Monday, June 30, 2014

Special Wedding Post: Things to Do In Harrisburg, PA

I disappeared from this blog for a bit because.... JAMES AND I ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!!

And now, today, I'll be using this blog as a platform for communicating with our lovely guests.

Today I'll be telling you about...

Our Favorite Things To Do In The Harrisburg Area

Some of our out-of-town guests have asked us, "What is there to do in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania?"

I spent most of my life looking for answers to this question. And I have TONS of gems I'm excited to share with you, beloved wedding guests and blog readers! And, I promise you that central Pennsylvania IS more than Amish country and Hersheypark!
These are just a few of my favorites. For a complete listing, check out the Harrisburg Hershey Visitors website


  • If you're looking for something specific (for example, you know you want to camp, or fish, or see a movie, or go to an art museum) ask me via phone or email and I'll try to point you in a direction!
  • If you're a local and you'd like to add to this list --- please do in the comments section!
  • Click the bolded name of the attraction to visit the webpage. Click the address below the attraction name to get directions in Google Maps (you just have to fill in your current location.)
Microbreweries and Music Venues

Troeg's Brewery (13.9 miles from church)
200 East Hershey Park Drive
Hershey, PA 17033 

(717) 534-1297
Most famous among our group of friends for their Nugget Nectar beer, Troeg's Brewing Company was started by two brothers from the area, and, until recently, was headquartered in a garage in downtown Harrisburg that had free and generous tastings on Saturday mornings. Their new facility is much more sophisticated, and although it's a bit of a drive from Harrisburg, it's well worth it (and you'll be close to Hersheypark if that's your thing.) Set up a brewery tour - or stop in for a self-guided one, and be sure to try the food: it's as good as the beer. Disclaimer: As all true NN fans know, Nugget Nectar is not in season in August.

Appalachian Brewing Company
(5.8 miles from church)
50 N Cameron Street
Harrisburg, PA 17011
(717) 221-1080
Another local brewery. They often have live music and sometimes, bluegrass dance parties. One of my favorite old stomping grounds!

Midtown Scholar Bookstore and Coffee Shop
(5.9 miles from church)
1302 North 3rd St
Harrisburg, PA
Another place to catch live (acoustic) music, poetry readings, and local artists, this used and rare bookstore is in the newly emerging arts district of "midtown." Their coffee shop is the best in downtown Harrisburg.

Stage on Herr in Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center (5.9 miles from church and near the bookstore!)
1110 N 3rd St,
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 412-4342
This place appealed to me most when I returned to Harrisburg from the funky, alternative, colorful Pacific Northwest; it feels straight out of Portland, Oregon. Expect to find lots of kitchy lite-up figurines on the stage and staring you down at the bar (yes, that's art!), colorful murals, and bohemian and hipster folk looking for a place to catch up with friends, listen to their friend's band, or simply drink good beer (one of the best selections in the area.) One of the most intimate live music venues in the area, Stage on Herr and HMAC are keys to growing the arts in the burg.

Family Fun

Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts (8.7 miles from the church)
225 Market St, 

Harrisburg, PA 17101
(717) 221-9588
Hands-on science exhibits, an imax theatre, an area for young toddlers/kids to built, play and create...this is the perfect destination for families of all ages. Fun fact: I used to work in the on-site Starbucks.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
(20 miles from the church)
760 Tobias Dr, 

Halifax, PA 17032
(717) 362-9126
I haven't been here since I was a kid, but I remember riding around in a school bus with the top removed to go on a safari through Pennsylvania. But instead of seeing wild turkeys, I saw big cats, zebras, and other animals from Africa. Basically, when I was about 7 or 8, I thought Lake Tobias was the coolest place ever. I think this place keeps a few animals in cages (monkeys come to mind) but I remember many of the animals just wandering around. Perhaps that has changed. There's a petting zoo with baby goats and other farm animals that is always a hit! (Although one of them bit my figure once- be careful!)

Hershey's Chocolate World
(13.2 miles from the church)
251 Park Blvd, 

Hershey, PA 17033
(717) 534-4900
This is separate from HersheyPark, although it is right next to it. It is FREE. Take a tour of the chocolate factory and you get your photo taken AND a piece of chocolate at the end. But watch out for the tourists and the several other ways you can spend money (there's a bakery, tons of Hershey paraphernalia for everyone in your life, maybe even a 3-d movie and other touristic adventures that you could never imagine came from a chocolate bar...

HersheyPark (13.2 miles from the church)
100 W Hersheypark Dr, 

Hershey, PA 17033
(717) 534-3860
I haven't been here in many 7 or 8 years but spent summers here grades 4-10.

