Your sweet weekend getaway guide to Harrisburg and Hershey

All photos courtesy of Visit Harrisburgh and Hershey, except where noted.

Have your kids ever been to our state’s capital, Harrisburg, and its sister city, Hershey? The two locations are just 30 minutes apart, which makes it easy to visit attractions in both locales on one trip. Visitors can spend a day and make custom chocolate bars at Hershey’s Chocolate World, take in a Harrisburg Senators baseball game, and even tour the state capital building itself.

Harrisburg and Hershey are an easy and affordable trip for Pittsburgh families to take during the remaining weeks of summer or during the fall. Read on to plan a fun and educational getaway.

Where to stay

Sometimes families are deterred from a trip because it’s hard to find an affordable place that can fit everyone. Fortunately, this region is wallet-friendly. There’s no shortage of cute Airbnb’s and VRBO’s in the Harrisburg and Hershey area for families looking for a bit more space. You’ll also find some great hotels. Hershey has the iconic Hershey Lodge, with an outdoor pool, indoor pool with splash pad and aquatic obstacle courses, and an arcade. Hershey Lodge, and The Hotel Hershey, both have shuttles to and from the park, as well as other sweet touches. 

In addition to the KOA, Hersheypark itself offers campsites in a themed campground near the park. They provide lodging packages that offer discounts on park tickets, too.

Hersheypark Camping Resort.

In Harrisburg, the Hilton is located in the heart of downtown and is easy walking to many sights. There is an indoor pool and on-site dining, which always makes a trip easier with kids. For families on a budget, the Quality Inn Riverfront is a great option. It’s nestled along the banks of the Susquehanna River, has an outdoor pool, and is a short walk from lots of fun — starting at around $100 per night.

If you have an RV or prefer to rent a cabin, the KOA in Elizabethtown is a good bet, too. It’s loaded with all the amenities you should expect at a family campground, like minigolf and swimming.

Hershey Gardens Children’s Garden.

Where to play

Believe it or not, many frequent roadtrippers to central Pennsylvania say families could easily spend a week in the capital and not see everything there is to see. Hersheypark is one of the main attractions, of course. While we love Kennywood here at Kidsburgh, Hersheypark is actually the largest amusement park in the state. The 121-acre park features 15 coasters for thrill-seekers and a variety of family rides for the younger guests. It’s 3 parks in 1 with ZooAmerica and a waterpark included in the price of admission.

Hershey’s Chocolate World boasts a tour (that is always free), which includes a sample at the end. For additional cost, families can make their own chocolate bar, take a trolley tour of the town Milton Hershey built, and learn everything there is to know about chocolatiering.

Kids won’t want to miss Hershey’s Chocolate World.

There’s a separate museum as well, called the Hershey Story Museum. In the off season, Hersheypark does host themed events such as Dark Nights in the fall and Candylane in December. 

In Harrisburg itself, there are several stops that interest kids. Touring the state capital is a great way to learn about the government. It’s a beautiful historic building, and tours are free. Visitors are strongly encouraged to book tours in advance, especially during spring field trip season.

Photo courtesy of Hersheypark.

And it’s always fun to explore a new playground when traveling. Harrisburg’s Chutes and Ladders-themed spot is a great choice. Check it out:

City Island is packed with family fun, too. This island in the Susquehanna not only contains the Harrisburg Senators baseball stadium, but it’s got good food and recreation galore. You’ll find mini golf, multiple playgrounds and you can even catch a riverboat for a tour of the region. On City Island, the Beach Club features lounging area, food trucks, and a perfect spot to take in the views. 

For firetruck obsessed kids (and adults), the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum is also in Harrisburg. Learn about the history of keeping buildings and people safe in the Commonwealth. If you aren’t completely full of sweets after Hersheypark, the Turkey Hill Experience walks you through just how this beloved ice cream is made. The State Museum of Pennsylvania has some neat artifacts, and Toys on the Square is a massive local toy shop with plenty of souvenirs. 

A mastodon skeleton at the State Museum in Harrisburg.

The best eats

Believe it or not, aside from loads of sugar, Harrisburg and Hershey also have a ton of great dining spots. There is the Brew Barons Beer Trail, which even has an app to guide visitors through. There’s plenty of food and non-beer drinks on this trail that make it a good fit for families, too. For more traditional Italian family fare and great pizza, check out Fenicci’s of Hershey — a local favorite for generations.

Appalachian Brewing Company‘s restaurant is perfect for noisy families, as the bustling space is always full of conversation and laughter. Broad Street Market is also a great choice for grab-and-go casual food. It’s a bit like the Strip District, but in one centralized building. There are 40 vendors, so everyone can find something they like. 

For those with food allergies, Piazza Sorrento has an extensive gluten-free menu. The Chocolate Avenue Grill in Hershey provides kid-friendly meals, burgers and sandwiches, and a great pasta menu. It’s the perfect choice when no one can agree. Finally, Duke’s Bar and Grille is also a local favorite, with great views and pub fare (including great chicken fingers for the picky ones). It’s along the river with terrific views. 

If you are looking for more information to plan your trip or have questions on accessibility and accommodations for disabilities, please reach out to Visit Harrisburg and Hershey, who graciously provided Kidsburgh with information for this guide. If you missed our other city guides, you can find them here