Situated in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is a lovely peaceful city with more than 50 000 inhabitants. Disproportionately to its laid-back charm, there is a great number of the best things to do in Harrisonburg VA that cater to all tastes and preferences, making it quite lively and dynamic.

You can spend some time enjoying the outdoor splendors, chillax while sipping local wine or get into the groove on a live gig. In any case, Harrisonburg will provide everyone with a great variety of attractions and possibilities.

1. Step onto the Appalachian Trail

The splendid view of Shenandoah National Park near Harrisonburg

Nature enthusiasts and hiking-lovers will thoroughly enjoy walking up and down the most scenic woodland in Shenandoah National Park near Harrisonburg. The 101-mile section of the Appalachian Trail winds through this national park, crossing the ridge of the Blue Ridge mountains and providing visitors with superb recreation and the breath-taking natural world.

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2. Take the Skyline Drive

If you prefer to soak up the vistas of Harrisonburg from the comfort of your car, there isn’t a better way to do it than taking the Skyline Drive. This 105-mile road is also located in Shenandoah National Park along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are four entrances where you can enter Shenandoah while the road is signposted perfectly well, pointing to all the major attractions you need to see along the way. The rolling hills of Shenandoah Valley, Big Meadows, and many other landmarks will take your breath away as you drive past, windows rolled down and breeze in your hair.

3. Go Fishing in the Valley

Did you know that Harrisonburg is a top-notch location for anglers in the whole state of Virginia? Shenandoah Valley is virtually brimming with waterways and lakes, making it a dream come true for anyone who loves the thrill of the chase for the biggest catch. The brook trout, sunfish, and smallmouth bass are only some of the permanent residents of these waters and also some of the toughest to catch.

4. Explore More Discovery Museum

Visiting Harrisonburg with youngsters has never been more enticing, especially if drop by the best children’s museum around. One thing is certain, there will be tears when you decide to leave! The museum is designed so that the little ones can enjoy multi-sensory learning experiences, followed by hands-on exhibitions and workshops. There is a construction zone, a market, a science lab, a medical center and many other opportunities for exploration that will spur the imagination of the young minds.

5. Travel through History at Harrisonburg Heritage Museum

This museum is a unique exhibition of the history of Shenandoah Valley and Harrisonburg. It features permanent and temporary exhibitions, including Folk Art collection, a genealogy research library, Civil War displays, and much more. The extensive collections reflect on the history of the whole area, offering valuable insight for anyone passing through.

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6. Have a Beer at Pale Fire

The Pale Fire tap room
© Pale Fire

Let’s make one thing clear – beer lovers simply have to visit this incredibly charming brewery in downtown Harrisonburg. Not only can you taste some of Virginia’s most tasty beers, including Irish and Pale ales, Double IPA, and American-Belgo-Style Ale, to name a few. They also have their very own Tap Room situated in the Ice House complex where you can taste freshly brewed beer and even marvel at the process of making it through large windows looking into the production brewery.

7. Travel the Universe at John C. Wells Planetarium

The John C. Wells Planetarium belongs to James Madison University and it represents one of the biggest attractions in the city. They frequently host interactive programs for youngsters and adults alike, bring everyone closer to the universe through a state-of-the-art digital projection system. There is an entire array of shows you can attend while you can also get valuable advice when it’s best to go star-gazing on your own. Their shows are highly informative and engaging, making this planetarium a no-miss when visiting Harrisonburg.

8. Relax at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum

The pond at Edith J. Carrier Arboretum in Harrisonburg

As yet another gem of the James Madison University campus, Edith J. Carrier Arboretum provides visitors with a unique chance to get immersed in nature and the lush greenery all the while staying in the heart of the city. This magnificent botanical garden sprawls across 125 acres, comprising a rich variety of Virginia wildflowers, the native oak-hickory forest, magnolia trees, and a wide range of beautiful and colorful flowers and plants from around the globe. In addition to this, the arboretum hosts multiple art exhibitions and children’s events, making it a great attraction for people of all ages and preferences.

9. Take a Stroll at Purcell Park

Purcell Park is one of the ten parks Harrisonburg so spectacularly boasts. Spreading across 67 acres, the park has everything you can possibly think expect from a great city park. From picnic shelters, baseball and tennis courts, a walking trail, and the infinity of lush trees, Purcell Park caters to every outdoor enthusiast.

