History, Hikes, and Hidden Eats: Top Things to Do in Harrisonburg VA

History, Hikes, and Hidden Eats: Top Things to Do in Harrisonburg VA


Looking for a perfect getaway spot in Virginia that has something for everyone?

Look no further than Harrisonburg, a charming town nestled in the stunning Shenandoah Valley.

Whether you’re in the mood for a challenging hike, a glimpse into local history, a vibrant craft beer scene, or simply a peaceful small-town experience, Harrisonburg has got it all.

This welcoming destination offers a diverse range of activities that cater to outdoor enthusiasts, history aficionados, food lovers, and anyone who wants to relax in a beautiful setting.

Get ready to discover why Harrisonburg, VA is an ideal place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Book your flight with Skyscanner to Harrisonburg and explore the Virginia Quilt Museum, showcasing intricate handcrafted quilts that tell stories of the region’s heritage.

5 Things to Know About Harrisonburg, VA (And Why You Should Put It On Your Travel List)

Shenandoah National Park

Scenic Shenandoah Setting:

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg offers breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its prime location serves as a gateway to outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking, and scenic drives along Skyline Drive.

JMU’s Influence:

With James Madison University at its center, Harrisonburg exudes youthful energy, reflected in its vibrant downtown scene filled with quirky shops, lively cafes, and a diverse selection of restaurants catering to student tastes.

A Foodie’s Delight:

Harrisonburg boasts a vibrant food scene, with diverse international cuisine, farm-to-table freshness, and a thriving craft beer culture.

πŸ‘‰Stay in a downtown Harrisonburg hotel to be within walking distance of local breweries, restaurants, and the Virginia Quilt Museum.

Rich in Heritage:

History enthusiasts can immerse themselves in Harrisonburg’s local heritage at the Hardesty-Higgins House, experience world-class performances at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, or admire Appalachian craftsmanship at the Virginia Quilt Museum.

Outdoor Adventures Abound:

Calling all nature lovers! Harrisonburg is the perfect starting point for exploring the great outdoors, with year-round activities at Massanutten Resort, including a fun water park, and trails in Shenandoah National Park.

Why Visit Harrisonburg?

Whether you’re a hiker, history lover, foodie, or just looking for a relaxing getaway, Harrisonburg delivers a delightful mix of experiences.

Park your car and discover downtown Harrisonburg’s charm on foot – shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions are all within easy walking distance.

Experience genuine Southern hospitality and the friendly atmosphere that makes Harrisonburg feel like a true escape from the hustle and bustle.

πŸ‘‰Find the best flights to Harrisonburg on Skyscanner and spend a day at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, a natural sanctuary offering peaceful walks and beautiful gardens.

Shenandoah National Park: Your Blue Ridge Mountain Escape

Old Rag Summit

Shenandoah National Park spans over 200,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The park is known for its diverse hiking trails, abundant wildlife, and stunning panoramic views.

Why Visit Shenandoah?

  • The Picturesque Skyline Drive: This 105-mile scenic route winds its way through the park, offering stunning overlooks at nearly every turn. Pull over, soak in the panoramic views, and let the stress of everyday life melt away.
  • Hiking for All Levels: Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, Shenandoah has trails to match. Challenge yourself with a strenuous climb to Hawksbill Summit or choose a gentle stroll to one of the park’s many waterfalls.
  • Wildlife Spotting: Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, deer, wild turkeys, and a variety of bird species that call Shenandoah home.

Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park

  • Conquer Old Rag Mountain for a challenging climb or opt for the Mary’s Rock Summit Trail for equally spectacular views.
  • Dark Hollow Falls and Stony Man Falls are popular choices.
  • Explore Skyline Drive. Stop at the overlooks and take your time soaking in the scenery.
  • Experience the magic of Shenandoah at night by pitching a tent or reserving a cabin.
  • Join a Ranger Program. Learn about the park’s wildlife and history from knowledgeable rangers.

πŸ‘‰Book a cozy bed and breakfast near the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum for easy access to nature walks and tranquil gardens.

James Madison University Campus: A Blend of History and Modernity

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Located in Harrisonburg, the campus of James Madison University (JMU) is a unique blend of historic architecture and modern facilities, offering inviting green spaces and beautiful “Bluestone” buildings.

