If you’re wondering about weekend activities in Harrisburg and Hershey, there’s no shortage of things to do. And if you want to make a weekend getaway out of it, you’re in luck.
I love weekend adventures, especially when they’re just a short car ride away. You don’t have to worry about packing everything into 3 oz. bottles and more importantly, you can buy and take home as much as you want!
This trip was hosted by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg.
Last November, I ventured back to the Harrisburg area for my second trip of the year. The first one was supposed to be a family adventure but ended up being me and my son (he’s a great travel companion!). I was honestly surprised by the great food, cute downtown, and variety of activities. But I was also scouting for a destination for a girlfriend getaway.
I”m not great at pitching trip ideas but when I mentioned to Visit Hershey and Harrisburg that I’d love to come back for a wine weekend, they said, “Yes, please. Come back! And bring your girlfriends!”
Luckily, I have plenty of girlfriends that also double as travel writers so in November, we blocked out some time to spend a girls winery weekend together. What we got was a full weekend of eating, drinking, and just generally being merry. It’s a trip I highly recommend you take either as a couples retreat, a family weekend, or a girlfriend getaway. You just modify the itinerary to suit you!
EAT! (Eating in Hershey and Harrisburg)
It may surprise you that some of the best food I’ve had in a long time was in Harrisburg. I’m not sure if it’s the location (situated strategically between New York and DC and not far from Philadelphia) but the area seems to attract some pretty heavy chefs to the area.
We enjoyed a more casual meal at the Greystone Public House on the north side of the city, where I feasted on scallops and actually tried my very first raw oyster. Luckily, I had a few glasses of wine to help wash it down
We dressed up for the fine dining experience at Char’s Tracy Mansion where we ordered old-fashioned cocktails, generously poured (Dirty Vodka Martini for me, please). What added to the historic atmosphere was sharing our dining room with a family celebrating the 90th birthday of the family’s patriarch.
We enjoyed brunch at Cafe 1500 where they have a menu to satisfy the your sweet tooth and your savory tooth. And if you desire, you can get a Bloody Mary that’s as big as your head and eats like a meal.
Note: Char’s Restaurant is now permanently closed.
But my favorite experience was dining at the Chef’s Table at Bricco – a restaurant that serves brick-oven pizza. My expectations were high – for pizza – but I was blown away by our six course meal. I walked out full, but not stuffed, and extremely satisfied.
Note: Bricco Restaurant is now permanently closed.
DRINK! (Drinking in Hershey and Harrisburg)
It’s not California. It’s Pennsylvania. And if you’re like me, you definitely lower your expectations when it comes to local wine. I always expect a very fruity wine that’s usually cloyingly sweet.
Well, if that’s your wine preference, don’t worry. You can find exactly that, and I won’t judge you for it (much). But if you have a drier palate, like mine, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, and other specialty whites and reds available in the region.
In order to sample the local wines, we actually spent a Saturday in a limo bus which shuttled us to five different wineries (my favorites where The Vineyard & Brewery at Hershey and The Vineyard at Grandview but you can see everywhere we went here).
And even if wine isn’t your think, you’ll want to check out Troeg’s Independent Brewing in Hershey that not only has an amazing selection of craft beers but also offers a “snack bar” that rivals many modern restaurants!
BE MERRY! (What Else to Do in Hershey and Harrisburg)
We ate well. We drank well. And frankly, that’s enough to make an awesome weekend for me. But there was even more to do – some planned, some spontaneous!
Segway Tour in Hershey, PA
Have you ever ridden a Segway? Look easy, sounds fun. But when it comes right down to it, it’s actually pretty frightening.
Just behind The Hotel Hershey, you can book a Segway tour of the hotel grounds. That sounds pretty sedate until you realize that it’s freezing (or, at least, was on the day we went) and there are HILLS!
Luckily, the Segway tour starts with a half hour training session to acclimate you to the equipment. Apparently, I followed the exact pattern of most people that take the tour: nervous, hesitant, cautious, confident, and then cocky.
I thought I’d spend 10 minutes and say thank you very much. But by the time we got going, I didn’t care about the temperatures and even ventured off road (these Segways are designed to handle some off road trails). I might have even looked up the cost of buying my own Segway when the tour was over.
Yeah, I think I’ll just stick to the occasional rental.
Shopping in Hershey, PA
After a cold and often hilarious hour spent on Segways, we were ready to reward ourselves with SHOPPING! Since we had dinner reservations that evening, we only had limited time and had two places on our shopping list.
Hershey’s Chocolate World is located almost literally across the street from The Hotel Hershey, right next to Hersheypark. Regardless of the time of year that you go, you can ignore the park traffic and head right to the special parking area for the Chocolate World. It’s free for up to 3 hours! We went inside just long enough to do the Chocolate Tour ride and load up on our favorite candies.
Tanger Outlets in Hershey was our second stop and we only had an hour. No worries, because I know how to do power shopping! We all set out in various directions with some of us pairing up and some of us going solo. The plan was to meet back at the car in one hour, hopefully with bags in hand. And… success! While most women bought clothes for their kids, I scored a couple of things for myself!
Art Class in Downtown Harrisburg
On my last trip to Harrisburg, I ate at The Millworks, purchased some local beer to take home, and wander through the artist galleries and studios throughout the building. But this time, I got to be part of the scene when we took a Fluid Art Class with Anne Yeager.
Whether or not you consider yourself artistic, Fluid Art is a fantastic medium for anyone with a desire to create. In fact, I would argue that the harder you try, the less creative you are. Just fill a cup with layers of paint, pour, and you’ve created art! I actually enjoyed this much more than I thought I would and now I have a Fadra original hanging in my office.
And when all else fails…
Take a Walk in Downtown Harrisburg
Although I wouldn’t necessarily walk the streets of Harrisburg by myself at night (which is true for most cities), I did venture out on a morning walk and took in the unique art, restaurants and history peppered throughout downtown Harrisburg. And my reward for the walk was a fantastic cup of tea (something I can never seem to get at Starbucks).
Planning Your Trip to Hershey and Harrisburg
If you find yourself heading to central Pennsylvania for reasons other than (or in addition to) Hersheypark, think about exploring outside the typical tourist zone and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at a destination I can’t wait to return to!