Harrisburg travel guide

Harrisburg Tourism | Harrisburg Guide

You're Going to Love Harrisburg

Pennsylvania's capital is often overlooked in favor of neighbors like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but it's a mistake to do so. Far more than just a political hub, Harrisburg is a cultural center, a historical gem, and a great base to explore the central part of the Keystone State.

In the city itself you can tour the Capitol, visit the National Civil War Museum, or indulge your sweet tooth with a trip to Hersheypark. You can wander the banks of the mile-wide Susquehanna River, or cross over to the ballpark and concert venue on City Island - one of the most picturesque stadiums in America.

With the historic Gettysburg Battlefield site a short drive away, Harrisburg has a lot to offer vacationers.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Harrisburg

1. There's Plenty for Families to Enjoy

With the chocolate-themed rides and exhibits at Hersheypark, mini golf and minor league baseball on City Island, and the trails and footpaths of Wildwood Park, families will always have plenty to do during their trips to Harrisburg.

2. Sites of Historical Importance a Short Drive Away

Harrisburg was almost captured by Confederate forces during the US Civil War, and you can learn all about the city's history at the Civil War Museum, but an even better idea is to take the bus or drive to Gettysburg, around 38 miles to the south.

3. Wonderful Galleries and Museums

Harrisburg is more than simply a political center, and its museums and galleries are all the proof you need. Learn about Victorian life at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, see the military collections at the US Army Heritage and Education Center, or stick to the center of town where you'll find the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the Susquehanna Art Museum.

4. The Beautiful Susquehanna River

Harrisburg grew up on a bend in the Susquehanna where the river stretches to over a mile in width (but not much more than a few feet deep). The islands and banks of the river offer great picnic locations and give the city an open, natural feel that other PA destinations can't match.

5. Great Bars, Restaurants, and Entertainment Venues

Head to city center craft ale pubs like the Federal Taphouse or JB Lovedrafts, try out the BBQ at MoMo's or head to high-end gourmet restaurants like Bricco before heading to the Midtown Arts Center for a concert or show.

What to do in Harrisburg

1. Pennsylvania State Capitol: A Palace of Art

This State Capitol is the most iconic building of Harrisburg's quaint skyline, its Beaux-Arts dome standing out among green treetops above the Susquehanna River. The Capitol will assert itself in your memory down to every detail, and the interior is just as lavish as the exterior is impressive. Sculptures of past politicians, murals of historic events, and epic stained-glass windows fill the space majestically. Take an in-depth tour for the full story.

2. State Museum of Pennsylvania: It’s All About Pennsylvania!

Pennsylvania's history is celebrated at this institution, with galleries covering every topic imaginable related to the state. Enjoy the natural exhibits on the local flora and fauna of today, or ogle the remains of dinosaurs from much further in the past. Explore outer space in the enormous planetarium, and ground yourself again with in-depth exhibitions on the American Civil War. Last but not least, discover the inventions of the industrial revolution for yourself, with antiques of all kinds.

3. City Island: Gem of the River

Stretching for one mile, City Island is a beloved leisure zone for locals and tourists alike. Catch an All-American minor league Baseball Game with the Senators, or hit one of the nearby fields for a pick-up game of your favorite sport. Take the City Island Railroad and stop at the carrousel for a ride, or play some miniature golf before hitting the water on the classical riverboat "Pride of the Susquehanna". No matter what your interests are, City Island has recreation galore.

4. Hersheypark: "The Sweetest Place on Earth"

One of the country's most unique amusement parks lies just outside of Harrisburg, the product of the nation's most beloved chocolate brand. From Pioneer Frontier to the Boardwalk at Hersheypark, the mini-neighborhoods offer endless thrill rides for visitors of all ages. An explosion of colors and candy awaits around every corner, in delectable and quintessential American style.

5. National Civil War Museum: America Divided

Set in the 150-year-old Reservoir Park, this National Museum offers the world's most comprehensive chronicle of the Civil War. Galleries are filled to the brim with original artifacts directly from the 19th century, including photographs, manuscripts, maps, weapons, and more. A bloody and complex story comes alive with the help of these primary sources, in an exhibition that attempts to highlight every perspective. The grounds of the museum also serve as a peaceful memorial to veterans.

6. Reading Terminal Market: Provoke your Senses

Offering the freshest produce in the city, Reading Terminal is one of the largest farmer markets in the world, and this should come as no surprise considering the longstanding history of agriculture in the State of Pennsylvania. Visitors come to taste local delicacies or to pick up groceries for a home-cooked feast, with an unforgettable atmosphere to boot.

