Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, is a charming town with a rich history. Situated on the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg has a small-town feel that makes you feel welcome. Plus, its plentiful fun activities and places to eat make it a great destination for a weekend getaway or a stop on your East Coast road trip itinerary.
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Getting to Harrisburg, PA
In the heart of Central Pennsylvania, Harrisburg sits along the beautiful Susquehanna River surrounded by mountains and state forests. Despite the fact that it's a smaller city, getting to Harrisburg is fairly easy.
Driving to Harrisburg
In my opinion, the easiest way to get to Harrisburg is by car as several major highways converge in and around the city. Only a couple hours drive from both Philadelphia and Washington, DC, it's a good spot to add to a Pennsylvania road trip itinerary.
Parking Tips: In downtown Harrisburg, you'll find plenty of street parking and parking garages. Visit Park Harrisburg to find more information.
Train to Harrisburg
Another option to get to Harrisburg is by train. The Amtrak Keystone service runs from New York City to Harrisburg via Philadelphia. On the train, you'll have lovely views of the Pennsylvania Corridor including a stop in Lancaster, PA (Pennsylvania Dutch Country).
Alternatively, coming from the west, the Keystone service begins in Pittsburgh and runs through western central PA.
Flying to Harrisburg
If you prefer to fly into Central Pennsylvania, Harrisburg International Airport (MDT) in Middletown is a convenient way to do so. However, the airport is a ~10 miles from downtown Harrisburg, so you'll have to rent a car or take a taxi in order to get into the city.
Finding a Place to Stay in Harrisburg, PA
If you're staying in Harrisburg for a couple nights, I highly recommend staying in the downtown or Midtown neighborhoods. They are vibrant sections of town near many restaurants and bars, coffee shops, historic buildings, plus a scenic river trail.
The map below shows both hotels and VRBO (vacation rental by owner) accommodations in Harrisburg. Click on a property in which you're interested to go to either Booking or VRBO to read reviews and to book your stay.
Fun Things to Do in Harrisburg, PA
Since Harrisburg became the state capital of Pennsylvania back in 1812, it has a long history. You'll see evidence of this history as you begin to explore. So let's jump into some of the fun things you can do on a trip to Harrisburg.
Because we were visiting family during our trip to Harrisburg, we got some great local tips on places to visit.
1) Tour the Pennsylvania State Capitol
In my opinion, touring the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building should be at the top of your to-do list for Harrisburg, PA.
Designed by architect Joseph Miller Huston, the Pennsylvania State Capitol cost 13 million (US) dollars to build and was finished on October 4, 1906.
Constructed in the American Renaissance style, Huston envisioned the Capitol to be a "palace of the arts". As such, he commissioned the finest artists to create beautiful murals, stained-glass windows, and other lovely pieces which adorn the Capitol.
Open to the public from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm on weekdays, you can either take a free guided tour or wander through the Capitol on your own. On weekends, you can visit the PA State Capitol by guided tour only.
More information on Touring the Beautiful Pennsylvania State Capitol Building here!
2) Admire the Architecture
After touring the State Capitol, you've probably realized that Harrisburg has some incredible architectural gems. As you walk around the historic downtown, you'll spot many churches and other historic buildings that are worth a look.
In my opinion, one of the best things about Harrisburg is just how walkable the city is. If you're able, I recommend strolling through the downtown area to admire the various architectural styles of the buildings.
On State Street, between the Capitol and the Susquehanna River, you'll a variety of churches, one right after the other, which are all quite impressive.
3) Grab a Coffee at Little Amps Coffee Roasters
A couple blocks away from the PA State Capitol, you'll find an awesome place for a caffeine fix - Little Amps Coffee Roasters. This micro roaster has three locations around the city and roasts all of its coffee locally in Harrisburg, PA.
While we were visiting Harrisburg, we stopped at the State Street location. There, we enjoyed a lovely view of the State Capitol as we drank our coffee outside. Highly recommend the cold brew when it's warm outside!
4) Walk along Riverfront Park
Taking advantage of its location along the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg's public Riverfront Park is an excellent place to get some exercise and soak in the views.
Running parallel to Front Street (between Vaughn and Paxton Streets), this ~4-mile path offers views of the Susquehanna River, City Island, and Blue Mountain.
Pro Tip: See if you can spot some local wildlife - groundhogs call the riverfront home, but are scared of humans. If you're on the lookout, you can spot them before they run away.
As you walk along the riverfront, be sure to stop and admire the various statues and monuments on the way.
5) Travel through Food at Broad Street Market
Located in Harrisburg's Midtown neighborhood, you'll find Broad Street Market. Founded in 1860, this market has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated market house in the United States.
Spanning a couple blocks with multiple buildings, Broad Street Market houses over 40 vendors selling locally-grown and organic produce, meats, baked goods, as well as freshly prepared meals.
If you're staying in a vacation rental with a kitchen, you might consider shopping at the market to find fresh ingredients for home cooking. But what I enjoyed was the variety of cuisines available in the market's prepared foods section.
Take a world tour through food and try Korean bibimbap, Greek spinach pie, authentic Mexican tacos, or Nigerian slow-cooked meats and jollof rice. Or if you'd like to stay closer to home, stick to some American classics like pizza or cheesesteak. Either way, your palate will be satisfied at Broad Street Market.
