Over the past two months, I doubled my “auntie status” with the birth of 2 adorable little nephews. Last week we traveled to Virginia to visit one of them. The foliage had just started to turn as we were leaving, but we still took advantage of fall in the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley.
When we were giving the new Mom and Dad some time to rest, we checked out some local attractions. They live near Harrisonburg, which is home to James Madison University. Despite having over 50,000 residents, downtown Harrisonburg felt like a quintessential little college town, with interesting looking restaurants and shops, and the surrounding farming community was represented at the locally owned restaurants we tried.
Shenandoah Heritage Market
121 Carpenter Ln, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
There were lots of vendors here that I didn’t check out. I went here on a mission – fudge and flowers. There as a large fabric store here, an eatery, and lots of antiques, but we stopped in here to check out Grandma’s Pantry – a bulk food store. I picked up vanilla beans for $1 each, saffron, and some of the best fudge I have ever had. My husband stuck with chocolate peanut butter, but I went for the pumpkin – which was packed with pumpkin and cinnamon (delicious!), and the apple pie – made with dried apples and local apple cider – very good and unlike anything I had eaten before.
We also stopped in the outdoor produce stand, so I could pick up a potted mum for my sister-in-law. They had a beautiful outdoor display, and amazing prices on their flowers – huge plants, and a fraction of the price I would have paid here in Las Vegas. The woman running the stand was exceptionally nice – she helped me pick out the perfect mum, and was super friendly. I picked up some locally grown golden delicious apples while I was there, and a Scentsy bar – Cider Cedar – which made my luggage smell fantastic.
Showalter’s Orchard and Greenhouse
17768 Honeyville Rd, Timberville, VA 22853
If I lived in the area, I would have to fight the urge not to go here every weekend! You can pick your own apples, or they have some ready for purchase. I did not go in their greenhouse, but my in-laws said they bought all their tomato plants and hanging baskets from here over the summer, and were very pleased with them.
I partook in a hard cider tasting, which I highly suggest. You can try one cider for free, 4 for $3, or 5 for $5, which includes their special Ice style cider. I didn’t know when I would find myself back here, so I went for the $5 sampler. You start with their driest cider, Yesteryear, which reminded me of an un-oaked chardonnay. It was my favorite! I also thought the Cidermaker’s Barrel was interesting, it is aged in bourbon barrels, and you taste hints of vanilla, and earthy oak. The ice style cider is reminiscent of ice wine…where juice is taken from frozen grapes, making it very sweet. Since they don’t get temps quite low enough to freeze the apples, they freeze them before extracting the juice. Next time I am visiting the area, I will be bringing my wine case to take back some of this fantastic cider!
They also have non-alcoholic cider for sale, and you can get hot cider to enjoy on-site, or even cider slushies! I picked up some delicious apples – the Grimes Golden and Gala paired beautifully with the butter cheese we picked up at Grandma’s Pantry!
If you are in this area, be sure to check out their events calendar – they have fun classes and celebrations, like their upcoming Apple Harvest Celebration, or their hard cider making class. Also, do yourself a favor and get one of their Apple Pie Caramel apples (or two).
Bella Luna Wood-Fired Pizza
80 W Water St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Located in downtown Harrisonburg, Bella Luna is situated right across from a parking garage, that made grabbing lunch here extremely convenient. They source many of their ingredients from farms throughout central Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley.
They use a 900 degree oven to produce a thin, Neapolitan style crust, that is slightly chewy, but didn’t’ get soggy. We tried a build your own with sausage and mushrooms, a Margherita, and my favorite, a pizza with bleu cheese, potatoes, rosemary, caramelized onions, and walnuts.
My father in law was really amused that I was taking pictures of the restaurant, and especially amused that I was taking pictures of our food. He will get a kick out of the fact that out of all those pictures, I forgot to take a picture of the potato pizza that I ordered! 😉
Check out their Facebook page for specials.
Local Chop & Grill House
56 W Gay St, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Located in Harrisonburg’s old produce exchange building, the Local Chop House has TONS of character. There is not a lot of seating in the dining room, so make sure you make a reservation on Open Table. There is open seating outside and in the bar.
We sat in the bar, but I would like to try the bar menu next time. Everything we ordered was locally sourced, including our beers. We both had pork chops, and seasonal veggies – the best roasted broccoli and cauliflower i have ever eaten, so good in fact that I wished I had ordered their cauliflower steak for my entree!!. I got chevre mac n cheese, but my husband had the polenta with roasted tomatoes, which was mind-blowing!
To my Richmond and Charlottesville friends – this area would make for a great little day trip!