Great Escapes: Our guide to Harrisonburg, VA

Planning a getaway? Check out Harrisonburg, VA, a mountain town with a lot of spirit, sports, and so many snacks.

CrossKeys Vineyard-Harrisonburg, VA-Photo by crosskeysvineyards on Instagram.png

Raise a glass to the mountains at CrossKeys Vineyards.

Table of Contents

Harrisonburg begins and ends every day with the sun cresting over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its beauty is only matched by its hospitality, due in part to the strong presence of James Madison and Eastern Mennonite University students and staff.

Visitors can enjoy natural views from the downtown area and easily access the Explore More Discovery Museum and Quilt Museum. Several local American food classics dot the streets, like the original Jack Brown’s + Capital Ale House, but don’t forget its dozens of other local breweries, wineries + food stops. Rocktown is a must-visit for roadtrippers.

Why go?

  • Harrisonburg is a smaller city within driving distance of hiking trails, caving, wineries + world-class collegiate sports. It’s always buzzing with action, which means every season brings a new restaurant, new place to stay, and festival.
  • Winter in Harrisonburg brings the end of football season. JMU Football has moved into the FBS Sunbelt Division and is expected to reach the playoffs in Dec.-Jan. Plus, Massanutten Resort is less than 30 minutes away, and cottages + rooms are available to rent throughout ski season.
  • Visit Harrisonburg | City of Harrisonburg | By The Side of the Road
Downtown-Harrisonburg, VA-Photo by rubyskyphotography on Instagram.png

Downtown Harrisonburg, VA is magical during a winter visit.

Act like a local:

  • Food: Watch your favorite sports team at a local favorite, Billy Jack’s Wing and Draft Shack. The South Main Street staple is known for its signature burgers + bite-sized chicken wings, known to JMU students as “Sticky Nuggs.”
  • Drink: Raise a glass to the mountains at CrossKeys Vineyard, a 15 minute drive from the city center. An editor’s choice would be their Joy White 2021, a Vidal Blanc.
  • Outdoors: Take a walk through Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, James Madison’s own sunken garden complete with a pond, places to sit + many informative signs to learn about native plants in the mountains.
  • Learn: Make like a Duke and check out the John C. Wells Planetarium, it hosts multiple Saturday shows that show off the constellations, planets + new photos from the James Webb Telescope.
  • Listen: Get some friends together and jam out at Golden Pony restaurant. Pro tip: Head downstairs to watch the performers up close, or listen from the barcade.
  • Explore: Early birds or late risers can take part in the weekly Harrisonburg Farmers Market where local vendors sell drinks, food, art, jewelry, and even quilts.

Where to stay:

Harrisonburg is a place you can be comfortable staying for a few hours or a few days. RICtoday’s City Editor Katie here, and I spent four years in this city as a student, and continue to come back not just for the terrific tailgates, but for Hburg’s natural beauty, old school restaurants + an “open the door for someone” community. Roll Dukes forever.