Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in York, PA

  • Published 2022/11/28

One of the first capitals of the United States, the City of York is rich in history.

Perched in the Southern part of the estate, York, also famous for its nickname “White Rose City,” still houses centuries-old buildings conveniently located in the downtown area.

York, the county seat of York County, is an ideal place to visit for families and individuals who want to learn about America’s past and experience today’s city life.

If you’re on a tight budget, you should go sightseeing, visit local parks, or learn more about the Civil War history by taking advantage of the many free things in York.

Here are free things to do in York, Pennsylvania.

Soak up Local Culture at Historical York Central Market

Exterior of the Historical York Central Market

Acroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historical York Central Market on West Philadelphia Street is a must-visit destination for those looking to experience a taste of York’s unique culture.

Aside from the fresh produce in the thriving market, the building is housed in a historical landmark.

Opened in 1888 and included in the National Register of Historic Places list, the market is a hub for locals who want to shop for ingredients or gather with friends and family over food.

View of the Historical York Central Market at night

57RRoberts, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

John Dempwolf designed the building of York Public Market, creating the market’s structure in the Romanesque Revival Style.

Dempwolf added two three-story towers with prominent conical roofs on each end of the building’s entrance gate.

Marvel at the building’s 35,000-square-foot structure and discover the York Central Market’s history.

Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Grounds of the Perrydell Farm Dairy

It may seem strange to take a self-guided tour of a dairy, but what better way to learn about the city’s past than by visiting one of its historical landmarks?

Located at the Indian Rock Dam, the Perrydell Farm Dairy offers free self-guided tours daily.

The family-owned farm was established in 1963 and allowed visitors to go through the 173-acre dairy farm.

Watch how the farm gathers, process, and bottle its milk on the site.

Visitors are allowed to pet the Holstein calves, which kids will love.

After the tour, grab an ice cream cone to taste the farm’s delicious homemade ice cream, which is available in different flavors.

Join the City’s First Friday Event at the Historic Downtown York

Learn about the city’s rich history and culture and sign up for the First Friday event in Downtown York.

Held on the first Friday of the month, this free event starts at 5 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. in Historic Downtown York.

First Friday is a monthly celebration allowing visitors to explore the downtown area through live music, food options, shopping, and more.

During this event, the city offers limited-time discounts to some local restaurants, spas, and boutiques.

Sponsored by different shops in the Downtown Area, you can join free events such as Gourd Ornament Making or watch a free screening of holiday classics, such as “The Grinch.”

Enjoy the Beauty of Nature at Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Pathway at the Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Christian Hinkle /

Revel in the breathtaking sceneries of York when you visit the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.

Starting at the Colonial Courthouse, this park is a favorite destination of hikers and nature lovers.

The 21.5-mile path was opened in 1992 and covers 176 acres of farm fields, pastures, and forests.

A tunnel along the Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Onore Baka Sama, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Heritage Rail Trail County Park passes through 11 municipalities and seven valleys, with informational signages explaining the trail’s natural and historic features.

Whether you want to hike or cycle along the path, the Heritage Rail Trail County Park will delight you if you want an immersive nature experience.

With plenty of trees and greenery, this park is a perfect place to unwind and appreciate the beauty of nature.

Play with Your Pets at the Canine Meadows Off-Leash Dog Area

Named one of the best dog parks, the Canine Meadows Off-Leash Dog Area is the perfect destination for your pets to release their pent-up energy.

Divided into three areas, it offers plenty of space for dogs to run, play, and socialize.

With separate venues for large and small dogs, small dogs can play freely without being knocked over by the larger dogs.

There are trees, plants, and benches dotted around the area, but always keep a tight check on your pet.

Your pets can socialize with other dogs, run and play to their heart’s content, and let loose in the Canine Meadows Off-Leash Dog Area.

If you want to make your furry best friend happy, visit this park on Dellinger Road today!

