Story by Drew Fagan
Here’s some things to see and do within walking distance of JMU campus:
Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
Think of it as JMU’s Walden.
The entrance to the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum’s 125 acre area can be found across the road from the Convocation Center on University Boulevard. Once inside the gates, you can find the serenity you need for a brief escape from the daily grind. Watch ducks float atop the tranquil pond as you walk over bridges and along the surrounding pathways. Bring a blanket to lay out and embrace the restoration nature offers. Brush up on your botany, observing the diverse plant life each labeled with a descriptive plaque. The EJC Arboretum offers mobile audio tours, as well as frequent events to showcase nature and educate people on its aspects, like “Wildflower Walks” and “Monarchs at the Arboretum.” Off the gravel path that runs through the center, intricate trails run deep into the wooded area, making for a great way to get lost on your own journey or go for a run. Located down one of the trails is the Labyrinth. It’s spiral design is a metaphor for life’s journey and represents an ancient meditative art form.
Though farther away from campus compared to most hang-out spots, Harrisonburg’s Purcell Park still offers an exceptional outdoor venue. Just down South Main Street, the 67 acres provide wide open space to roam and play. If you’re a runner, or at least want to start, the park has a 1.5 mile gravel trail, making it an easier surface to run on than sidewalk or pavement. Occasional hills and tight corners make two laps a fairly legitimate 5K course. The park also contains three baseball fields and four tennis courts, and the open space encourages pickup games of all kinds. Purcell is a great place to go if you’re looking to seize the day off campus, but want to stay relatively close to the school.
Downtown Harrisonburg is more lively than ever, with renovations and progress being made every day. For students, it’s easily accessible by bus or a quick walk from the Quad.
Food is an important aspect of the Friendly City’s culture and keeps downtown thriving. Yummy staples include Jack Brown’s Burger Joint, which serves original recipes like a burger with jalapeño jelly or another topped with mac and cheese, and Billy Jack’s Wing and Draft Shack. Their bang-for-your-buck “sticky nuggs” are recommended. There’s also tasty places that offer brunch, like Clementine Café and the Little Grill Collective. Art is also vibrant and showcased in many forms throughout downtown. Larkin Arts highlights local artists with installations like their Fine Art gallery, as well as teaches art classes and workshops for anyone interested. You Made It! is a paint-your-own pottery and fused glass studio where you can go to learn how to create an original and artistic gift or your own piece of decor. For cinema, Court Square Theater routinely exhibits films mostly in the documentary fashion, both locally and nationally recognized, as well as live stand-up acts. Downtown holds events that are worth checking out as well, including the annual MacRock indie-band music festival in the spring, and First Fridays Downtown, which is held monthly and features art walks and live music. No matter your flavor, historic downtown Harrisonburg is a spirited environment diverse with entertainment.
Harrisonburg Crossing Shopping Center
One of the city’s main economic hubs, Harrisonburg Crossing Shopping Center (and adjacent areas) are easily accessible by hopping on the “Shopper” route bus that regularly runs through campus during the day. Wal-Mart is open 24 hours a day to provide your dorm room essentials, whether that’s cheeseballs and popcorn for late night munchies, a fan to relieve you from a building that may not be air conditioned or color-coordinated folders to stay organized. Michaels supplies any craft or prop you may want for an upcoming holiday or event, as well as decor to jazz up your dorm room. If you want a break from campus food, the shopping center has you covered, with several locations that accept FLEX, including Chipotle, Firehouse Subs, McAlister’s Deli and SweetBee frozen yogurt.