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Introduction

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Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania and with around 50,000 is a relatively small city, the ninth in the state.

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Sights and Activities

  • Harrisburg State Capital Complex - Dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Capital Complex and grounds are the prettiest in the United States. It is worth a visit, especially with young children. So many pretty places to run around and an easy walk across the pedestrian bridge to lunch at a food court in Strawberry Square Address: N 3rd and State St Harrisburg, PA 17120, Phone: (717) 787-5532, Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, Price: Free
  • The Star Barn - This is a hidden jewel. You can drive by and walk up to the grounds anytime but tread lightly. This is a pretty place to take pictures. This barn, known as “The Star Barn,” is listed as a National Historic Landmark with the National Register of Historic Places and has long been admired and loved by thousands of people from all walks of life and interests from all over the country. It may be one of the most artistically photographed, painted, and replicated buildings in America because of its unique architectural design, building layout, and most notably, its giant five-point stars on each end. Address: within sight of 200 Nissley Drive, Middletown, PA 17057 (Open Door Bible Church on Spring Garden Drive), Price: free

If you have a membership to a Science Museum you can use it for free or discounted admission to the Whitaker Science Center, also in Strawberry Square.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.

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Weather

Average highs range from around 3-4 °C in January to around 30 °C in July. Lows average between -5 °C and 19 °C respectively. The average annual amount of precipitation is about 1,100 mm with summers being slightly wetter due to heavy downpours. Snow is common from December till early March.

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Getting There

By Plane

Harrisburg International Airport (IATA: MDT, ICAO: KMDT) receives a number of domestic flights.

By Train

The following trains operated by Amtrak travel to and from Harrisburg:

  • Keystone (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg)
  • Pennsylvanian (New York – Philadelphia - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh)

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

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Eat

If you are in downtown Harrisburg, 2nd street is lined with good places to eat or drink and has a lively nightlife. Families will enjoy Strawberry Square and children will love the giant Chockablock clock.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Accommodation in Harrisburg

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Harrisburg searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Harrisburg and areas nearby.

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This is version 10. Last edited at 10:37 on Dec 3, 18 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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