Like most urban areas, Harrisburg, the commonwealth’s capital city, has an array of diverse neighborhoods — and many of them are true gems.
One that shines particularly bright is the the three-block stretch of North Second Street known as Restaurant Row.
In the early 1980s, there was no such destination. Harrisburg had been dubbed America’s second-most distressed city, and the once-commercial avenue a block off the Susquehanna River was tired and generally avoided.
But then-mayor Stephen Reed led a charge to pump money, energy and excitement into the city’s main drag, creating what’s become Restaurant Row.
And business flourished.
“Restaurant Row is in the heart of the city, making it the perfect hub of your day,” said Rick Dunlap, spokesman for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. “Grab lunch before catching an afternoon ball game on City Island just a block away, or refresh with a beverage at one of the bars with sidewalk seating after you conquer the 17-mile Greenbelt bike trail around the city.”
The city has seen an emergence of trendy pubs, night clubs, diverse restaurants with a host of outdoor seating, music venues, museums and a smattering of retail curiosities — all nestled among stately government buildings, offices, historic churches and buildings and just a block from the city’s Riverfront Park. Spending a day downtown in the parks, an evening at one of dozens of unique restaurants and a night of dancing, coffee-house visiting or listening to live bands makes for a desirable road trip destination.
Restaurant Row runs roughly from Market Street to Foster Avenue, and more clubs, pubs and eateries open each year. Patrons can enjoy American, Asian, Caribbean, German, Irish, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine — and more.
Within just a few more blocks, visitors can shop at Strawberry Square Mall, catch a live performance or iMax movie at the Whitaker Center, jump on the Pride of the Susquehanna for a paddle boat tour up the Susquehanna River or enjoy one of the most diverse farmers markets in Market Square.
“Restaurant Row is close to the state museum or Whitaker Center for Science & the Arts,” said Dunlap. “From Second Street, it’s easy to rent a canoe to paddle the Susquehanna River or take a Segway tour of the city. And the free Capitol Complex tour is always a hidden gem for those who have never done it, just a block away.”
For details, check out www.visithersheyharrisburg.org.
While you’re there ...
• Market Square, just a few blocks’ hike up Second Street, is a neighborhood that also has undergone a revival in the past couple of decades.
At the intersection of Second and Market streets, the square serves as the city’s commerce center. But while the area is dominated with austere, sky-scraping buildings, there are several restaurants, shops and street eats, and it is a great extension to Restaurant Row.
•Broad Street Market
is one of the most diverse farmers markets in the commonwealth, and it’s a very doable walk from the heart of the city andCapitol
It features international eateries, hands-made crafts, local art, and fresh and organic meats and produce.
• In the opposite direction of Market Square areCity Island
andMetro Bank Park
— each a no-miss while in the ’burg. Huff across the Market Street Bridge, a pedestrian-only span across a portion of the Susquehanna River, and you’ll find a variety of games, recreational opportunities and, of course, the home of the Harrisburg Senators minor league baseball team.
The ballpark, which was renovated in 2008 to a tune of $45 million, can hold 6,187 fans or concertgoers, as the park has several concerts each year.
• From the City Island dock, you can also catch a ride on thePride of Susquehanna Riverboat
, which during summer months, runs at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. for 45-minute jaunts on a paddle wheeler. No reservations needed.
Another no-miss adventure, especially on those inclement days, is to visit the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, www.whitakercenter.org, also on Market Street. It hosts an IMAX theater, children’s science museum with traveling exhibits and a gift shop.
Some of the biggest names in entertainment play at the Whitaker’s Sunoco Performance Theater, www.whitakercenter.org/sunoco-performance-theater-performances, and there are a host of dance, symphonies and other performances.