JMU can become crowded, hectic and stressful during Family Weekend as families from all over the country travel to campus to visit their Dukes. But coming to JMU also opens up opportunities to see what the rest of the Valley has to offer. If a family needs a breather from on-campus festivities, it should check out these alternative activities and places to see.
Harrisonburg Farmers Market
On the Saturday of Family Weekend, Dukes and their families can visit the Harrisonburg Farmers Market downtown. The football game begins in the afternoon, so planning for a morning trip would be ideal to pick out fresh, locally-grown goods from a variety of vendors. The Farmers Market sells products like fruits and vegetables, bread, wine, coffee and more. It’s an ideal location to visit if a family wants to take back any kind of food-related souvenir from Harrisonburg. The Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“I think it’s a really cool experience to see the local vendors and the things they’re making here,” Diane Kallighan, a junior justice studies major, said. “It’s also cool to support local farmers. It’s definitely chill, and all the people that are selling stuff are super sweet and really nice.”
Luray Caverns is about a 40-minute drive from campus, but it’s worth the visit with all the attractions in the area. The caverns are the largest in Eastern America and offer an immersive experience for all ages. Families are led by a tour guide through the caverns’ easy-to-follow walkways. The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum and Toy Town Junction are included with each ticket.
For families who love outdoor adventures, the Massanutten Resort has it all. Families can even book lodging at the resort during the weekend. From swimming in the waterpark, to hiking, to going horseback riding, there’s something for everybody. For families with little ones, the resort has activities for all ages. Senior hospitality management major Sara Gilbert said that it’s a great place to go to get away from the busy, highly-populated JMU atmosphere.
“I think Massanutten gets you away from congested Harrisonburg, because I think everyone’s gonna be in Harrisonburg,” Gilbert said. “There’s so many things to do at Massanutten — basically anything to keep a family involved. It’s quiet and peaceful. It’s not like a congested town or city.”
White Oak Lavender Farm
If a family is looking for a more peaceful outdoor environment and a place to take photos, stopping by White Oak Lavender Farm — only 15 minutes away from campus — is the way to go. It’s a family-owned farm that sells lavender products like soap, bath bombs and essential oils. It also sells its products at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. Families are invited to walk through the gardens and cool off with lavender ice cream. Stephanie Post, a junior finance and health services administration double major, said that there were several photo opportunities. There are also farm animals kids can interact with.
“It’s unique to Harrisonburg,” Post said. “I don’t know anywhere else that has a lavender farm. I think if a family has young kids, that’s definitely something good to do with them.”
Sunflower, apple and pumpkin picking
“Pick-your-own” activities are easy to find in the Shenandoah Valley because it’s surrounded by agriculture. Every Soul Acres — conveniently 20 minutes away from JMU — is a farm with a sunflower field, pumpkin patch and even a Christmas tree field. It also sells old-fashioned kettle corn, gourds and chrysanthemum flowers.
Back Home-on the Farm is about 15 minutes away from campus and has a family-oriented fall festival from Oct. 8-22. Its activities include a hayride, a corn maze and pumpkin picking. If one’s family is looking for apple picking opportunities, Showalters Orchard and Greenhouse is the way to go.
Hike High Knob
West Virginia isn’t as far as it seems. The High Knob hiking trail in Brandywine, West Virginia, is only around 35 minutes away. The trail is appropriate for all levels of hikers and, at the end, there’s a fire watchtower where people can get a scenic view from the top. Families can bring both children and dogs to the trail. It’s also a great picnicking opportunity.
Contact Kailey Cheng at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.