20 Best Things to Do in Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg, PA
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A gem right on the shore of the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a charming city that fosters various attractions and a treasure trove of history and culture.

Home to the Pennsylvania state capitol, Harrisburg is just a stone's throw away from bustling cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, and New York.

The state capital has played a significant role in the Westward expansion and the Civil War and has ever since been known for its beauty and rich history.

Providing you with an intimate and historical atmosphere and perhaps even some inspiration to achieve your dreams, this historic city is one that any human being would be privileged to explore.

There's lots of history to explore and taverns, breweries, and cycle paths on which you can ride.

It has rich geography, but there are also some great places to visit, like the Susquehanna River or Fort Hunter Mansion.

There's even a whole museum full of taxidermy.

If you want more exciting things to do in Harrisburg, PA, then keep reading.

Visit the Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick

Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick
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The Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick is a historic Catholic church located at 212 State Street, Harrisburg.

Since its founding over 190 years ago, Saint Patrick's has been a landmark for Catholics throughout central Pennsylvania.

In addition to being a place of worship, it also houses an impressive collection of stained glass windows and murals by well-known artists.

Interior of Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick
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The artwork depicts Christian doctrine and essential events from Church history—the building itself is a work of art!

No one can deny that the architecture is absolutely breathtaking.

If you're going to visit Saint Patrick's Cathedral, its Sunday mass begins at 7:30 am and lasts for about one hour.

Exterior view of Saint Patrick
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Enjoy the Best of Local Fare at Broad Street Market

Broad Street Market
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Located on 3rd and Verbeke, the Broad Street Market is a great place to grab a bite.

Enjoy a variety of freshly prepared meals and tasty baked goods from almost 40 vendors!

Signboard of Broad Street Market
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Established in 1860, the market has been serving fresh organic produce and meats for local inhabitants since day one.

Interior of Broad Street Market
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Broad Street Market offers a wide variety of choices, from soup to sandwiches, ice creams, and soft pretzels.

Not only that, but there are organic meals as well.

Experience a Joyful Tour Through the Grand History of the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park

Fort Hunter Mansion and Park
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For a charming tour through history, take your family or friends on a journey through one of Pennsylvania's most historic sites.

Located 6 miles north of downtown Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, Fort Hunter Mansion dates back to 1787.

With an extra two ½-story building in 1814, this property became the Federal-style mansion that sits today.

The Victorian mansion has an interesting design.

Below the front portico, which is the main focal point of the property, there are wood-frame windows with thin wooden ribbing.

Pathway leading to Fort Hunter Mansion and Park
Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To add some flare, there's the Palladian window on the second floor that has columns.

Around the back is where you'll find the other involved aspect of this property, what seems to be a brick oven added onto the cabin in the mid-19th century.

Here, you'll certainly have a perfect day trip for exploring history with special someone or friends and family members.

Stroll Along the Capital Area Greenbelt

Capital Area Greenbelt
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The Capital Area Greenbelt (CAG) is one of Harrisburg's most popular attractions.

It's a well-developed 20-mile path that loops around much of Harrisburg, taking visitors past great spots like Susquehanna River and Riverfront Park.

The Greenbelt features breathtaking scenery with views of urban offices, scenic parks, residential areas, wooded areas, and river vistas—and plenty of wildlife, too!

Capital Area Greenbelt
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A lot of people come here to hike, cycle or skate, but you can also do more sedate things if you want.

No matter who you are or what your interests are, there's always plenty to see and do here.

The Capital Area Greenbelt is a perfect way to relax and enjoy nature on a nice day.

View of Capital Area Greenbelt
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Visit the National Civil War Museum

National Civil War Museum
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The Civil War Museum showcases many fascinating relics, including manuscripts, photographs, documents, artifacts, other printed matter exceeding 24,000 items, and other military equipment used.

The museum is two stories tall and located in a brick building in Harrisburg's Reservoir Parkin Allison Hill.

The second story of the museum is where you'll find the exhibits (the ten first galleries) and on the ground floor (the seven last galleries, including the gift shop, temporary exhibit gallery, and museum support).

