East Shore vs. West Shore: Where to Live in Harrisburg

When it’s time to choose a place to live, there are so many things to consider. You’ll likely want the shortest commute as possible, and access to basic amenities. You’ll always want to live somewhere close to entertainment and cultural options. However, what if you are struggling to decide between two similar spots that both offer unique experiences?

Harrisburg residents know what it’s like to have to choose between living on the East Shore or West Shore. Both sides of the river offer endless possibilities for shopping, dining, outdoor recreation and entertainment. Which side of the river do you want to call home?

We’ll explore specific locations on either side of the river to help paint a picture of the East and West Shore vibe. You might find one side resonates with you more, and if not, that’s OK, too. You only have to cross the bridge to experience both.

Five Reasons to Choose East Shore Harrisburg

Harrisburg is a riverfront city founded in 1785 that became the capital of Pennsylvania in 1810. You’ll find downtown Harrisburg east of the Susquehanna River, or in the East Shore region.

Restaurants, museums and other cultural amenities abound in this section of town. Chocolate lovers can drive 20 minutes further east to land in Hershey, PA. A little over a half-hour south is the artsy and historic city of Lancaster.

East Shore is the place to live if you want the center-city experience. You’ll have the option to walk to fun hangouts like breweries and restaurants, and you’ll be closer to all the action. However, as is the case with most cities, the closer you are to the heart, the more densely populated it is. So, it’s a matter of what is most important to you and what you want.

We’ll help you decide by presenting you with five reasons to choose East Shore.

1. The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Would you like to live a short distance away from a life-sized 19th-century village or early Pennsylvanian archaeological treasures? If you live in East Shore, you’re not too far from this possibility.

The State Museum, located in the Capital District, is the place in Harrisburg to explore everything Pennsylvanian, from ancient artifacts to modern art. General admission is the cost of a cheap lunch, at $7 per ticket.

On the first floor of the museum, pay a visit to a William Penn sculpture, stroll through an old Pennsylvanian town or learn how Pennsylvania influenced the nation through a collection of 350 items.

Get immersed in Native American culture in the Anthropology and Archaeology Gallery on the second floor, or learn about Pennsylvania’s hardworking past with the Transportation and Industry exhibit.

The third floor brings you close to nature, where you can view minerals and rocks in the Hall of Geology, stand next to dioramas of Pennsylvania mammals or learn all you need to know about Pennsylvania plant life in the Ecology Hall.

Though the State Museum offers the chance to get lost on three floors of Pennsylvania history, here are some other museums you’d also have easy access to as an East Shore resident, such as:

  • The National Civil War Museum — What more could a Civil War buff ask for than access to more than 24,000 Civil War artifacts, photos and documents?
  • Susquehanna Art Museum Located in Midtown and only a few blocks away from the Midtown Scholar Bookstore and the Broad Street Market, the Susquehanna Art Museum invites you to absorb contemporary art or take a class to nurture your inner artist.

The National Civil War Museum: View more than 24,000 Civil War artifacts, photos and documents.

2. Capital Area Greenbelt and Riverfront Park

Explore East Shore by bike or foot using the Capital Area Greenbelt. Formed in 1990, this 20-mile loop takes you through various parks and portions of the city. The trail is mostly paved with some gravel portions and consists of mainly dedicated paths for bikers and hikers.

While cruising the Greenbelt, you’ll have the opportunity to check out the following parks:

  • Wildwood Park Enjoy the Delta Boardwalk and catch a glimpse of wetland birds, or feel small among mature trees on the Tall Timbers Trail.
  • Riverfront Park This public park runs parallel to the Susquehanna River, and gives you space to enjoy views of the river and Blue Mountain. You can also use the pedestrian walkway to cross the Walnut Street Bridge and get to City Island.

3. Zeroday Brewing Company and Midtown Cinema

Who wouldn’t love to catch an arthouse flick and then walk next door for a tasty brew? As an East Shore resident, this wouldn’t need to be a special occasion. In fact, if you live in or near Midtown, you can enjoy the cultural attractions this part of Harrisburg has to offer every day.

