What to do and see during a Massanutten vacation

Though the popularity of the region is built around Massanutten Resort, over the years the area has grown to include diverse entertainment and dining options while still keeping the residential space nature-esque.

Massanutten Resort
Photo courtesy of Massanutten Resort

The beautiful, serene setting of Massanutten is as old as the earth itself, though the area didn’t stake its claim as a vacation spot until Massanutten Resort opened in 1971, when a group of developers, mainly John L. Hopkins, looked to the Massanutten Peak and knew the area could be so much more.

Over the years the surrounding area of Massanutten has grown to include a diverse area of culture, entertainment and dining, while still keeping the residential area a nature-esque one that initially drew people. “You can be to Skyline Drive for hiking and driving in 20 minutes,” says former Northern Virginia resident Dave Cureton, who moved to Massanutten in 1991. He also mentions that nearby Harrisonburg is evolving and developing a nightlife scene and is bringing in more culture through James Madison University’s new performing arts center and the annual Bach Festival held at Eastern Mennonite University, which holds major performances and downtown lunchtime concerts.

And though the popularity of the area is built around Massanutten Resort with all of its year-round activity offerings, Cureton, a Realtor with Massanutten Realty, says there is still a community feel; the majority of the 11 communities that make up Massanutten are similar to those found in any suburban neighborhood, with neighbors knowing each other and the association holding community events throughout the year.

What To Do

Massanutten Waterpark
This water park offers year-round fun with a wave pool, waterslides, play pool and lounge deck with cabanas at the outdoor water park (open seasonally) and a massive water play set, tube slides, indoor/outdoor hot tub, simulated surfing and an indoor arcade.

Photo courtesy of Massanutten Resort

River Tours
Explore the Shenandoah with a trip through Massanutten Adventures. The company hosts canoe, kayak, raft and tubing tours in the summer months, and if that is too much of an adrenaline rush, or if you’re a history buff, they also have Civil War tours where a local historian narrates a trek through battlefields, Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters, monuments and museums.

© VILevi / Stock.adobe.com
Massanutten Resort
Photo courtesy of Massanutten Resort

Zip Line and Canopy Tours
Right at the Massanutten Resort, people can take to the skies on the Mega-Zip, which is a zip line 800 feet in the air that gets participants running the line at 30 miles per hour. There are also 90-minute canopy tours through the forest and a course just for kids ages 12 and under with a bridge, log crossing, swinging vine, net obstacles and a 100-foot zip line.

Stonewall Terrace Recreation Center
A day of fun can be had at Massanutten’s rec center that houses go-karts, a bungee jump in an outdoor dome, miniature golf and more. Plus, there is the Black Bear Ice Cream Shop for grabbing a treat.

Snow Sports
When you travel to the mountains there is a large emphasis on sports, mainly snow sports. At Massanutten there are options for all levels and age ranges. There are 70 skiable acres and 14 trails, an ice rink and snow-tubing options. Or if just watching is your thing, there is a cozy ski lodge with a cafe, a bar and grill and a 5,000-square-foot patio.

Photo courtesy of Massanutten Resort

Culture and Entertainment

Just like any suburban neighborhood, there is entertainment to be found with just a short drive. For those looking for performances and shows, head to the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University, just a 20-minute drive from Massanutten. You can also take a look at the stars at the John C. Wells Planetarium. If sports are what gets your adrenaline going, get tickets to one of the collegiate games for the NCAA Division I Dukes.

For a night of mystery, Massanutten Resort hosts a Murder Mystery Dinner series, where you can dine and noodle out a whodunit story.

For arts you can head to White Oak Lavender Farm and stroll through rows of the relaxing scents. The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a botanical garden at JMU with ponds and forests ripe with flora and fauna in bloom. And family-owned Harper’s Statuary and Water Gardens is a place where you can not only enjoy the displays but also purchase cast-stone statues and water garden items featured in their 50 showcases.

Taking in other artists’ work is easy with a trip to Larkin Arts, where the gallery hosts juried shows for both regional and national artists and holds classes for those who are inspired.

Explore More Discovery Museum
Photo courtesy of Explore More Discovery Museum

And more educational entertainment can be had at the Explore More Discovery Museum, where little ones get hands-on interaction in culinary, construction, scientific, medical and media-based exhibits. Quilters also get their turn with a focus on their craft at the Virginia Quilt Museum that was founded in 1995 and is the official quilt museum of the commonwealth of Virginia. Here you’ll find three floors of gallery space with a rotating roster of curated exhibits.

Dining Drinks and Treats

Dining in Massanutten has a range of palate-pleasing restaurants with local favorites like Hank’s Smokehouse and Log Cabin Barbecue that serve up, of course, barbecue and other Southern cuisine; Italian dishes at Romano’s Italian Bistro and Ciro’s Italian Eatery; and great breakfast offerings at The Thunderbird Café.

Just a town over in Elkton is Jack Brown’s Single Wide, a place for burgers and beers. And in downtown Harrisonburg you can find local, organic meat dishes at Local Chop & Grill House and more of a nightlife scene at Vibe Bistro & Hookah Lounge and Gold Crown Billiards Bar & Grill.

In the nearby area you can take an afternoon and hit up some breweries like Pale Fire Brewing Co., Brothers Craft Brewing and Three Notch’d Brewing Company, or take the to wineries at Crosskeys or Brix and Columns.

For sweet treats, head to Harrisonburg for Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn Company, Mandy’s Candy or The Cupcake Company, where you can choose from a rotating menu of confections like raspberry merlot, pancake maple bacon, blackberry cheesecake or 30 more options.


Because Massanutten is made up of a neighborhood upon a mountain, it is the nearby towns where you can find some shopping.

In Elkton, you can stock up on antiques and handcrafted pottery at McGuire’s Country Store. And next door is SoLace Studios Fine Handcrafts, where you can pick up works by local artists. More than 250 artists show in the gallery, and pieces range from attire for women and men to home decor, jewelry, sand art and kaleidoscopes.

At LeLa’s Boutique & Valley Treasures you can outfit yourself with on-trend, casual pieces with a boho vibe or pick up some accessories for your weekend adventures.

For bigger shopping trips, drive the 20 minutes to Harrisonburg, where you can take advantage of the Valley Mall with your typical chain stores (Target, American Eagle, JCPenney and more) or hit up some of the local boutiques like the artist co-op Oasis Fine Art & Craft; clothing stores like Bluetique Cheap Chic, Green Hummingbird Fair Trade Clothing or The Yellow Button; and vintage havens Heartworn Vintage and Whatever Vintage Boutique. Books can be found at Downtown Books and Meridian Books and Games.

Pups can get their fix at Blue Ridge Dog, you can find cats at Cat’s Cradle, and old-school gamers can find their next collectable piece at 8Bit Oasis Gaming, where they carry trading cards, board games, retro toys and other novelty items.

(October 2017)