7. Independence Mall: Birth of a Nation

Philadelphia's touristic center revolves around Independence Mall, the site of the historical signing of America's Declaration of Independence. During this 1776 event, the famous Liberty Bell still rang in the steeple of Independence Hall, while visitors can now appreciate the symbol of freedom on display in the park down below, surrounded by countless other historical landmarks.

1. Pennsylvania State Capitol: A Palace of Art

This State Capitol is the most iconic building of Harrisburg's quaint skyline, its Beaux-Arts dome standing out among green treetops above the Susquehanna River. The Capitol will assert itself in your memory down to every detail, and the interior is just as lavish as the exterior is impressive. Sculptures of past politicians, murals of historic events, and epic stained-glass windows fill the space majestically. Take an in-depth tour for the full story.

2. State Museum of Pennsylvania: It’s All About Pennsylvania!

Pennsylvania's history is celebrated at this institution, with galleries covering every topic imaginable related to the state. Enjoy the natural exhibits on the local flora and fauna of today, or ogle the remains of dinosaurs from much further in the past. Explore outer space in the enormous planetarium, and ground yourself again with in-depth exhibitions on the American Civil War. Last but not least, discover the inventions of the industrial revolution for yourself, with antiques of all kinds.

3. City Island: Gem of the River

Stretching for one mile, City Island is a beloved leisure zone for locals and tourists alike. Catch an All-American minor league Baseball Game with the Senators, or hit one of the nearby fields for a pick-up game of your favorite sport. Take the City Island Railroad and stop at the carrousel for a ride, or play some miniature golf before hitting the water on the classical riverboat "Pride of the Susquehanna". No matter what your interests are, City Island has recreation galore.

4. Hersheypark: "The Sweetest Place on Earth"

One of the country's most unique amusement parks lies just outside of Harrisburg, the product of the nation's most beloved chocolate brand. From Pioneer Frontier to the Boardwalk at Hersheypark, the mini-neighborhoods offer endless thrill rides for visitors of all ages. An explosion of colors and candy awaits around every corner, in delectable and quintessential American style.

5. National Civil War Museum: America Divided

Set in the 150-year-old Reservoir Park, this National Museum offers the world's most comprehensive chronicle of the Civil War. Galleries are filled to the brim with original artifacts directly from the 19th century, including photographs, manuscripts, maps, weapons, and more. A bloody and complex story comes alive with the help of these primary sources, in an exhibition that attempts to highlight every perspective. The grounds of the museum also serve as a peaceful memorial to veterans.

6. Reading Terminal Market: Provoke your Senses

Offering the freshest produce in the city, Reading Terminal is one of the largest farmer markets in the world, and this should come as no surprise considering the longstanding history of agriculture in the State of Pennsylvania. Visitors come to taste local delicacies or to pick up groceries for a home-cooked feast, with an unforgettable atmosphere to boot.

7. Independence Mall: Birth of a Nation

Philadelphia's touristic center revolves around Independence Mall, the site of the historical signing of America's Declaration of Independence. During this 1776 event, the famous Liberty Bell still rang in the steeple of Independence Hall, while visitors can now appreciate the symbol of freedom on display in the park down below, surrounded by countless other historical landmarks.

Where to Eat in Harrisburg

The center of Harrisburg offers plenty of dining options, with almost everyone's tastes catered to. Some of the best food is to be found at BBQ bars like MoMo's on Market Street, while great burgers are to be found at Harrisburger in Broad Street Market. El Sol is an excellent Mexican eatery, while high-end restaurants include Char's (which is housed in the elegant Tracy Mansion) and Rubicon. Expect to pay $30 for gourmet meals, but less than $15 for BBQ or burgers.

When to visit Harrisburg

Harrisburg in March
Estimated hotel price
C$ 129
1 night at 3-star hotel
Harrisburg in March
Estimated hotel price
C$ 129
1 night at 3-star hotel

If you want to enjoy the Susquehanna and its islands at their best, summer is the time to go, but baseball fans might also give April and may a try, when the Senators kick off their season. Otherwise, fall is a beautiful time to tour the countryside, making October or November good times to visit.

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How to Get to Harrisburg

Plane

Harrisburg International Airport (MDT) is the main entry point for domestic visitors and is around 15 miles from the city center. The cheapest route into town is to take bus 7 (except on Sundays), although most major city center hotels also run shuttles, so check with your accommodation provider. Expect taxis to cost about $20-30 depending on the time of day.

