Harrisonburg, VA: Where Culture, Nature, and Gastronomy Meet

Nestled in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg, often affectionately known as “Rocktown” or “The Friendly City,” offers a storybook fall getaway that you’ll cherish. Situated northwest of Charlottesville, Harrisonburg is enveloped by the stunning landscapes of Shenandoah National Park and George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. This small town beckons with a unique blend of natural beauty and urban charm, making it a perfect destination for a slightly sleepy yet delightful escape. In this blog post from Southern Living, we’ll explore the reasons why you should plan a trip to Harrisonburg this fall.

One of Harrisonburg’s gems is the Culinary District, a downtown area brimming with restaurants that promise unforgettable culinary experiences. For those seeking a culinary adventure, Rocktown Bites Downtown Food Toursoffers delightful walking tours of this district and its myriad eateries. Savor the flavors of the Friendly City while exploring the heart of Harrisonburg’s gastronomic scene. Discover more about these delectable experiences at virginia.org.

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a hidden gem located on the James Madison University campus. This public greenspace seamlessly blends nature with art exhibitions and events, offering a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The best part? It’s open year-round, every day, from dawn until dusk, and it’s absolutely free to visit.

While Harrisonburg offers a wealth of experiences for travelers of all ages, the Explore More Discovery Museumstands out as a fantastic destination for those looking to spark curiosity and creativity. With a myriad of events, projects, programs, and classes, this museum provides both entertainment and opportunities for learning, making it an ideal stop for curious minds of all ages.

Harrisonburg takes its title as the Friendly City seriously. It has welcomed over 2,500 refugees since 2002, thanks in large part to outreach from the Mennonite community and other faith groups. The presence of James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University further enriches the community with a diverse population of academics. Harrisonburg is a place that welcomes everyone and leaves them wanting to stay.

Harrisonburg has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. What was once a town where young people were eager to leave has become a place where folks want to stick around. One such example is Magpie, a modern restaurant and bakery, which, since its founding in 2020, has become one of the most sought-after dining destinations in town. The menu at Magpie changes regularly, offering a mix of hearty classics and lighter fare. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a pastry or two from the adjoining bakery counter – the rye shortbread cookie is a local favorite.

Fall Activities to Complete Your Harrisonburg Experience

To make the most of your fall escape in Harrisonburg, consider these additional activities:

Now that you know why Harrisonburg, VA, is the perfect fall destination, start planning your trip and discover the magic of this charming town. Harrisonburg awaits your visit, ready to enchant you with its natural beauty, culinary delights, and vibrant culture. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable fall getaway!

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Discover Staunton: A Small Town with Big Character

Nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Staunton beckons travelers with its rich history, vibrant arts scene, and breathtaking natural beauty, as per this travel blog post from SouthernLiving. This small town, pronounced “Stan-ten,” boasts six well-preserved historic districts, each adorned with beautifully restored buildings and Victorian-style architecture. Despite its size, Staunton offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for every type of traveler.

Staunton’s arts and culture scene is thriving, with the American Shakespeare Center and the Blackfriars Playhouse at its center. The Blackfriars Playhouse, a re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater, is considered one of the world’s most historically significant theaters. Here, you can enjoy performances of Shakespeare’s timeless classics like “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” as well as seasonal works like “A Christmas Carol.”

For a deeper dive into history, the Frontier Culture Museum, located on the outskirts of Staunton, is the largest open-air living history museum in the Shenandoah Valley. Costumed interpreters bring to life the stories of Native American tribes, European immigrants, and enslaved Africans who settled in Virginia. Music enthusiasts will find themselves in heaven during the Staunton Music Festival, a late-summer event that hosts over 80 renowned and emerging musical artists across more than 20 performances. Best of all, most of the concerts are free to the public. If you prefer live bands, venues like Gypsy Hill Park and Tempest Bar & Lounge regularly feature local talent.

Staunton’s walkable historic downtown area is a treasure trove of boutiques and cafes, making it a delight for leisurely strolls. The town is home to Mary Baldwin University, adding youthful energy to the mix. But it’s not just about shopping and education; Staunton has a rich historical heritage to explore. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum is a must-visit, showcasing historic photographs, artifacts, and even the Pierce-Arrow limousine that carried President Wilson after negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. You can also explore the very house where the 28th president was born. The Camera Heritage Museum is a photographer’s dream, featuring over 7,000 cameras spanning more than 150 years of photography technology. Additionally, the museum boasts a collection of more than 2,000 vintage photographs of Staunton and Augusta County.

For those who enjoy shopping, Staunton offers a variety of options, especially along Beverley Street, the town’s main thoroughfare. Vintage shops like Billy Opal, Juniper Lane, and Eclectic Retro are perfect for unique finds. Remedy Burger is a must-visit for burger lovers, with options like the signature Remedy Burger and the veggie-centric Broccoli Burger. If you’re craving Salvadoran-style food, Gloria’s Pupuseria serves up mouth-watering pupusas, pasteles, and tamales. For a taste of nostalgia, don’t miss Wright’s Dairy-Rite, which has been serving burgers and fries since 1952. Their curb service adds a touch of old-school charm to your dining experience, and you must try the Wright’s Wheelie– a hot glazed donut topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Sweet Addie’s Waffle Shop, where liege waffles can be adorned with toppings like crushed Oreos, mini marshmallows, and more. They also offer savory waffle combinations, including fried chicken, gravy, and white cheddar mac & cheese.

When it’s time to rest, Staunton has several charming accommodations. Berkeley Place, dating back to 1896, is an elegant boutique inn steeped in history. Recently renovated, this one-time mansion now enchants guests with its historical charm. Gibson’s Warehouse, a boutique property, boasts industrial-chic guest rooms with exposed brick walls and unique design elements. Hotel 24 South combines historic charm with modern amenities, including luxurious pillow-top mattresses, an indoor pool, and the 1924 Lounge for casual dining.

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