With hipster havens in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh bookending Pennsylvania, you probably don’t think of Harrisburg as the first spot for a cool, urban location to spend a day. But you should. Don’t underestimate Harrisburg. The capital city’s Midtown neighborhood will make you rethink what you think you already know. The neighborhood is rich with a farmer’s market with an internal food court, art galleries, street art and an independent bookshop that puts the rest to shame. And all of those things are set in and around a backdrop of historic buildings with the kind of architecture they just don’t make anymore. Midtown Harrisburg is laidback and easy going in a way that “the big city” just isn’t.
To say that a Pennsylvania State Capitol tour in Harrisburg is a pleasant surprise is a massive understatement. For a state that was founded on Quaker values eschewing materialism, there sure is a whole lot of 23K gold, Italian marble, and two dozen stained glass windows created by a student of Tiffany. And all of this in that awkward middleground between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, surrounded by farms, many from Amish families, and industry. What could pass in part as, perhaps, the mansion of a turn of the century American magnate or an elaborate cathedral, or even just a museum, is actually the capitol building. And with free tours of the capitol building, you’d be silly not to visit and take it all in. Just don’t blame me if you get a sore neck from gazing upwards at the ceiling and walls.