Train

Harrisburg is on Amtrak's Keystone route, which provides a handy connection to Philadelphia and New York City. The Amtrak station is pretty centrally located, around a mile north of Center City, and it's easy to walk into town.

Car

If you are driving to Harrisburg from Philadelphia or New York, I-76 is the road to take. I-83 runs from Washington D.C. and Baltimore and I-76 also runs from Pittsburgh in the west.

Bus

Harrisburg is on the national Greyhound bus network, which stops at the Amtrak station, and links the city to all major regional cities. If you are making a short hop from cities like York or Lancaster, Trailways services are also available, along with local buses provided by Capital Area Transit.

Airlines serving Harrisburg

United Airlines
Good (2,620 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (4,070 reviews)
KLM
Good (317 reviews)
Air France
Good (355 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,169 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,810 reviews)
British Airways
Good (1,119 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,022 reviews)
Iberia
Good (773 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (966 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (749 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (447 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (384 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (219 reviews)
Finnair
Good (576 reviews)
Alaska Airlines
Excellent (2,270 reviews)
Spirit Airlines
Good (2,325 reviews)
LATAM Airlines
Good (708 reviews)
JetBlue
Good (1,209 reviews)
ITA Airways
Good (64 reviews)
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Where to stay in Harrisburg

Center City - Harrisburg's downtown core, Center City, is home to the major hotels, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, so it's where most visitors choose to base themselves. 2nd Street is the heart of town, with its array of places to eat, while the Whitaker Center is the town's artistic hub.

Popular Neighborhoods in Harrisburg

Capitol District - where decisions are made that affect the whole of Pennsylvania, Capitol District is full of beautiful classical architecture and fascinating attractions. Take a tour of the Capitol itself, visit the State Museum, or take in a concert at the Forum Auditorium.

Allison Hill - located just east of the city center, Allison Hill is dominated by Reservoir Park, Harrisburg's largest green space. It's also home to the National Civil War Museum, a cluster of gorgeous stone churches, and hosts annual events like Shakespeare in the Park, so it's a great place for culture lovers.

Where to stay in popular areas of Harrisburg

Most booked hotels in Harrisburg

Homewood Suites Harrisburg-West Hershey Area
Excellent (8.9, Excellent reviews)
C$ 166+
Hampton Inn by Hilton Harrisburg West
Excellent (8.8, Excellent reviews)
C$ 149+
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Harrisburg West
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
C$ 115+
Courtyard by Marriott Harrisburg West/Mechanicsburg
Good (7.7, Good reviews)
C$ 204+
Comfort Inn Mechanicsburg - Harrisburg South
Good (7.5, Good reviews)
C$ 119+
Red Roof Inn Harrisburg North
Good (7, Good reviews)
C$ 90+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Harrisburg

Public Transportation

Capital Area Transit provides a basic bus network that is adequate for locals, and is a useful way to get up and down Market Street or along the Susquehanna riverfront. Basic fares are $1.75 and you can buy 11-ride tickets for $16.50.

Taxi

Taxis are a relatively affordable way for families or couples to get around Harrisburg, and Uber and Lyft are also active in the city, making taxi travel even cheaper. Expect to pay around $2 for the meter drop with Uber, then $1.75 per mile.

Car

Harrisburg is a pretty simple city to drive around, with few one-way streets and relatively few problems with traffic. 1,300 metered spots in the center of town also make parking less of a problem than in other cities. Having a car also makes it much easier to visit attractions like Gettysburg or Hersheypark, so it's well worth the expense. Local rental companies include Enterprise and Alamo, and rates can be as low as $21 per day.

The Cost of Living in Harrisburg

Shopping Streets

Harrisburg's major downtown shopping street is Market Street, although you'll find some vintage stores along 2nd Street as well. However, Strawberry Square is the place to head for apparel and food shopping, with men's boutiques like Michael Boyd and craft stores like Ideas and Objects. If you need to visit chains like Macy's or JC Penney, Harrisburg Mall is in Swatara on the city's outskirts and should have what you need.

Groceries and Other

Supermarkets are thin on the ground in Center City, although there's a CVS on Market Street and a couple of small grocery stores as well. If you want to shop for groceries, the best option is to visit Giant, a little further up Market Street. Prices aren't generally high in Harrisburg, with a gallon of milk coming to around $3.60 and 12 eggs costing $2.90.

Cheap meal
C$ 16.45
A pair of jeans
C$ 55.98
Single public transport ticket
C$ 2.40
Cappuccino
C$ 4.39
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