12 Fun Things to Do in Harrisburg, PA

November 16, 2021


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. 

Pennsylvania State Capitol in 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.

Pennsylvania Senate Chamber at State 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. 

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. 

Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, PA

Pine Street Presbyterian Church on North 3rd & Pine Streets in Harrisburg, PA

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. 

Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA

Saint Patrick's Cathedral on State Street in Harrisburg, PA

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! 

Cold brew coffee from Little Amps

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.

Becky beside Susquehanna River in Harrisburg

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.

Groundhogs next to river

Can you spot the groundhogs?

As you walk along the riverfront, be sure to stop and admire the various statues and monuments on the way.

Construction monument Harrisburg PA
Statue of man reading newspaper

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. 

Market in Harrisburg, PA

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.

Tacos at Broad Street Market

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. 

Midtown Scholar Bookstore

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!

Butterfly mural Harrisburg, PA
Purple boy mural Harrisburg, PA

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.

Eye Mural Harrisburg, PA
Astronaut mural Harrisburg, PA

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. 

FNB Field on City Island in Harrisburg, PA

A view of FNB Field, plus the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat (see below) to the left.

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. 

View from City Island Mini Golf

Sunset over the mini-golf course on City Island

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. 

Sunset over Susquehanna River Harrisburg, PA

Pride of the Susquehanna offers sunset cruises, so you could enjoy the sunset on the river instead of beside it!

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. 

Zeroday Brewing Company

The taproom location also has a full food menu, so you could easily eat dinner or lunch in addition to enjoying the beer.

Millworks

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!  

Beer at Ever Grain

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. 

  • State Museum of Pennsylvania: Part of the PA State Capitol Complex, this museum's exhibits and displays cover Pennsylvania's history from prehistoric through current times.
  • Pennsylvania National Fire Museum: Housed in an 1899 Victorian Firehouse, this museum's exhibits focus on the history of fire service from colonial days to the present.
  • National Civil War Museum: A museum focused on solely on telling the story of the American Civil War from a variety of viewpoints.
  • Susquehanna Art Museum: Located in the Midtown neighborhood, this museum displays a variety of exhibits from nationally and internationally recognized artists. Visitors can also enjoy the outdoor sculpture garden.

Final Thoughts

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.

Happy travels!


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12 Fun Things to Do in Harrisburg, PA
12 Fun Things to Do in Harrisburg, PA East Coast Road Trip
12 Fun Things to Do Harrisburg, PA
  • I always knew Harrisburg as the nuclear meltdown from the 70s. However, we drove through a few years ago and I wish we would have had your list! I would enjoy the riverwalk with its sculptures, riverboat cruise, and the Midtown Scholar first.

    • That sounds like a road trip through my younger years in Pennsylvania. I grew up in Lancaster, PA (Amish country) and will be working on some posts on that area soon. You’ll have to let me know what you think of the Civil War Museum in Harrisburg if you visit.

  • Harrisburg looks like a beautiful place to visit with plenty of things to do. I’d start by a tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol, what a gorgeous interior! Those tacos look delicious and I’d have to visit the Ever Grain Brewing Co.

  • I visited years ago for work but never saw anything cool like taking a tour of the capitol! It looks so fancy and beautiful architecture. Taking a stroll along the riverfront, searching for the vibrant street art and sipping a beer would be awesome. Oh and those groundhogs are too cute!

    • I know how that goes – it’s hard to squeeze in too much sightseeing on those work trips. The capitol building was definitely a highlight on the trip to Harrisburg. But the city has so many activities that I ran out of time to do them all!

    • I was pleasantly surprised by Harrisburg’s food scene and the breweries in the city. And it’s nice that getting there by train would be relatively easy compared to a lot of places in the U.S.

    • Those activities sound like a good itinerary for Harrisburg. Since Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies, there’s a lot of cool history, like the Broad Street Market, to see as you travel through it.

  • Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten that Harrisburg was the Capital of Pennsylvania. Haven’t had any kids in school forcing me to review those state capital for a long time. But it looks to have some impressive architecture, and I could easily eat my way through Broad Street Market

    • Harrisburg is definitely one of the more obscure state capitals, unless you grow up ~45 minutes from it like I did! I know you’d enjoy the Broad Street Market, Steven. So many different cuisines to try.

  • What a diverse range of interesting things to do in Harrisburg. Such a beautiful city with wonderful architecture – and street art too. The Broad Street market definitely looks needs to be explored in-depth and we’d enjoy the craft beer. And we’d love to go groundhog spotting!

    • I wish I’d had more time to eat at Broad Street Market too – the range of cuisines available was not what I expected to find in Central Pennsylvania. You can definitely travel through food at that market!

    • Perhaps on your next trip back to PA, you’ll have to visit Harrisburg! A tour of the State Capitol building is definitely worth a stop. It’s funny how we sometimes miss interesting places near us. I grew up in Lancaster and really only visited Harrisburg that one time for the Senators game. And to fly out of the airport occasionally.

    • The breweries in this region of Pennsylvania are certainly worth a visit. Although I only listed ones close to Harrisburg, there’s a large brewery in Hershey, PA (Tröegs) that I’d also recommend if you’re in the area.

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