Harrisonburg welcomes the families and friends of graduates from James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University. Graduation weekend is a time of celebration, family, and making memories. With both JMU and EMU marking this milestone, the city comes alive with energy and excitement. Harrisonburg offers a variety of restaurants, unique shops, and activities to ensure a memorable weekend for everyone. This guide provides a list of a few places offering specials for graduation celebrations, ideas for graduation gifts, and suggestions for things to do while you’re in Harrisonburg.

Dining Recommendations

  • Bella Luna: Bella Luna serves hand-crafted, farm-fresh food, with wood-fired pizzas, hand-made pastas, and seasonal salads in a warm, inviting setting. The bar offers local microbrews, hard ciders, wines, and artisan cocktails. During graduation weekend, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, with a second oven to double their capacity for welcoming more guests.
  • Cuban Burger: Cuban Burger serves a diverse menu of fritas, tapas, Cuban sandwiches, and Hand-Crafted Cuban cocktails in an ambiance reminiscent of Hemingway’s Havana. Graduation reservations are accepted via email at CubanBurger411@gmail.com until Friday, May 3, after which seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Magpie Diner: Magpie Diner features a modern diner-inspired menu serving breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch, with signature dishes like hearty Southern Poutine, Bravas Tartine, and Sweet Cinnamon Swirl French Toast. Their in-house bakery produces fresh breads and pastries. Graduation reservations can be made through Google with just one day’s notice, with card information required for parties of six or more.
  • Monty’s: Conveniently located near James Madison University’s campus, Monty’s is an upscale casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a modern twist on comfort food, all made with locally sourced ingredients. Graduation reservations are encouraged for Thursday, May 9 through Saturday, May 11, from 5 PM to 10 PM. The special limited menu offers full-service table seating, with a party size limit of ten people.

Ridge Room

  • Ridge Room: The Ridge Room serves an elevated brunch menu with shareable items, flatbreads, snacks, and some of Harrisonburg’s best brews and cocktails, all with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Brunch features include Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast and seasonally flavored French Toast. To reserve for parties of up to 8, call 540-442-3966 or visit ridgeroom.com; reservations are limited to 2 hours.
  • Rocktown Kitchen: Rocktown Kitchen is an intimate farm-to-table restaurant offering elevated American cuisine in a casual fine-dining atmosphere. They will feature a special menu with unique food and drinks for the JMU graduation weekend. To make a reservation, call (540) 217-2425.

Graduation Gifts

  • Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center: Visit the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center and check out the Rocktown Gift Shoppe, where you can discover a thoughtfully curated selection of gifts perfect for your graduate to remember their time in Harrisonburg.

  • Lineage: Lineage specializes in handcrafted waxed canvas and leather bags and accessories. These durable items make perfect graduation gifts, offering long-lasting quality that will accompany your graduate well into their career and serve as a memorable keepsake from their time in Harrisonburg. 10% off bags
  • Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn: Shirley’s Popcorn offers a variety of gourmet popcorn flavors, perfect for gifts, snacks, or treats for any occasion. Visit Shirley’s Popcorn in downtown Harrisonburg for unique flavors like Duke Dog Crunch, with vanilla, purple, and yellow drizzle, or Rockin’ Royal, a mix of white cheddar and candied royal blueberry. Add a bag to your graduate’s gift for a sweet school-spirit treat.
  • The Lady Jane: The Lady Jane features a curated selection of specialty home goods and gifts handcrafted by independent artists. It’s the perfect spot to find unique Harrisonburg memorabilia including cards, posters, pillows, and more.
  • University Outpost: University Outpost, an alumni-owned and operated store, offers a full inventory of JMU gear, making it the perfect spot to pick up alumni apparel and merchandise to celebrate your graduate’s achievement. The also have an EMU t-shirt available with more on the way!

Things to Do

  • Axe Throwing/Arcades: Harrisonburg offers a range of exciting venues for axe throwing and arcade fun. Blue Ridge AXEcade combines axe throwing, a large arcade, and a full restaurant/bar for entertainment ages 12 and older. Beards & Broads features competitive axe throwing with a food menu, beer, wine, and other games, providing a flexible space for larger parties. Ruby’s Arcade has duckpin bowling, arcade games, brick oven pizza, and a full bar.

  • Live Music: Discover the lively music scene in downtown Harrisonburg with performances at Golden Pony, featuring a full sound stage, live music, and DJ sets, or visit Clementine for live jazz on Thursdays and award-winning bands on Fridays and Saturdays. For late-night entertainment, head to Ruby’s Lounge in Clementine’s basement, where you can enjoy karaoke and live DJs on select nights.
  • Art & Cultural Scene: Immerse yourself in Harrisonburg’s vibrant art scene by visiting local galleries like Oasis Fine Art & Craft, an artists’ co-op selling fine art and contemporary crafts or follow the Downtown Public Art Tour on the Visit Harrisonburg app to explore captivating murals, sculptures, and the iconic LOVEworks signs in this flourishing Virginia Arts and Cultural District.
  • Breweries: Raise a toast to your graduate at one of Harrisonburg’s craft breweries or cidery. Try the Friendly Fermenter’s Purple Reign, a JMU-inspired berry sour, or Brothers Craft Brewing’s Proud & True Dukes Lager, a smooth, light lager. For cider lovers, Sage Bird Ciderworks offers graduation reservations for private rooms or whole-space events; email info@sagebirdciderworks.com to book.
  • Explore the Outdoors: Harrisonburg, nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. With access to George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park, the city offers endless adventures. Explore the 125-acre Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, a woodland sanctuary on the JMU campus, or take a stroll along the Bluestone Trail, a 1-mile shared-use path that connects key areas in the city. For more challenging trails, head to Hillandale Park, where the Friendly City Trails and Rocktown Trails offer a variety of hiking and biking routes.

Check out our website for more great spots to celebrate graduation weekend in Harrisonburg!