I believe you can fall in love with a place. As far as I’m concerned, cities and towns can have a pulse – a heartbeat that dictates the rhythm of your days. These places have the power to turn river walks into prime spots for daydreaming, house coffee shops that harbor a favorite memory, and sometimes force you to grow up.
Pennsylvania is never a place that I planned to call home. As a native New Yorker, I treated PA like the step sister I never got along with. Considered home to everything “Dutch”, I wasn’t able to find a compelling reason to move to a state where they covered soft pretzels in a crab-mayo spread.
I’m not too proud to admit that I was totally wrong about Pennsylvania. I’ve managed to find a home in Harrisburg, and it treats me so well.
While HBG may not rank nationally as one of the most exciting cities, one of the biggest party spots or house any glaringly cool stereotypes, the city never fails to entertain me. If I’m not hitting up my favorite quintessential hipster coffee shop, then I’m heading to an outdoor patio or planning to grab a pint (or four) at my favorite Irish pub. If you’re planning a trip to PA’s capital, here are some spots that just might make you fall in love.
Broad St. Market: This might not seem like the most obvious choice for a place to eat considering it’s a farmers market, but the Broad Street Market has the BEST food. Browse through fresh produce and artisanal breads while eating your way from vendor to vendor. Open Thursday – Saturday, this is my favorite stop on lazy Saturday mornings.
Duke’s Bar & Grille: While this casual hot spot is technically located in Wormleysburg, it’s just a stone’s throw across the river. Literally, it’s right on the water! The deck extends outward, offering an excellent summery environment for diners. There’s an outdoor bar and the menu offers a semi-beachy zest (they offer the ever-offensive crab pretzel). Plus, you can look out and enjoy a beautiful view of the city.
The Kitchen at HMAC: The Kitchen at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center is a new addition to the city. The ribbon cutting took place on May 15, 2015, so it’s really fresh. The restaurant is now open for business. The menu features items that are Southern in nature: pork belly and grits, fried catfish and s’more whoopie pies. The menu items are crafted using locally sourced ingredients, too.
Passage to India: A deceivingly plain exterior hides the beautiful, colorful interior of this Indian restaurant. Not only does the decor make one feel as if she’s stepped onto another continent, but the food will make your taste buds sing. If Indian food isn’t your cup of tea, at least stop in to see the inside and try a mango lassi.
McGrath’s Irish Pub: If you find cigarette smoke and strong IPAs offensive, you probably won’t find a home in McGrath’s. But if you don’t mind smelling a little smoky after a night out, this is the perfect place to grab a pint and a bite to eat. Think dark wood, tea light candles on the tables, and one or two genuine Irish accents. Every town needs the perfect pub and this place is it.
Federal Taphouse: Looking for beer variety? The Federal Taphouse in Harrisburg offers 100 beers on tap, so you’re sure to find something you like! The list is undergoing changes pretty regularly, so there are always new options to try, too. The menu is mostly pub foods: soft pretzel logs, pizza, wings, etc. Plus, if you’re looking for a really fun night out, there is a live music venue located on the second floor.
Little Amps Coffee Roasters: When you’re in the mood for the café scene, Little Amps is the place to go. The independent coffee shop and micro roaster not only provides Harrisburg natives with excellent, extremely flavorful coffee, but it also vends vinyl records and more.
The Millworks: A one-stop shop for food, drink and the arts, The Millworks offers it all. There’s an outdoor biergarten where you can get your drink on, enjoy the local, sustainable food or peruse the art gallery. There’s live music, too.
Midtown Scholar: I LOVE Midtown Scholar. It’s located right in the middle of a dodgy neighborhood in downtown HBG. Depending on how you choose to get there, you just might pass this crumbly bar that reeks of smoke and is full of debaucherous characters. That might not seem like a selling point but it absolutely is!
I get lost for hours perusing the stacks at the Midtown Scholar, an independently owned bookstore that features new, used and rare books. It’s always so much fun to see what they have in stock. My best find so far is a compilation of Hunter S. Thompson interviews. Check the website for a full slate of upcoming events, such as author talks and fun stuff for kids.
City Island: This is the perfect place for a date or a family outing. You can catch a baseball game (go, Harrisburg Senators!) during the summer at Metro Bank Park. With the water right there, you can also venture out on kayak or paddleboat. There’s a Riverboat, outdoor volleyball courts and many other things to keep you and yours entertained.
I’ve only lived in Harrisburg for a short while, so I’m sure this list will be updated from time to time.