Some people travel frequently, for work or for pleasure. Others rarely venture out and travel only for very special occasions. Whichever category you fall into, and whether you’re staying in a hotel for one night or one month, comfort somehow takes on a new level of importance. A quality mattress, technology like Wifi that prevents irritating interruptions to your life, plenty of hot water for your morning shower, a satisfying meal, and access to coffee are simple things we take for granted at home but are glaringly obvious when missing. It’s like we all turn into the Princess and the Pea and notice every little discomfort.
Harrisonburg’s newest hotel, Hotel Madison, takes every measure to ensure their guests are, at the very least, comfortable. Brandy and I know this first hand, because we got to spend a night there checking out all it has to offer!! And we’re gonna break it all down for you, right now.
Then, Now, and Beyond
Hotel Madison has been in the works for years, starting with a local developer and JMU graduate from Bergton. Although the hotel has a 50-year land lease from JMU, it is privately owned and financed by investors. Designers from P3 Design Collective operated around four words when envisioning the hotel’s style: subtle sophistication and rustic elegance. This vision touches every inch of the place, from the southern style seating in Montpelier Restaurant and Bar and the sharply dressed lobby, to simple and clean adornments in the 230 guest rooms and suites.
Unlike many chain hotels, Hotel Madison is deeply invested in the local community and mindful of its impact on Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley. Hotel Madison collaborates with JMU’s Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management by providing classrooms, offices, and on-site academic instruction to students pursuing a degree in hospitality management. To put this in perspective, 45 schools in the United States offer this kind of partnership, and JMU’s Hart School is the only one with on-site classrooms at a hotel.
Another way Hotel Madison thought of the Harrisonburg community during its planning was to make sure to honor the recently approved Northend Greenway’s path by allowing extra space on the MLK Way side of the hotel. And, the hotel is certified Virginia Green. Hospitality businesses who earn this distinction have shown that they’re reducing their carbon footprint by adopting a host of environmentally friendly policies (such as not offering plastic straws, using recyclable carryout containers, and even installing electric car charging stations in the parking deck). Director of Public Relations Eddie Bumbaugh hopes to install solar panels in the future. For now, the hotel will be hosting the Virginia Green Annual Conference in April. One last note about partnering with the local community: DECA students at Broadway High School are currently designing a “Keys to the City” perks program specifically for Hotel Madison. Hotel guests will be able to show their room keys at various local businesses and receive a discount or reward of some kind.
Eating and Drinking
I realize it’s entirely possible that you skimmed/scrolled right on past the first section of this article just to get to the food photos, and I don’t blame you one bit. Shew doggie, we ate til we couldn’t see straight.
We opted for an early-ish dinner (okay, Golden Girls early – 4pm) at Montpelier Restaurant and Bar because Brandy needed that gorgeous sunlight to fall in perfect slants on that gorgeous food. When we arrived, we were presented with two appetizers prepared by Chef Ryan Youngman: the Montpelier Nachos and the Fried Green Tomatoes (more of that southern charm!). The nachos’ secret ingredient that makes them better than all other nachos combined is Bowman Bros Bourbon BBQ smoked brisket. Along with the smoked queso blanco, serrano chiles, black beans, slaw, avocado, and pico, we found it extremely hard to stop eating them. The portion is ample (and that’s a euphemism for “How do I eat this whole thing without the other customers noticing?”) and served on a really pretty live edge wooden pedestal. The Fried Green Tomatoes with tobasco aioli, roasted corn, cilantro, piquillo peppers, and cotija had a kick I wasn’t expecting but was just right nonetheless. Our cocktails arrived in festive mason jars, and the long, sexy bar with its 3-inch granite anchors the space.
We also ordered the Seafood Pappardelle with scallops (SO TENDER), shrimp, Virginia crab, house chorizo, roasted peppers, charred heirloom tomatoes, and foraged (!) mushrooms; the New York strip (could not have been cooked better) with two sides of our choice — we chose loaded mac and crispy Brussels sprouts; and one more appetizer, because why not? The Goat Cheese Brulee with a big beautiful hunk of local honeycomb right in the middle of it.
The restaurant has a private dining room named for Dolley Madison that you can reserve for large groups or events where you need privacy. On the Main Street side of the restaurant is the coffee bar serving Chestnut Ridge Coffee. This is a full-service coffee shop with coffee drinks, smoothies, pastries, and the like. All of this — Montpelier Restaurant, the bar, and the coffee shop — is available to the general public AND to hotel guests alike! So yes, this can be your new happy hour or morning coffee spot!
