Family Weekend with a Teen Boy to Harrisburg, PA by Robin Gorman Newman

We have been to Hershey, Pennsylvania twice and enjoyed, so when we were offered the opportunity to go on a press road trip to Harrisburg, a neighboring town, my family and I jumped on it.  We knew there were some activities up the alley of my teenage son, Seth.

We had briefly been there previously, but did not have much time to explore.  This time, we stayed two nights, and had two activity packed and fun days exploring the area.

We arrived on a Friday night…made a pit stop at Hershey Tanger Outlets (Seth is a fan of Under Armour) and enjoyed dinner at The Mill in Hershey (good food and quaint atmosphere).

The next day, we were off ‘n running after breakfast at our hotel.

We were slated to take a ride on the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat but unfortunately due to weather-related water conditions, the boat wasn’t running.  So, we decided to head downtown to the iconic Midtown Scholar Bookstore, The Millworks & Artist Studios – Restaurant + Artist Studios + Brewery and Broad Street Market.  All are within short walking distance of each other and are unique destinations.

Midtown Scholar Bookstore is a historical store, and how impressive and exciting, as an author myself, to have an opportunity to visit such a landmark independent bookseller!  The Midtown Scholar Bookstore is the nation’s largest academic used bookseller, with over one million books online. Located in a renovated 1920s theater building – it has 200,000 new, used, rare, & discount books in two buildings. Its Famous Reading Café offers organic, fair-trade teas, coffees, and espressos imported by Counter Culture Coffee. Its Yellow Wall Gallery features works by local artists. Now with a new wing for children’s and young adult books, “The Little Scholar,” plus an in-store bakery. And introducing Robinson’s Rare Books


and Fine Art prints on the lower level, with a contemporary print gallery. Weekly programming includes live acoustic music, author talks, book signings, free lectures, community events, poetry readings and book clubs.

The MIllworks is a great, artsy spot for a meal, snacks, beverage break, and a visit to artist studios. Unfortunately, quite a number were closed on the day of our visit, but there was some lovely artwork by those we were able to check out, and we wound up purchasing an FDNY picture for my son, who is Captain of the volunteer Jr. Firefighters in our town.

(Maple Iced with Bacon Donuts)

Broad Street Market is an epicurian adventure! From their website….The Broad Street Market is your source for locally-grown and organic produce, meats, baked goods, and freshly prepared meals. With nearly 40 vendors, the market has something for everyone!  The Broad Street Market was founded in 1860, and has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated market house in the United States.

At the Market, we bought some interesting food items made locally, and if we had a shorter drive back home, we would have likely bought more.

We then visited what for my son we knew would be one of the trip highlights…the Pennsylvania National Fire MuseumStaffed by volunteers, we got a highly informative tour, and my son was totally in his element.  I have to say…I found it interesting as well…and immensely heartfelt, as they feature a tribute to 9.11.

From their website…..Enter the 1899 Victorian Firehouse, Home of the Reily Hose Co. No. 10and experience the sights and sounds of Firefighting History. The Pennsylvania National Fire Museum features fire apparatus from Handtubs and Steam Pumpers, hand drawn to horse drawn, to motorized Engines and a 1935 MACK tillered Ladder Truck. An outstanding and varied collection of artifacts are on display.

The alarm room now includes the Dauphin County Fire Dispatch Console that was in service during the nuclear incident at Three Mile Island in March of 1979. This now gives the PA National Fire Museum the capability to demonstrate the transmission of a fire alarm utilizing a replica ” fire watch rattle” for the sounding of an alarm in the 1700’s; visitors can “pull the box” to transmit an alarm through the Gamewell Alarm System, dating from the late 1800’s through the 1980’s; finally using electronic equipment to transmit the “tones” for a fire alarm from the 1970’s to the present.

Afterwards, we headed over for some quick retail therapy (for me) at The Shoppes at Susquehanna Market and an enjoyable early dinner at Harvest on the shopping strip.

After dinner, we spent time at Autobahn Indoor Go-Kart Racing.  Located in Lemoyne, PA, it is a short drive from Harrisburg, and Seth had an absolute blast. We had visited an Autobahn previously in NY, so he was thrilled to add another Autobahn notch to his belt and get his need for speed fix. He did five races and could have spent hours there.  A popular destination, for adults as well, it’s comfortable for parents with ample seating and tables to chill, watch and read, as kids enjoy.  They also host parties and corporate events.

Sunday, after an ample breakfast at Bob Evans, we stopped off  (22 miles from Harrisburg in Halifax, PA) at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park & Safari Tour.

From their website…..Since 1965 Lake Tobias Wildlife Park has been fascinating patrons with its wild, exotic animals and an adventure-seeking safari tours. The late J.R. Tobias founded the park on the same property where he was born and raised. He and his wife, Pauline, reared their seven children here before his passing in 1996. Mrs. Tobias still resides in the farm house.

This was super fun, and a constant photo opportunity!

On the Safari Tour, which runs around an hour, you ride in an open-air cruiser across 150  acres of rolling hills, pasture, and woodlands, where you see animals from around the world.  Guides share their knowledge about the various species you encounter, as well as their habitats.

With approximately 500 animals moving around freely, you see something different every time you take the tour.  You can buy food to feed the animals, and many come right up to the vehicle for the food, and you can pet them.  On our tour, a hungry elk actually boarded the vehicle and was thrilled to be fed some corn by our guide and eat from the hands of some passengers.

Two giraffes had just arrived the week before our visit, so we got to see them as well.

Definitely a memorable experience!

While we did not pursue the following, other activities/destinations you might consider include Armstrong Valley Vineyard & Winery, The Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm, The Town of Lititz, PA, and Pioneer Railroad.


If you planning a trip to the area, be sure to visit



Note: We were extended press visits by Autobahn Indoor Go-Kart Racing, Lake Tobias Wildlife Park & Safari Tour and the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, but our opinions are our own.