Summer is the best time of the year for families — but it’s also the most expensive. Between trips to amusement parks, paying for summer camps, and enjoying all those meals out during vacation, you may find your wallet’s a little pinched come mid-July and August.
That’s why we put together this list of 15 truly fun things you can do in the Harrisburg area, all for less than $5 per person. Hop in the car and start checking things off right away!
1. Walk Through Wildwood Park
Pack a picnic lunch and head to this gorgeous slice of nature on the edge of Harrisburg’s hustle and bustle. Check the park website ahead of time — they often have free activities on weekends.
2. Tour the State Capitol Building
You can take a free tour of the state capitol most weekdays and weekends. Schedule a tour by calling 1-800-868-7672.
3. Walk City Island
Everyone’s been to City Island, whether for a Harrisburg Senators game or to play water golf. But when was the last time you walked around the island and then crossed over to Harrisburg? The city looks gorgeous at night when it’s lit up and you’re walking toward it.
4. Play Games at City Island Arcade
Don’t go back to your car parked on City Island just yet. Give each member of the family $5 in tokens and let them loose at the City Island Arcade. Skee-Ball tournament, anyone?
5. Tour the Governor’s Residence
Bored on a Tuesday or Thursday? Go to the governor’s residence in Harrisburg for a free tour. They are offered only in select months, so check availability ahead of time — you can combine this with the capitol tour for a day of civics lessons.
6. Head to Adams-Ricci Park in East Pennsboro
This park is ideal for kids 8 and under, with a wooded playground including a tot lot and sandbox where your kids can amuse themselves for hours. Older kids may like this tree identification guide.
7. Visit Rocky Ridge Park
If you love scenic views (and who doesn’t?), then this York County park is the destination for you. It has an incredible vista view of the Susquehanna Valley.
8. Get Lost in a Book at Midtown Scholar
With tomes appropriate for all levels, the downtown book seller carries something of interest for every family member. Check ahead for (free) special events.
9. Take BP at Carlisle Sports Emporium
Feel like hitting a few baseballs or softballs? You can purchase a 15-pitch pass at Carlisle Sports Emporium for $4.
10. Absorb Culture at the Perry County Council of the Arts Gallery
The free exhibits rotate regularly at this Newport attraction, which houses the work of more than 150 local artists.
11. Find a Free Festival
12. Seek Out the Area’s Covered Bridges
You can find them in Dauphin, Lancaster and York, where the bridge spans the Yellow Breeches at Messiah College in Grantham. And speaking of that creek …
13. Go Tubing on the Yellow Breeches
Bring inner tubes and two cars. Drop one along McCormick Road in Mechanicsburg and then head to Messiah to get in. You’ll float down the creek to your other car in one of the most relaxing experiences of the summer.
14. Cool Off at Poole Forge Creek
Want to beat the heat without paying for pool admission? Grab some nets and try to catch crayfish at this Churchtown creek, which also boasts a playground nearby.
You knew we’d toss this one in here, right? Going to help out your favorite cause doesn’t cost anything. Need ideas? Take a look at our guide to giving back in Central PA to find a place to start.