Pro Tip: Broad Street Market is only open Thursdays through Saturdays so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
6) Browse Midtown Scholar Bookstore
Across from Broad Street Market on North Third Street, you'll find Midtown Scholar Bookstore - Harrisburg's award-winning independent bookstore.
Avid readers and literary enthusiasts will be in awe of the large selection of titles available. With thousands of new, used, and rare books available, you might find yourself lost for several hours perusing the shelves.
Before you visit, be sure to check the Events calendar. The Midtown Scholar Bookstore hosts a variety of nationally-touring authors throughout the week. You might find an event you'd like to attend while visiting Harrisburg.
Pro Tip: Midtown Scholar Bookstore is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
7) Hunt for Murals
If you follow me on social media, you'll know that I have a passion for finding beautiful street art when I'm wandering around cities. And Harrisburg did not disappoint!
Just walking along North Third Street, I found several gorgeous murals. Since we visited just after the 2021 Harrisburg Mural Festival, some of the murals we found were brand new.
On a rainy day, however, art enthusiasts may prefer to visit the Susquehanna Art Museum instead of scouring the streets for murals.
8) Watch a Baseball Game (Harrisburg Senators)
If you're a baseball fan, then you might enjoy catching a Harrisburg Senators game at FNB Field on City Island. The Harrisburg Senators are a Minor League Baseball team of the Double-A Northeast and a Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals - Washington, DC's team.
Obviously a baseball game is a seasonal activity, so be sure to check the schedule to see if the Senators are playing and if they're at home when you're visiting Harrisburg.
Random Anecdote: Admittedly, I've never been a baseball fan. But my family went to a Senators game when I was ~8 years old when my dad got tickets through work. However, I missed most of the game while waiting in the concessions line for a funnel cake. Was it delicious? Yes. Do I regret missing the game? Nope! Ah, childhood memories.
9) Mini-Golf on City Island
If you aren't a baseball fan, you should still head over to City Island to explore some of the other fun things to do. City Island is a mile-long island in the Susquehanna River between Harrisburg and Wormleysburg which offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors.
When we visited Harrisburg, we enjoyed a round of mini-golf at Water Golf which was nicely maintained and had beautiful views of the river. In addition to mini-golf, the island has batting cages, an arcade, as well as a small beach.
Even if the activities on City Island don't interest you, I'd still recommend a walk around the island to see the views of the Harrisburg skyline or to let the kids explore the Harbortown Playground.
Pro Tips: To reach City Island by car, use the Market Street Bridge from either side of the river. If you're coming from the Harrisburg side, you also have the option of using the Walnut Street Bridge which is only for pedestrians and cyclists.
Be aware though that some of the activities on City Island are not open during the winter months.
10) Cruise on the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat
One of the last remaining paddlewheel riverboats in America, the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat is a fun way to sail along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. Built in 1989, The Pride is a replica of a 19-century riverboat used for river travel and trade in the U.S.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day and on weekends in September and October, take one of the 45-minute daily sightseeing tours on the Pride of the Susquehanna. Or, perhaps choose to experience one of their special events, like a craft-beer pairing or a murder mystery cruise.
Unfortunately, we did not make it onto one of these river cruises during our visit, but it's something I look forward to doing on a future trip to Harrisburg!
11) Drink Craft Beer at a Local Brewery
Speaking of craft beer, Harrisburg has several awesome local breweries at which you can quench your thirst! Here are a few that I'd recommend after our trips to Harrisburg.
Zerøday Brewing Company
With a taproom conveniently located on North Third Street as well as several other outpost locations, Zerøday Brewing Company is an easy brewery to work into your Harrisburg itinerary.
With a wide range of craft brews and hard seltzers, they seem to have something to satisfy any palate. We enjoyed the Strong Island Sour (though it packs a punch!) as well as the Second Rodeo IPA. Enjoy your beers in the spacious interior or in the large beer garden out back for some fresh air.
The taproom location also has a full food menu, so you could easily eat dinner or lunch in addition to enjoying the beer.
The Millworks is multi-use space in located in the renovated historic Stokes Millwork. In addition to artists' studio space and a large restaurant, the Millworks is home to a craft brewery and rooftop beer garden.
When we visited the Millworks on a Friday evening, we enjoyed a couple of their IPAs on the rooftop while listening to live music.
Ever Grain Brewing Company
Located a bit outside of Harrisburg in Camp Hill, PA, Ever Grain Brewing Company is worth the trip. They have a wide variety of beers on tap - I fell in love with the Joose Juicy IPA.
Plus, the food menu is an interesting mix of Korean and western options. The Grilled Cheese with BBQ brisket was just as phenomenal as it sounds. Jeremy went the other direction and ordered the Korean BBQ Chicken bowl which was equally delicious and authentically spicy!
In addition to its sprawling interior, the outside garden with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs is perfect for enjoying a beer with your furry friends.
12) Visit a Museum
Although every now and then I enjoy touring a museum on a rainy day, generally I prefer to stay outdoors. But it's worth mentioning that Harrisburg has a few museums that you might enjoy adding to your itinerary.
As you can see, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has plenty of fun things to do to keep you busy despite being a relatively small capital city. Whether you're into art, architecture, craft beer, or discovering delicious food, I think you'll find that Harrisburg has something to satisfy you.
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