the Five Things to See and Do in Harrisburg, PA

I traveled to Harrisburg.

Wait, where? Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital city, Harrisburg? Why?

Yes, that Harrisburg and I took the trip to take a look at a city and its culture. I wanted to learn about the city as travel destination. And I discovered plenty. Here is a look at what to do in Harrisburg through the lens of my five photo series –

The State Capitol Building

the capitol building from the side in harrisburg, pennsylvania

the side view of the Capitol

I always knew Harrisburg was Pennsylvania’s state capital, but I never knew Pennsylvania housed one of the most elaborate and impressive State Capitol Buildings in all the United States.

The current building, built in the early 1900s, dominates the Harrisburg skyline, but it was inside the halls and chambers that impress even more. From the commissioned artwork to the detailed tile work and marble, the stained glass designs to the mahogany wood furniture tables, I discovered many items inside are basically classified as “priceless.”

But don’t just take my word, President Teddy Roosevelt set foot in the building as part the dedication ceremony in 1906 declared it “the handsomest building I (he) ever saw.” The Capitol is a must visit when in town and it offers free tours.

The Civil War

a Civil War Flag in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

a Regiment Union Flag from the Civil War

On certain Friday’s in downtown Harrisburg, citizens (and visitors)  have a chance to learn about the culture of Harrisburg through its Brown Bag Atrium Series at the City Hall Atrium. Complete with raffles and light refreshments the lunch and learn  promises to deliver programming that will interest you and your family.

During my week I listened to a live performance of Underground Railroad songs popular among the Civil War African American troops, danced  a Victorian era waltz used  at fundraisers and balls during the Civil War, and learned about the importance of regiment flags used in Civil War battles.

Until my visit I was completely unaware of the importance of Harrisburg in Civil War. The city is even home to a National Civil War Museum (a must visit next time). I guess, I never thought about how close Gettysburg is to Harrisburg and how that critical Union victory stopped the Confederate advance (and plans to capture the city).

The Bridges of Dauphin County

taken under a bridge in Dauphin County in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

under a bridge, you could see many more in the distance

Harrisburg located in Dauphin Country is (and always was) a major transport hub. In its early days, the days of trains, each railroad came through and instead of sharing a bridge, they each built their own. Couple that present day car traffic (highways) and a pedestrian bridge to City Island (home of the triple A Harrisburg Senators) and you have bridges. Many bridges.

A walk along the banks of the Susquehanna River just off Front Street in downtown Harrisburg will give you views of many of the bridges.

Pennsylvania National Fire Museum

inside the museum with the best tour guide at the Pennsylvania Naitonal FireHouse Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

learning at the Gamewell Room with the best tour guide

Located in the refurbished Victorian designed Reily Hose Company 10, the two-floor firehouse museum displays artifacts, collections and equipment from our first days as a nation (1790s) to the modern equipment of today.

With an impressive first floor designed to take visitors through pull carts and horse drawn carriages to the engines used just a few years ago, visitors can witness how firefighting has changed through the years.

The second floor holds a few rotating theme collections and also the actual Gamewell room used in the Johnstown, PA firehouse. Learn how fire calls were received and how fire companies knew where to head. See this still operating machinery in action. The display will certainly impress even the casual visitor.  For the bigger fan, definitely follow museum on Facebook as everyday they post a “on this day …” in history post.

Little Amps

taking in a coffee and a scone at the downtown Little Amps in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Coffee and a View...

There is a correlation between quality coffee houses and the vibrancy of a city neighborhood. Seriously, what trendy city location doesn’t offer its residents a place to take a quality coffee, chat with friends, and people watch. For Harrisburg, the coffee shop is Little Amps.

A bit hipster with its coffee drinks and vinyl record playing ways, the coffee house now has two locations (the original in midtown and a second one downtown) in Harrisburg.  Inside you’ll find the people changing the city’s culture and the people excited to call Harrisburg home.  Not to mention, you’ll get a pretty good cup of coffee too.

Over the course of my three days in the Pennsylvania Capital City, I discovered more beauty than just the moment shared over an amazing Harrisburg sunset. Much more.  I found a state capital city appreciative of its past and filled with optimism about its future. I found a place I am glad I’ve got to know better and a place I’ll return someday.  I found a city next door to the popular Hershey Park people might be coming to visit.

Stay Adventurous, Craig

I was a guest of the Hershey Harrisburg Visitors Bureau during my time in Harrisburg, but as usual the opinions posted here are my own.


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