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The state capital is like a mini version of Washington, D.C. every summer — it’s completely overrun by interns running errands for lawmakers and their staffers.
And if you’re one of those interns living in the great city of Harrisburg for the summer, you’re going to need to know the basics. Here’s the info you’ll need:
Harrisburg isn’t like in Philly (you knew that) in that you can live outside the city and still get to work expeditiously. The question is whether or not you want to. The rent difference between downtown Harrisburg and the ‘burbs that surround it isn’t as stark as here in Philly, so you can usually find something affordable in either areas.
If you’re sticking with the city, Midtown is the area that’s experiencing a resurgence and is quite attractive to young people. Otherwise, downtown is always a safe bet if you can find something affordable, while Uptown and Allison Hill are both, in many ways, marked by high poverty and crimes rates.
If you’re looking outside the city, check out suburbs like Colonial Park, Mechanicsburg, Camp Hill and Progress (pronounced PRO-gress). Carlisle is also a wonderful little town BUT it’s about a 20-minute drive to Harrisburg.
This restaurant has become a central Pennsylvania staple that offers good food and a great beer list. Their signature dish is literally a mountain of meatloaf, and there are several locations throughout the region.
If you’re feeling kinda fancy, head to Bricco for some of the best Italian food in the area. Get the duck dish with sage pappardelle and you won’t regret it.
This farmer’s market in Midtown Harrisburg has been in the city since the 1800s and offers locally-sourced meats, produce, baked goods and more. You can also swing by and get a great lunch from one of the many stands.
Just a quick trip across the river is Duke’s Bar and Grill in Wormleysburg, famous for huge soft pretzels covered in crab dip. Can’t go wrong with that.
This downtown Mexican restaurant has great fish tacos, queso and guacamole and — most importantly — margaritas.
I am thoroughly obsessed with Neato Burrito and, if I thought about it enough, could cry over how much I miss it now that I live in Philly. They grill the whole burrito. It’s important and necessary.
This place is certainly one of the best pizza spots in Harrisburg, and is home to the Grandma pizza — thin crust, olive oil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
Here’s the great thing about drinking in a city like Harrisburg — it’s cheap. Just know that 2nd Street in Harrisburg is lined with bars and restaurants where you can get a drink if you’re of age, and it’s especially packed with young people on the weekends (more on that later). Here’s a sampling of some of the bars you can hit up in the capital city:
Cheap drinks, fun shots and a dancing area. Check, check and check.
This 2nd Street destination offers good bar food and a huge beer list.
As one of the most popular bars in Harrisburg, McGrath’s Pub draws large crowds and has awesome happy hour specials including half off drafts.
This spot on 2nd Street definitely draws a young crowd and offers a ridiculous deal on Friday and Saturday nights from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. — $2.50 you-call-its (AKA any shot, beer or well drink).
This place is basically a diner, but they have a massive outdoor area during the summer that they light up with pit fires. It also has a kinda crazy dance area. Go if you’re, um, a few drinks in.
This bar located on the 400 block of Forster Street is one of my favorite in Harrisburg, and it specializes in craft beer options.
Things to do
This recreational island in the middle of the Susquehanna River is one of the coolest parts about Harrisburg. Walk around, grab an ice cream cone and catch a Senators game.
This venue is about 15 minutes from Harrisburg if you don’t hit traffic, but it brings in some of the largest music acts of the year to the region. This summer you can catch Hall & Oates (holla!), Lady Antebellum, Motley Crue, Fallout Boy and Wiz Khalifa.
This place is the official museum of the Commonwealth and offers exhibits ranging from William Penn’s history to native animals of the state to historic machines and modes of transportation.
Whitaker Center for Science of the Arts
Alright, so some of this place is definitely geared toward children, but the center also offers a cinema that places fantastic documentaries, a performance theater and a number of art exhibits.
The city is nowhere near as bike-friendly as a city like Philadelphia, and hasn’t yet implemented bike lanes. But Front Street, a main road that runs adjacent to the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, is getting a bike lane sometime this year. And too bad if you won’t be in Harrisburg by 2016 — they’re getting Bike Share.
The Capital Area Transit system is pretty unreliable, but it’s inexpensive and reaches a lot of areas. Click here for bus routes and schedules.
Harrisburg has an international airport. Check here for flight information.
Lingo to know
This does not mean what you think it means. People from south central Pennsylvania are notorious for putting the word “awhile” at the end of, like, every sentence. Will you turn on Empire awhile? Go ahead and eat awhile. Can you stop that awhile? (Want to really fit in? Drop “to be” from every sentence. Say “my car needs fixed” or “the dishes need washed.”)
East Shore and West Shore
No, this has nothing to do with going down the shore. The Susquehanna River runs adjacent to Harrisburg, and simply enough: The East Shore refers to areas east of the river (Harrisburg is here) and the West Shore refers to areas west of the river. There aren’t really any nice beaches involved, so sorry about that.
Midstate vs. Central Pennsylvania vs. Susquehanna Valley
Nobody has any idea what to call the area that Harrisburg is around. It’s called the midstate, the Susquehanna Valley, the capital region and central Pennsylvania — the latter of which makes no sense because Harrisburg is not the center of Pennsylvania at all. If you call the area any of these things, people will understand you.
This area of town is more than a street — it’s an area, a thought process and kind of a way of life. Second Street in Harrisburg is the city’s bar and party scene epicenter, and the city’s older residents pretty much hate everything about it. The younger ones? Not so much. The street is packed with clubs, bars and young professionals. You should go if you’re into getting trashed.
Chicken Pot Pie
If you order this in central PA, it will not come out with a pie crust like it does elsewhere. It comes in a stew/ soup form with large noodles that you can often get either dry or “slippery.” (Pennsylvania Dutch-style, guys.)
This does not mean too much information. It means Three Mile Island. Not the same.