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Culture, Chocolate, and More - It’s Harrisburg
Situated a little more than 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Harrisburg is the Capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The city, which boasts a riverside setting along the banks of the Susquehanna, entices visitors with everything from a rich cultural landscape to an abundance of family friendly attractions. The cost of hotels and dining in Harrisburg is by no means prohibitive, so there’s nothing to stop you from discovering this city for yourself.
Cultural attractions here are as diverse as they are memorable. Perhaps the most notable cultural site is the Capitol Complex. This 5.5-acre site is home to the Beaux Arts-style Pennsylvania Capitol Building, a National Historic Landmark, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly Welcome Center. Guided tours of the complex are available. Nearby, The State Museum of Pennsylvania features a collection of almost five million objects of interests, as well as a popular planetarium. A trip to the National Civil War Museum found within Reservoir Park is another must for your cultural bucket list, as is a visit to the Susquehanna Art Museum. Adding a little something extra to the area’s cultural pedigree are events such as the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, an annual showcase of Shakespeare’s iconic plays performed in venues across the city.
While children will likely enjoy a trip to some of Harrisburg’s cultural buildings and, in particular, the planetarium, some of the city’s attractions are better than others when it comes to keeping a younger audience entertained. You might treat the kids to a trip to the ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park, an 11-acre walkable zoo where inhabitants include reindeer, owls, and mountain lions. Or perhaps they would enjoy one of the performances laid on by the Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre at the Gamut Classic Theatre (North Fourth Street). The icing on the cake for most kids (and adults too) will be a trip to Hershey Park. This family theme park, located just 25 minutes east of downtown Harrisburg, is home to Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction (enough said?) and Hershey Gardens, a 23-acre site with a tropical butterfly house and a unique children’s garden.
Harrisburg offers several outdoor spaces to enjoy. Aside from Reservoir Park in the east of the city, visitors can enjoy Wildwood Park. Situated in the city’s northern tip, this 210-acre park features six miles of trails, a large lake, and the Benjamin Olewine III Nature Center, the latter opening Tuesday through Sunday and featuring reading and exhibit areas as well as a special bird watching space. Visitors can also explore the Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area, a 1,025-acre space that straddles Blue Mountain, or head west to Hummelstown where the Indian Echo Caverns delight with an array of stunning geological features. If you like to take life at a slightly slower pace, you can enjoy a cruise on the Pride of the Susquehanna, an authentic paddle wheeler offering narrated tours. Tours depart from City Island from Spring until late Autumn.
Shopping and Dining
The retail scene in and around Harrisburg is fairly diverse. The Harrisburg Mall is the largest of the city’s shopping centres, offering a range of anchor stores and independent retailers as well as a movie theatre. Other notable retail destinations include the upmarket Strawberry Square and, across the river in Lemoyne, the West Shore Plaza. All these shopping centres offer some kind of food options, even if it’s just a grab and go type deal. For more traditional dining, you should head to the Harvey Taylor Bridge in the waterfront area where the surrounding dining spots include everything from all-American eats to French bistro style affairs. The Asia Mall on South 13th Street provides an option for any visitor who finds themselves with a craving for authentic ethnic food.
More to Enjoy
If you’re looking for more ideas for your itinerary, Harrisburg and the surrounding areas won’t leave you feeling short-changed. In the city, you can explore the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, discover the artefacts at the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, or head upriver to check out the Dauphin Narrows Statue of Liberty. Fans of the fairway can while away an afternoon on the Dauphin Highlands or Riverview golf courses. And, in January, the country’s largest indoor agricultural exposition, the Pennsylvania Farm Show, rolls into town, bringing with it 10,000 competitive exhibits, 6,000 animals, and a great deal of fun for every visitor. Other events worth leaving your hotel for include the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo, Brewers Fest, and the Independence Day celebrations.