Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, sits along the Susquehanna River. The river, which was once home to the Susquehannock tribe, is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States and runs through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. So it’s no wonder that Harrisburg has played a huge role in American history- including the American Civil War and Industrial Revolution. This makes Harrisburg a great region to bring the family for a trip filled with history, exploration, and fun.
Planning a Trip to Harrisburg
For our visit, we chose to stay at the Hotel Indigo. Centrally located near all of the places on our itinerary, it was the perfect headquarters for our stay. Since check in is not until 3pm, we decided to head to Downtown Harrisburg early in the afternoon to explore first.
Murals Across Harrisburg
We arrived around noon on a Sunday and found street parking across the street from the Capital Building. Since we planned to join the 1pm free guided tour of the Capital, we opted to walk around and explore some of the beautiful murals located throughout the downtown area. We used the mural map on the Sprocket Mural Works website to find the ones located along 3rd street.
Pennsylvania State Capital
Guided tours of Pennsylvania’s Capitol are offered every half hour Monday through Friday, with four tour times offered on weekends and most holidays. Our guide Sydney took us to visit the Senate, Supreme Court, and House of Representatives- highlighting the history, architectural, and artistic wonders of the capital. It was truly a sight to see- and gave us some more insight into the history of Harrisburg. Learn more about tour times and other information to plan your visit at www.pacapitol.com.
Susquehanna Art Museum
Next up, we stopped by the Susquehanna Art Museum. The museum is small, and features around 3 exhibitions- with a fun kid’s corner where they were able to build their own museum using magnet tiles. The museum was the perfect way to wrap up our art filled afternoon in Harrisburg. For more information about the museum, visit www.susquehannaartmuseum.org.
Hotel Indigo Harrisburg-Hershey
After our day spent downtown, we checked into our room at Hotel Indigo for the next three days. This modern hotel features a seasonal outdoor pool, restaurant and social lounge, and is pet friendly! We were happy to find a mini fridge and a Keurig with k-cups from nearby Lancaster County Coffee Roasters in our room.
Tip: There was a Target right down the road from the hotel, so we stopped by to pick up creamer, water, and snacks to have on hand during our trip. We often like to pick up refrigerated breakfast or sandwich ingredients to save money on food while on vacation- it’s easy to overspend while eating out every day on trips.
The beds were extremely comfortable, and with cable and WiFi in our room, we felt right at home each night. We also grabbed a board game during our Target run-which was a fun way to end our evenings. For more information about Hotel Indigo, visit www.ihg.com.
National Civil War Museum
The next morning, we headed to check out the National Civil War Museum. The museum is located in the largest municipal public park in Harrisburg, Reservoir Park. Visitors start on the second floor for a self guided tour of ‘the only museum in the United States that portrays the entire story of the American Civil War.’
Upon first entering the museum’s galleries, there are a series of videos that give the perspectives of ten people who lived during the Civil War, such as a farmer, a soldier, a slave, and abolitionist newspaper editor. Throughout the tour, we came across these individuals again- and learned their fate at the end.
The museum is filled with history and artifacts, and was a great learning opportunity for our oldest daughter, who even picked up a little something for her history teacher in the gift shop.
For more information about the National Civil Warm Museum, visit www.nationalcivilwarmuseum.org.
The Bronx isn’t the only place with an infamous City Island! After the museum, we decided to stop back in town to walk the bridge to Harrisburg’s own City Island. This mile-long island in the Susquehanna River is accessible via both a pedestrian and vehicle bridge. Visitors can enjoy a carousel, batting cages, mini golf, horse drawn carriages, a riverboat, riverside village, concrete beach, and more.
For more information, visit www.visitcityisland.com.
Roundtop Mountain Resort
The best way to balance educational stops on a family vacation is to to mix it up with some excitement! So we spent the rest of the day at Roundtop Mountain Resort. Located around 30 minutes from downtown Harrisburg, this resort is home to skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing in the winter, and OGO balls and zip lines in the summertime.
We had a blast going up and down the tubing lanes, as the sun set our slide down got faster and faster! On weekends visitors can also take advantage of a special zip-lining and tubing package.
For more information, visit www.skiroundtop.com.
