Wondering what to do in Pennsylvania’s capital city?
Harrisburg, PA and the surrounding area offers you plenty of ways to spend a day or evening. From connecting with nature to experiencing a night on the town, you’ll find a brewery, winery or museum to match your adventuring mood.
Explore all the city has to offer — starting with this helpful guide of the best things to do near Harrisburg, PA.
Sip Vino at a Local Winery
The Harrisburg area boasts several wineries perfect for your personal enjoyment or group entertainment. From wine tastings to live music events, wineries in this region offer an interactive approach to wine and winemaking.
Pennsylvania wineries are a gem. With the state’s optimal climate and growing conditions, new family-owned wineries put their roots down each year. The increasing roster means you can easily expand your wine preferences or impress friends and family with your newfound knowledge. You might eventually pass as a sommelier.
Better yet, get a group together or go on a private wine tour. Start with these wineries in and around Harrisburg:
- West Hanover Winery: The oldest winery in Dauphin County offers wine tastings with experts on hand to explain the different wines. During the warmer months, West Hanover Winery hosts outdoor concerts and events.
- Spring Gate Vineyard: Enjoy the rolling farmland surrounding Spring Gate Vineyard as you sample the wines. The land includes the vineyards, orchards, wildlife and streams, making it a serene setting for a Harrisburg outing. A dedicated tasting room features rustic touches. Spring Gate also produces sparkling wines and ciders. On Friday and Saturday nights, the artisan brewery is open and features a few small-batch brews on tap.
- Moon Dancer Winery, Cider House & Taproom: Pretend like you’re sipping wine in the French countryside at Moon Dancer, which is situated in a French country chateau overlooking the Susquehanna. The winery offers both sweet Pennsylvania wines and dry European-style wines. You can taste wines and tour the cellars. Check the schedule to catch live music.
- Cullari Vineyards and Winery: Experience small-batch wines at this boutique winery in nearby Hershey. Visit the tasting room for unusual varieties. Cullari offers both dry and sweet wines. You’d be a miss if you didn’t try their chocolate wine.
- Mount Hope Estate & Winery: Visit the Mount Hope Estate and Winery year round for wine tastings and entertainment. The winery serves as the home of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and offers theatrical productions, culinary events and other entertainment. Mount Hope produces both wines and handcrafted ales, giving you plenty of variety for your outing. The winery is located in a mansion over 200 years old that once served as private residence.
Take a Brewery Tour
For the non-winos or if you like your beer and spirits just as much as your wine, Harrisburg serves as the home of several popular breweries, distilleries and pub-crawls.
- Appalachian Brewing Company: The historic building that holds the brewery dates back to 1915, with the lager room dating all the way back to 1890. The brick and timber building gives you plenty of beauty to soak in while you enjoy your favorite handcrafted ale or lager.
Beyond sipping a pint, the Appalachian Brewing Company offers weekly brewery tours to give you an insider look at just how they craft your favorite brews. The free tours take place at 1pm on Saturdays. You’ll see how the handcrafted beers and sodas are brewed, from start to finish. The tour wraps up with soda and beer tastings.
Enjoy the tour with friends, and stick around for dinner and more drinks. The brewery provides musical entertainment and shows frequently on weekends, so you can turn the tour into an all-day and night event.
- The Lost Pint: Pub Crawl Through History: For those who want to learn more about the history of beer and other alcohol, try a chartered tour. The crawl includes a customized itinerary to many different breweries in the area, along with an interactive history lesson about why Pennsylvania is such a great place for brewing beer. You won’t earn a BA in beer, but you’ll definitely be more knowledgeable about the alcohol history of the area!
- Midstate Distillery: Check out the spirits crafted at one of their weekly free public tours. The tours take place on Saturdays at 4:30pm and 6pm. You can also schedule a personal tour for a minimal fee per person.
You don’t have to travel to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh for a quality museum experience. Harrisburg boasts several museums, covering everything from the Civil War to firefighting. A museum is a great way to learn more about the area while seeing some amazing interactive displays.
