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A Harrisburgian How-To

If you moved to Carlisle this summer, welcome! For a great guide to in-town activities, check out this article by Nina A. for some tips on things to do in town. But if you want to explore beyond the borough, Harrisburg is about thirty minutes away and a great way to start seeing more of Pennsylvania. The following are 10 of my favorite things to do and places to visit in Harrisburg.

A big part of what makes Harrisburg Harrisburg: the State Capitol.
The Capitol rotunda, which is even shinier in person.

1. The State Capitol Building

Yes, Harrisburg – not Philadelphia – is the capital city of Pennsylvania, and it has the building to prove it. Theodore Roosevelt called it “the handsomest building I have ever seen”, and I agree. Pictures really can’t do it justice, so go see it for yourself! Free guided tours are offered during the week and on weekends. Reserving ahead of time online is recommended, and you can do so here.

Listen to this song while touring the Turnpike exhibit at the museum, or look it up on Spotify.
2. The State Museum

A few blocks away from the Capitol Building is the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Exhibits include the Mammal Hall, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Geology, the Civil War, and more – all free with a military ID. There is also a planetarium and rotating exhibits. Open Wednesday-Sunday, the museum is a great way to learn more about Pennsylvania! On their website you can plan your visit or, if you don't feel like going anywhere, view online exhibits.

Broad Street Market and Midtown Scholar are literally (and conveniently) across the street from each other.
3. Broad Street Market

The oldest continuously operated market house in the United States, Broad Street Market is a great place to support local vendors. A fire recently destroyed one of the two buildings, but the other remains open. Check out their website for more information and updates.

I spy with my little eye many, many objects beginning with 'B'...
4. Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Cafe

This store is so huge that I have quite literally gotten lost in this bookstore. Situated in a renovated 1920s movie theater/1930s department store across the street from Broad Street Market, Midtown Scholar has hundreds of thousands of new and used books on virtually any topic or genre under the sun. If you need coffee or a pastry as you read, they also have a café. Midtown Scholar also hosts author talks and events, which you can check out on their website.

5. The HBG Flea

The HBG Flea brings together local businesses and artisans on the first Saturday of every month year-round (outdoors May-October, indoors November-April). There’s something for everyone, from vintage clothing to handmade jewelry, and even hand-dyed yarn. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or looking for a gift, shopping at HBG Flea is a great way to find the perfect item and support local businesses. The HBG Flea has a website with information about upcoming markets and their vendors.

6. Open Stage Theater

Open Stage Theater, located downtown, is an amazing venue. The black box theater makes seeing a show feel intimate and up-close. The lobby bar offers non-alcoholic drinks that you are allowed to take into the theater, and they are served in a reusable cup that you can take home for a souvenir. Visit their website to see what shows are coming up!

7. Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra

If classical music is more your thing, check out the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra! HSO performs a variety of music, including pieces from popular culture in their POPS series. Even if you don’t know much about classical music (like me), it’s still a cool experience to hear beautiful pieces performed live. Plus, the Forum Auditorium is a beautiful venue that’s worth seeing. For more information, visit the HSO website.

This mural shows another of my favorite aspects of the Carlisle area: beautiful mountains.

8. Murals

Spend any amount of time walking or driving around Harrisburg, and you’ll notice beautiful murals on the sides of buildings. Visit Hershey & Harrisburg has even put together walking trails. For more information on the murals, check out Sprocket Mural Work’s website.

The Sunken Garden in Riverfront Park was in full bloom this summer!
9. Riverfront Park

Take in the Susquehanna from Riverfront Park, a public park that contains an esplanade, several memorials, art installations, a sunken garden, and a time capsule. The park also hosts concerts, like Harrisburg University's Summer Series, or it can be a lovely picnic spot.

10. FNB Field

Root for your (new) home team! City Island is home to the Harrisburg Senators, Double A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. FNB Field is a great place to spend a summer afternoon or evening, and don’t forget to stop by the Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame. See their upcoming games and get tickets on the Senator's website.

Harrisburg is an amazing city, and even after a total of three years living in the area, I never get tired of visiting! (I also never get tired of eating there, since all that exploring is hungry work. Yellow Bird Café and Burger Yum are my favorites, but that's a different article...) I love spending a day in Harrisburg, and I hope this article will help you plan a trip of your own!


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