Pennsylvania’s capital city sits on the eastern shores of the picturesque and peaceful Susquehanna River. This quaint city of just under 50,000 residents has all the arts, entertainment, parks and activities you want from a big city delivered at a slower pace and with plenty of historic Pennsylvania charm.
If you like outdoor fun and Colonial history, you might never run out of things to do in Harrisburg. As the state capital, the city is home to a stunning 5.5 acre capital building that is worth a visit to see the uniquely beautiful art throughout, including a Rotunda crafted to mimic St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. For more US history and art, visit the Civil War Museum (Harrisburg was the site of several Civil War battles,) the vast grounds of Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, the Susquehanna Museum of Art, or the Harris-Cameron Mansion, a National Historic Landmark built in 1766.
Don’t miss the always popular City Island Park. This unique island destination in the middle of the Susquehanna is home to 63 acres of grassy areas, beaches, sports fields, playgrounds, and fun activities. The perfect family spot, there is something for everyone: nature hikes, horse-drawn carriage rides, mini-golf, a carousel, Civil War train ride, arcade and more. For more secluded outdoor time, rent a bike or go for a stroll on the Capital Area Greenbelt, a 20 mile trail that loops around town, with beautiful views of wooded areas, residential neighborhoods, parks and the waterfront. Or take a walk through the 85 acres of Reservoir Park (which also houses the Civil War Museum.) Visit in the summer months when you can catch free critically acclaimed Shakespeare performances at the outdoor auditorium. If your style is less Shakespeare and more sheep, plan your trip for January when Harrisburg hosts the Pennsylvania Farm Show, the country’s “largest indoor agricultural exposition,” featuring thousands of live animals.
Harrisburg’s southeast Pennsylvania location makes it easy to get to nearby Philadelphia. You can visit the City of Brotherly Love in just two hours via train or car and soak in historic sites, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and a veritable smorgasbord of art and history museums.
For a shorter trip, hop in the car for an hour and head to Lancaster, a quaint historic town in Amish country. Shop the aisles of fresh produce, food and Amish goods at the indoor Central Market (supposedly the oldest farmers market in the country.) Then take in a show at the venerable Fulton Theatre, a beautifully restored theater house built in 1852.
If chocolate is your heart’s desire, you’re in the right place. An easy 15 miles (about a 30 minute drive or bus ride) from Harrisburg is the legendary town of Hershey, hometown of, yes, the Hershey Company. Get your fix at Hershey’s Chocolate World and then let the kids burn off all that sugar at Hersheypark, an amusement park with rides and games for all ages.
If you want to be near the downtown action and have easy access to things like the capitol building and City Island Park, look for your vacation rental in the Midtown neighborhood or the Capitol District. For a quieter stay and easy access to Reservoir Park and the Capital Area Greenbelt, look for rentals in the East Harrisburg neighborhood or in the nearby parish of Penbrook. For an upscale residential feel away from the hustle, search near Uptown, north of Midtown by Italian Lake.
Public transit is available in Harrisburg via the Capital Area Transit (or CAT,) which offers bus routes all across town, to City Island Park and nearby parishes and towns, like Penbrook, Mechanicsburg and even Hershey. Fares vary based on how far you ride but are reasonable, starting at $1.75.
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