These museum options offer engaging historical activities:
- Pennsylvania National Fire Museum: The old fire station location of this museum sets the tone for the engaging displays you’ll experience. Reily Hose Co. No. 10 served as a working fire station from 1899 to 1980. In 1995, the station was turned into the museum and now covers firefighting from 1790 to today. You can even see replicas of the horses that once pulled the fire wagons.
- The National Civil War Museum: An affiliate of the Smithsonian, the National Civil War Museum highlights the details and the effects of the war in a timeline style, spanning from 1850 to 1876. Explore actual artifacts from the war, along with photos, documents and manuscripts to tell the story of the Civil War. The dioramas and displays focus on the human element of the conflict.
- U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center: While not in Harrisburg proper, the US Army Heritage and Education Center is worth the drive to nearby Carlisle. The museum honors troops from Colonial times to the present, with many interactive displays to give you perspective on what it was like in different military situations.
An outdoor Heritage Trail spans a full mile and features recreated military sites, from World War II barracks to winter cabins from the Civil War. This museum experience gives you a greater appreciation for our troops.
- Fort Hunter Mansion and Park: Step back in time while visiting Fort Hunter Mansion and Park. Fort Hunter was originally built as a fort by the British during the French and Indian War. The land was eventually turned into a frontier village. The current mansion is on the site of the original fort. The mansion portrays 19th century life, giving you a glimpse of the history of Harrisburg.
- State Museum of Pennsylvania: Learn more about our Commonwealth at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The museum highlights key periods in history with an emphasis on the Pennsylvanian perspective on those times. Highlights of the museum include a replica of a 19th century Pennsylvania street, the mammal hall and the planetarium.
- Susquehanna Art Museum: If you prefer a creative museum experience, head to the Susquehanna Art Museum. Located in the midtown area, the museum features work from artists from all over the world, including local and regional artists. The museum aims to be an innovative, engaging art experience where visitors gain knowledge and appreciation for art.
Tour the State Capitol Building
The Pennsylvania State Capitol building is an impressive sight, even if you weren’t a fan of government class in high school. Teddy Roosevelt said the capitol was, “The handsomest building” he ever saw. It’s also referred to as the “Palace of Art,” which was the vision of the building’s architect, Joseph Huston.
Spend plenty of time soaking in the elegance and beauty of the rotunda. Look up to appreciate the intricate paintings on the dome. You can take a self-guided tour of the building with available brochures to guide you. Another option is to join with one of the free guided tours that take place every half-hour Monday through Friday.
On weekends, the guided tours happen at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Whether you tour with a group or on your own, be sure to go inside for the full experience.
Play on City Island
Harrisburg’s City Island is the place to go for an escape from the city without actually leaving the city. With 63 acres of land, this island on the Susquehanna River offers plenty of room to stretch, out with a variety of recreational activities available to you. You can reach the island on foot via the Walnut Street Bridge, which is designed for pedestrians and cyclists alike. If you’re driving, take the Market Street Bridge.
What can you do on City Island? Try one of these options:
- Harrisburg Senators baseball game at Metro Bank Park
- City Islanders soccer game
- Horse-drawn carriage rides
- Sand volleyball
- Steam train rides at City Island Railroad
- Mini golf
- Batting cages
- John Harris Trading Post replica
- Harbortown playground
Cruise the River
Board the Pride of the Susquehanna to see Harrisburg from a different perspective. This riverboat uses only its paddle wheels to steer and propel the boat, making the ride a unique throwback experience. The boat docks on City Island, so get tickets for a cruise next time you’re there.
The Pride of Susquehanna offers a wide range of special events and excursions, giving you the option to find something that fits your or your family’s interests.
