Al Fresco Finds: Harrisburg, PA [Quick Weekend Guide and Recommendations]

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)

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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!

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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!

x,

Valerie

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Why visit Harrisburg, PA? [A Weekend Trip: Highlights]

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When planning a visit to Pennsylvania, travelers often instinctively think of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh before considering its capital as a worthy destination. Now with a growing food, beverage, and art scene, and its own place in American history, Harrisburg and its surrounding areas are trying to prove that it can always be sunny this side of PA too.

“There has to be a story here.” A man, clearly very confused, stopped a group of seven women casually traveling as a pack in downtown Harrisburg. My college group of friends and I have been fortunate enough to reunite from various points of the US once a year. It started as an effort to visit one another no matter where we in the country we settled into. Four years in, and I’d say the efforts are going strong.

It was our dear PA-based resident’s turn to host for a long weekend. Our itinerary consisted of vineyard/brewery stops, Hershey Park, a scenic, historic stroll, and plenty of time to catch up. It turned out to be the perfect amount of activity and down time to suit the interests of a group our size.

Our home-base was in Mechanicsburg, a mere 20-minute drive from downtown Harrisburg. We were too early for the town’s Jubilee Day, “the  largest, longest-running, one-day street fair on the East Coast” (pennlive.com), but our weekend wasn’t short on memorable moments. We had amazing bites in all our food destinations, though I wouldn’t recommend poutine fries between rollercoaster stops at Hershey Park if you know what I mean.

Have you ever been around Harrisburg? I’ll share my recommendations particularly some must-try al fresco finds in the area in a post soon! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or check out the Thrillist feature on Harrisburg or VisitPA for any Pennsylvania-related trip planning needs including free resources. Philly is definitely still on my list for my next time in Pennsylvania so I’ll have to make a return in the future. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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Hello Brooklyn, how you doin’?

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One of the things I’ve loved about living in the northeast, particularly in New England, is how easy it is to take a quick trip and be totally transported into a whole other world. Within a few hours you could be bordering Canada or find yourself at the center of the world: New York City.

This past month, we planned a little escape to the concrete jungle around a dear friend’s birthday weekend. Now that we’ve gone to NYC a few times, we’ve been able to focus our adventures within our friend’s charming neighborhood in Brooklyn Heights. It is so picturesque and bears a resemblance with Boston’s Back Bay/Historic South End area. If you haven’t, you must see it for your self!

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For some birthday fun, we spent the evening at Zombie Hut (interesting name, right!?). They had a sizable jungle-inspired patio that was incredibly tempting with its greenery and tropical vibe had it not been for the damp and chilly day we were having. Thankfully they have ample indoor space for parties of different sizes, and the zombie elements sprinkled within this quirky little tiki bar make for some interesting conversation starters. We may just find ourselves back there again at some point for some cheap PBRs and Narraganset – yes, there’s ‘ganset in Brooklyn for all you New Englanders – or to try the intriguing $5 Hot Pockets. You have to wonder, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, how much would you pay for a hot pocket?

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The next day we continued our Brooklyn adventures around some drink destinations and of course, pizza.  Our must-see on this trip was Brooklyn Brewery. I appreciated how the tasting room stays true to its warehouse history and Brooklyn roots with minimal furnishings, brick walls, and a charming touch of cafe lights. It’s free to enter plus tours are free on Fridays and weekends. There wasn’t much of a line when we walked in so we easily got ourselves 5 beers for $20. $20!! Apparently there’s deliverable pizza available too, but we wanted to make-up for our derailed Fornino on Pier 6 plans by enjoying a couple of pies at their location a few blocks away.

We didn’t end there. Our food and drink tour of Brooklyn continued on to Spritzenhaus33 where the spacious and hip al fresco vibe is hard to resist a few steps from the subway station. We then grabbed empanadas at La Barrita to quickly satisfy our Latin American small bites cravings, all while facing the street at the open-window bar seats with impeccable people-watching views along Montague Street. We finished the evening with fancy bubbly varietals care of The Binc which was great for its intimate speakeasy feel as we were winding down from a fairly eventful day.

After an amazing cup of coffee at Swallow Cafe, we couldn’t possibly leave Brooklyn the following day without taking a walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park and the piers. The views just never get old. I can just imagine all the picnicking possibilities!

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What’s on your must-see/taste/drink list for NYC? Share your ideas or thoughts below. I’d love to hear. I would definitely recommend all our stops to anybody looking for delicious food or satisfying drinks in Brooklyn all with an al fresco option. Thanks for reading!

x♡

Valerie


For more questions or information on sights and eats mentioned above, check out Brooklyn Brewery, Fornino, Spritzenhaus33La Barrita, The Binc, Swallow CafeBrooklyn Bridge ParkNYCgo, Yelp, or feel free to contact alwaysalfresco@gmail.com.

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