Named after a day of rest during an Appalachian Trail excursion, Zeroday Brewing Company loves beer and art. Not only can you check out local art while sipping specialty beer, but you might catch a live music performance, too.

The brewery doesn’t have a large food menu — however, if your belly rumbles, there are plenty of yummy snacks to nibble on, like Bavarian-style pretzels. Want to turn your beer into a float? Ask for a scoop of ice cream.

After you’re warm and fuzzy, wind down to an inspiring film at Midtown Cinema next door.

Curious about other East Shore breweries? Here are some other worthwhile stops:

  • Lancaster Brewing Company Enjoy half-price bar food specials on Fridays or a Double Chocolate Milk Stout any day of the week.
  • The Millworks In the mood for a rooftop cocktail? How about wood-fired pizza? The Millworks has you covered.
  • Appalachian Brewing Company If there’s one thing to love about Pennsylvania, it’s pierogies. At Appalachian Brewing Company, you can enjoy old-fashioned pierogies, craft beer and craft soda, like their White Birch Beer.

4. River City Blues Club and Dart Room

River City Blues Club and Dart Room seems to have it all for a night of fun, music and food. Pay pool, pinball or darts, or enjoy a jazz or blues event in the basement, complete with a full bar. Make sure you leave room for some tasty eats, like a po’ boy, house-fried chips or a BBQ brisket sandwich.

Looking for a dose of comedy as an East Shore resident? Take some friends to the Harrisburg Improv Theater on Third Street. Laugh, interact and test your improv skills for only $5 a show or $10 for the whole night. Did we mention it’s BYOB, too?

5. Broad Street Market

Another benefit to living on the east side of the Susquehanna is proximity to Broad Street Market. Since 1860, Broad Street Market has been the oldest continuously operated market in the United States. With nearly 40 vendors, you can easily spend an afternoon shopping or sampling a variety of local and ethnic foods. 

Dough-lovers can try pierogies at Pikowski’s Pierogi Place, hand-rolled soft pretzels at Lil’s Pretzels or gourmet donuts at Evanilla. Individuals with adventurous taste buds can indulge their senses at Flavors of India or Porter’s House for Jamaican cuisine.

Broad Street Market gives you the chance to decorate your home with fresh flowers from Floral Bouquet, too. Stock your fridge with local goods from Hummers Meats or Produce Patch at Peach Ridge.

Broad Street Market: Since 18606, Broad Street Market has been the oldest continuously operated market in the United States.

Still not sure if you’re into the East Shore side of things? Let’s take a look at what West Shore has to offer. You might find you can have the best of both worlds.

Five Reasons to Choose West Shore Harrisburg

West Shore is the region west of the Susquehanna River. You won’t be in downtown Harrisburg, but you will enjoy a more small-town feel in Enola, Lemoyne or Camp Hill. This side of the river is a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but there is no shortage of things to do.

You might not be able to walk to a brewery and then next door to a theater as you can in East Shore, and there are fewer restaurants to choose from within walking distance — but for those who prefer less city action, the West Shore region might be the way to go.

Want to explore other towns and cities from West Shore? Historical and charming Carlisle is a short drive away to the west, and the city of York is less than an hour away to the south.

So, here it is — our five reasons to consider West Shore as your place to thrive.

1. Oyster Mill Playhouse

Have you always dreamed of acting in a play or working backstage, but don’t know how to make it a reality? Well, in Camp Hill, you can make your theatre dreams come true at the Oyster Mill Playhouse. This nonprofit community theatre welcomes volunteers to act, design or direct plays and keep theatre alive on the West Shore. Originally a grist mill, Oyster Mill was remodeled and opened as a playhouse in 1988. It is now completely volunteer-run.

If theatre is not your forte, don’t catch a ferry to the East Shore just yet. Instead, get your game on at the Coliseum Megaplex in Camp Hill.