Hershey Gardens (and butterfly house!) (13.4 miles from the church)170 Hotel Rd, 

Hershey, PA 17033
(717) 534-3492 

City Island
(Walk, Water Golf, Train, Swim, and Kayak) (9.1 miles from church)
Click for Google Map directions
The island in the middle of the Susquehanna River overlooks Harrisburg city. Rent a kayak or join a tour with Susquehanna Outfitters, a company that's doing some really innovative river floating (Have you ever heard of birding floats or yoga floats?!) The water golf here is THE BEST mini golf in the area (again, overlooking the river.) If you're lucky, you may catch a soccer game from the hometown favorites, Harrisburg City Islanders or a baseball game at the Harrisburg Senator's stadium! (Yes, we have sports teams!)

Outdoor Activities

City Island (see above)

Wildwood Park and Nature Center
(4.8 miles from the church
100 Wildwood Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110
I practically grew up in this park (we lived walking distance from it.) It's much more well-maintained now than it was in my childhood - with a nature center with binoculars, interactive exhibits, bird walks - and even an outdoor art exhibit throughout the park. It's just 3.1 miles around the lake, with plenty of trails around the park; perfect for a short hike that's not too far away!

Susquehanna Outfitters  

(Kayak Tours and Rentals) at City Island (9.1 miles from church)

Appalachian Trail (click for maps from Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club) (trails 20-30 minutes from church)

Big Boyd's Tree Preserve
(8.1 miles from church, close to reception venue)
Fishing Creek Valley Road 

Harrisburg, PA 17112
(717) 567-9255
The Fishing Creek Valley is one of my favorite "wild" places around Harrisburg. These trails have been a favorite of mine for the last ten years or so. It's "where the mountains begin" and you can hike to points where you'll see farmland on one side and mountains on the other. There's a few ponds and swimming holes too!

Stony Valley Rails to Trails and the Saint Anthony Wilderness (14 miles from church, 9 miles from reception site.) 

Click for Google Map directions to the parking area.
Check out the website for other parking areas. Things you can expect to find along the trail: an abandoned 40 foot stone tower, two abandoned coal mining towns, a reservoir, sand springs, mosquitoes and forests!

Mount Gretna Lake, Beach, Artist Community and JiggerShop (Ice Cream Shop), (34 miles from church)
130 Lakeview Dr.

Lebanon, PA 17042
(717) 964-3130
It's a big of a drive, but Mount Gretna has something for everyone. Cool off in the lake and get an adrenaline rush on their high dive and swing. Lay out on the beach, or go for a hike in the mountains (trails were a favorite of my high school cross country team!) Then end your day with dinner (and ice cream) from the Jigger Shop and a stroll through the colorful artist's cottages. The community hosts an annual Art Show each year (August 16 and 17 this year!)

Reservoir Park (4.4 miles from the church) 

100 Concert Drive 
Harrisburg, PA 17103

Tubing and Swimming in Yellow Breeches Creek (21 miles from the church) 

Click for Google Map Address

State Parks:
Pine Grove, Little Buffalo and Gifford Pinchot. Check out PA DCNR for a complete list.

Historical Sites and Museums

Fort Hunter Park and Mansion (6.3 miles from the church)
5300 North Front Street 

Harrisburg, PA

The National Civil War Museum (4.4 miles from the church)
Reservoir Park

100 Concert Drive 
Harrisburg, PA 17103

Gettysburg National Military Park (50 minutes from the church) 

Click for directions in Google Maps

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building (4 miles from church)N 3rd St 

Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania State Museum and Planetarium (4 miles from church)
300 North St, Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 787-4980

Cafes and Restaurants

Looking for several options? Opt for a walk along restaurant row, on 2nd Street in downtown Harrisburg and take your pick of dining options nestled between the state capital and the Susquehanna River.

Neato Burrito: Mission Style Burritos (several locations)
209 N. 2nd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 232-7467

Gabriella's Italian Restaurant (seriously the best Italian food in town!)
3907 Jonestown Rd
Harrisburg, PA 17109
(717) 540-0040

Tomato Pie Cafe (for some tasty desserts, amazing coffee and acoustic music)
3950 Tecport Dr
Harrisburg, PA 17111
(717) 836-7051

Carly's Ristorante and Piano Bar (so much fun for music lovers!)
204 Locust St.
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 909-9191

Duke's Riverside Bar and Grille (for water views and a casual atmosphere!)
313 S Front St,
Lemoyne, PA
(717) 737-1313

3B's Ice Cream
2199 Colonial Rd
Harrisburg, PA 17112
(717) 545-6355