Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now I'm the Tour Guide

A couple of weeks ago, John and I were trying out the new Harrisonburg restaurant Downtown 56, an upscale spot that is part of an attempt to revitalize the downtown (it's in a renovated old warehouse, part of a project that also features loft apartments, something one doesn't usually see in Harrisonburg, county seat of a very rural, agricultural area). Food was fine, the menu was creative and it was clear that some thought had gone into things (e.g. all the prices are $xx.56...cute). Food was good, though we were so spoiled by the consistently excellent food in Antwerp, we're not really tempted to eat out anywhere anymore. After dinner, we enjoyed some entertainment by local favorite Scott Murray, who is engaged to an acquaintance of mine. Ah, small towns. We knew the hostess, one of the waitstaff, and someone dining at the next table too. I'd gotten used to being anonymous while we were away, but no longer.

As we sat listening to Murray's enjoyable singing and guitar playing, a couple across from us asked whether we were from here. They were staying the night in Harrisonburg on their way from Florida to the eastern shore of Maryland, retirees taking the scenic route through the certainly scenic Shenandoah Valley. They wanted to know what there was to do in Harrisonburg the next morning before they headed toward Fredericksburg/I-95.

What about the farmer's market they saw on I-81? They wanted to know. You mean the Shenandoah Heritage Farmer's Market? Yes, she said. Blecch, I said. Unless you're looking for guns or overpriced biscuit mix, skip it. It's hard to describe exactly what's wrong with that place. Maybe the building is too big for what they have there. It feels empty and depressing. Much much better is the Dayton Farmer's Market on Route 42. But the next day was Sunday, and Dayton Farmer's Market is only open Thursday-Saturday.

We racked our brains trying to think of any reason to stay in Harrisonburg beyond breakfast at the hotel...

...and we couldn't think of a single

Isn't that sad??? Maybe we've just lived here too long, but the first thing that came to mind was what they could do once they got in their car and left. We ended up recommending that they drive Route 33 east over the mountains (passing through Shenandoah National Park on the way) and then continue across Route 29 to a section of 33 that goes through some beautiful historic farmland, then tour Montpelier, James Madison's home.

So what DO we do here in Harrisonburg when we want to go out and have fun? Well, there are plenty of things to do, but it's more a case of knowing when those things come around. This isn't the kind of place where things are going on all the time. Especially Sunday morning. There are plenty of free family activities (John is taking the girls to a free movie this morning at our local Regal Cinemas), plenty of little holes in the wall to enjoy an ice cream or a wrap sandwich or whatever.
But that's an article for another time. Gotta get back to work!

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