Why Visit the JMU Campus

  • Architectural Beauty: Admire the iconic Bluestone buildings that form the historic Quad and blend seamlessly with newer additions.
  • Vibrant Atmosphere: JMU’s campus buzzes with student energy, especially during the academic year.
  • Events and Activities: Check the JMU calendar for sporting events, art exhibits, performances, and guest lectures open to the public.
  • Arboretum: Stroll through the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and enjoy its diverse gardens and peaceful walkways.

Things to Do on the JMU Campus

  • Explore the grounds, admiring the architecture and landscaping.
  • Visit the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum. Enjoy the gardens and trails for a dose of nature.
  • Attend a JMU Dukes Sporting Event. Cheer on the Dukes and experience the school spirit.
  • Enjoy a concert, play, or lecture at a campus venue like the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Grab a bite to eat at one of the campus dining halls or cafes.

πŸ‘‰Use Skyscanner to plan your trip to Harrisonburg for a tour of the James Madison University campus, renowned for its beautiful architecture and vibrant college atmosphere.

Edith J. Carrier Arboretum: A Tranquil Oasis

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Located on the campus of James Madison University, the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a 125-acre botanical garden and woodland sanctuary. Its diverse plant collections, scenic trails, and peaceful atmosphere make it the perfect escape for nature lovers and those seeking a moment of tranquility.

Why Visit the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum?

  • Diverse Gardens: Explore themed gardens showcasing a variety of native and exotic plants, including a wildflower meadow, a bog garden, and woodland trails.
  • Peaceful Ambiance: Leave the hustle and bustle behind and enjoy the arboretum’s serene atmosphere. Find a quiet bench or stroll the winding paths for a relaxing break.
  • Educational Value: Learn about native plants and their role in the local ecosystem. The arboretum regularly hosts workshops and events focused on conservation and horticulture.

Things to Do at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum

  • Explore at your own pace, enjoying the natural beauty and different areas of the arboretum.
  • Pack a lunch and find a shaded spot for a peaceful picnic surrounded by nature.
  • The arboretum is a haven for birdwatchers, so keep your eyes peeled for feathered friends.
  • Check the arboretum’s calendar for special events, workshops, and guided walks.
  • Take a break, breathe in the fresh air, and soak up the tra nquility of this beautiful space.

πŸ‘‰Find accommodations close to James Madison University to enjoy campus events, performances, and sports games.

Forbes Center for the Performing Arts: A Hub for Arts and Culture

Located on the campus of James Madison University, the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts brings world-class entertainment and diverse cultural experiences to the heart of Harrisonburg.

This state-of-the-art facility features multiple performance venues and showcases a wide variety of shows throughout the year.

Why Visit the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts

  • High-Quality Performances: Catch everything from Broadway musicals and touring musicians to dance performances, renowned speakers, and student productions.
  • Diverse Offerings: With something for every taste, the Forbes Center brings a unique blend of entertainment options to the Shenandoah Valley.
  • Beautiful Venue: Enjoy the stunning architecture and well-designed performance spaces.

Things to Do at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts

  • Check the Forbes Center’s calendar and book tickets for a show that interests you – from a symphony orchestra to a comedy act!
  • Take a tour or simply admire the center’s architecture and design.
  • Enjoy a pre-show dinner at a local restaurant and make an evening of supporting arts and culture in Harrisonburg.

πŸ‘‰Secure your flight with Skyscanner and dive into local history at the Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum, featuring firefighting memorabilia dating back to the 1800s.

Massanutten Resort: Year-Round Fun in the Shenandoah Valley

Massanutten Resort is a year-round destination located in the Shenandoah Valley, offering activities for all ages and interests.

What Makes Massanutten Special

  • Versatility: Enjoy skiing and snow tubing in the winter, hiking and mountain biking in the warmer months, and a thrilling waterpark year-round.
  • Stunning Location: The resort sits amidst the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley, offering breathtaking views and easy access to other regional attractions.
  • Family-Friendly: With activities for all ages, a waterpark, and various lodging options, Massanutten is ideal for families seeking a fun-filled getaway.

