Try Harrisonburg for family-friendly fun

Ami Neiberger-Miller


Tons of family fun can be found in Harrisonburg, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley, just two hours outside of Washington, D.C. 

Whether making it a day trip or a long weekend, stop first at the historic Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center at 212 S. Main St. It offers lots of friendly advice, maps, and an overview of the area. 

Then, check out these fun things to do with your family:

Tour the galaxy, for real and for free. 

The John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University offers four free star shows each Saturday from September through June. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It also offers Science Sunday for Girls, a free program exposing girls to science and STEM careers, on the first Sunday of the month. 

The planetarium is a state-of-the-art hybrid facility with both an ultra-high-resolution digital projection system and an opto-mechanical star projector that provides visitors with a superior and realistic night sky. Its digital system allows the planetarium to present unique full dome movies, and project the multi-wavelength universe on the dome. 

Have fun at the Explore More Discovery Museum. 

This hands-on museum for kids offers play stations, science, theater, art, building, and a lot more for kids. The Maker City Makerspace is a new creativity and invention studio designed for kids ages 8 and up that offers woodworking, electronics, computer-generated projects, and fiber arts. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:30am–5:00pm.

Tour the incredible specialty museums. 

If your child is into fire trucks, go to the free Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum, open Mondays through Fridays, 9:00am–4:00pm. Or, if your kid loves rocks, visit the Mineral Museum, open Mondays through Fridays 8:00am–4:30pm.

The Museum of American Jewelry and Manufacturing is fun for anyone who loves bling. And, the Virginia Quilt Museum is a mecca for crafters and art lovers, with three floors of curated exhibits. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, Feb. 21–Dec. 16, 10:00am–4:00pm.

Check out the White Oak Lavender Farm. 

If you love the delicious fragrance of lavender, you’ll enjoy visiting this agritourism attraction. After picking some lavender and sampling the wines, stroll the labyrinth. 

The farm is open year round and also offers a petting zoo, life sized checkerboard, and a wine-tasting room with two outdoor bars and one indoor bar.

Pick up farm-fresh veggies. 

A downtown seasonal farmers market on Saturdays, 8:00am–1:00pm, offers local produce for you to take home. Learn about vendors on the website.

Explore your foodie side in the historic downtown. 

Downtown Harrisonburg is home to the first culinary district and the first designated arts and cultural district in Virginia, and includes many ethnic and unique local restaurants. If your child loves ice cream, try Kline’s Dairy Bar for homemade treats.

Enjoy the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum

Learn the names of local plants, tour the art exhibit, and spend time in nature. You can even snap some photos to enter in the monthly photography contest.


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