Other little things that make this restaurant and bar special:
• There’s a charging port at every seat.
• There’s a communal table in the center if you’re alone or just want to meet someone new. You could also spread out your laptop there.
• They reserved space for some loungey, comfortable seating in between the bar area and the dining room. I mean, really, they want you to be comfy.
• The coffee shop accepts the JAC card and is right there next to campus, students!
Making the Most of Your Stay
Sure, you could leave the hotel and walk to a zillion awesome downtown locations, and Hotel Madison would totally endorse that decision. But let us show you what you can do inside the hotel. (And by the way, we did these things right after eating a giant meal at Montpelier.)
You can go burn it off in the Fitness Center, lol.
All kidding aside, this is a really nice fitness center for a hotel. Multiple cardio machines, plenty of weight lifting machines, plus dumbbells, medicine balls, and mats. And with several TVs and fancy A/V equipment on the cardio machines, you don’t have to forego entertainment to keep your mind off of how much your thighs burn.
Then you could go to the salt water pool. A large garage-style door lets in tons of natural light and opens onto a sunny patio.
You can take a relaxing bath in your clean and modern hotel room bathroom. I’m almost six feet tall and fit in there just fine!
Or you can hang out by the fireplace in the lobby and indulge in a little snack or drink at Quills Casual Dining.
Hotel Madison’s mezzanine offers more lounging space and a long wall for art work. Hotel Madison is one of the First Friday gallery locations — not only will they showcase local art, but local musicians will fill the lobby with live music.
Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop. There you’ll find lots of JMU apparel and merchandise (hats, keychains, ornaments, for example), Shenandoah Valley shirts and hats, wine glasses, leather coasters made by Lineage Goods, Shirley’s Popcorn, Route 11 Chips, Warfels Chocolates, and other snacks and beverages, some of which in biodegradable packaging. Soon to come: products from Blue Ridge Dog.
Other notable features include a Business Center should you need some office time, complimentary valet parking in the Mason Street deck (and this is for hotel guests AND Montpelier Restaurant and Bar customers!), and tons of space on the north side of the hotel for conferences and other large groups. There are three ballrooms, the Madison Boardroom, and the Blue Ridge Room. The carpet in the Grand Ballroom is actually an aerial view of the Shenandoah Valley.
Down the hall from our room on the 7th floor is the Presidential Suite. This 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom apartment (1546 square feet, y’all) sleeps 6 and is perfect for folks who are here for an extended period and want to be able to cook their own meals and feel right at home.
Ya didn’t think we left there without having breakfast, did ya?! We stuffed ourselves with Griddled French Toast Sliders with vanilla custard, peach jam, whipped cream, and pure maple syrup…
… the Shenandoah Breakfast, which is two farm eggs any style, house potatoes, toast, and your choice of house thick-cut cherry smoked bacon, country style pork sausage, chicken apple sausage, or Edwards ham steak…
… AND the Blue Ridge Sandwich, a perfectly gooey concoction of griddled ham, house cherry smoked bacon, fried farm eggs, and Hoffman smoked cheddar on buttered ciabatta!
You might be saying to yourself, “This place is amazing, clearly, but I already live in Harrisonburg. Why would I want to stay at Hotel Madison??” Well, you don’t have to. But think: next time you have relatives coming in whom you really don’t want in your house, you can direct them to a very nice hotel and not feel bad about it! Or maybe your college buddies are coming in for Homecoming festivities. Or maybe your employer or organization wants to hold a conference of some kind. Or maybe you’re getting married and need a venue that can do EVERYTHING — the wedding, the reception, and the lodging! Or maybe you just want to have dinner and a nice glass of wine. They’ve even initiated a reward points system to encourage folks to leave their usual hotel chain and stay in a local, green, community-minded, modern, and gorgeous new facility.
Mark Your Calendars
– February 14 – 16: Valentine’s Dinner. Montpelier Restaurant and Bar will be serving a Valentine’s Tasting Menu including 5 courses and optional wine pairing. Reservations are encouraged. The menu will be available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.
– February 22 – 24: Winter Wine Weekend. A learning, tasting, experiencing weekend dedicated to wine and the transformative grape. This is a one of a kind event, for beginners and connoisseurs alike featuring seminars, speakers, wine and culinary events, wine films, a blending workshop and more.
– March 4 – 10: Taste of Downtown. Montpelier Restaurant and Bar is excited to participate in Taste of Downtown this year! Watch their Facebook page for details.
– Monday through Friday, 3 – 6pm is Happy Hour at Montpelier Restaurant and Bar!
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