Harrisonburg Virginia is a delightful place to spend a day. It is a gorgeous little southern town nestled in the Shenandoah mountains. The tempo of the town is friendly and slow – a great welcome for those of us who are urban dwellers.
Many of the buildings are Civil War era and have been kept in great shape – they are just gorgeous. So simply strolling through town looking at the houses and churches and civic buildings is a worthwhile activity.
On Saturdays they have a farmers market. The farmers market is a combination of farm fresh foods and local arts and crafts for sale. There is a Mennonite community in the area and a Mennonite university in the area so, it seemed that some of the farmers and artisans were from that community. The fresh baked goods like breads, cookies, and muffins were gorgeous as were the vegetables. You can also order meats of all kinds – lamb, beef and pork. A local coffee shop was selling warm coffee delivered with friendliness and efficiency all of which was welcome on a chilly fall day. Other artisans included potters, basketmakers, woodcarvers and jewelry makers.
A short stroll from the farmer’s market is the Main Street of Harrisonburg. We went to the Virginia Quilt Museum housed in an Civil War era home. The home, we learned from the friendly, informative, very chatty docent, was used as a hospital in the Civil War and then at times was the city’s jail and its city hall. It also was home to local families at times over the year. The Museum charges $7 to get in which as the docent explained was necessary since the upkeep of the house is expensive. I think it was worth the $7. Even my beloved, who has pretty much zero interests in quilts, mine is not much more but for my mother’s extreme interest in sewing and fabrics. I inherited an interest in fabrics – to look at not sew) found the walk through the tiny museum interesting. The docent gives a good explanation of the importance of quilts over the years, where ladies got their patterns from and how quilts are developed. A stroll through the museum reveals quilts from the 1800’s which are stunning. It was cool to see some of the quilts “signed” that is quilt makers stitched their names into the quilt. It warmed my heart to see their names in the quilts and to see the old photos of women sitting around a big table all quilting away together – they did not have cellphones. It was not hard to imagine that they were actually talking and connecting with one another live in person instead of over Facebook.
There are also more contemporary quilts. Although I enjoyed the older quilts more, it was interesting to see the evaluation quilting has taken over the years.
Harrisonburg has a lot of art galleries and craft shops. We strolled through the Smith House Galleries housed next to the Virginia Quilt Museum. As was the house the Museum is in, the Smith House was equally stunning because of its age, Civil War, and its design. The gallery had an eclectic collection of watercolor, oil, photography and sculptures.
Further up Main Street is the Agora Downtown Market. It houses a bunch of little shops with handcrafted items like soap, leather goods, candles and much more. Its an eclectic mosh up of hand made goods. Housed in the back of the Market is a quaint little coffee shop, Broad Porch Coffee, that has little cafe tables both inside the market and in the breezeway.
In addition to these shops, there are also outdoor clothing shops, bike shops and other charming little vendors throughout the town.