10. Spend an Afternoon in Hillandale Park

With a dozen picnic shelters and a 1.3-mile-long trail, this 74-acre park is the lungs of Harrisonburg. Along the trail, you can find a wide range of exercise equipment, two basketball courts and a sand volleyball court, and plenty of paths to enjoy a lovely day in the park. Virginia is famous for its spectacular abundance of parks and walking trails so make sure you visit at least some of them.

11. Revel in the Tranquility of Newman Lake

Newman Lake is situated right next to James Madison University Campus and for the past 40 years, it’s been one of the campus’ most treasured and photographed features. The lake is held dear by all the students who graduate from JMU while visitors can always go picnicking and relaxing by the lake.

12. Admire the Bling at Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing

This picturesque jewelry store is a brainchild of a skilled craftsman Hugo Kohl whose expertise and the love of precious stones, gold, silver, and jewelry-making attract visitors to his Harrisonburg boutique. There, you can find the highest quality selection of hand-made jewelry, including platinum, gold, silver, and vintage jewelry while you can also see the masters at work as they walk you through the production process.

13. Continue Admiring the Bling at Mineral Museum

Though a different kind of bling, the gems at Mineral Museum in Harrisonburg comprise over 600 crystal and gemstone specimens gathered from around the globe. The museum is located on the campus of Jason Madison University and you can visit it by acquiring a day pass for the whole campus. However, the relocation of the museum started in July 2019 and the new location is scheduled for opening in Spring 2020.

14. Catch a Play at Court Square Theater

Located in the former building belonging the Rockingham Motor Company (RMC), this unique performing arts and cinema venue regularly hosts great shows and enriches the vibrant art scene in Harrisonburg. They pay special attention to promoting local artists and groups while also showcasing a great variety of international movies and musical performances.

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15. Go Organic at Harrisonburg Farmers Market

Fresh groceries at Harrisonburg market

Anyone who’s ever been to Harrisonburg Farmers Market claims that this is a no-miss, especially for the early birds who appreciate a basket full of fresh and locally grown veggies, jams, home-made bread, and even crafts and jewelry. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, you can just explore the aisles among the busy stalls and vendors and appreciate the lively atmosphere on a bright morning.

16. Get a Great Bargain at Rolling Hills Antique Mall

If you love browsing through the treasures of the old times, Rolling Hills Antique Mall is just the right place to go. You can easily spend hours just admiring the available items on display or buy something you fancy because there is a great chance you will find something not easily found elsewhere. The shop has existed for the past 20 years, offering a hefty selection of collectibles and antiques from around the world, including glassware, jewelry, lamps, coins, and so much more.

17. Chase the Waterfalls

Beautiful Dark Hollow Falls

If you don’t find hiking in Shenandoah Valley satisfying enough, then you should consider paying a visit to its spectacular waterfalls which are located along the winding trails. The steep and hilly terrain characteristic of the valley creates an ideal ground for majestic waterfalls which can be found in abundance. You can also access many of them from Skyline Drive. For example, Rose River Falls await at 49.4 miles, Dark Hollow Falls at 50.7, Lewis Falls at 51.4, South River Falls at 62.8, Doyles River Falls at 81.1, only to name a few.

18. Appreciate the Quilting Tradition at Quilt Museum

Quilt Museum is Virginia’s only official museum of this kind. It occupies the historic Warren-Sipe House and offers a vast collection of quilts featuring a unique mixture of styles and techniques of the items on display. The gallery space is furnished with the most intricate exhibits, giving visitors a valuable insight into the quilting tradition.

19. Visit White Oak Lavender Farm

When visiting Harrisonburg, make sure not to miss the purple heaven at White Oak which represents one of the most tranquil and enjoyable venues around. Not only can you take a walk among the soothing fields of lavender and shop the farm’s products but you can also get a taste of their wine label from the Purple WOLF Vineyard. Tasting tours are available on a regular basis, offering a wide range of tasty wines, including red, white and all-lavender wine!

20. Go on a Shopping Spree at Shenandoah Heritage Market

If you manage to tick off the previous 19 suggestions from your list of the best things to do in Harrisonburg, then a visit to Shenandoah Heritage Market is the perfect way to round up your experience. With more than 20 locally-owned shops, water gardens, and plenty of space to go wandering among the shops and finding anything you can possibly think of, the Heritage Market is one of the city’s biggest attractions. From delicious food and delicacies shops to clothes and home-making, crafts and antiques, this market has everything it takes to keep you entertained for hours.

Harrisonburg is obviously a city of many wonders bound to keep you busy for several days, let alone a few hours. Whether it’s the natural beauty, the friendly locals, or the rich heritage that makes this city unique, you will surely be spoilt for choice when it comes to the best things to do in Harrisonburg.