Monday, June 4, 2012

Things To Do in Harrisburg PA This Summer

Harrisburg, Pa.

I grew up smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania. Central PA, home to the state capitol, Harrisburg, and its surrounding communities offer a variety of activities during the summer that will make your 2012 Staycation exciting, fun, adventurous, but yet inexpensive. There are activities for the whole family.

Historical and Educational Activities

Take a tour of a National Historic Landmark, the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Built in 1906, the "Capitol's centerpiece is a spectacular 272-foot, 52 million-pound dome inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome".

Not far from the Capitol is the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The State Museum offers "four floors of exhibits that represent Pennsylvania's story, from Earth's beginning to the present", a Planetarium and a 'hands on' play area, Curiosity Connection, for children 5 and under. Admission is $4-$5.

Also located downtown is the Whitaker Center , that offers an IMAX theater, Science Center, and a performance theater. The science center is 3 floors of exhibits, experiments and programs. It also offers a play/imagination area just for kids under 5. The performance theater is an intimate venue that hosts everything from national acts to local performers. Prices for the IMAX theater range from $8 - $9.50, depending on your age. Prices for the science center range from $12.50 - $15, depending on age as well.

The National Civil War Museum, as stated on the website, is "the only museum in The United States that portrays the entire story of the American Civil War. Equally balanced presentations are humanistic in nature without bias to Union or Confederate Causes." Admission prices range from $8-$10, depending on age. There is a $35 family pass available for 2 adults and up to 3 students(immediate family members).

If you are interested in military history, visit the Army Heritage and Educational Center located west of Harrisburg, in Carlisle.

Outdoor Festivals

The Kipona Celebration runs over Labor Day weekend and is right along the Susquehanna River. Admission: FREE. Activities include Artfest featuring 150 different artists and craftspersons, live music and entertainment, Chili Cookoff, Classic Canoe race, a traditional Indian Pow Wow, and SO much more.

84th Annual Jubilee Day - the largest one day street fair on the East coast. Date: June 21, 2012 from 10 am to 9 pm. Location: downtown Mechanicsburg. Admission: FREE. The event features wares from local artists and craftsmen, as well as great food, fun games, and exciting amusement rides.

Amusement Parks and Zoos

Hershey Park -Located about 14 miles east of Harrisburg. From roller coasters and water rides to kiddie rides and music shows, there really is something for every one at Hershey Park. Other attractions at the Park are ZooAmerica and Chocolate World. Discount tickets can usually be found at Giant Food Stores. Picnic lunches and food are not permitted inside the park.

Dutch Wonderland is located about 40 miles east of Harrisburg, the heart of Amish Country/ Lancaster County. It is a great park geared more towards children ages 12 and under. Food is not permitted inside the park, but there is a Family Picnic Pavilion right outside the park. Old Mill Stream campground is also right outside the park, within walking distance. My family camped there two years ago and we had so much fun.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is located about 25 miles north of Harrisburg. From a Safari tour to a petting zoo and reptile exhibit, this park is an exciting destination.

Knoebels is the largest free-admission park in America. It is also north of the city. Personally, we have never been there, but that is our loss as I have heard nothing but good things about the park, the campground and the whole experience.

The Great Outdoors

The Hershey Gardens is spread over 23 acres and includes the Butterfly House, Children's Garden, and many other themed gardens. Tickets range from $7 to $10, depending on age, but children under 3 are free.

Harrisburg's City Island, right in the middle of the Susquehanna River, offers activities for just about everyone. Choose from an arcade and batting cages, miniature golf, a beach, a Carousel, a train, horse-drawn carriage tours of the island and the city, Riverboat cruises and so much more. It is also home to the Harrisburg Senators, the city's AA pro baseball team.

Gifford Pinchot State Park is located south of Harrisburg. It offers hiking trails, swimming, boating, picnicking, camping and so much more.

Have you visited Central Pennsylvania? What are your plans this summer? Will you be traveling or staying close to home? Let us know in the comments.

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Photo Credits: Harrisburg Skyline is from Allie's Dad


  1. Don't forget to check our Hershey's Chocolate World on those super hot days when you just need some serious air conditioning. There is a free tour ride with samples at the end!

    1. Good point about Chocolate World. FREE, AC, and chocolate - what's not to love!

  2. We don't live in PA, but we just came back from Harrisburg from a visit to my in-laws. We took the kids to the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum on North 4th Street. My 4 year old was fascinated! I found it pretty interesting myself. We never made it over to the Whitaker Center, but we're totally planning on it next time we're up for a visit.


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