When you get the opportunity to cross a state off of your “Visited States” Map, you take it. Bonus points if you cover the state’s capital city too.
For me it was Pennsylvania. Sure, I had crossed the state lines on a road trip before, but watching The Office was as close as I had ever gotten to a Pennsylvania experience, which hardly goes deeper than town name references. This time, over a long weekend trip to reunite with my girls and celebrate a delayed housewarming party, I was finally able to visit my friend in PA and do as the locals do when around Harrisburg.
People were definitely surprised by our choice destination, but we stand by it! When friends come together for great food, enjoy awesome beverages, and serene views, it is a splendid combination. And boy did we find all of that this side of Pennsylvania.
Here are our al fresco finds and recs for you!
1. Tröegs (Hershey, PA)
We happened upon Tröegs in a search for fresh air and a hydration station after one too many roller coaster rides. It wasn’t exactly part of the plan post-Hershey Park (we questioned ourselves too initially), but I’m glad we made this not-so-small pitstop. Tröegs Independent Brewing is quite the watering hole. Their outdoor seating area, with its pergola, greenery and serene view, is a sight at dusk, made 100 times better with a cold one in hand. Inside, long bar tables and stools place you right at the heart of the brewhouse within a massive tasting room. You can expect to spend a good chunk of the day there trying their selection of beers (try a tour!) and snacks. Their flatbread was amazing and perfect for sharing.
2. Millworks (Midtown Harrisonburg, PA)
Millworks brunch is just the bomb.com. Between the courtyard and their rooftop biergarten, you can really go from casual to romantic options while eating outside. The indoor dining space has industrial, rustic details and is enormous, with capacity for large groups or local special events. In fact, they host a variety of special events as well as artists and their work at their very own in-house studios. Your head is going to be in a swivel as soon as you step into those doors and you will be stuffed to your heart’s content when you leave.
3. Spring Gate Vineyard and Winery (Harrisburg, PA)
Spring Gate may just have it all. Wines, ciders, and beers within its expansive grounds. We were lucky to make it there early afternoon on a Friday and have the place almost all to ourselves, but that also meant that the party was far from getting started. At its peak, there’s live music, food trucks, plenty of outdoor seating and parking, but be sure to plan ahead to maximize your experience!
4. Ever Grain Brewing Company (Camp Hill, PA)
Ever Grain is a casual warehouse-style spot with a good selection of beers, party games and food, care of their neighbor, Red Sky Cafe. We had their samples for a tasting of all their offerings and there was plenty to share among three people. Their staff was very accommodating too, even when we spilled some beer from the sheer weight of the tray – be very careful and save your drinks when carrying that thing!
Like I said, I had no previous experience anywhere in PA before visiting this past year, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It felt a lot like being in Virginia when we drove around and explored with more of a Northeastern social culture.
Should you feel compelled to pay the Harrisburg area a visit, there are a few ways to do so and to make the most of your stay.
How to get there:
From Boston, I flew in from Boston Logan to BWI via Southwest and drove to Harrisburg with friends who were mostly coming in from the metro D.C. and VA area. I was fortunate to have that option. Our friends from New York City were conveniently able to take the train directly to Harrisburg PA. There is also a small airport in Harrisonburg itself that may be more convenient for a higher fares.
Where to stay:
Harrisburg seems to have a wide selection of hotels that range from affordable to commercial to boutique. Closer to the main downtown area is a Hilton Hotel, a Crowne Plaza, and City House Bed and Breakfast. Since I was staying with a friend, I was based in Mechanicsburg for the weekend, a short 20 minute drive from downtown. It is a quaint area with more affordable lodging options if you’re trying to save on accommodations. If you’d prefer to check Harrisburg out on a day trip with family, it might make more sense to stay in the town of Hershey, where the park and a few family-centered destinations are located.
What to do:
If you’re like me and plan your adventures around food and drinks, Downtown Harrisburg has a growing and increasingly diverse scene. It is also fairly walkable, conducive to fun bar crawls with a crew. During the day, a stroll to Midtown Scholar Bookstore and Cafe, around Broad Street Market and along the river make for nice day time activities. For more of an adventure, the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat takes you on a scenic tour of Harrisburg aboard a historic vessel itself. City Island Harrisburg is exactly what the name implies and is home to various tourist destinations such as a baseball stadium and a soccer stadium and a few businesses. Children and children at heart can also make a day trip (or longer if you wish!) out of Hershey Park.
Other Places to Eat or Drink:
Some key and notable destinations during our weekend in Harrisburg include Cafe Fresco (where we ate practically everything on the menu and loved it), The Brick Haus (taking the lumberjack shot is a must, hint: it comes with bacon!), and Sawyer’s (simply for its central location and outdoor bar and games + dancing).
Let me know in the comments if you have any other thoughts or want to link up! I referred a lot to the Explore HBG website and my local friend’s recommendations.
Thanks for reading!