Budgets. Not always the most welcome word when planning a vacation. But just because
your funds may be limited, doesn't mean your fun has to be! The greater Hershey-Harrisburg area offers an abundance
of activities at a price everyone can afford. Here are some picks for free!
1. See St. Peter's Basilica and the Paris Opera House -- without leaving Pennsylvania!
Both inspired Harrisburg's opulent Capitol Complex.
Tours are held year 'round, Monday through Friday, 8:30a.m. - 4:30p.m. every half hour (no tours at noon) and Saturday,
Sunday, and holidays 9a.m. - 4p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Sunday. 717-787-6810.
2. Compared to the Carlisle Barracks, Harrisburg's Capitol Complex barely scratches the surface of history. Chosen by George
Washington in 1757 to house the country's first arsenal, it's now the nation's second oldest active military post.
Tour the 1777 Hessian Guard House (Memorial Day - Labor Day), the Omar N. Bradley Museum (year 'round) and the
grounds of the Carlisle Barracks. 717-245-3434.
3. The two-block stretch of Harrisburg's Riverfront Park from Emerald Street to
Maclay Street is a sanctuary dedicated to the pursuit of peace and the preservation of the Earth. Known as the
Peace Garden, it features bronze
plaques with quotes about peace by renowned statesmen and other dignitaries. Three wrought-iron sculptures by Dr.
Frederick Franck are also there. 717-255-3020.
4. You don't have to be an athlete to take on this hike -- just have an appreciation
for stunning views. Check out Peter's Mountain,
north of Harrisburg, near Rt. 147. Twelve miles of the Appalachian Trail await. l-800-637-2757.
5. Another northern Dauphin County hike, Stony
Creek, is especially beautiful during the fall. But the advantage of hiking
in the summer is you can soak your feet (or more) in the cool, rushing waters of Stony Creek. 1-800-637-2757.
6. Next, indulge in sweet temptation. Head for something that makes everyone happy
-- Chocolate! Tour HERSHEY'S Chocolate World
and learn how the company makes its world-famous speciality. 1-800-HERSHEY.
7. Thrill to the excitement of thoroughbred and harness racing every Monday through
Saturday afternoon at Penn National Race Course.
Fans enjoy full card simulcasts from across the country in the comfortable surroundings of the fourth floor clubhouse.
Free admission and parking for afternoon simulcast cards. Call 717-469-2211 for race track schedules.
8. While they call it the "Children's Lake," visitors of all ages will
also enjoy sharing a rest with the ducks calling the Boiling Springs Lake home. Fishermen know it's a treat as well, rich with trout. Call 717-657-4518 for licensing
9. While we recommend fishing the nearby Yellow
Breeches as well, if you don't want to spring for a license, you can still
enjoy the Breeches -- check out tubing! There's no arguing with those who feel it's the only way to beat the summer
10. After you dry off from tubing take in a few other nearby freebies at Dickinson
College. The Trout Gallery features
nearly 3,000 works of art from antiquities to 20th century pieces. 717-245-1711.
11. While on campus, enjoy Dickinson College's history -- its buildings witnessed everything from Revolutionary War days to Civil War
shelling to the Victorian Era. Stop in at the college bookstore (Holland-Union Building) for a map and the chance
to learn in what building George Washington worshiped. 717-245-1289.
12. To see one of the country's largest collections of Civil War memorabilia,
as well as peek into the Commonwealth's past, tour the three floors of the State
Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg (Third and Forester streets). 717-787-4978.
13. The State Museum also features changing art
exhibits; visitors to the area should additionally take advantage of Harrisburg's
rich supply of art galleries. Start with the Art Association's gallery at 1 N. Front St. (717-232-1432). Check
out the Doshi in the city's restored Transportation Center and Strawberry Square's Susquehanna Art Museum. Second
and Third streets in Harrisburg also feature a number of galleries.
14. A little bit off the beaten path from center city Harrisburg, but well worth
the trip are the galleries at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center, Harrisburg Area Community College. Also see numerous free performances including dance,
theater, and music. Open September-May. 717-231-ROSE.
15. If gallery-hopping doesn't appeal to the youngsters in your group, we have
something guaranteed to put a smile on their faces and not a dent in your wallet. Cocoa
Castle -- a playground like no other -- on Cocoa Avenue in Hershey. Dragon
slides, a haunted pirate ship and a HERSHEY'S KISSES Hut (of course) await.