Things to Do at Massanutten Resort

  • Hit the slopes. Ski or snowboard in the winter, or try snow tubing for a fun alternative.
  • Explore the trails. Hike or bike the resort’s extensive trail network.
  • Splash at the waterpark. Enjoy indoor and outdoor pools, slides, and water features perfect for all ages.
  • Get adventurous. Try ziplining, challenge yourself on the ropes course, or go rock climbing.
  • Relax and rejuvenate. Unwind at the resort’s spa or take a scenic drive through the surrounding countryside.

πŸ‘‰Choose a family-friendly hotel near the Explore More Discovery Museum, ensuring a convenient and fun stay for guests with children.

Virginia Quilt Museum: A Celebration of Textile Artistry

The Virginia Quilt Museum, located in a historic home in downtown Harrisonburg, showcases the beauty, artistry, and cultural significance of quilts.

With rotating exhibitions and a diverse collection, the museum offers a unique insight into textile art and history.

Why Visit the Virginia Quilt Museum?

  • Appreciation for Quilting: Discover the intricate techniques, diverse styles, and stories behind quilts from various eras and regions.
  • Historical and Artistic Value: Explore quilts as both historical artifacts and stunning works of art.
  • Unique Exhibits: The museum frequently rotates its collections, ensuring there’s always something new and intriguing to see.

Things to Do at the Virginia Quilt Museum

  • Admire the exhibitions. View current displays featuring antique, contemporary, and art quilts showcasing diverse styles and themes.
  • Attend educational programs. Take a workshop, listen to a lecture, or participate in a special event to deepen your understanding of the quilting tradition.
  • Browse the gift shop. Find unique quilt-related souvenirs, books, and gifts.

πŸ‘‰Fly into Harrisonburg with Skyscanner and enjoy an evening of craft beer tasting at Pale Fire Brewing Co., located in the heart of downtown.

Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center: A Window into Harrisonburg’s Past

The Hardesty-Higgins House, built in the 1840s, serves as Harrisonburg’s official visitor center.

It has been beautifully restored and provides a unique setting to learn about life in the Shenandoah Valley.

Why Visit the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center

  • Step Back in Time: Explore the restored rooms of the house and imagine life in Harrisonburg across different eras.
  • Discover the Valley Turnpike Museum: Learn about the region’s history and the significance of the Valley Turnpike, a historical transportation route.
  • Civil War Orientation Center: Gain insights into the Shenandoah Valley’s role during the Civil War.
  • Tourist Information: Get maps, brochures, and recommendations from friendly staff to make the most of your Harrisonburg visit.

Things to Do at the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center

  • Take a self-guided tour of the house and learn about its past residents.
  • Visit the Valley Turnpike Museum. Delve into the heritage of the Shenandoah Valley.
  • Understand the impact of the Civil War on the region.
  • Pick up souvenirs. Browse the Rocktown Gift Shoppe for unique Harrisonburg memorabilia.
  • Chat with visitor center staff for expert advice on what to see and do in the area.

πŸ‘‰Secure a cabin or resort room at Massanutten Resort for a stay filled with outdoor activities and resort amenities.

Purple Wolf Vineyard: Wine and Serenity in the Shenandoah Valley

Located on the grounds of the picturesque White Oak Lavender Farm, Purple Wolf Vineyard offers a relaxing combination of wine tasting and beautiful surroundings.

Escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy their variety of wines amidst a tranquil setting.

Why Visit Purple Wolf Vineyard

  • Stunning Scenery: Sip your wine while surrounded by rolling hills and, depending on the season, vibrant lavender fields.
  • Family-Friendly: The vineyard welcomes the whole family, even offering picnic areas so you can bring your own snacks. (Just note: no outside alcohol is permitted)
  • Unique Experience: Combine a wine tasting with a stroll through the lavender farm, creating a multi-sensory experience.
  • Supporting Local: Purple Wolf Vineyard is part of a local farm, adding to the charm and supporting the community.

