As a local-turned-expat now living in Amsterdam, visiting downtown Harrisonburg after two years away was such a treat. It’s as if I traveled for only a month and came back home. Everything felt the same, but the momentum for it to evolve into an even more amazing place to live or spend a day continues. 

Court House

Court House

Living downtown for four years spoiled me. I got used to walking to Friendly City Food Co-op for groceries and sneaking in some Kline’s before I got home. The Saturday morning Farmers Market was a highlight and the perfect treat after a long week. But the community feel of the area was what I loved most. I was very involved in downtown Harrisonburg -- I lived downtown, I volunteered with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, participated in the Harrisonburg Citizen Academy and the Citizen Police Academy. Harrisonburg was home.

Kline's in downtown Harrisonburg

Kline's in downtown Harrisonburg

Upon returning to the area for a visit that was far too short, I noticed that the city’s vision for an amazing Downtown is still in progress. Of course there is always room to improve and to grow, but when I left, it was already my favorite place in town. How can you not love having your favorite wine shop, restaurant, post office, grocery store, ice cream, farmers’ market, and all within walking distance? Living downtown was the best decision we made!

It’s amazing and impressive to see the changes. The vibe has only gotten better with the new shops and breweries that have popped up! The variety of restaurants is really astounding and so perfect for the downtown area. It might be cheesy to say, but there really is something for everyone. From fancy to chill, anyone can have their pick of where to eat. My favorites, though, will always be Local Chop & Grill House for dinner and Food.Bar.Food for brunch.

Food.Bar.Food Brunch Grits

Food.Bar.Food Brunch Grits

There’s so much fun personality too. The Rock & Wolfe Food Truck Park is an awesome addition and was just getting started when I left town. As happy as I am that it’s all up and running now, I’m sad I didn’t get to use it more! Then, seeing the trailers in the parking lot next to Jack Brown’s was a fun surprise. What an awesome idea, especially in downtown Harrisonburg! Adding specialty shops like Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn and Dream Cones just adds to a perfect night out with friends or a date.

Jack Brown's in downtown Harrisonburg

Jack Brown's in downtown Harrisonburg

While I no longer live there, downtown Harrisonburg is still home. It will always feel like home. Who doesn’t love walking in somewhere and being recognized as an old friend, even if it’s just when picking up your weekly wine? The growth and changes that have happened since I’ve left haven’t changed the ambiance at all. It’s still a fun, jam-packed area with amazing people doing amazing things.

For now, I will continue my adventure abroad and visit home to have my favorite bison burger (at Local Chop & Grill House bar) when I am able. To all those in downtown Harrisonburg, thank you for making it a wonderful place to be! You make it what it is, so please keep up the awesome work you do.

Written by Jessica Cutrufello. Jessica is former resident of downtown Harrisonburg who decided she wanted to try life abroad and to travel as much as possible. She and her husband sold everything and moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. To share their adventure as expats and travel tips, they created the website A Wanderlust For Life.