When people think of tourism in central Pennsylvania, the first (and usually only) thing that comes to mind is the Amish. There are, however, many other reasons to visit central Pennsylvania.
Central Pennsylvania has played a significant role in the development of the United States. Two cities, York and Lancaster, were temporarily the nation’s capital during the Revolutionary War. Gettysburg was the site of one of the most important battles in the American Civil War. Strasburg is the centre of the Strasburg Railroad, which has operated continuously since 1832, making it the longest, active railroad in the country. It is also the home of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, one of the most comprehensive of such museums in the United States. Harrisburg, located in the heart of central Pennsylvania, is the state capital and has been for 220 years. It holds much of the history for the state of Pennsylvania over the years.
Central Pennsylvania is home to over a dozen breweries, ranging from regional favourites, such as Yuengling, to start-up, local, new ones like Springhouse. Included are nationally renowned, craft brewers such as Stoudts and Troegs. Pennsylvania as a whole is ranked sixth in the United States in number of breweries, and the central portion of the state has collected a great number of award-winning brewers and beers. Many of these breweries have family-friendly brewpubs and will give guided tours and samplings, although some have to be booked ahead of time.
The locavore movement is strong in Central Pennsylvania, as it should be. With some of the most fertile land in the United States, local markets and restaurants alike love to show off what they can do with what is grown close by. Most notably, Lancaster is home to the Central Market, the nation’s oldest market, having been in operation continuously for over 120 years. Close by, a number of restaurants get their daily produce and meats from the market and the vendors there, allowing for tasty yet sustainable local food culture.
Four highly-rated amusement parks have their home in central Pennsylvania. Whilst there are no Six Flags or other chain parks, there are plenty of family-friendly parks to be visited within short driving distances. Hersheypark (covered later) is the best known park, but the three other parks are more often rated higher by magazines and opinion polls.
The first, the 85-year-old Knoebels Amusement Resort, is located in Elysburg and has won numerous awards over the years, including an award for Best Amusement Park Food from trade magazine ‘Amusement Today’ for the past 14 years running (as at 2012). The star of the park, the Phoenix, is a wooden roller coaster that has been rated the second best wooden roller coaster in the world. Knoebels is also home of the tallest Ferris wheel in Pennsylvania, a nationally renowned haunted house ride and a carousel that is nearly 100 years old. Parking is free, as is admission to the park and, if you want to go on rides, it is not terribly expensive. Adjacent to the park is a campground and a picnic grove, allowing for a trip to Knoebels to be made into a fun, affordable family weekend destination that both parents and children of any age can thoroughly enjoy.
The second, Dutch Wonderland, is the youngest of the four parks and caters more towards young children under the age of ten. Located just east of Lancaster City, Dutch Wonderland has over 40 rides and shows to amuse the kids all day long. Hiding behind a real stone entranceway that has stood for 50 years, the park is known for being extremely clean and child-friendly. Entrance is a little more on the expensive side, but the fee covers all rides, shows and a round of mini-golf.
DelGrosso’s is an often overlooked amusement park in the Tipton area, a bit of a drive west of Knoebels or northwest from Harrisburg. Whilst it has not received as many awards as Knoebels, nor is it as child-centred as Dutch Wonderland, DelGrosso’s is an extremely budget-conscious amusement park for families, with some offbeat offerings. Not as ride-centred as the others, DelGrosso’s has become known for putting on free events such as car shows, fireworks and concerts, as well as giving back to the community. They also offer free admission and rides on some holidays to certain groups, for instance, veterans on Memorial Day, mothers on Mother’s Day and fathers on Father’s Day.
Hershey is the centre of the United States when it comes to chocolate. While the town’s tourism is centred around Hershey’s Chocolate World and the affiliated Hersheypark, there are other attractions to bring in folks from around the world.
Chocolate World is where you can take a look at just what goes into making Hershey’s chocolate, get a little taste of the goods and look into the history of Hershey Chocolates and the town. Hersheypark, the affiliated amusement park, is an extremely well-kept, modern park with high-calibre rides. It is continuously updated, having been in operation since 1907, but managing to constantly maintain some of the most high-tech, current rides found in an independent amusement park.
Nearby is the entertainment complex, which houses Hersheypark Stadium, which plays host to national concerts and outdoor events, and Hersheypark Arena, which is the home of the Hershey Bears, hosts national music acts and is the place where Wilt Chamberlin’s famed 100-point game took place.
Whilst it doesn’t have any major league teams, central Pennsylvania plays host to a slew of minor league teams and specialty sport teams, ranging from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (the oldest franchise in the league), the AA Harrisburg Senators and Reading Phillies of major league baseball to independent baseball teams like the Lancaster Barnstorms and York Revolution. This includes a minor league soccer team in Harrisburg, the City Islanders, and a rugby squad, the York/Lancaster Roses Rugby.
And yes, there’s also the Amish, but as you can see, there’s so much more!
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