Things to Do at Purple Wolf Vineyard

  • Sample a variety of wines, from dry whites to sweet reds, and find your favorites.
  • Pack some snacks and unwind in the designated picnic areas, enjoying the peaceful scenery.
  • Stroll through the lavender fields (especially beautiful when in bloom) and visit the White Oak Lavender Farm shop.
  • The vineyard occasionally hosts special events like live music or themed tastings. Check their calendar!

πŸ‘‰Book through Skyscanner for a trip to Harrisonburg and challenge yourself with outdoor adventures at Massanutten Resort, offering year-round activities from skiing to waterpark fun.

Harrisonburg’s Craft Beer Scene: Your Shenandoah Valley Cheers

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Harrisonburg has become a destination for craft beer lovers, with local breweries providing unique flavors and a friendly environment. Here are some of the top picks:

  • Pale Fire Brewing Co. – Located in the heart of downtown, Pale Fire offers a vibrant taproom experience and a diverse selection of well-crafted beers. Their focus on creative styles and commitment to quality makes it a must-try.
  • The Friendly Fermenter – This brewery is a local favorite known for its cozy atmosphere and a wide variety of beers on tap. Be sure to try a beer flight to sample their diverse offerings, from classic IPAs to experimental sours.
  • Restless Moons Brewing β€“ Located in downtown Harrisonburg, Restless Moons Brewing brings inventive releases to a lively outdoor space under the sparkling string lights, creating a unique atmosphere for beer and live music enthusiasts. They’re a self described β€œmotley crew” and we love the casual atmosphere of this spot! They also have outdoor seating, so it’s a great spot when the weather is nice.
  • Three Notch’d Valley Collab House β€“ While Three Notch’d has various locations around Virginia, Valley Collab House & Brewery is unqiue. They brew a brand new beer that they tap locally every single week, offering the freshest beer in Virginia.
  • Brothers Craft Brewing β€“ This family owned spot is a destination for festivals and limited-edition releases. They also have an Experimental Release Bottle Club, perfect for beer enthusiasts who are looking to try something new!

πŸ‘‰Opt for a boutique inn in the historic district to explore Harrisonburg’s rich history and vibrant cultural scene.

Why Visit Harrisonburg’s Craft Breweries?

  • Unique Brews: Discover creative beer styles and flavors you won’t find at chain restaurants.
  • Local Vibe: Experience friendly hospitality and connect with the Harrisonburg community.
  • Relaxing Atmosphere: Enjoy a laid-back environment perfect for unwinding and socializing.

Things to Do at Harrisonburg Breweries

  • Order a flight of several small pours to sample a wide range of beers and discover your favorites.
  • Many brewery staff are passionate about their craft and happy to chat about the brewing process.
  • Some breweries have their own kitchens, while others partner with local food trucks or allow you to bring in snacks.
  • Take home a t-shirt, growler, or other branded items to commemorate your visit.

πŸ‘‰With Skyscanner, reach Harrisonburg and experience the vibrant local food scene at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, a hub for fresh produce and artisan goods.

Harrisonburg’s Downtown: Small-Town Charm and Unique Finds

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Harrisonburg’s downtown district is pedestrian-friendly with historic buildings, local shops, art galleries, and a welcoming atmosphere, perfect for exploring and supporting the community.

Why Visit Downtown Harrisonburg

  • Unique Shopping: Ditch the chain stores and discover one-of-a-kind boutiques offering everything from locally-made crafts and vintage finds to quirky gifts and stylish clothing.
  • Art and Culture: Explore art galleries featuring regional artists, catch a performance at the historic Court Square Theater, or simply admire the architectural details of buildings along Main Street.
  • Charming Ambiance: Leave the hustle-bustle behind and soak up the small-town atmosphere with a friendly community vibe.
  • Local Eats and Drinks: Grab coffee brewed from locally roasted beans, indulge in farm-to-table cuisine at unique restaurants, or enjoy a craft beer at a welcoming brewery.

Things to Do in Downtown Harrisonburg

  • Browse unique boutiques, book shops, vintage stores, and more for treasures and gifts.
  • Discover a variety of restaurants, cafes, breweries, and tasting rooms showcasing Harrisonburg’s diverse food scene.
  • Explore galleries, attend an art walk, or catch a local band playing in a cozy downtown cafe.
  • Find a bench to people-watch, stroll through a pocket park, or chat with friendly shopkeepers.

