Visit the White Oak Lavender Farm
A visit to the White Oak Lavender Farm offers a delightful and aromatic experience for visitors. This charming farm is known for its picturesque lavender fields and the variety of lavender-based products it offers.
In terms of entry, there is typically no fee to simply enter the White Oak Lavender Farm. While entry to the farm is usually free, keep in mind that there may be charges associated with certain activities or amenities within the farm. For example, if you wish to participate in a guided tour, workshops, or special events, there may be fees involved. If you decide to purchase lavender products, such as essential oils, soaps, or lotions from the farm’s store, these items would have a cost associated with them.
Guests are welcome to explore the farm, stroll through the lavender fields, and soak in the tranquil surroundings without any charge. This provides a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of the lavender blooms and enjoy the serene atmosphere of the farm.
As you prepare for your journey to Harrisonburg, Virginia, you can look forward to an enriching experience filled with history, outdoor adventures, and culinary delights. Immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture, explore the captivating historical sites, and embark on thrilling outdoor escapades. Harrisonburg welcomes you with open arms, promising a memorable trip that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for this remarkable destination. Get ready to create lasting memories in Harrisonburg, where the past meets the present in a truly remarkable way.