One of their most popular programs is the Susquehanna River School — these cruise classes are especially focused on the natural wonder and preservation of the Susquehanna River. Other typical events include:
- Dinner cruises, including holiday meals, murder mysteries and beer pairings
- Live music and entertainment
- Sightseeing cruises
- Family events with pirate or princess themes
Go for a Hike
You don’t have to go far to find some amazing views in Pennsylvania. Taking a hike is the perfect way to stay active and check out the natural beauty in the Harrisburg area. While you can find walking trails in the city, heading outside the city limits lets you connect with nature and escape the bustle.
Strap on your hiking boots to check out:
- Peters Mountain: Head to the Peters Mountain Trail near Duncannon to enjoy beautiful vistas as you hike the 3.7-mile trail. Plan for about two hours, or longer if you like to look around.
- Stonycreek: Visit the Stonycreek Corridor for lots of hiking and outdoor activities. The area has several hiking trails. The James Mayer Riverswalk Rail Trail and the John P. Saylor Trail are both ideal for hikers of almost any skill level. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail gives you an option for extended and overnight hikes, with 70 miles of trails along Laurel Ridge. Connect with the trail at the trailhead in the Stonycreek Corridor.
Overnight shelter areas appear every six to 10 miles, giving you a place to sleep for extended hikes. Reservations are required, so you need to plan ahead for this option. The Stonycreek Corridor also allows for boating, birding, geocaching, fishing, camping, swimming, tubing and hunting.
- Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area: As the name suggests, the Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area greets you with lots of large trees, along with many forest birds. In the summer months, the area also fills up with colorful wildflowers.
- Wildwood Park: Wildwood Park sits on the edge of Harrisburg, giving you close proximity to necessary amenities while still letting you commune with nature. The wooded area features a boardwalk and a nature center. You can do a lap around the lake or choose one of the shorter paths.
See a Show
Multiple venues in and near Harrisburg give you plenty of options for entertainment. Whether you prefer theatrical performances or rock concerts, local talent or national headlines, the Harrisburg area attracts a wide range of performances to satisfy your preferences.
Check out the schedules at these Harrisburg area entertainment venues:
- Harrisburg Forum Auditorium: The Forum Auditorium is a historical venue modeled after open-air Greek amphitheaters. It serves as the home of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, but the venue hosts several other musical performances and events as well.
- Theatre Harrisburg: If you prefer local talent, check out a performance at Theatre Harrisburg. The community theatre puts on multiple performances each year.
- Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center: This downtown venue offers multiple spaces for performances and galleries. Typical events held at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center include DJs, concerts, theatrical performances and art events. Visit the on-site Kitchen and Gallery Bar for a bite to eat before or after an event.
- Open Stage of Harrisburg: This professional regional theatre is committed to artistic freedom and leans toward thought-provoking performances.
- Whitaker Center: The Whitaker Center is a downtown performance center with an intimate environment that keeps you close to the action. Events hosted at the Whitaker Center include dance, theater and musical performances.
- Hershey Entertainment: If you don’t mind the short drive to Hershey, you can choose from multiple venues for several different types of performances. The Hershey Entertainment group of venues includes the Giant Center, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey Theatre and Hersheypark Arena.
Play at Mountain Resorts and Activity Centers
These might sound like winter-time-only activities, but Harrisburg has a few attractions to provide you with fun that lasts all year long.
There’s no need to wait for a winter freeze to enjoy these options:
- Roundtop Mountain Resort: Head south out of town to spend a day on the mountain. During the winter months, sail down the slopes on skis or snowboards. The resort also offers snow tube lanes with a magic carpet lift to sweep you back to the top quickly for more tubing fun.
Summers offer just as much fun with paintball, ropes courses and a zip lining experience called the Vertical Trek. The fully guided adventure travels down the mountainside with a total of 18 zip lines to accommodate various ability levels. The trek also includes cargo nets, rope bridges and Tarzan swings.
- Twin Ponds: Ice skate year ‘round at this indoor ice skating facility. Stop by during the public skating hours to get some time on the ice. If you’re not comfortable on the ice, check out the Learn to Skate and Skating School.
What are you waiting for? Grab your list of unique things to do in Harrisburg and start exploring.