A "Walk of Valor" contains ornamental bricks that honor residents who served during the Civil War.

It was civil war enthusiast former Harrisburg Mayor Steve Reed who funded the 32 million-dollar museum project.

It is truly a must-see attraction if you are visiting Harrisburg, and if you're a history buff, you'll be utterly fascinated by all of its treasures!

Go on an Outdoor Adventure at Wildwood Park

Wildwood Park
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Surrounded by history, wildlife, and plenty of outdoor activities, Wildwood Park is truly a nature lover's delight.

In fact, this 229-acre park is home to more than 6 miles of hiking trails, where you can explore the untouched wilderness.

Whether you hike with friends or go at it alone, you'll enjoy striking scenery along these trails that wind around a 90-acre shallow lake and cross 1 mile of boardwalks.

Boardwalk trail in Wildwood Park
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The urban wetland trails offer terrific opportunities for people seeking a little bit of adventure away from everyday life.

These areas provide you with an opportunity to hike, walk, and more alongside nature's fantastic creations.

These pathways allow you to take advantage of beautiful landscapes and access fascinating wildlife, including all sorts of frogs, birds, and more!

Photographers love this place because they get to experience the thrill of interacting with various types of animals at close range.

Wildwood Park
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Explore Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex

Aerial view of Pennsylvania State Capitol
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It would be hard to come up with a more telling example of America's unique mixing of culture than the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston incorporated the American Renaissance style in designing the Pennsylvania State Capitol in 1906.

He wanted people who come here to feel as if you're in a "Palace of Art."

Costing around $13 million at the time, the building boasts paintings and furnishings from some of the best artists.

As a result, different elements went into this incredible structure - from Italian styles to French to English!

Interior of Pennsylvania State Capitol
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The building is full of details that directly pay tribute to Pennsylvania's origins as well as its state motto, "Virtue, Liberty, and Independence."

Gorgeous Vermont granite makes up this impressive five-story structure.

Dome of Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex
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The massive 272-foot dome, which looks like it comes straight from Michelangelo's design for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, symbolizes it.

Inspired by ancient monuments around the world, this landmark structure is nevertheless entirely American at its core.

Experience a New Dimension of History at the State Museum of Pennsylvania

State Museum of Pennsylvania
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Located at 300 North Street in Downtown Harrisburg, the State Museum of Pennsylvania is the perfect place to engage with the Commonwealth through centuries of Pennsylvania history.

The museum is technically a part of the Capitol Complex since it falls under the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission umbrella, which runs state museums that document specific eras or periods in history.

It includes exhibit halls and, most notably, the multi-media planetarium.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
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The museum reveals exhibitions from many different periods of Pennsylvania's history, from the Pre-Colonial era to these days.

Among the museum's collection of over three million artifacts is a large representation of industrial and technological innovations of Pennsylvania, including many displays and artifacts that tells about the American Civil War era.

Exhibits at State Museum of Pennsylvania
US Census, Ruhrfisch, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can interpret history better through interactive exhibits, artwork, dioramas, paintings, and other audio-visuals.

You can also learn about Pennsylvania's diverse history through its many changing exhibitions.

In one year, an average of about 315,000 people visits the museum.

Enjoy a Race or Concert at Harrisburg City Island

Bridge to Harrisburg City Island
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Harrisburg City Island is a beautiful area in Pennsylvania with an emphasis on leisure and sports activities.

The mile-long island between Harrisburg and Wormleysburg, Pennsylvania, serves mainly for entertainment purposes, such as races, concerts, festivals, and the like.

Harrisburg City Island
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On the island, there's an FNB Field (for soccer and baseball), H20 Miniature Golf, the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat, City Island Railroad, the City Island Stables, and City Island Arcade/Batting Cages.

These recreational attractions connect directly to downtown Harrisburg via the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge.

This easy connection gives event-goers an open window into all of Harrisburg's mind and body expanding arts and entertainment events.

