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North of the James Magazine Visits the Inn

Once in a while, we get the exceptional privilege of hosting a travel writer. The great thing about travel writers is that they love to travel (surprise surprise) and they’ve seen a little bit of it all. You can imagine the stories we get to swap!

Back in January, we were proud to host Anne Jones of North of the James Magazine who was visiting the area to do a writeup on romantic destinations in the east and west of the state. While it just so happened that she was writing with Valentine’s Day in mind, we are big believers in a little bit of romance every day. Whether you’re already planning on whipping up a little romance of your own for your next getaway or just remembered that it’s high time for another escape, we hope you enjoy this excerpt and tips from her well-written article. We’d love to welcome you to Harrisonburg and take care of all the details!


North of the James Magazine – “East or West: Get Out of Town for Valentine’s Day”

[excerpted] … Harrisonburg’s origins date back to the Revolutionary War. The location of “the friendly city” in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley makes it a good base camp for such a grand variety of day jaunts that any weekend traveler could find something pleasing to do. Hike to a waterfall in the Shenandoah National Park (and take Johnny Molloy’s new book with you: Top Trails: Shenandoah National Park – Must-do Hikes for Everyone), wind your way through the Shenandoah County Wine Trail, kayak on the Shenandoah River, zip down the zip line at Massanutten Resort, hit one of the music festivals or jam sessions on the Shenandoah Music Trail, or visit the Civil War Orientation Center at the Hardesty-Higgins House, Harrisonburg’s Visitor Center (circa 1848). Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine even named Harrisonburg the “Best Biking Community… with endless miles of country roads and epic trails.” The ever-growing downtown area has a thriving arts scene, and the Court Square Theatre there is a monument to the success of the Arts Council of the Valley. The Council manages the theatre (which was originally an old car dealership called the Rockingham Motor Company), and produces a season of cutting-edge plays, films, and top-notch musicians.

One of the founding members of the Arts Council is Wayne Engel, a Professor Emeritus at JMU and a retired psychologist, who also happens to own the Stonewall Jackson Inn Bed and Breakfast. Note the word “Inn” in the name. That’s key. My one night stay at the Stonewall Jackson forever reversed my attitude about bed and breakfasts. Turns out they can be like little inns, full of charm, comfort, and privacy, and much more interesting than a motel, of course. My previous experiences at b&b’s lacked the privacy part. We once had an inn owner sit on the bed with us till 11 pm talking about her religious beliefs; she also went through our stuff while we were out to dinner. But the Stonewall Jackson is the best of both worlds: intimate with personal service and completely private accommodations with all the amenities of a fine hotel.

Much of the Inn’s appeal is the house itself; built around 1885, it looks like it should be on the New England sea coast and feels like an old cottagey beach house, with dark woodwork and a wrap-around porch. The rooms ramble on and on, with ten guestrooms and private baths, each named after a Civil War figure. Mine had everything I needed (including the requisite plush white bathrobe) and then some, much more like a hotel than any b & b I had ever experienced. And the breakfast! It was “to remember” as their slogan claims. We had buttery, browned French toast made from croissants, fried apples, bacon and fresh fruit cup with yogurt and granola, all served up on the warm sun porch, with tables for two arranged so that guests can either bond with each other or keep to themselves. Perfect.

Wayne is the consummate innkeeper, interested not only in the comfort and wishes of his guests, but in their stories as well. It takes a special breed to be a great innkeeper, and Wayne epitomizes the type. He told me, “a roomful of innkeepers is a mental health heaven” because they tend to be open, interested, happy, and non-judgmental. His goal is for guests to arrive as strangers and leave with a hug, which is just what I did.

North of the James Magazine – January 2013

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