Best things to do in Harrisonburg

23 Fun Things to Do in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Welcome to the city of Harrisonburg!

The perfect place to stay if you want to explore some of the best scenery Virginia has to offer.

With the motto of “Friendly by Nature”, that sentiment runs deep in this historic city.

Once you get to Harrisonburg, you’re tucked in at the heart of Shenandoah Valley with George Washingtons and Jefferson National Forests and Shenandoah National Park right on your doorstep – it’s no wonder Harrisonburg is known as the outdoor adventure capital of the area!

But there’s more to this independent city than outdoor pursuits, check out our top picks of things to do in Harrisonburg!

Looking for more locally approved Virginia guides? Head on over to these posts!

1. White Oak Lavender Farm & The Purple WOLF Vineyard

Wine from Purple Wolf Vineyard
Photo credit: White Oak Lavender Farm & The Purple WOLF Vineyard Facebook Page

Rather than burst in with a big mountain adventure, let’s take a relaxing visit to White Oak Lavender Farm and The Purple WOLF Vineyard!

Lavender is known for its relaxing properties – and for those of us who partake, the same can be said about wine!

Take a mosey around the beautiful farm and breathe in the tranquil aromas. Then head to the vineyard and sample some of the wines on offer – currently, it’s $12 for 2 samples.

Bring a picnic to enjoy with your wine, or purchase some of the lavender ice creams!

2. Shenandoah Mountain Bike Festival

People mountain biking

Grab your bike and head to the picturesque Stokesville Campground, with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, for the Shenandoah Mountain Bike Festival.

Running for 25 years, the festival is volunteer run and raises funds for the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition which aim to build better communities in the valley.

There are exhilarating rides right out of the campground in the George Washington National Forest, so expect an adrenaline-filled time!

As well as the excellent biking, the festival aims to teach people about giving back to the trails of the National Forest so make sure you take one of the trail work sessions.

3. Downtown District

People walking around downtown Harrisonburg
Photo credit Downtown Harrisonburg Facebook Page

Harrisonburg’s Downtown district has had a Renaissance in recent years, winning awards for its arts and culture.

Explore on foot, by bike or by car, but whatever you do, don’t miss out on all the little gems that Downtown has to offer – many of which are listed in their own right on our list of best things to do in Harrisonburg!

From one-of-a-kind museums and independent stores to craft breweries and international cuisine, the Downtown District is vibrant, exciting and so easy to love!

4. George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

Road in the George Washington National Forest
Photo credit: George Washington National Forest Facebook Page

Sure this is out of town, but if you’re spending some time in Harrisonburg you need to head out to the combined National Forests named for two of the founding fathers for some of the most stunning views in Virginia.

Bring your tent or hire an RV and spend the night under the stars surrounded by nature.

The next morning why not grab a paddleboard and explore some of the GWJNF’s 2,300-miles of streams – watch out for the waterfalls though!

5. Shenandoah National Park

Hawksbill Creek in the Shenandoah National Park
Image: Hawksbill Creek – Shenandoah National Park. Andrew Parlette. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Head east out of Harrisonburg and you’ll hit Shenandoah, a jewel in Virginia’s crown.

Hire a car (or bring your own!) and take in the panoramic views on Skyline Drive – 105-of unforgettable road.

There are plenty of trails to explore on foot, so bring your hiking boots!

Try the Hawksbill Summit hike: 2.2-miles of forested paths that get you right to the top of Shenandoah.

6. James Madison University

James Madison statue
Image: James Madison University. Ben Schumin. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Described as the “heart and soul of Harrisonburg”, JMU is well worth a visit when you come to town.

Explore the campus and enjoy the ambience of this impressive university, one of the top Harrisonburg attractions.

If you time your visit with a home game at the Bridgeforth Stadium you’ll be treated to a performance by the Marching Royal Dukes, JMU’s enormous marching band – there are over 400 members!

7. Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Foliage around the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Photo credit: Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens Facebook Page

This small arboretum is a hidden treasure on the JMU campus with something for every member of the family to enjoy.