Indian Echo Caverns
The next morning we headed to Indian Echo Caverns for a guided tour through limestone caves along the Swatara Creek. The tour through this amazing cavern was loaded with interesting information on both the formations and history of the cave- including a legend about a man who lived in the caves for 19 years!
Visitors of Indian Echo Caves can also enjoy an expansive gift shop, some petting zoo animals, a playground, and plenty of space to picnic during the warmer months.
For more information about, visit indianechocaverns.com.
For lunch, we headed around 5 minutes into Hummelstown to grab a bite to eat and to check out a sweet Bed & Breakfast. Hummelstown is a borough around 9 miles east of Harrisburg- with a quaint downtown area.
Soda Jerk Diner
For lunch, we stopped in at Soda Jerk Diner- a 50’s themed diner serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Visit www.sodajerkdinerhershey.com for more info.
Sweet Arrow Inn
After lunch, we swung by Sweet Arrow Inn at the Historical Ricker House so I could meet Rebecca Kline, Vice President and COO of Spring Gate Vineyard, and Innkeeper of this charming Hummesltown Bed & Breakfast. Rebecca was sweet enough to give a tour of her lovely home and we had a great time talking about the history of the inn as well as our mutual love of decor.
This four room Bed & Breakfast was built in 1890, and Rebecca has kept the vintage charm with her unique furnishings and decor. Being only the third family to own the inn, she’s been able to find out quite a bit about the history of the home and will gladly share what she knows with her guests. While it might not be a fit for a large family with small children, the Sweet Arrow Inn is a great option for couples visiting the area. For more information, visit www.sweetarrowinn.com.
Spring Gate Vineyard
Later in the evening, we headed to Spring Gate Vineyard- a farm vineyard and brewery that’s as fun to visit in the winter as in the warmer months. Breweries and vineyards are a great way to sneak in a “date” while traveling with kids- we usually bring games or have our youngest bring a few of her toys to keep busy while we enjoy a little vino or craft beer.
We happened to arrive just in time for Spring Gate’s Tuesday Trivia, so our oldest helped us as much as she could with four rounds of movie and music trivia. Funny enough, we did pretty terrible- but won a prize for coming in last place! So I can’t say that I was the least bit upset about it!
For more information, visit www.springgatevineyard.com.
RiverRun Restaurant & Social Lounge
After trivia, we headed back to the hotel. The kids were tired, so we let them hang in the room and watch TV while we headed downstairs for a late night dinner (the perks of having a teenager!). We enjoyed a quick meal in peace and ordered food to go for the kids. The grilled chicken club with rosemary Parmesan fries, and the NY strip were delicious.
Turkey Hill Experience
We checked out the following morning and headed around 40 minutes away to visit the Turkey Hill Experience for one last hurrah before we headed home. This was a great place for the kids to let out their energy before the car ride home and enjoy a tasty treat- all while learning about the ice cream making process and local farms in the area.
We even had a chance to make our own ice cream creations in the museum’s Taste Lab- which was the perfect ending to our trip to the Harrisburg region.
For more information about the Turkey Hill Experience, visit www.turkeyhillexperience.com.
More fun in Harrisburg
Our trip to Harrisburg was a great mix of education, exploration, and fun. Trying to fit everything in can be a challenge, but we were able to use the Visit Hershey & Harrisburg website to plan our time in the area. We definitely plan to return in the warmer months to experience more of what the Harrisburg region has to offer.
For learn more about Harrisburg and to plan your trip, visit www.visithersheyharrisburg.org.
See our itinerary below:
12:30pm Pennsylvania State Capitol
North Third Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120
Located across the street from PA State Museum
Tours at 9, 11, 1, 3
2pm Sprocket Mural Works
3pm Susquehanna Art Museum
1401 North 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA
4 pm Check in to Hotel Indigo
10 am National Civil War Museum
1 Lincoln Cir, Harrisburg, PA 17103
3pm Tubing at Roundtop Mountain Resort
925 Roundtop Road, Lewisberry, PA 17339
10 am Indian Echo Caverns
368 Middletown Road
Hummelstown, PA 17036-8815
6pm Spring Gate Vineyards
5790 Devonshire Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112
11 am Check out
12pm Turkey Hill Experience
301 Linden Street, Columbia, PA 17512
We received some accommodations & tickets to facilitate this post. As always, all opinions expressed are our own.