Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, which means there are plenty of events, performances, and presentations you can attend. When you leave the show hungry, you might have a hard time deciding where to eat because there are so many options!
If you’d rather be outside, take a break and climb nearby mountains and relax by (or in) local creeks and rivers. And if you need some big city, we’re a 2-hour drive from Washington D.C. and Richmond, Va.
We’ve highlighted some of our favorite aspects of our city for you below.
Come for a visit, and see if you would enjoy living here too!
The Great Outdoors…..
Hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking… we are good at outdoors! Harrisonburg lies in a valley with Shenandoah National Park on one side and Jefferson National Forest on the other. So it’s easy to spend time on the famous Appalachian Trail, tubing the Shenandoah River, or snow skiing at Massanuttan Resort. Or hit the trails on a bike — National Geographic named Harrisonburg one of their 20 best mountain biking towns in the USA! Within the city, visit our disc golf course or the skate park, hit some balls on the golf course, or walk or bike the great trails in our city parks.
Food, wonderful Food!
Where to start?! Like variety in your restaurants? We’ve got Indian, Caribbean, Indonesian, Korean, German, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Italian, Irish, Iraqi, Vietnamese, Mexican, Cuban, Thai, Farm-to-Table, Worker-owned, Food trucks, list-goes-on restaurants. Want ethnic ingredients for cooking? We’ve got it. Harrisonburg has a large immigrant population, and there are Russian, Middle/South American, and Asian grocery stores. Looking for fresh, local, organic food? Try our year-round farmer’s market or visit the food co-op.
Harrisonburg was named of the top 25 best places to retire in 2017 by Forbes! We have a fantastic Lifelong Learning Institute, and a plethora of clubs gathering around topics ranging from birding, biking, climate change, books, skeptics club, to choral society. Take art classes at one of our art studios, attend a concert at JMU or EMU, tackle a trail or fish a stream in the nearby national parts and forests. And if you need it, Sentara RMH hospital is close by, along with the useful assistance of the Valley Program for Aging Services.
Seen this sign? It started in the ‘burg.
Our city is know for it’s welcoming attitute, in fact, one of it’s nicknames is “The Friendly City”. About 16.7% of Harrisonburg residents were born in countries other than the USA. Pacifist, social-justice oriented Mennonites and Church of the Bretheren members settled in the valley in the 1700’s, and continue to make up a large segment of the city population. They primed the area to be open to people from around the world in need of a safe home. To celebrate our diversity, Harrisonburg hosts an International Festival each year (now in the 20th year) to showcase the food, music, and dance of our residents. Read this Washington Post opinion article about our diversity.
Got Kids? Raise your family here…
Harrisonburg has plenty to offer families We have great parks, including A Dream Come True playground, which is totally accessible. In summer, cool off at the city pool, which is actually three pools- a toddler pool, an olympic size pool, and a diving pool with a pool climbing wall. Explore More, Harrisonburg’s children’s museum, recently opened its second floor, which includes a makerspace for kids 8+ that has tools like sewing machines, a 3-D printer, and simple woodworking tools. Other fun stuff includes the JMU weekly free family planatarium shows, Funky’s roller skating rink, the indoor/outdoor waterpark at nearby Massanuttan resort, and Pump-It-Up inflatables playspace.
Let’s just start at the beginning. Harrisonburg City Schools just opened a new city preschool facility for full-time preschoolers. If it’s part-time preschool you’re looking for, the city supports a wonderful M/W/F 9:30-12 preschool which is just $300 total for the whole year. Yes, you read that right. There are also many other wonderful private preschools run through the universities and local churches.
In Kindergarten, your children have the option to join the dual-language track– each year about half of their classmates will be native English speakers, and half native Spanish speakers, and half the school day is in English and half in Spanish. We are so proud of this program in our schools! 3rd-8 graders can learn violin to play the violin through weekly lessons in the city strings program, which is offered at all the elementary and middle schools.
If your child has a science or arts bent as they enter highschool, they can choose to apply for the HHS Governor’s STEM Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), or the Fine Arts Academy. Harrisonburg is also home to the nationally aclaimed Shenandoah Valley Children’s choir.
Harrisonburg has a very diverse population, with children in our schools coming from 46 different countries and speaking 51 different languages at home! So our children have friends from lots of cultures and ethnic groups, even though we live in a small city in ruralish Virgina. It’s pretty amazing!