Offering a little bit of peace and quiet in the middle of your Harrisonburg sightseeing, the arboretum is the perfect place to unwind.

Take a wander down the woodland paths, attend one of the many talks and events held each year, or simply throw down a blanket and absorb the peaceful atmosphere.

8. John C. Wells Planetarium

Satellite at the John C Wells Planetarium
Photo credit: John C. Wells Planetarium Facebook Page

One more at JMU (we told you it was worth visiting!), the John C Wells Planetarium offers free public shows on Saturdays from September through May.

The shows are really informative and fun for adults and kids, though the first show is aimed more at the younger members of your party.

Check out the collection of rocks and meteorites too!

9. International Festival

Women in the International Festival in Harrisonburg
Photo credit: Harrisonburg International Festival Facebook Page

Visit this exciting celebration of Harrisonburg’s cultural diversity, embracing the different languages and cultural traditions in a family-friendly festival.

Shop for unique treasures at the World Bazaar, experience dances and music from all of Harrisonburg’s different cultures, and let the kids enjoy the World of Play activities run by the festival.

If your visit to the city coincides with the International Festival, you know there will be loads of fun things to do in Harrisonburg!

10. Roots Run Deep Historic Tour

For a deep dive into Harrisonburg’s African American history, check out this free walking tour of 24 sites, a must on our list of things to do in Harrisonburg.

Download the Traipse App and select the Roots Run Deep tour, or download and print the tour map before you set out. Both options will lead you through the tour and give you the information you need for each historic site.

The project was made possible by the research carried out by the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project.

11. Explore More Discovery Museum

Kids playing at the Explore More Discovery Museum
Photo credit: Explore More Discovery Museum Facebook Page

This museum is the king of stuff to do in Harrisonburg if you have kids!

There’s everything from a play kitchen to a theatre, and loads of craft and pretend play opportunities.

Kids love to stretch their imaginations through play, and this is the perfect place to do it!

Check out the interactive science displays, and full-size ambulance, tractor and airplane cockpit!

It might not just be the kids who have the time of their lives here!

12. Virginia Quilt Museum

Women admiring quilts at the Virginia Quilt Museum
Photo credit: Virginia Quilt Museum Facebook Page

Looking for a patch of old-fashioned charm?

Look no further than the Virginia Quilt Museum, a real treasure in our top things to do in Harrisonburg.

Since the Pioneer days, America has been known for its quilts and the Quilt Museum holds some of the most beautiful quilts in the country.

Even if you aren’t a quilter, it’s worth going to check out both the historical quilts and the contemporary art quilts.

Stunning pieces of fabric art!

13. Shenandoah Heritage Market

Shenandoah Heritage Market display
Photo credit: Shenandoah Heritage Market Facebook Page

We’re always being told to shop local – well you don’t get more local than this!

The Shenandoah Heritage Market celebrates “old-fashioned valley goodness”, with everything from Amish-made furniture to homemade candies.

Recharge in the water gardens in the antique mall before heading back out to the stalls for another browse through the locally owned stalls.

Truly one of the great Harrisonburg activities.

14. Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center

People taking a tour of the Brethren Mennonite Heritage
Photo: Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center Facebook Page

You might be surprised to learn that the culture of the Brethren and Mennonites runs deep in Shenandoah Valley.

This is the perfect place to learn more about the history of the Mennonites through the tour guides, lovingly restored properties and interactive displays.

Throw in the stunning view over the Shenandoah Valley and it’s no wonder this Heritage Center is one of the most popular things to do in Harrisonburg.

15. Back Home on the Farm

Family enjoying the pumpkin patch at  Back Home on the Farm
Photo credit: Back Home on the Farm Facebook Page

Heading to Harrisonburg with your family in the fall? Make sure to pay a visit to Back Home on the Farm, 240-acres of farmland with lots of activities for everyone.

Pick your Halloween pumpkins, channel your inner farmer with a hay ride, and get lost in the corn maze! A great day out on the farm for all the family!

You and your little ones can also see a selection of small farm animals, such as sheep and alpacas – guaranteed to put smiles on everyone’s faces!

16. Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival

Musicians playing at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival
Image: Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival Facebook Page

Are you a fan of classical music?

