Harrisonburg — coined as the Friendly City — was recently named one of the top 10 most livable college towns in the U.S.
According to the story from Strategistico, the methodology behind this ranking considered factors such as cost of living, local arts and dining, walkability, unemployment and crime rates, overall atmosphere and more.
Livingcost.org reports Harrisonburg’s average cost of living is about $1,950. The valley is home to more than 200 dining places and businesses, has a middling walkability score of 45 and has an unemployment rate of 2.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The crime rate is 24.14 per 1,000 residents, annually, as crimegrade.org reports.
Strategistico’s ranking recognized Harrisonburg for its diversity of people as well as the variety of indoor and outdoor activities nearby.
Set to the backdrop of downtown Harrisonburg’s annual Block Party in the ’Burg, here’s what community members had to say about JMU and the city.
“[Harrisonburg] just always feels like a tight-knit community. It doesn’t feel like JMU’s just a bubble because it feels like everything’s incorporated. So, I feel like everyone’s very welcoming; I suppose they just make you feel at home.”
— Katie Conahan, 2022 First yeaR Orientation Guide (FROG)
“What drew me to Harrisonburg was the campus and just being so pretty and the location … I feel like the longer I’ve been here, I’ve really learned to love downtown and kind of the community as a whole, and I really love the energy that fellow students have for each other. I’ve just grown to love restaurants downtown, like Magnolia’s [Tacos & Tequila Bar] is my favorite. Jack Brown’s is a classic.”
— Hannah Loving, Marching Royal Duke
“I fell in love with this place instantly. Everybody was really friendly, and everybody was holding doors for me … I come from a small town, so it just feels homey, too.”
— Aubrey Price, freshman marketing major
“Some of my favorite memories are just driving around at night with my friends, and just kind of going on little random adventures across campus and everything.”
— Marissa Pfannkuch, junior middle grades education major
“I think what brought me to Harrisonburg was just the JMU campus was so gorgeous. When I stepped foot on it, it was like, this is the place I want to be for the next four years of my life, and then to be able to walk down in downtown Harrisonburg and in Court Square, just seeing like all the old buildings and all the local businesses and everything.
It’s just great to go around in one afternoon and just go shopping with all the local businesses that are here and just to help support people … We’re all trying to make a living out here and everything, so it’s great to be able to support small businesses down here and everything and I like how Harrisonburg is so big about that.”
— Ben Van Roekel, junior political science major
“I think it’s a great place for many different opportunities. I mean, you can enjoy the downtown and all that has to offer with the great restaurants, stores and then there’s a performing arts center if you want to do theater.
It’s not far to go ... for a nature hike in agriculture in the area. So, I think that’s what’s so special about this area is just all those different things that you get to have just within a couple of miles.”
— Kristina Blyer, JMU associate vice president for health and well-being
“My mom went to JMU, so I’m used to coming to Harrisonburg when I was younger [and] I thought everything was so pretty ... And then, of course, I think that Harrisonburg has one of the best ice cream places: Branch’s. Best brownies in Virginia … Walking around downtown Harrisonburg, it’s really beautiful. I don’t think you really get this at any other campus.
Everyone genuinely tries to make sure that you feel welcome at JMU and that you have a place that you can be, and that includes people that are in downtown Harrisonburg. Locals of Harrisonburg do the same thing … This feels like my second home because the people are so welcoming here.”
— Jaya Tuggle, junior kinesiology major
Contact Michael Russo and Avery Goodstine at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.