Museums in Harrisonburg

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Virginia Discovery Museum delights kids with interactive exhibits. For example, at a miniature Panera Bread stocked with toy food, tots can don real Panera aprons and take orders. They also pick fruit in an interactive play orchard, and go back in time and play in a log cabin from the 1700?s. For a brush with real nature, they can even observe bee behavior at the museum's enclosed hive.

524 E Main St
Charlottesville,
VA
US

Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, evolved with him as he followed his storied career path, from author of the Declaration of Independence to third president of the United States. The home's evolution was quite literal: Jefferson had it constantly redesigned and rebuilt over the course of more than four decades. Today, the neoclassical mansion and its lush gardens, situated on 2,500 acres of Jefferson's plantation, remain perfectly preserved and open to the public. As they tour the premises, visitors learn about Jefferson's role in history, from his early days in Virginia's government to his key role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Along the way, they pick up fun historical factoids, too, such as Jefferson's preferred dinnertime?3 p.m.

931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy.
Charlottesville,
VA
US

The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley includes 6 acres of lush gardens and a purpose-built museum facility designed by architect Michael Graves. Visitors can marvel at the exterior of the Glen Burnie Historic House as they explore the unique design and languid paths of the public gardens, which knit together the stately Grand Allée, the mini Hidden Garden, and a tranquil water garden that flooded the original garden of old chia pets. The museum showcases four main galleries, displaying Valley memorabilia, a Civil War exhibition, and a collections of miniature houses and rooms, paintings, furniture, and portraiture dating to the mid-eighteenth century to the formerly private collection of benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr.

901 Amherst St
Winchester,
VA
US

A bugle boomed with a brash moan that bordered on shrill, as if the metal it was made of were on the verge of shattering like glass. Its player drew a sideward glance to his wife, whose neck was contorted in the throes of a visceral shriek as she slammed a wooden spoon against the tin washbasin. Darkness was giving way to the orange of morning on June 18, 1864, and the Union's Major General David Hunter was presumably within earshot. The clamor of Lynchburg's citizens was their first defense, making the Confederate forces sound larger and stronger than they actually were. It was a smart move, as Hunter eventually retreated because he believed he was outnumbered.

The concise Confederate victory preserved many historical sites in Lynchburg, which had been the United States’ second wealthiest city per capita before the Civil War devastated the economy. Today, the Lynchburg Museum traces the stories of the region, from the cannons and flags of the Civil War to a flight suit worn by hometown astronaut Leland Melvin. More than 20,000 artifacts are housed within the former Lynchburg courthouse, which was built in the Greek Revival style in 1855, replete with architectural details including fluted Doric columns and a pedimented portico inspired by the Parthenon.

Less than a mile away, Point of Honor accommodates guests within the re-created plantation kitchen of the restored Federal-period mansion built in 1815 by Dr. George Cabell Sr., friend to both Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Guests can peer out at a vista of the James River before exploring the Medicine in Early Virginia exhibit, which highlights tools and methods practiced by Dr. Cabell such as giving patients colds in order to cure their rickets.

112 Cabell St
Lynchburg,
VA
US

The Avoca Museum & Historical Society was once the site of the Revolutionary-era home of Colonel Charles Lynch and the centerpiece of a sprawling plantation. Today, it houses native artifacts and Civil War memorabilia curated to preserve local history.

  • Size: 54 acres of land, including the sprawling Victorian house
  • Eye Catcher: the main house, an American Queen Anne?style home built in 1901 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places; the interior has been lovingly restored to appear as it did in its heyday
  • Permanent Exhibits: the replica of the 1880 cabin that originally stood on the site, including a rope bed and stone fireplace
  • Don't Miss: the family graveyard?as well as a graveyard for the plantation's slaves?stand as a reminder of the land's history and provide some information about what African American life was like before the Civil War
  • Pro Tip: the Avoca Museum is a popular wedding venue, so check the website's homepage or call ahead to make sure it's not closed for a private event
1514 Main St
Altavista,
VA
US

The Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library serves as a depository for the history of the region. The museum gathers artifacts and stories from the past, along with genealogical data, into one place where community members can explore their ancestors' origins. Local historians deliver lectures at the museum's regular events, and genealogy classes share tips on how students can research their ancestry both in-person and online.

201 E Main St
Bedford,
VA
US