If you're looking for a family-friendly East Coast travel destination, the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail is the place to be. Harrisonburg, Va. is just a couple of hours from Washington, D.C. and about an hour from Charlottesville. With museums, parks, playgrounds, kid-friendly restaurants and a great resort, it's always the right season for a trip to Harrisonburg.
Make your first stop the Valley Turnpike Museum. Located in the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center; the museum explores the history of the road known by many names, now known as US Route 11. Become a museum detective or go on a scavenger hunt in the second oldest house in downtown Harrisonburg. The museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At Explore More Discovery Museum, kids of all ages can dive into the museum’s numerous exhibits, including the Construction Zone, Friendly City TV Studio, Virginia Theater and Down Home on the Farm. Free weekday programs allow the kids to become science explorers, Lego maniacs, young explorers or studio kids for the day. Explore More Discovery Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Located in the Public Safety building just a few blocks from Explore More, the Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum is an intriguing venue for the entire family. The museum houses a rich display of historic fire memorabilia including uniforms, medals, equipment, old fire alarms and photographs. This free museum also has an exhibit where kids can dress up in fire gear and take a photo in front of a “burning building.” The Fire Department Museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Pick up fresh produce at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market and meet the local farmers. Located at the Turner Pavilion, the farmers market provides locals and visitors alike with access to fresh, nutritious, locally produced agricultural goods and crafts. Grab your local in season produce from asparagus to zucchini, artisan breads and a wide variety of delicious baked goods, free range meats and eggs, cheeses and prepared foods. You can even pick up seasonal fresh cut flowers, bedding and nursery plants, select local crafts and much more. Stop by for the Second Saturday Acoustic Jam- a great way to experience fresh, local music. The farmers market is open Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Catch a show on Saturdays at the John C. Wells Planetarium. The only one of its kind in the world, the planetarium has 72 seats and offers free public shows from September thru the end of June. It hosts an ultra-high resolution digital projection system and a Goto Chronos opto-mechanical star projector that provides you with a superior and realistic night sky. The digital system allows the planetarium to present unique full-dome movies as well as project the multi-wavelength universe on the dome. The Goto Chronos starball raises at the end of each full-dome film and highlights the Valley sky After enjoying an evening at the planetarium, head home to see the stars, planets and constellations in your backyard sky.
A Dream Come True Playground is a completely accessible play area for kids located off Neff Avenue on Thomas Bowers Circle. There's separate equipment for kids ages 2-5 and 5-12, including a rock, rainbow arches, shade structures, roadway, hammock swing, draw wall, pavilion and family comfort stations. The fully lockable Liberty Swing lets kids in wheelchairs enjoy the thrill of swinging.
Bike or walk along the Bluestone Trail, a 1-mile shared-use path connecting James Madison University; Port Republic Road and Hillside Avenue; Purcell Park and the surrounding neighborhood; and businesses along Stone Spring Road. The 10-foot wide trail is used by walkers, joggers and bicyclists. Families are always welcome.
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is located on the ground of James Madison University. Enjoy a free walk through the flowers and trees and savor the beauty alongside the lake. Listed as one of the top 10 Harrisonburg attractions on Trip Advisor, be sure to allow plenty of time when you visit this beautiful site.
Back Home on the Farm offers family fun with a corn maze and many other attractions. Other activities on the 240-acre Rockingham County farm include pig races, carousel rides, a cow train and hay rides. Summer hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fall hours are Monday to Friday from 3-7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.
Enjoy the scenery and take in the scents at White Oak Lavender Farm. The family-owned farm grows many varieties of lavender and offers “U-Pick” flower buds during bloom seasons. Kids and adults will enjoy the farm animals which include: rabbits, goats, miniature horses, sheep, alpaca, hens and ducks. White Oak Lavender Farm also makes soap, lotions, creams, and aromatherapy products -- all available for purchase. Try some lavender ice cream or check out the newest flavors: Lavender Blueberry and Lavender Strawberry. You can enjoy a cup of ice cream on site or take a quart home. White Oak Lavender Farm is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1-6 p.m.
Mount Crawford Creamery, located on 70 acres between Mt. Crawford and Bridgewater, offers guided tours for large groups or you can just stop in and visit. The herd consists of Holstein and Holstein-Jersey cows that are usually milked twice a day. Take a tour of the farm, pet the baby calves, see the dairy barn, learn about products from cows and different farm animals and enjoy samples of milk and butter. Mount Crawford Creamery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Founded in 1971, the Green Valley Book Fair is well-known by East Coast book lovers of all ages. The discount book outlet in Mt. Crawford is open for six extended periods each year, featuring over 500,000 new books at discounted prices.
Massanutten Resort is a four-season getaway located near Harrisonburg. With indoor and outdoor water parks, snowtubing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, horseback riding, disc golf, fishing, zip lines and more, there's something for everyone. Come for the day or spend a few days and relax.
A short drive from Harrisonburg on Route 33 leads to the Swift Run Gap entrance of the 105-mile Skyline Drive. Located in Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive offers 75 scenic overlooks and over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Don't be in a hurry on the Skyline Drive. Stop for family photos or enjoy a short hike to a waterfall or mountain vista.
Winter, spring, summer or fall, slow down and escape from your day-to-day routine. Explore Harrisonburg and enjoy making family memories on the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail.