We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Driving a little under four hours East of Charleston, around stunning country roads, brings you to Harrisonburg, Virginia, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Harrisonburg (home to James Madison University, Eastern Mennonite University, and Bridgewater College) offers up an awesome landscape for travel and culture that has given them the name “Great American Main Street” and “Virginia’s first Culinary District” (both 2014). Harrisonburg has a 40-block downtown area that you can easily see and explore on foot. There are charming small towns surrounding it, as well.
WHAT TO SEE & 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 great destination. The Valley features hiking, biking, golfing, hunting, and climbing, plus water sports like kayaking, tubing, and fishing.
Be sure to pencil in time for a drive on 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.
Bring the kids to downtown’s Explore More Discovery Museum, a 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 with hay rides, a cow train, carousel, and corn maze.
Harrisonburg has excellent shopping, with several specialty boutiques and the Hugo Kohl Museum of American Jewelry Design, not only a place to buy vintage and heritage pieces, but also a one-of-a-kind historical museum experience.
Take in a cultural activity at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. Check their website to see what touring productions and concerts are going on. Put your mystery solving skills to work at the House of Clues Escape Room.
Two gems in the area are the Virginia Quilter’s Museum and Ruby’s Arcade. 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. At Ruby’s Arcade, try out duckpin bowling (a hot activity that is easier than traditional bowling), billiards, darts, and more.
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 a self-guided tour.
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 enjoy your favorite flavored hot or cold tea.
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. 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 with Chicken & Waffles Benedict and Breakfast Nachos.
Stop by the Pale Fire Brewing Company for a taste of Harrisonburg’s locally-brewed beers. Salad Days Saison and Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale are 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 attractive and spacious rooms. The hotel is 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.
More budget-friendly hotels in the area range from Quality Inn to Holiday Inn Express, and every chain in between.
A DELIGHTFUL TIME AWAITS IN HARRISONBURG
Harrisonburg sets Virginia’s travel bar high with a friendly town full of cool things to see and do. The food and craft beer scene are both spectacular and there is an abundance of nature and scenery to fall in admire and photograph. You’ll quickly fall in love with the state of Virginia by visiting places like Harrisonburg.