The Pennsylvania Capitol Building was made for gawking.
Brian R. Owen/getty images

If You Go...

City House B&B
915 N. Front St.
(717) 903-2489

Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel
4650 Lindle Road
(717) 564-5511

Alvaro Bread and Pastry Shoppe

236 Peffer St.
(717) 238-1999

El Sol Mexican Restaurant
18 S. 3rd St.
(717) 901-5050

Sturges Speakeasy
400 Forster St.
(717) 412-0931

Café Fresco
215 N. Second St.
(717) 236-2599

Level 2
215 N. Second St.
(717) 236-6600 

Shady McGrady's
204 Verbeke St.

Stage on Herr
268 Herr St.
(717) 412-4342

Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau
17 S. 2nd ST.
(877) 727-8573

Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex
(reservations recommended)
North 3rd and State streets
(800) 868-7672

Midtown Scholar Bookstore
1302 N. 3rd St.
(717) 236-16804

Often overshadowed by bigger brethren Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, this charming Northeastern city offers lots to love.

Quick: What’s the capital of Pennsylvania? If you said Philadelphia, the people of Harrisburg would like to have a word with you. Not one to be overlooked, Pennsylvania’s charming ­waterfront capital is rich with history, has a vibrant restaurant scene downtown, boasts museums galore and features an island playground where the Harrisburg Senators play minor-league baseball at Metro Bank Park. As a weekend getaway destination, Harrisburg more than deserves your vote.

Do: Take a free tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol, described by President Teddy Roosevelt as the “handsomest building” he’d ever seen. Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the gold-domed structure could inspire the most jaded politicos. The grand staircase in the main rotunda is patterned after the one in the Paris opera house, and the building is adorned with sculptures and murals. When you’ve grown heady from the halls of power, walk five blocks to the cavernous Midtown Scholar Bookstore, a modern-day Babylon for bibliophiles with more than 100,000 used and rare books on six floors. The renovated 1920s ­theater building offers lots of hidden passageways, stained-glass windows and overstuffed chairs in which to settle down with a good read. To relax with family, drive across Market Street Bridge to City Island, where you can tour the 63-acre park by steam train, play miniature golf, hit the batting cages or rent a kayak or canoe. Facilities are open during spring and summer.

Eat: For a home-cooked Italian meal, check out Alvaro Bread and Pastry Shoppe, a cozy BYOB, family-run restaurant tucked along a side street in historic Old Uptown. All of the food is made from scratch by Lina Alvaro, who, along with her husband, Sal, opened the café and bakery in October 2003. Using nothing but fresh, authentic ingredients, the couple draws on old family recipes from its hometown of Mammola, Italy, to create daily specials of spaghetti and meatballs smothered in a savory tomato sauce, stuffed shells and crispy eggplant parmesan. Be sure to save room for dessert. Or head to Restaurant Row on Second Street, where more than 15 eateries offer everything from sushi to Indian fare to Spanish tapas. At El Sol ­Mexican Restaurant one street over, try the Molcajete Mixto, a combination of steak, chicken and shrimp in a volcanic rock bowl. Wash it down with one of the best margaritas north of the border.

Drink: There’s no shortage of places to swill near the capitol building. The Sturges Speakeasy is popular with locals for its friendly bartenders, strong drinks and innovative bar menu. (Shark tacos, anyone?) For a more upscale establishment, try Café Fresco and Level 2 nightclub above it. Shady McGrady’s, although a bit of a dive, gets everyone’s vote for the most extensive selection of beer on tap. If you’re feeling artsy, check out Stage on Herr, which offers live acts at night.

Stay: Nestled along the banks of the Susquehanna River, City House Bed and Breakfast is in the heart of downtown. Rooms in the restored mansion feature fireplaces, a stained-glass window and hardwood floors. The recently renovated Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel partners with Hersheypark, conveniently located for travelers looking to visit The Sweetest Place on Earth.

Stay in style at City House Bed and Breakfast (left) or enjoy the shrimp and grits at Sturges Speakeasy (right).

BONUS FACTOID: On Labor Day, the Harrisburg Kipona celebration kicks off in Riverfront Park with arts and crafts, children’s theater, sporting events and the popular Pennsylvania Chili Cook-off.