For first-years and transfers, it might be daunting to try to find events or locations around Harrisonburg which are relatively inexpensive for outings and other social gatherings. Compiled below are options which are fun, do not burn holes in pockets, and are not too far away for the vehicularly challenged college student, or someone who knows a guy who knows someone with a car.
The Shenandoah Valley is home to some fantastic areas to hike and see the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take a ride on Skyline Drive and see the beauty that Virginia offers — it is especially picturesque in the fall when the trees are draped with reds, yellows, and oranges. In 1939, the government forced everyone to leave the area so the public could use Skyline Drive, so we should honor their sacrifice by using the land regularly. There are hikes for both beginners and experienced hikers. The Appalachian Trail runs through this area, so get out there and start putting some miles behind you.
Both Harrisonburg and Dayton have farmers’ markets which are open regularly. The Harrisonburg Farmers Market is open on Saturdays and is located a little off town square. It is easily walkable for students from EMU if they aren’t particularly concerned about time. The location is open -air and has everything from food to plants to artwork by local artists. Their baked chicken and pulled pork is especially wonderful for a classic Virginia lunch. The Dayton Farmers’ Market is open from Thursday to Saturday. This market is slightly more permanent — that is to say, it is an actual building. Walking inside, there are Old Order Mennonite baked goods lining the walls, places to buy crafts, local goods, and even a small candy store for those with a sweet tooth. It smells fantastic at all times and has a cozy, small town feel to every store. Farmers’ markets are perfect places to wander through stores and spend a few hours blissfully looking at all the food that’s available.
Trivia at Clementine
Clementine is a local restaurant located on town square, known for its slightly hipster interior. Every Tuesday night at 9:00p.m. Clementine hosts a trivia night open to the public. Similar to on campus Common Grounds’ trivia night, teams of six arrive to compete in several rounds to decide the victor. Underage winners receive dessert when they win while those above 21 win shots from the host. It’s harder than EMU’s trivia, but just as fun. So grab your five favorite people, or the ones you think know the most random facts, and go on a trip to Clementine to try your knowledge.
Kline’s, Bella Gelato, and JJ’s
This wouldn’t be a list of fun places in Harrisonburg without mentioning the two best ice cream/gelato places in town. Both stores are located downtown, with Bella Gelato on town square and Kline’s slightly off of the main path. Both are relatively inexpensive, and Kline’s gives massive portions. The flavors at Bella are usually set in stone and don’t change much, if at all. There is only chocolate, vanilla and a weekly flavor at Klines. This flavor can vary from chocolate peanut butter, to raspberry, to eggnog when the Christmas season comes around. The waffle cones are also delicious and always recommended.
In addition to the two local ice cream stores, JJ’s, located in Timberville, is a grand alternative. While farther away, it offers a wide variety of homemade ice cream and massive portions. It’s also less expensive than either Klines or Bella Gelato. Timberville is abouut 25 minutes away — 20 if you ignore the speed limit.
Harrisonburg is home to several cute and relaxing coffee shops. Merge Coffee Company just opened within a five minute walk of campus, right next to perennial EMU favorites Bowl of Good and Gift and Thrift. The coffee store connects to Bowl of Good and boasts a cozy, minimalist interior with plenty of seating.
Shenandoah Joe is also a local favorite. Located downtown, Shenandoah Joe has a rustic feel to it which enhances the coffee or tea. It also has a more consistent coffee quality, more than any of the other shops in town. It is often used as a hangout place for college students to do homework or take a break from life. It’s far enough away from campus to get away, but close enough that it doesn’t take more than five minutes to get there by car.
Black Sheep is also downtown, and has a more urban hipster feel — think Portlandia. Black Sheep is known for their wide variety of teas in addition to coffee. It recently expanded its interior and now has more room for seating and even has a study area for stressed college students.
There are countless experiences to be had around Harrisonburg or even the surrounding towns — Bridgewater and Staunton are close by. Whether it’s gelato or hiking, Harrisonburg can keep you occupied. So get out there and start making some unforgettable memories.
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