πŸ‘‰Discover a stay near Pale Fire Brewing Co. to indulge in the local craft beer scene and enjoy easy access to downtown nightlife.

Harrisonburg Farmers Market: A Taste of Local Bounty

The Turner Pavilion hosts the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, a bustling community hub for fresh produce, artisanal goods, and local craftspeople.

Why Visit the Harrisonburg Farmers Market

  • Freshest of the Fresh: Find seasonal fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised meats, eggs, dairy products, and more, all bursting with flavor.
  • Local Treasures: Discover handcrafted soaps, unique jewelry, beautiful pottery, and various artisan goods.
  • Support Small Businesses: Your purchases directly support local farmers and creators, boosting the community.
  • Community Vibe: Feel the buzz of the market as you chat with friendly vendors and connect with other shoppers.

Things to Do at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market

  • Fill your basket with the bounty of the growing season.
  • Try local cheeses, baked goods, honey, and other samples for a delightful tasting experience.
  • Pick up handmade crafts, art pieces, or special treats as gifts or souvenirs.
  • Many markets offer food trucks or vendors with prepared meals and drinks.
  • Take some time to soak in the friendly market vibe and support your community.

πŸ‘‰Find your flight to Harrisonburg on Skyscanner and take the family to Explore More Discovery Museum, an interactive space where kids can learn through play.

Chill Vibes in Harrisonburg

Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life can be refreshing.

Harrisonburg has plenty of places where you can slow down, unwind and appreciate the little things.

You might enjoy a leisurely walk in a park or find yourself captivated by the fragrant fields of lavender.

Hillandale Park: Your Urban Oasis

Escape the bustle for a moment in Hillandale Park.

This green space in the heart of Harrisonburg offers a peaceful retreat with walking paths, picnic areas, and plenty of shady trees.

  • Unwind: Find a quiet bench to read a book, listen to the birds, or simply relax with the fresh air.
  • Family Time: The park features a playground for little ones and open space for tossing a frisbee or playing catch.
  • Take a Stroll: Enjoy a peaceful walk along the paved paths and admire the greenery.

White Oak Lavender Farm: Immerse Yourself in Serenity

Experience the calming beauty and intoxicating fragrance of lavender fields at the White Oak Lavender Farm.

This picturesque farm offers a unique and relaxing experience away from the everyday.

  • Lavender Delights: Wander through rows of vibrant lavender, enjoying the aroma and beautiful setting.
  • Shop for Treasures: Visit the charming gift shop with lavender-themed products like soaps, lotions, and culinary treats.
  • Picnic and Relaxation: Bring a picnic and find a spot under the trees or within the lavender fields for a magical experience.

Ruby’s Arcade: Blast from the Past Fun

Step back in time and embrace some old-school fun at Ruby’s Arcade.

This retro arcade is a lively throwback to the days of classic video games and pinball.

  • Game On!: Play iconic arcade games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and more, sparking nostalgia and friendly competition.
  • Test Your Skills: Rack up those pinball points with flashy flipper action to beat the high score.
  • Enjoy the Atmosphere: Embrace the arcade’s vintage vibe, lively music, and flashing lights for a playful experience.

πŸ‘‰Select a vacation rental close to the Harrisonburg Farmers Market for a taste of local life and fresh morning starts.

Why Harrisonburg Wins You Over

Rockingham County Courthouse (west side) - Harrisonburg, VA

If you are looking for a perfect getaway, Harrisonburg is the ideal destination for you.

This charming town has something for everyone, whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply looking for a fun-filled vacation.

Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains, Harrisonburg offers a plethora of outdoor activities along with a lively cultural scene.

You can enjoy the delightful cuisine at the town’s diverse restaurants, explore unique shops, and learn about the area’s rich history.

Come and experience the best of both worlds – natural beauty and cultural diversity – in Harrisonburg.

πŸ‘‰Book your flight with Skyscanner to Harrisonburg and explore the Virginia Quilt Museum, showcasing intricate handcrafted quilts that tell stories of the region’s heritage.

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