Fireworks at Harrisburg City Island
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See Firefighting History at the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum

The Pennsylvania National Fire Museum located in the heart of Harrisburg is a landmark reminder of the city's rich firefighting history.

The museum used to be Harrisburg's 1899 Victorian firehouse Reily Hose Fire Co. No. 10.

The exhibits here focus on America's colonial beginnings and firefighting history through time up to the modern day.

It is now a premier museum housing so much vintage firefighting gear, pics, and info spanning firefighting history in Pennslyvania and the US.

One of several highlights on exhibit at the museum is a Gamewell digital alarm system headquarters dating back to the 1920s.

Visit the Simon Cameron House and Get a Taste of History

Simon Cameron House
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Also known as the Simon Cameron House, the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion is a historic house museum located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at 219 South Front Street.

Constructed in 1766 and frequently extended and altered, it is one of Harrisburg's oldest buildings and still has its original structure intact.

It was Simon Cameron, an influential politician, who purchased it to use as a summer residence.

Facade of Simon Cameron House
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In 1941, the Historical Society of Dauphin County acquired the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion as a donation.

It became a National Historic Landmark in 1975 and currently serves as a tourist attraction that exhibits Cameron memorabilia.

The guides here are amiable and very knowledgeable.

You will find that you have an interesting time learning about some of the histories of Harrisburg, PA, USA, and this remarkable house.

See the Vibrant Contemporary Art at Susquehanna Art Museum

Susquehanna Art Museum
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Nestled in the heart of the midtown neighborhood in one of the Commonwealth’s beloved reclaimed buildings, this unique museum offers a warm and casual environment that invites you into a world of new sights and sounds with every exhibition.

The Susquehanna Art Museum is proud to be Pennsylvania’s first registered non-sectarian art museum providing educational programming and innovative rotating exhibitions to the public year-round!

The museum and exhibitions are not huge, but it is still an incredible sight to behold.

Even so, you may truly enjoy it even more than one would expect.

The fun, interactive atmosphere will feel welcoming, too, perfect for an outing with friends or family.

You can linger at your leisure, looking around or just talking over the artwork.

And entry fees are pretty low!

Additionally, there are some workshops for kids to help them learn about art and culture.

Visitors who want the most out of their museum experience can park right behind the building and walk directly indoors.

Enjoy a Fun-Filled Day at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts

When the doors to Whitaker Center opened on September 9, 1999, it was clear that this was a place of education and entertainment like no other.

The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts was created with love and inspiration from Uncas A. Whitaker and his wife, Helen F. Whitaker, who donated more than $8 million to see their dream become a reality.

When you enter the doors of Whitaker Center, you feel that friendly vibe that makes this vision of something greater come to life!

Stunning world-class performances, cutting-edge interactive exhibits, and iconic film experiences are waiting for you here!

From dazzling theater productions to spectacular concerts, Pennsylvania's choice for endless entertainment is also central PA's most unique venue location.

They also provide a venue for meeting rooms where you can have a gathering or a party if it so please you.

There's also exclusive access to some areas not available to the public, so only members get to enjoy them.

Don't Miss the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra

Harrisburg is also home to the phenomenal symphony orchestra, the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.

Founded in 1931 during the height of the Great Depression, the HSO still strives to provide a good season of orchestral music in Central Pennsylvania.

The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra is the go-to if you are into contemporary and classical music.

With its sparkling string section, full brass ensemble, percussion, winds, harp, and other exotic instruments performed by an outstanding group of musicians, the HSO is an experience for any music lover.

Conductor Stuart Malina previously won a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations in 2003 for his work on Movin’ Out.

The HSO regularly hosts performances that coincide with lectures or community events that deal with art or science-related topics.

Go Cruising With the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat

Susquehanna Riverboat
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The Pride of the Susquehanna is an excellent opportunity to venture off into the heart of Pennsylvania's history!

The Harrisburg Area Riverboat Society made this paddlewheel riverboat in 1988 as a community service project.

It was built to replicate America's 19th-century steamship infrastructure.

Here, you can venture deep into the hearts and minds of what it means to be an American!

