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Things to do in Harrisburg PA for a weekend

A Weekend Getaway in Harrisburg, PA

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My kids and I have visited Hershey Park in Pennsylvania several times. We’ve always spent the night nearby when we do, but I had always chosen a hotel within a short drive of the park. The city of Harrisburg is only a little further, and I didn’t explore that option until recently. I like these older mid-size towns, having grown up in one myself, and I was curious to see the downtown area. With all of the fun things to do in Harrisburg, PA, this capital city is perfect for a weekend getaway from many of the areas in the northeast that are within a 1- to 3-hour drive.

We stayed at Hilton Harrisburg, which was a great location within a few blocks of the places we wanted to see. The hotel has the feel of a historic property, but was built in 1990. It’s attached to a shopping area, Strawberry Square, via an enclosed walkway, and the hotel is located right on Restaurant Row so there are many dining options as soon as you walk out of the hotel. During our brief visit, we focused on visiting the places below.

City Island

I really wanted to see City Island, so as soon as we dropped our bags in our room, we headed out the door. City Island is an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Just three short blocks from the hotel, you’ll find the pedestrian bridge that connects Harrisburg to the island. Definitely take the pedestrian bridge; sure, you could drive over, but getting there is half the fun. City Island offers so much to do: boating, trains, horse-drawn carriages, baseball, an arcade, a playground, and even a beach. If you did every activity, I expect this could be a pricey outing, but my kids had a great time just walking across the bridge and poking around by the shore.


Hersheypark is just under 15 miles from downtown Harrisburg. It’s become our favorite amusement park in the region, offering the perfect mix of rides, a zoo, a water park, and Hershey’s Chocolate World. Hilton Harrisburg offers a great Hersheypark package that includes two adult park tickets, breakfast and overnight parking. The extra distance is well worth the advantage of staying in a unique town like Harrisburg.

Capitol Grounds

Hilton Harrisburg is two blocks from the Pennsylvania State Capitol grounds. While free guided tours of the Capitol building are offered frequently during the week and weekends, these tours might be a bit much for younger children. However, the grounds of the Capitol are beautiful and the architecture is gorgeous. This area makes for a great place to wander around with the kids so they can run for a bit and just enjoy the view and the wide open spaces.

The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts

Hilton Harrisburg is also connected to the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. This attraction is on our “Next Time” list as we didn’t find time to visit. My kids love science centers, as do I, with their many hands on activities. Admission is reasonable, with costs of $12.50 for kids 3- to 17-years old and $16 for adults. Children under age 3 are free. The Whitaker Center also participates in the Association of Science-Technology Centers passport program, so if you’re a member of a participating museum in your home town, you’re eligible for free admission to the Whitaker Center.

Harrisburg was the ideal weekend trip for us living in the Washington, D.C. area. We’ll definitely be back to work on our “Next Time” list and find more fun things to do in Harrisburg.

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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…

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