Admire the Artistry of the Royal Square Murals

If you’re a lover of the arts, visit the Royal Square Murals in York.

Located in downtown York, these intricate and stunning murals were created by local artists as part of an initiative to beautify the city and highlight its rich history.

The Parliament Arts Organization and Sprocket Mural Works spearheaded the mural project.

Admire the paintings that decorate walls of the city’s old structures, such as the Nasturtium found at the back of The Cantina, painted by Jacintha Clark.

The mural is about the Nasturtium Flower representing the vibrant art scene in downtown York.

The Oracle, another mural, was created by Aron Rook of Carlisle and is inspired by an owl flying out of the dark.

If you’re looking for a great place to appreciate art, check out the Royal Square Murals in downtown York!

Explore the Playground with Your Kids at William H. Kain County Park

The grounds of William H. Kain County Park

Christian Hinkle /

Let your kids explore William H. Kain County Park, a favorite destination for families looking to have outdoor fun.

This 1,637-acre park is located on Hess Farm Road and features a perfect playground for little ones.

With a nice picnic area and ample open space, there’s plenty of room to explore at William H. Kain County Park.

Great egret at William H. Kain County Park

Walt Bilous /

The park also offers more than 12 miles of hiking trails for adults to enjoy outdoor time with their kids.

You can also explore and go around Lake Wiliams and Lake Redman, which offer excellent opportunities to watch those fishing and boating.

If you’re looking for the perfect playground, look no further than William H. Kain County Park.

Dirt trails at William H. Kain County Park

Christian Hinkle /

Learn How to Make Soaps at Sunrise Soap Company

Why not get discover the art of soap making?

You’ll learn a new skill at the Sunrise Soap Company, one of the top destinations for families.

You can have fun and learn about soaps when you visit their Creation Station in their retail store at North Beaver Street.

You can create your glycerin soaps, lotions, or even bath bombs.

Sunrise Soap Company is proud of its wide selection of carrier and essential oils, natural butter, and other ingredients that you can use to make your soaps.

Sunrise Soap Company also joins the First Friday Events in Downtown York with in-store demos and special offers for their visitors.

Watch a Volleyball Game at the John C. Rudy Park

Want to watch a game of volleyball?

Then head to John C. Rudy Park in York!

Located on Mundis Race Road, this fantastic park is perfect for catching some volleyball action.

The 150-acre park boasts sports fields, volleyball courts, and open green spaces for the whole family to enjoy.

Enjoy the beautiful park landscape with plenty of picnic areas and benches while watching the game.

If you have your pet with you, you can head to the Canine Meadows Off-Leash Dog Area for more bonding moments.

It also features a cross-country trail that is perfect to use during winter.

Whether you’re a spectator or participating in one of the many recreational activities offered at John C. Rudy Park, you’ll have a great time hanging out here.

Admire the Beauty of Mt. Pisgah at Samuel S. Lewis State Park

Scenic view from Samuel S. Lewis State Park

Nicholas, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gazing at the beauty of Mt. Misgah will be a pleasurable experience at Samuel S. Lewis State Park, one of the best state parks in Pennsylvania.

Located on Mt. Pisgah Road, this stunning park will give you a breathtaking view of the highest peak in the area.

The Susquehanna River, the nearby towns, and the surrounding farmland may all be seen from the magnificent vantage point on top of Mt. Pisgah.

Signage of Samuel S. Lewis State Park

Gerry D, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Various clubs also routinely host stargazing programs at the overlook, making it a popular location for astronomical observation.

Mt. Pisgah is also a favorite backdrop for weddings, so if you’re looking for a gorgeous outdoor location for your ceremony or other special events, this park is worth checking out.

Visit Samuel S. Lewis State Park today and be amazed by its natural beauty!

Millstone at Samuel S. Lewis State Park

Gerry D, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame

Get to know the history of weightlifting in the U.S. by touring the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame on Board Road.

