I recently got the chance to go an adventure to downtown Harrisonburg. I have never been to Harrisonburg or really even heard of the place despite living in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for the last 16 years. So what is this town all about? The better question would be what isn’t this town all about? I was dropped off at the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center. Fun fact, it is the second oldest house in downtown Harrisonburg, built in 1848. It’s also one of the prettiest and friendliest visitor centers I’ve ever been to. A bonus is the Heritage Bakery & Café located conveniently right inside the Hardesty-Higgins House. I would return to Harrisonburg simply for this café. It’s French-inspired and the macaroons back that statement up. They have great indoor and outdoor seating so you can map your trip, but good luck fitting everything into one day! I was naïve enough to believe that I would see everything in a day and be bored.
My next stop was the Arts Council of the Valley. This wonderful place works with rising artists, bestows grants, and features monthly art shows. As if that isn’t enough, they host First Fridays. The first Friday of every month is a celebration. Roughly 30 other businesses participate in this event. This is the perfect opportunity to stroll downtown Harrisonburg and enjoy the various types of art this town offers. Visitors and locals can interact with local artists and musician. During this time, the many business offer an array of benefits such as extended show hours, free admittance, free tastings, and free shows. I’m already planning my next trip around the first Friday of the month.
Venture down the street and you can’t miss the huge Explore More Discovery Museum enticing you to come inside. The child in me was instantly mad at my parents for never taking me there. There is so much fun to be had and there’s something for everyone. In addition to the fun, it’s a great way to trick your child into learning! Kids can pretend shop at their local farmers market (the foods are actually in relation to the foods sold at the downtown Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market) and then head into the kitchen and prepare a meal. Or head to the builders section where they can construct whatever their minds come up with. While I was there a child put together a structure that had 80% of its foundation floating off the edge of the table! Kids can be scientists, farmers, mechanics, and doctors, anything they want to be at the Explore More Museum. I’m so excited because they’re planning to open two more floors with even more interactive exhibits, including ones for older kids! I could write a whole post on all the cool things the Explore More Museum is doing, teaching, and promoting, but you’ll have to stop in and find out for yourself.
At this point, half my day was gone and I still had so much I was hoping to see. I had the chance to pop into Elk Mountain Mining, Shabby Love, Hugo Kohl, and the Yellow Button. Each place had its own energy and everyone was so nice I felt like a local. Hugo Kohl and Elk Mountain Mining are both jewelry stores. Elk Mountain gets all of his stones locally in Virginia. Literally locally, as in he sifts them in rivers and searches the base of mountains. A very neat guy to talk to and pretty jewelry. At Hugo Kohl they have a huge glass wall where you can see the jeweler at work. The Yellow Button could’ve easily taken my life’s savings, the prettiest and coolest clothing store. Shabby Love is a vintage furniture store in which I wanted to live. There are many more shops, but once again, you truly need more than a day to experience this place!
For the culinary obsessed, there’s only about a million places for you. While I didn’t have the time to try every food establishment, I’m positive that they are all delicious. This theory can be backed by the Rocktown Bites food tour you can participate in. A two and a half hour guided walking tour where you get to sample food and drink from many of the local food joints. Downtown Harrisonburg has a year-round Farmer’s Market! However, they operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Don’t be sad if you can’t visit on one of those days because they do have a Friendly City Co-op which is a brilliant grocery store.
Harrisonburg has so much to see and so much to do. I made the comment before my trip that I would probably write about it being a quick and fun day trip, but that is just not the case. This town has such a unique atmosphere and I believe you need to spend more than a day adventuring to fully appreciate it.