Visit Harrisburg, PA: History and Scenery

When you’re thinking of historical destinations in Pennsylvania, the state capital of Harrisburg may not be your first thought. Surprisingly, there are quite a few history- and culture-related attractions in this city and it is a place to consider if you love traveling to the past. Due to its size and traffic level you may want to consider taking a bus or finding some other way to get around the city, but it is worth the trouble. Your first stop should be the capitol building. If you’ve never seen it, here’s a quick description:

Like many government buildings in America, the capitol has a noticeable likeness to Roman building style. The impressive dome, white columns, and beautifully descriptive artwork take the visitor on a journey through history. If you are able to catch one of the tours offered, don’t forget to look up when you reach the rotunda. The stunning ceiling decoration brings the cathedrals of Europe to mind. St. Peter’s in Rome was used as a guide for this part of the building. You may not realize how big the rooms in the capitol truly are until you visit for yourself.

There are many sections of the capitol building to enjoy; you can view impressive architecture, take a brisk walk and admire the Italianate facade, or even work on your family tree at the archives. Don’t forget your camera because few people realize how many awe-inspiring photos are possible. The town of Harrisburg dates from the late 1700s, but the capitol was constructed in the early years of the 20th century. Before it was built, the land belonged to the aptly-named John Harris. If you’re traveling to Harrisburg’s capitol building you will need to find out when tours can be taken and when the building is open to the public.

Another impressive historical attraction in Harrisburg is the National Civil War Museum. If you can’t get enough of the American Civil War this place is definitely the perfect stop for you. One of the museum’s most interesting facets can be found before you even go inside; it’s called the Walk of Valor. Relatives of Civil War soldiers can buy a brick and inscribe it with their ancestor’s name and other information they may have about the person. The brick is then placed in the walkway for all to see. The Civil War Museum has two levels, each crammed full of informational exhibits. Just some of the exhibits you will see include weaponry, causes of the war, music, battles, and the role of women during war times. Don’t leave Harrisburg without stopping to admire this terrific museum.

Check out the State Museum, also located in Harrisburg, on North Street. This is a huge place that will tickle the imagination and is an especially great field-trip opportunity or a suggestion for those traveling with kids. Even children who have never shown any interest in history or culture will find it hard not to discover an exhibit that leaves an impression. Walk inside and prepare to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Pennsylvania history. Ancient Indian items, pottery, personal effects from long-gone decades – these things only scratch the surface of the exhibits that are offered. Also, don’t forget to stop by the gift shop before leaving; you might tell yourself you’re only shopping for the kids, but you may be surprised!

For a trip of Harrisburg that frees you from the obligation of navigating through traffic, take a calm cruise on the riverboat known The Pride of the Susquehanna. Not only will you see some wonderful views, but if you plan your trip just right you can even have your meal aboard ship. Cruises available to the general public are offered in the summer months (there are some during spring and autumn but you will have to check as the schedule is not as fixed as it is in the summer), but those wishing to rent the riverboat for a personal gathering will have to check a separate timetable. You can also eat some delicious goodies while you enjoy the view.

If you’re in the area for more than a few days but are tired of noisy, crowded attractions in the downtown area, consider Fort Hunter Mansion. The house dates from the early 1800s and got its name from a military outpost. One of the best attractions the mansion has to offer is the elegant furnishings and colonial architecture you will see on your tour. An 1800s tavern is also located on the site; known as the Practical Farmer, it is a beautiful partial-brick structure that has been lovingly kept for centuries. You may be allowed to visit if you time your arrival right, but it is not a constant attraction and usually isn’t open to the public.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer

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