My 3 favorite things to do in Harrisburg, PA

Published: May 18th 2016
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As a native, maybe I’m a little biased when I say this, but Harrisburg is a pretty fun place to live. It may not have the same allure as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but this capital city has its own special charm. One of my fondest memories of it is a simple one, sitting along the river front with my family on the Fourth of July, waiting for the sun to set and the fireworks to start.

Once you delve into it, you’ll find that Harrisburg is anything but simple. Between the thriving Midtown district and plentiful cultural centers, I think it’s almost impossible to be bored with Harrisburg. At least, I never am. Here are my three favorite things to do in Harrisburg:

Spend an Afternoon at Midtown Scholar

I’ll often whittle away hours in the Midtown Scholar, one of the best bookstore/café combos in Harrisburg. The shear variety of books in the store is amazing. The Scholar offers everything from the classics to history, the sciences, fiction and art.

When you’re tired of roaming the shelves, you can refresh yourself with a number of tasty — and reasonably priced — coffee and sweets. I often leave with a book in my hand and a full belly, perfectly content with time well spent.

Explore Midtown

If going to the bookstore doesn’t work out, I can always count on something fun going on elsewhere in the Midtown. If I’m looking to spend the evening with friends, I usually take them to the Zeroday Brewing Company and the Midtown Cinema.

Zeroday Brewing is a hip microbrewery built into the back of the Cinema. My favorite combo is their Bavarian-style soft pretzel — with mustard, of course — and a nice stout. The atmosphere is pretty chill, and like many businesses in Harrisburg, the walls are covered with art from local artists.

After eating, it only makes sense to catch a movie next door. The Midtown Cinema specializes in independent, avant-garde movies and foreign films. The movies shown are guaranteed to not only entertain, but to actually make you think and engage, rather than be a passive participant.

Visit Museums and Galleries

Finally, if I’m in the mood to save money and browse, Harrisburg has no shortage of museums and independent galleries to visit. My personal favorites are the State Museum and the Whitaker Center.

Admission to the State Museum is super cheap ($7), and it’s easy to stay entertained with the wide variety of exhibits, many of which focus on the history of Pennsylvania. As a bonus, viewing a film in the planetarium only costs an extra $3.

The Whitaker Center is a bit more expensive, but well worth the cost. I’ve always been a fan of the multi-level science center, with all of its interactive exhibits. Though it’s aimed more at kids, strolling through the center makes learning about basic scientific principles fun and engaging.

The Whitaker Center also has an IMAX screen, making it the perfect place to catch a film. They usually show documentaries, but from time to time the more popular movies of Hollywood make an appearance.

Though it may seem boring at first glance, I promise you, Harrisburg has a lot to offer to those willing to explore. I’ve only scratched the surface of the amazing outlets available in the city, so why not take a day or two and explore for yourself? You may find your new favorite hangout!

Photos: Don Shall · Joseph


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