Have you been to Harrisonburg lately?
If not, you should.
Fellow ‘chester writer, Sarah Daywalt, and myself ventured down there for a day trip on Saturday. Even though we both lived there as JMUers, the city has greatly changed in the last 7 to 10 years, especially in the downtown area which is where we spent most of our visit.
Personally, I was in Harrisonburg from 2001 as a freshman at JMU, until 2006, when I left for Winchester. At that time I was working in tourism marketing for the city and volunteering with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. Back then, things were really starting to take off downtown: plans were being made for a large, permanent outdoor farmer’s market pavilion, more events were being created, storefronts were really sprucing themselves up and new shops and restaurants were just opening. But that was only a small hint of what was to come– for example, when I left, Dave’s Downtown Taverna (one of my favorite restaurants) had just opened their rooftop dining. They were only the second restaurant to have such a feature (Calhoun’s being the first), and only one of three places with outdoor dining. Now it seems just about every restaurant has a bar on their roof and outdoor seating. So things have changed, and definitely for the better. It’s great to see all their ideas and hopes come into fruition.
One thing that really stood out to us, besides the many new restaurants, were the number of cute boutiques owned by young professionals. To that, we say go them! We must have visited five such shops, including chic and stylish The Yellow Button, Mint, Duo, Ruby Red, and The Lady Jane. (See the photos below for more details on the shops). Many carried unique and on-trend women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories, while others carried vintage home furnishings and decor.
Another thing that blew us away was the incredible farmer’s market. I was personally excited to see this, because this development was a major goal for the City when I was working there. Their farmer’s market used to be inside of a parking garage off of Water Street, and probably had about 15 or 20 vendors. Now, it was a huge open-air market, under a grand wooden structure, where easily over 50 vendors set up shop. They even had to have an overflow area because there just wasn’t enough room for everyone. They had everything from farm-fresh fruits and veggies, handmade items like soaps and jewelry (Sarah bought a gorgeous handmade necklace from a local vendor), fresh breads, cheeses, dips and hummus, to even handmade dog collars and leashes. And perhaps the most amazing thing of all– the sheer number of people who were out shopping, from college students to retirees and tourists (like us!) with their babies, children, or dogs in tow (we fell in love with one woman’s very adorable yorkie-maltese pup). We couldn’t think of a better way to spend every Saturday morning, and can’t wait for Winchester’s own farmers market pavilion to open, which is a planned part of the Taylor Hotel renovation. We bought some freshly baked grain bread and homemade sundried tomato hummus for a snack, and sat down at a courtyard beside the visitor’s center before undertaking some heavy shopping.
So take a little virtual trip to Harrisonburg with us, through the photos below; for information on everything Harrisonburg, be sure to visit Harrisonburg Tourism’s website, www.harrisonburgtourism.com