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Weekend and Day Trips near Harrisburg

by Megan Waardenburg

At this point in the year, staying at home can get monotonous. Going to school every day, visiting the same coffee shops, reading the same textbooks, and walking around the same streets becomes a drag. The end of the year is further away than we like to think, and it’s hard to keep up motivation. Taking a weekend or even a day to visit somewhere nearby can help. Whether you want to visit a major city or a smaller town, a miniature vacation can help you motivate yourself to face the end of the school year. There are tons of opportunities in our own region, so here are a few that might pique your interest:

2 Hours from Harrisburg
Philadelphia, the former capital of the United States, offers endless opportunities to experience history, as well as modern urban life. History students can visit the most obvious attraction in old town Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell. The square nearby features multiple historical buildings that can help you learn more about the founding of our country. Science students can visit the Franklin Institute to visit exhibits ranging from robotics to dinosaurs. Students interested in the arts can visit the Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall. The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the most well known orchestras in the world, and includes some of the most talented musicians in the nation. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is another great pick for art students, since it houses works by big name artists such as Dali, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, and Picasso. For anyone a little less interested in academics, Rittenhouse Square offers tons of shopping opportunities and cafes to visit.

New York City
3 Hours from Harrisburg
Since New York is the largest city on the continent, culture tends to concentrate itself there. Art students can visit some major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art to see some of the most famous works by Van Gogh, Dali, Monet, and Degas. People looking to visit some smaller museums can find the Guggenheim Museum or the Whitney Museum of American Art. Performing arts students can find a wide variety of shows at Lincoln Center to attend, ranging from classical music to ballet. History students can visit the grave of Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church, or the site of Washington’s inauguration at Federal Hall. Of course, there’s always the the usual sights, like the Empire State Building, the UN Headquarters, the Trade Center, Central Park, or the Washington Square Arch.

Washington D.C.
2 Hours from Harrisburg
The capital of our country offers more than just opportunities for history and political science students. Students can visit the Capitol, the White House, and embassies from nearly every country. Art students can visit the National Gallery of Art, and see famous works by Monet, da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Raphael. Of course, there are plenty of things to do around the National Mall. Famous memorials for Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson are major tourist hits, and war memorials such as the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial are great places to visit. Regardless of your interests, any memorial is pretty enough to attract any type of visitor.
1.5 Hours from Harrisburg
Baltimore may be a smaller city, and have significantly less places to visit, but it is a great place for a relaxing day trip. Students interested in biology, or anyone who likes animals can visit the National Aquarium. The Aquarium features exhibits focused on animals of a diverse set of climates, ranging from rainforests to the Australian coast. Animal lovers can also visit the Maryland Zoo, which features animals ranging from reptiles and amphibians to penguins or elephants. For anyone less interested in animals, the Inner Harbor offers a wide variety of shopping and dining opportunities to try out!

Even though cities can be a lot of fun, sometimes they’re not very affordable, or maybe you’re looking for somewhere a little more unique to visit. There are plenty of smaller towns to visit that will offer new and unique experiences to people looking for a weekend off.

2 Hours from Harrisburg
Princeton is most famous for its university, where major players in our country’s history have attended or taught at, such as Woodrow Wilson, Michelle Obama, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Around the university area, the University Art Museum features artwork from every corner of the world, and era of history. Anyone interested in art or history would love roaming the halls of the historical artwork. History geeks can also visit the Princeton cemetery, where Aaron Burr is buried. Even though he’s not necessarily the most popular historical figure, it’s always great to see where some of the most influential people who helped to build our country are buried. Palmer Square offers the small town feeling shopping and dining opportunities for the non- museum rats looking for time away.

Cape May
3.5 Hours from Harrisburg
Cape May is the perfect place to visit for a quiet weekend at the beach. The beaches are great for swimming or just relaxing. The Cape May lighthouse is a great sight to see, and offers a great view of the town if you’re willing to put in the effort to climb it. The Washington Street Mall is filled with shops and restaurants, but for food more unique to Cape May, try visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf instead. Whale watching and bird watching are both popular in the area, though it’s not a popular activity for our age group. Though it’s not overflowing with attractions, Cape May is a great place to relax for the weekend and start your new week refreshed.

2 Hours from Harrisburg
Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is a great location for history students to explore without having to navigate the crowds of Washington D.C. The Naval Academy is located in Annapolis, and has taught students such as President Jimmy Carter or John McCain. The academy offers a few events for people to attend who are interested in the navy or in applying to the academy. Since the city overlooks the Chesapeake Bay, there are endless opportunities to get out on the water. There are sailing classes, tour boats, or you can charter a boat yourself and explore the bay on your own. Annapolis isn’t a huge city, but it’s a great place to spend some time out of your hometown and find something new to do.

Spending each day repeating the same routine can get tedious. Finding a new place to visit and exploring a new area can help you to change up your everyday habits and enter the next week with a little more enthusiasm and motivation.

Image by Megan Waardenburg