10 things to miss about Harrisonburg

I feel like I spent most of my time living in this little town in the Shenandoah Valley looking for things to do, and now I’m looking ahead to things I will miss when I am gone.

harrisonburg
Downtown Harrisonburg early one morning in 2011
  1. That quaint, small-town feel: People here sometimes leave the doors to their houses or cars unlocked. Kids still play in their front yards and run down the street to the neighbor’s house. You can catch up on local gossip at the grocery store and you have to pay cash at the most popular diner in town. The Courthouse is on Court Square, right in the middle of downtown, and everybody you know goes to the same three grocery stores. You’ll probably see someone you know if you sit in the downtown coffee shop long enough. It’s not perfect–I’ve heard that gang activity is increasing here, and there are a couple of neighborhoods I wouldn’t want to walk through at night, but it’s a slower pace of life and a nice change from big-city living.
  2. Cherry blossoms in bloom: Lots of places have cherry blossoms, but it’s nice to live in a town where you can see them as you walk about in the spring.

    Cherry blossoms blooming in downtown Harrisonburg
    Cherry blossoms blooming in downtown Harrisonburg
  3. Little bunnies, groundhogs, skunks, blue jays, cardinals, and ducklings: Guess what you see in cities instead of baby animals? Rats the size of cats, giant cockroaches, and starving dogs. It’s so nice to welcome spring with baby country animals that look like they fell right out of the pages of a wholesome children’s book.
  4. Beautiful Virginia mountains and countryside: I like to joke with everyone that my favorite seasons in Virginia besides autumn are winter, spring, and summer. So far, no one has laughed. But the mountains, the farms, the vineyards, and the rivers are so breathtakingly beautiful here. I’m always grateful I get to call Virginia home from now on.

    Beautiful Virginia mountains as seen on a hike around here somewhere
    Beautiful Virginia mountains as seen on a hike around here somewhere
  5. The drive from Harrisonburg to Pittsburgh: One of my favorite things about going to visit my family is actually the drive itself. The first I went, I used my GPS and programmed it to avoid tolls. I ended up on this winding path through mountains in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. I felt like I was in a sports-car commercial, watching the crops and the cattle as I whizzed by in my little Focus, taking on curves and steep inclines without touching the brakes. It’s beautiful and it makes me feel free.
  6. Virginia wine and wineries: I don’t use this term lightly, but we feel totally blessed to have discovered Virginia wine just as the rest of the world starting getting the news of the world-class wine being made here from respected publications like Forbes and Wine Enthusiast. We’ve learned so much about enjoying, making, and growing wine while we were working on Virginia Wine Nose.
  7. Vintage Wine: I gotta give a shout-out to Downtown Wine and Gourmet because I’ve enjoyed many a free sample on a Friday afternoon in that shop crowded with elderly people who can afford to buy wine by the case yet insist on monopolizing all the space at the counter while they’re getting refills on their free samples and hordes of young people who can’t actually afford a bottle but will guzzle anything they don’t have to pay for, but my heart belongs to Vintage Wine. The owner loves wine and tolerates people, preferably after he’s put them through his extensive tasting list and got them warmed up enough to buy a few bottles. Bruce makes wine accessible without any of the exhausting pomposity that afflicts so many wine nerds.
  8. Kline’s Dairy Bar: When I first moved to Harrisonburg, I found the antiquated signs for places like Kline’s, Glen’s Fair Price (a general store), and the Wetzel Seed Company really charming, but I couldn’t even afford an ice cream at Kline’s. Thankfully, my situ improved and before long I was enjoying giant cones of the monthly flavor with everybody else.

    Kline's Dairy Bar Harrisonburg Virginia
    Kline’s Dairy Bar on Wolf Street in the early morning circa March 2011
  9. The grilled cheese truck: I’m totally faking it because I’ve only been to the grilled cheese truck once (also known by its name, Grilled Cheese Mania), but I am super glad to have lived in a town with a grilled cheese truck. They make gourmet grilled cheese, giant buckets of limeade, and tomato soup. It’s like fancy comfort food, in a truck.
  10. The taco truck: J and I go to the taco truck at least once a month. We go to our favorite dive “truck” on Main Street whenever we want to mark an accomplishment: birthdays, Fridays, Saturdays, paydays, lazy days, hot days, cold days, and movie nights. I don’t even know what it’s called. It’s purple. I do know some people refuse to go because they think it’s dirty, which makes me a total hipster about tacos.

    Taco truck tacos with a messy helping of fried cactus, fried spring onions, and fried jalapenos
    Taco truck tacos with a messy helping of fried cactus, fried spring onions, and fried jalapenos

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