Susquehanna Riverboat Cruise
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The luxurious doors of The Pride came from the RMS Queen Mary, which used to stand on the famous ocean liner during the 20th century.

Swing by their cafe for a frosty strawberry drink or a glass of red wine, and have a relaxing drink on their porch as you spot wildlife along the Susquehanna River!

This fun river experience is chock-full of animals and educational details about the area's ecological wonders.

Paddle wheels of Susquehanna Riverboat
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Watch an Event held in the Forum Auditorium

Beautifully constructed with a 1,610-seat capacity, the theater has hosted several events all year round.

A modern LED dramatic lighting system has been installed in The Forum.

Entrance to Forum Auditorium
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The stage in the Forum Auditorium is changeable for every occasion thanks to the theatrical lighting equipment's color-changing capabilities.

It has an upgraded infrastructure that can manage extra light fixtures and is connected to the home system.

The venue's sitting sections are evenly covered by the theater sound system, a mono-center cluster of loudspeakers operated by EAW's Resolution technology.

Ceiling at Forum Auditorium
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Savor the Flavorful Wine at West Hanover Winery Inc.

Come and visit West Hanover Winery Inc. to indulge in award-winning wines, outdoor concerts, and wine sampling tours.

They delightfully in their silky, flawless wines and have been in business for 22 years.

What distinguishes them are their unique events and exceptional customer service.

Groupon and routine samples are available every day at West Hanover Winery Inc.

They combine expertise and abilities acquired over 45 years of experience to produce their wines.

You'll discover a lovely fusion of magnificent flavors with each sip.

Shop the whole Afternoon at Harrisburg Mall

Signboard at Harrisburg Mall
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The mall opened its doors in 1969 under Harrisburg East Mall.

With more than 70 retailers, including over 1 million square feet of retail space on two floors, Harrisburg Mall is anchored by Bass Pro Shops.

It is the biggest mall in the vicinity of Harrisburg.

The mall is open from Mondays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. up to 8 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Harrisburg Mall receives approximately 4 million visitors a year.

In addition, tenants include Kay Jewelers, New York & Company Outlet, Bath & Body Works, Champs Sports, Foot Locker, and many more!

Tour around and Admire the Venue of Midstate Distillery

Family-run Midstate Distillery uses regional products to make its spirits and collaborates with Pennsylvania companies wherever feasible.

They aim to create exceptional, distinctive items that honor their Pennsylvanian heritage and represent their heritage.

Visit for a complimentary sampling and stay for a handmade drink or martini on the venue's brand-new terrace.

Sundays include a Build-a-Bloody Mary station, and happy hours are from 5–7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Planning a party, charity event, baby shower, or other special occasions?

Reserve a portion of their tasting room or the whole venue for your upcoming event.

The contemporary industrial setting offers a warm environment and a distinctive local feel.

Delight in a Tasty Meal at Gilligan's Bar and Grill

George and Leah Lois opened Gilligan's Bar & Grill in 1993.

It aims to deliver amazing cuisine and service to its customers.

Gilligan's aspires to not just meet but also beyond client expectations and provide both casual and sophisticated dining.

Fresh seafood, finely seasoned steaks, veal, and handmade pasta dishes are all available on the menu.

They make their nutritious garden salads and freshly made sub rolls.

Daily soup variants are always created from scratch in their kitchens and are bound to impress.

The prime rib at Gilligan's is renowned for being flavorful and slow-cooked for a whole night.

Enjoy a quiet evening in their magnificent dining room or load up a beverage from their extensive draught menu at the bar.

Final Thoughts

If you ever find yourself in Harrisburg, you are sure to have a good time because there's an endless number of activities to participate in.

You can spend your day admiring the many beautiful streets, relaxing on the banks of the Susquehanna River, or participating in exhilarating outdoor activities, like cruising on a boat or hiking along the Capital Area Greenbelt.

Do as much as you can while you're here, and make sure to take lots of pictures along the way!

It'll be exactly the kind of adventure that will leave you with all sorts of wonderful memories.

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