Harrisonburg – One of Top 25 city to raise outdoor kid

Thanh -- June 24th, 2009

Backpacker magazine’s August 2009 issue ranks Harrisonburg as number 15 of top cities to raise an outdoor kid. I couldn’t find the article online to link to (probably not yet available online), but here’s some details about the methodology used to rank cities nationwide.

The magazine has the following to say about Harrisonburg:

  • Pop: 40,468
  • Median home: $181,000
  • Overall score: 56
  • Quiet town with an hour of 2 national forests and 1 national park
  • Unemployment is 6.4% – and falling: active student culture with 8 colleges within 50 miles
  • Surrounded by superb kayaking, hiking, fishing, and cycling (try the 32-mile Southern Traverse singletrack:); minutes to Shenandoah NP, and a little more to W. Virginia wildlands.

Other places ranked in the top 25 includ: Seattle, WA; Hood River, OR; Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna, CA; Bozeman, MT, Jackson, WY; Durango, CO; Flaggstaff, AZ; Fort Collins, CO; Boulder, CO; Colorado, CO; Madison,WI; Rapid Cioty, SD; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Duluth, MN; Madison, WI; Wheeling, WV; Sevierville, TN; Brevard, NC; Asheville, NC; Glens Falls, NY; Lebanon, NH; Burlington, VT; Manchester, NH, and Portland, ME.

Woo hoo Harrisonburg!

Interested to hear what other outdoor activities hburgnews readers have to suggest for outdoor activities; especially for those who are parents – what places do your children enjoy?

14 Responses to “Harrisonburg – One of Top 25 city to raise outdoor kid”

  1. Renee says:

    Neat, go us! :)

  2. Bill says:

    AND surrounding area. It is important to note that many of the mentioned ammenities lie outside of the Friendly City.

  3. Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard says:

    Now we need to find ways to encourage an overly electronic culture to get out and enjoy the natural settings surrounding us.

    The beauty, recreational, and nature reconnection opportunities of the valley are some of the things that kept me here after college!

  4. Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard says:

    I wonder how many youth in Harrisonburg have never actually been to the national forests. Are there outings like that offered in the schools’ summer enrichment and/or summer school plans?

  5. Emmy says:

    My children are going into 2nd and 3rd grade next year. We take them to a lot of these places on our own, but in their few years of school they have already been to many of our natural (and outdoor) attractions on field trips.

    They are in summer enrichment camp this week and their field trips included Mundy Quarry, Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge, and Natural Chimney.

    Honestly I think my children get outside more than I did as a child. There are tons of great sports programs for children starting at a very early age. My sons have participated in soccer, baseball, swimming, archery, and soon will be playing flag football.

  6. Thanh says:

    Bill, you make a great point. Thank you.

    Nicholas, I have heard of and met many children in Harrisonburg who have never been “in the woods” so to speak.

    These are two school programs I know of that take kids on “outings” (not necessarily “summer school” programs, although I am sure that there are camps and summer programs for kids… hopefully other hburgnews readers can enlighten us):

    1) I participate/volunteer each year with a “Watershed Experience” that Harrisonburg City Public Schools organizes for 6th and 7th graders (between 250-300 students in each grade, I think). In the fall, 6th graders are taken out for a full-day field trip to Riven Rock and Sandy Bottom to do tree ID, water chemistry testing, macroinvertebrate collecting, and to enjoy the environment. In Spring, 7th graders go the Mcgaheysville Power Dam site and do similar activities and also get to 2.5 miles of rafting on the South Fork. I am always surprised to see that for many of these kids, its their first time in a place like these – I’ve seen them try to swim in 6 inches of water because its so much fun – and some have never been on a boat of any kind before. Andy Jackson is the K-12 Science Coordinator who works with the teachers to organize these field trips. They are always looking for volunteers, particularly people who “earns a living caring and working with our environment.”

    3) Last year, I wrote on hburgnews about “Wild at Art” a trip and project organized by the Gus Bus people that took children, again many of them who have never been or never spend much time “out in the woods”. I don’t know if this experience will be continued or not, but I know there was interest in doing so if funding sources could be found.

    These programs are great opportunities for children to get outside in a different (more natural) environment. I can imagine that there are many families out there who might not be aware of these recreational opportunities, aren’t interested (maybe because they don’t know), don’t have the transportation to get out of the city, or are too busy to take them, etc.

    I don’t have kids of my own, and my friends kids around here are too young to take on extensive outtings, but nearby I’ve always enjoyed riding my road bike in the county, hiking Furnance Mountain, hiking trails in the Shenandoah NP, taking my dog out to Riven Rock Park (city owned park with Dry River going through it, trails and picnic areas) and Rawley Springs (some nice hiking and water). I’ve done some mountain biking at Mud Pond and the “Western Slope of Massanutten”, and close to home there are the mountain bike trails at Hillandale Park. I’ve done a little bit of kayaking/canoeing on the Shenandoah and hope to do more. And I occasionally go rock climbing in Franklin, WV and at Seneca Rocks.

    I might sound really outdoorsy, but I don’t think I am. Many of these places are conveniently close so I take the opportunity whenever I can find a few hours to take at least a walk.

    I personally am often intrigued with where Blacks Run and other stream tributaries travel under roads, behind developments, through city parks, etc. I like to stop sometimes and just watch the water, and oftentimes if I look closely I’ll see fish in the water (I’ve also seen baby turtles, snakes, groundhogs, and other critters if I look closely.)

    I can’t wait until Purcell Park’s stream restoration grows up a little more because that will be really interesting for a lot of kids.

  7. Breslau says:

    The opportunities that the nature around here provides make me proud to grow up/live here.

  8. We’re living in God’s country…be a good tenant.

  9. seth says:



  10. Josh says:

    A follow-up on Thanh’s comments regarding hiking–check out the “Virginia Trail Guide” blog for some excellent local hiking trail information and reviews:


    They’re included as part of our hbblogs.com feed on the left-hand side of the main page.

  11. Trae Turner says:

    Don’t forget about the kids’s programs at Living Earth School in nearby Afton, VA. http://www.livingearthva.com

  12. There are some great activities for kids here. And, let’s also remember the importance of kid’s non-structured time in nature– just wandering and exploring, imagining, pretending and relating to the flora and fauna. The first step is to get kids out there, the second step is to allow them to develop a relationship with what they discover. I am sure, like with the Wild-at-Art project, that this is occurring even within some organized events. And puddling along a creek, maybe at Riven Rock or maybe in Purcell, looking for salamanders and crayfish and discovering frog eggs for the first time on their own is critical to developing a relationship with the wild.

    Also, it’s not just for kids. It’s my guess that adults deeply crave this intimate nature contact, as well. With environmental issues in the news so much more, we are at risk of often mostly feeling guilt, sadness and loss when we think about nature. It’s important to feed that need for relationship with nature in our adult selves, as well. And so that we can be a model for our children.

  13. Bill says:

    I know that magazine writers often have to pick the largest recognizable area to cite in their article- but it is amazing that we are so blessed with many great things in our entire region in the central Shenandoah Valley- it seems somewhat unfair that only one community gets the recognition of the rest of the areas attributes- but so be it, that’s just the way it is. I guess Rockingham County wil continue to be the locals “best kept secret” and that way maybe we can keep it Rockingham County.

  14. Carrie says:

    Don’t forget that the Fresh Air Fund sends lots of kids here every summer, too! http://www.dailynews-record.com/news_details.php?AID=29653&CHID=1

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