What To Do In Harrisonburg, Virginia?

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.

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Rocktown Kitchen – Rocks it

Rocktown Kitchen a farm to table restaurant situated in the Icehouse complex in Harrisonburg, Virginia is a perfect place to order your food to eat while you enjoy beers at the Pale Fire Brewing Co.  also in the Icehouse complex.

Rocktown serves sandwiches, salads, and appetizers that are essentially your basic bar and grill selections but they do it really well with a bit more sophistication than basic bar food.

For example, as an appetizer they serve burrata with watercress and tomato bruschetta on a toasted ciabatta; another example the black bean burger.  And yet another example is the Pesto Chicken Salad with greens grilled red onions and grilled asparagus, olive relish, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette.  The Pesto Chicken Salad is a great combinations of flavors and a unique combination of flavors for a salad.  It was absolutely delicious.  I am going to give it a shot in my own home.  The grilled veggies, olives and sundries tomatoes bring a depth of flavor to the salad that is not always the case with grilled chicken salads.  In fact, those items brought so much flavor that if I were to order it again – I would pass on the dressing.  I would also recommend getting the dressing on the side because as is too often the case – the dressing literally drowned the salad.

My beloved ordered a reuben that came with fries.  It was a classic reuben but stood out because it reached a perfect balance between the kraut, meat, sauce and cheese which is vital in a reuben because any reuben lover knows how heartbreaking it is to commit to the calories of a reuben but then find all you are eating is kraut with a slice of corned beef.  The bread does not swallow up the reuben innards either.  No risk of that at Rocktown.   The fries are hearty and crispy and basic that is without some jazzed up flavoring that usually simply takes away from the quality and taste of a good potato.

We had the Rocktown team bring our meal to us at the Pale Fire Brewery so, cannot say much about the ambience at Rocktown if you eat there or about the service there.  But the server we encountered who took our order and brought it to us was friendly, engaging and timely in delivering the food to us.

Definitely a spot for chow in Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg, VA Microbrewery

Harrisonburg, Virginia a small college town nestled in the Shenandoah Mountains has a charming worthwhile food scene and microbrew scene.

A welcoming microbrew, Pale Fire Brewing Co. is part of that scene.

It is situated in an building called the  Ice House  because …. it was a former ice house.  🙂

The Pale Fire space is roomy with both indoor and outdoor seating.  It has high wooden tables with cool metal chairs, a huge u-shaped bar, a big fire place with overstuffed chairs, and a big shelf of books.  The indoor area merges with the outdoor area because of garage door like doors that on nice days open to a big porch with wrought iron tables and chairs.  Dogs are welcome outside, there were three there on the day we visited.

The staff at Pale Fire is attentive, fun, engaging and knowledgeable.  They gave us the beer list and asked if we wanted them to walk us through the selections.  No need for that because the descriptions of the beers were spot on.  My favorites were a pale ale called Village Green and a stout called Lucille.  The Village Green was crisp, light, fruity, smooth but still packed plenty of flavor.  The Lucille was really dark, creamy with a bit of chocolate and coffee depth to it.

Pale Fire does not have a kitchen so it only serves snack foods like pretzels and chips.  But, they have a great partnership with the other restaurants in the Ice House complex so you can go order your food at one of the other restaurants and they bring it over to you in the Pale Fire.  So no food at Pale Fire – no problem at all.

The atmosphere, staff and beer made for a fabulous fall Saturday afternoon.