If so, then come June, Harrisonburg is the place for you!

You can listen to large and small performances by the Shenandoah Valley Chamber Orchestra, the Festival Choir and many local artists.

The Festival organizers say that “Bach is just the beginning” so you’re bound to find something on the program of events that appeals to your musical taste!

17. A Dream Come True Playground

Kids playing at the A Dream Come True Playground
Photo credit: A Dream Come True Playground Facebook Page

It should be clear by now that Harrisonburg is a pretty special place, celebrating diversity in all its forms.

Nowhere makes that clearer than this remarkable playground.

Visit this free park, created thanks to fundraising by a Girl Scout Troop.

It’s a fully inclusive space for kids of all abilities.

The highlight is the Liberty Swing – a wheelchair-accessible swing that truly allows all children to enjoy their playtime in the park.

18. Mineral Museum

Zoomed in photo of mineral from the Mineral Museum in Harrisonburg Virginia
Photo credit: Mineral Museum Facebook Page

This small museum at James Madison University is one of the more unique things to see in Harrisonburg.

We all like a little bit of sparkle right? Well if so, this is the right place to come!

There are minerals here from 39 countries and 24 US states, including several cases of native Virginia minerals.

You don’t have to be a geologist to enjoy this quirky little museum!

19. Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center

Exterior of the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center
Image: Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center Facebook Page

This should probably be the first stop on your trip to Harrisonburg!

If you have queries about the city, want to pick up some maps, or simply want information about the city’s history, this is your place.

Looking for history?

The visitor center holds one of five Civil War Orientation Centers in the Shenandoah Valley.

Want a cup of coffee and a light lunch?

Enjoy the Heritage Bakery and Café!

The macarons are to die for!

20. Pale Fire Brewery

Beers from Pale Fire Brewing Company
Photo credit: Pale Fire Brewing Company Facebook Page

Located in an old industrial building, Pale Fire Brewery is a must for craft beer fans.

There’s a spacious taproom, with 10 of their beers on tap at any one time.

Grab a beer flight, or a pint of your favorite brew and take a seat on their patio and watch the world go by.

Or cosy up with a beer by the fire, and borrow a book from their lending shelf!

21. Downtown Books

Book collection at Downtown Books in Harrisonburg
Image: Visit Harrisonburg

Any bibliophile’s dream, Downtown Books is a haven stuff full of used books, comics and more!

Crammed floor to ceiling full of pre-loved books, Downtown Books is an institution owned by the legendary Bob Schultz.

Almost everything in the store costs less than $2.99, so you can grab a bargain for your holiday read.

Or more likely, go in and spend the day getting lost in the shelves of stories waiting to be read.

22. artWorks Gallery, and others

People enjoying the art at the artWorks gallery in Harrisonburg
Photo credit: artWorks Gallery Facebook Page

You can find this student-operated gallery inside the School of Art, Design, and Art History at James Madison University.

It exhibits work by current and past students and has a new exhibition every three weeks!

If you’re an art fan, there are plenty of galleries in Harrisonburg to keep you happy.

Try Duke Hall Gallery – a professional gallery showing changing exhibitions of contemporary art. Or Franklin Street Gallery, the first multicultural fine arts gallery in the city.

23. Shenandoah Spirits Trail

Women enjoying wine at the Shenandoah Spirits Trail
Photo credit: Shenandoah Spirits Trail Facebook Page

Not exclusive to Harrisonburg, but certainly worthy of being on the list, is the SST – Shenandoah Spirit Trail!

Specially curated to get visitors into the small breweries, wineries and distilleries that have popped up in the Shenandoah region in recent years, it’s the perfect opportunity to sample local produce and support local businesses.

Stops on the Harrisonburg leg of the trail are the five local breweries: Brother Craft Brewing, Three Notch’d Valley Collab House, Restless Moons Brewing Company, nano-brewery the Friendly Fermenter, and Pale Fire Brewery.

Make a day of it and visit them all in one go!

Or – perhaps more sensibly – spread them out over your whole trip.

With so much local produce on show, why would you want to go anywhere else!

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