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Duck Leg, Courtesy Food Bar Food
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The Manor House, Courtesy By The Side Of The Road Inn & Cottages
When vacationers think about Virginia travel, Harrisonburg is rarely considered a front-runner of prime destinations. However, when delving into the specifics, the city — home to fewer than 50,000 — makes a good case for a getaway that is easy on the eyes and offers an array of activities, too.
Take a Hike
With the Shenandoah Valley as the city's backyard, it only makes sense that guests get caught up in hiking, cavern exploring, and breathtaking views. Most of the more popular hiking trails start on Skyline Drive (t), accessible at Swift Run Gap about 23 miles east of the city off U.S. Highway 33. Trails vary in difficulty but not in beautiful scenery. If you are a novice, start with the Blackrock Summit trail, a mile-long circuit with a trailhead at mile marker 84.4. It offers a gorgeous, encompassing view of the valley.
Enjoy a Brew
In the last four years, Harrisonburg has become home to four breweries, with two sporting Great American Beer Festival awards: Pale Fire Brewing Co. and Brothers Craft Brewing.
The three Shifflett brothers opened Brothers Craft Brewing (800 N.Main St., brotherscraftbrewing.com) in 2012. It’s known for Resolute, its Russian imperial stout lauded for its intense flavor profile and high ABV. This brewery celebrates the release of the stout and its variants with a Resolute Day celebration each November.
Pale Fire Brewing (217 S. Liberty St. #105, palefirebrewing.com) was founded last year by longtime friends Tim Brady and Jamie Long. The brewery touts its focus on creativity as the reason behind Salad Days, its award-winning American saison.
And Some Fine Food, Too
After hiking and imbibing, take a trip to one of Harrisonburg’s many great restaurants. For something a little out of the ordinary, try the kaya toast at Food Bar Food (126 W. Bruce St., foodbarfood.com). The dish has a coconut-kaya custard served on toast with fried eggs, asparagus and a soy sauce reduction.
The Little Grill Collective (621 N. Main St., lilgrill.com), is open for breakfast and lunch. This all-local eatery began as an employee-owned vegetarian collective and has quite the following, so expect a little wait for your free-range barbecued chicken or organic seasonal veggie burrito.
For beer and burgers, make your way to the original Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint (80 S. Main St., jackbrownsjoint.com), the chain from two college friends with a dream. (There’s also a location in Richmond at 5810 Grove Ave.)
Then there’s The Golden Pony (181 N. Main St., goldenponyva.com), a local hangout, whose name originates from the novel “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton.
Want to sample a bit of everything? Rocktown Bites (rocktownbites.com) offers a downtown walking tour that will introduce you to seven different restaurants. Tours start at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
To really get a feel for the charming nature of Harrisonburg, stay in one of its historic homes that have been converted into bed and breakfast inns.
The Joshua Wilton House (412 S. Main St., joshuawilton.com) is a Victorian mansion converted into a restaurant, lounge and inn. Its five rooms provide views of downtown or the gorgeous patio and garden. If you are too tired to head back out after a day of fun, dinner is served nightly, featuring local dishes such as nearby Autumn Olive Farms pork and Virginia oysters.
Just minutes from downtown, there’s By the Side of the Road Inn & Cottages (491 Garbers Church Road, bythesideoftheroad.com). This complex with a large structure and five cottages was at one time a Mennonite church and also served as a hospital during the Civil War. Take in some history there, and enjoy the luxury of having a gourmet breakfast delivered to your room or cottage each morning.