16. Nearby, the Milton S. Hershey school opens its Founder's
Hall to visitors. Watch a 22-minute video about the man who built the
world's largest chocolate manufacturing business and one of history's most successful (and sweetest) company towns.
17. HERSHEYPARK lives up to its reputation as The Sweetest Park On Earth, especially
during the holiday season. Trees decorated with more than 500,000 lights surround the entrance of the park -- and
this is just the beginning of Christmas Candylane.
There is no admission charge for HERSHEYPARK Christmas Candylane, but there is a charge for the rides. l-800-HERSHEY.
18. Enjoy your stay in Hershey, but get back to Harrisburg in time for a few special
events -- all free. The city finds most any excuse to throw a party -- spring, summer and fall. Harrisburg's three
Riverfront Festivals -- Memorial
Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day weekend -- feature non-stop free musical entertainment, arts
and craft displays, the excitement of canoe, kayaking and drag boat racing, a chili cook-off and more. 717-255-3020.
19. Not to ignore a season, Harrisburg also throws a free party or two in the
winter. Join us for a Holiday Parade
to kick off the merriest season. And then come back for New Year's Eve as we celebrate in the square with children's entertainment. free concerts and a fireworks
display to get your new year off to a real bang. 717-255-3020.
20. Harrisburg's special events often spill over to the city's "Island of
Activity" -- City Island,
reached via the Walnut Street foot bridge or by driving across the Market Street Bridge. Walk the nature trail;
have your kids test out the Harbourtown Playground or simply enjoy the riverfront view from this family playground.
21. While soaking in that view, you'll be looking directly at Harrisburg's 4.5
mile Riverfront Park -- home to
walkers, joggers, bikers, picnicking families and those who simply want to soak in the sparkling waters of the
Susquehanna River. 717-255-3040.
22. Nothing says winter, though, like strapping on a pair of ice skates. So head
to Memorial Lake State Park near
Grantville. While open year-round, the lake is particularly inviting to ice skaters and the trails to cross country
23. Not to be outdone in the ice-skating and boating category, check out Mt. Holly
Spring's Laurel and Fuller Lakes, part of the Pine Grove Furnace State
24. Equally inviting is Cumberland County's King's
Gap State Park, offering a tempting 1,443 acres to hikers plus an environmental
education center. 1-800-657-2757.
25. Children tend to marvel at it and adults tend to marvel at how it intrigues
children! It's Strawberry Square's three-story clanging, clinging, ball-dropping, kinetic
clock. Its playful whimsy is pure enchantment. And it tells time to boot!
Harrisburg's center city shopping complex also attracts crowds with a regular schedule of free entertainment in
its atrium. 717-236-5061.
26. Free entertainment is also a catch phrase in Hershey, where during the summer
months visitors come upon an eclectic mix of amusements in the town square's
park and gazebo -- invited guests from nearby ZOOAMERICA mix with home-town
bands on the entertainment schedule. 717-534-3408.
27. The largest one-day street-fair on the East Coast takes place here -- in Cumberland
County's Mechanicsburg. Admission to Jubilee Day
is free and so is the fair's non-stop entertainment. 717-691-3310.
28. Sway to the beat of reggae, soak in sounds of jazz or country's latest hits.
Harrisburg's free summer music festivals at Reservoir Park offer great musical entertainment, as well as an excuse to walk the grounds of a city
park recently receiving $1.6 million worth of improvements. 717-255-3020.
29. The view of center city Harrisburg from Reservoir Park can't be matched. But
for a closer look, take a walking tour of the city's impressive mansions and restored townhouses. Front Street parallels the Susquehanna's Riverfront
Park and architecturally makes the city proud. Shipoke is nestled at the very beginning of Front Street and tends to remind visitors of narrow,
European style streets with detail and historic accuracy evident in its restorations. Visit the City Government
Center, One Market Square, for a brochure. 717-255-3040.
30. Follow the Pennsylvania trail of history to a delightful old country church
built for German farmers in the Cumberland valley. The Peace Church, on Trindle Road near Camp Hill, is open for self-guided tours on Sundays from May to
August, 2pm - 5pm. 717-761-0803.
31. Hike along the famous Appalachian Trail. A section of this 2,174 mile long trail passes just north and west of Harrisburg on its
route from Maine to Georgia.