Located at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, this hall was established to recognize and honor athletes and coaches who have made outstanding contributions to the sport.

The Weightlifting Museum has an extensive record of strength sports, including how they developed from folklore to the first Olympic Games and modern specialized sports of weightlifting, strength training, and muscle building.

The museum is located on the first floor of the York Barbell administration building and occupies around 8,000 square feet.

Touring the museum, you’ll see memorabilia from some of the best weightlifters in history, such as medals, trophies, team photos, and more.

If you’re a sports history fan or fitness enthusiast who loves lifting weights, visit the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York.

See How Violins are Made at the Bluett Bros Violins

Although York is known for its history and modern attractions, it also has a rich musical heritage.

This is evident in Bluett Bros Violins, an iconic shop in the city that crafts violins, mandolins, and other stringed instruments.

World-renowned Master Luthier Mark Bluett has been crafting musical instruments since 1984, from well-known violins and guitars to lesser-known instruments.

You can watch a violin made from scratch in this shop, from selecting the wood to crafting the fine details.

You’ll also see some of their handmade violins and stringed instruments, each with a unique design and sound.

Bluett Bros Violins’ owner will even be the one to tour you and explain to you the connection of stringed instruments to history.

See Natural Wonders at Richard Nixon Park’s Nature Center

If you’re looking for a nature-filled day out, check out Richard Nixon Park’s Nature Center.

This park on Nixon Drive is home to various plants and animals, making it the perfect spot for nature enthusiasts.

Richard Nixon Park has six miles of nature trails that wind through the forest and meadows, so you can explore at your own pace, but be sure to walk quietly to avoid disturbing the animals.

You’ll also find a nature center building where you can inquire about guided nature walks and other programs the park offers.

Richard Nixon Park’s Nature Center also presents exhibits on different species of insects, reptiles, and other types of birds.

The Nature Center also boasts an interactive room for children.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Beyond York, there are also nearby free attractions worth visiting, which are as follows:

Bask in the Sun at the Highpoint Scenic Vista and Recreation Area

Trail at Highpoint Scenic Vista and Recreation Area

Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located in scenic Wrightsville, the Highpoint Scenic Vista and Recreation Area is a beautiful outdoor relaxing spot.

You can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the Susquehanna River and neighboring hills at the 79-acre park perched in Lower Windsor Township.

Established in 2007, the Highpoint Scenic Vista and Recreation Area feature a walking route that is also ADA accessible for the convenience of visitors.

Landscape of Highpoint Scenic Vista and Recreation Area

Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About 30 minutes from York City, the park also allows visitors to go birdwatching and watch the summer solstice sunrise, which is a stunning sight.

The park also features a large picnic area, perfect for enjoying a meal or spending time with friends and family.

If you want to relax, look no further than the Highpoint Scenic Vista and Recreation Area!

Have a Picnic at the Spring Valley County Park

The waters of Spring Valley County Park

Andrew F. Kazmierski /

Twenty minutes from York City, you’ll find the picturesque Spring Valley County Park.

This 868-acre park in Glen Rock is the perfect spot to spend a relaxing day outdoors with family and friends, with its multiple-used trails, horseshoe pits, and open spaces.

Stroll down the five-mile walking trail and enjoy the serenity of nature, or try your hand at horseshoes and other outdoor games.

The park also features a large open area for children of all ages to run around or fly a kite.

Spring Valley County Park also has a picnic pavilion where you can spread a blanket and enjoy a delicious meal outdoors.

You can also watch horse practices in the show rings or bring your pet to enjoy a day at the park!

Final Thoughts

York City is an incredible place to explore with its rich history and abundance of parks and nature trails.

You can explore the wonders of York City as there are free things to do, including visiting local parks, exploring historic sites and museums, and checking out fun festivals throughout the year.

Tick off all the items on this list of free things to do in York, Pennsylvania, on your trip!

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