The Coliseum is a 10,000-square-foot arcade where you can play American classics like skee-ball, pinball, bowling and a variety of new arcade games. When it’s time to take a break and recharge, stop in at the sports bar for a burger and a brew.

The Coliseum is a 10,000-square-foot arcade where you can play American classics like skee-ball, pinball, bowling and a variety of new arcade games.

2. West Shore Farmers’ Market

You might not live next door to one of the oldest markets in America as a West Shore resident, but you won’t feel left out, either. West Shore Farmers’ Market in Lemoyne may be all you need.

Since 1950, West Shore Farmers’ Market has supplied locals with a variety of homemade and farm-produced goods. In 1999, a fire destroyed the market, but it reopened in 2000. Now, West Shore residents can enjoy two floors and 50 vendors, selling everything from gourmet food to antiques.

It’s OK to skip crossing the bridge to Broad Street Market, and instead buy your meats, candles, baked goods, collectibles, antiques or jewelry at West Shore Farmers’ Market. Or, simply enjoy an afternoon of browsing, sampling and chatting with neighbors.

3. Al’s of Hampden/Pizza Boy Brewing Co.

Beer lovers can rejoice in West Shore, especially if they live in Enola. Al’s of Hampden wants to please every palate with a beer selection that can’t be beat. They offer 99 craft beer taps, limited bottles and cask-conditioned beers. If Pizza Boy Brewing is not enough to satisfy your craft beer craving, here are a few other West Shore brew spots to check out:

4. Lots of Green Space

Though safe biking might be more of a challenge on the west side of the river, there are still plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors. And, if West Shore doesn’t meet your nature-loving needs, Little Buffalo State Park is less than an hour away. Go even further west, and you’ll find yourself in Tuscarora State Forest. However, in the meantime, enjoy these parks, available to all West Shore residents:

Pine Hill Arboretum: Explore many types of plants and wildflowers and observe wildlife at this 15-acre arboretum in Enola.

5. Korealicious

There is no denying East Shore has tons of restaurants to choose from, but it wouldn’t be fair or true to say West Shore lacks in eatery possibilities. The choices are diverse, too. Whether you’re craving Indian, Italian, Thai, Japanese or Tex-Mex, you won’t have to travel too far in West Shore.

For example, if you live west of the river, you won’t need to commute to enjoy a fusion dish at Korealicious in Lemoyne. Treat yourself to a Korean burrito for lunch, or keep it traditional with a dish like bibimbap.

In the mood for Himalayan instead? No need to fly to Bhutan. All you have to do is head to Yak N Yeti in New Cumberland. To sample a variety of exotic cuisine, try to catch their lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday.

You can take your taste buds on a world tour in West Shore. For example, visit Cedars Restaurant in Camp Hill for Lebanese cuisine. If you go Friday or Saturday, you can catch a belly dancing show for the full experience. Hungry for fish and chips? Head to Grotto Pub Sports and Raw Bar in Enola for tasty food and live music.

Top Things to Consider When Moving

Now that you know a little more about what each side of the river has to offer, consider the following points to help finalize your decision.

  • Affordability: Which side works best for your budget, and what do you require to live comfortably? How far is the commute from and to work?
  • Friends and family: Would you live closer to friends or family on either side of the river, or does this not make a difference?
  • Transportation: Do you plan on walking or biking a lot, or are you OK spending more time behind the wheel?
  • Neighborhoods: Are you more concerned with safety and don’t mind being further away from downtown amenities? Or, are you unwilling to sacrifice the full city experience?

Consider affordability, friends and family, transportation, and different neighborhoods when moving.

Finally, ask yourself what is most important to you and the things you hope to accomplish and experience as a Harrisburg resident.

Why Not Enjoy Both?

In many ways, the East Shore mirrors the West Shore and vice versa. For example, you could practically wave at a Broad Street Market shopper as a West Shore Farmers’ Market shopper. Despite the similarities, there are some big differences, too.

Overall, know that no matter which side of the Susquehanna you choose to call home, you’re only a bridge away from the other side.

Check out one of our rental properties or contact us today for more information!

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