Heading to James Madison University for the weekend? In addition to cheering on the Dukes, there’s plenty to do in the wonderful town of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Not sure where to start? CollegeWeekends has you covered!
Harrisonburg, also known as “The Friendly City” and “Rocktown,” is nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. There’s a distinct passion for local food, drink, and arts alongside stunning naturescapes that offer year-round beauty. Don’t just take our word for it—Harrisonburg was the first in Virginia to be recognized for its Arts & Cultural District and Culinary District. With historic roots and unique activities, Harrisonburg is a spot you won’t want to miss.
The Great Outdoors
Edith J. Carrier Arboretum - JMU Campus
Perhaps the most-loved spots on campus, JMU’s Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a must-see. It is a woodland sanctuary, public urban garden, and forested greenspace full of native plants. The Arboretum is used for both research and enjoyment. It’s great for all ages! Even if you’ve been before, it features rotating art exhibitions, making each visit uniquely memorable.
Shenandoah National Park
One of the most quintessential and stunning parts of Virginia is only a few miles east of Harrisonburg: Shenandoah National Park. Great fun for all ages and beautiful year round, Shenandoah makes your visit to JMU unforgettable. If you’re bringing kids along, try the Fox Hollow Loop. If you’re looking for something more strenuous, venture to Dark Hollow Falls or South River Falls. All are picturesque in every season!
White Oak Lavender Farm
White Oak Lavender Farm & The Purple WOLF Vineyard is a family-owned farm located right in Harrisonburg. Their mission is “to offer a relaxing lavender experience and wonderful lavender products.” How often do you find yourself at a lavender farm?! A rejuvenating trip to White Oak Lavender Farm is the perfect end to your Harrisonburg weekend.
Eat, Drink, and Shop
Harrisonburg Farmers Market
The Harrisonburg Farmers Market is another can’t-miss. They are open year round on Saturdays, as well as on Tuesdays from April to November. Products are always fresh and always local! The market supports local farmers, handcrafters, and sustainability. You’ll find delicious treats and one-of-a-kind products all while supporting the local community.
Rocktown Bites Food Tour
The Rocktown Bites Food Tour takes you on a walk through Harrisonburg, eating and drinking your way through its best spots! Your guide takes you on a 2.5 hour trip to seven unique restaurants, food shops, and local businesses to sample the best Rocktown has to offer. With food, drink, and a behind-the-scenes look, you’ll get to meet the restaurateurs and chefs who make it happen. It’s a great way to fully appreciate all that makes Harrisonburg so special.
Boutiques in Downtown Harrisonburg
Downtown Harrisonburg is full of charming, locally-owned boutiques that are all within walking distance. Whether you’re in the mood to window shop or embark on a full-on shopping spree, these boutiques have you covered! From clothing to books to gourmet popcorn and more, they have it all!
Nightlife in Downtown Harrisonburg
The fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down in Rocktown! Harrisonburg has tons of great spots for live music, late-night bites, and evening drinks. Here are some of our favorites:
- Jack Brown’s and Billy Jack’s Shack – the best burgers in town!
- Ruby’s Arcade – woodfired pizza and barbeque with bowling, pool, darts, and more!
- Local Chop & Grill House – for local eats and local drinks!
- Pale Fire Brewing Co – their award-winning beer pairs well with their events calendar full of live music, trivia, open mic night, book talks, and more!
- Capital Ale House – with locations popping up all over Virginia!
- Three Notch’d Brewing Co – locally-crafted beers that begin and Charlottesville!
- Brother’s Craft Brewing – another can’t-miss local brewery!
- Vinova Tapas & Wine Bar – if you’re not a beer connoisseur, try this wine bar instead!
John C. Wells Planetarium
Who doesn’t love the spectre and wonder of a planetarium? Look no further than the JMU campus, where you can find the John C. Wells Planetarium. The full-dome feature shows create a fully-immersive experience, making it enjoyable for all ages. There’s a free show every Saturday!
Explore More Discovery Museum
A favorite to many, the Explore More Discovery Museum is a must-do if you have kids on the trip. Founded on Curiosity, Creativity, and Community, the Discovery Museum offers a hands-on experience that the little ones (and not-so-little-ones!) will love.
The Virginia Quilt Museum
Perhaps the most unique of all is the Virginia Quilt Museum. Yes, quilt museum. You might as well go just to say you did. Their mission focuses on “celebrating and nurturing Virginia’s quilting heritage,” offering educational programs, tours, and special events. Check this one off your bucket list next time you’re in Harrisonburg!
These are just a few of the great and unique museums H’burg has to offer—also check out the Valley Turnpike Museum, Mineral Museum, and Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing!
With all these activities to try during your visit to James Madison University, you’ll need a place to stay. Look no further than CollegeWeekends.com! For your next visit to The Friendly City, be sure to book through CW, your one-stop-shop to lodging, activities, and an unforgettable experience. Go Dukes!
Do you have a rental property in or near Harrisonburg? We invite you to list it on CollegeWeekends.com! The CW Advantage is too good to pass up. If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Logan Murtha
Logan is a student at the University of Virginia, class of 2021