Harrisburg is well known for its historical significance. The city is absolutely full of historical landmarks and exhibits to visit. If you are in town then you can’t leave without seeing at least parts of this heritage. So, we’ve collected 10 amazing museums in Harrisburg, PA for you.
As you would expect most of the museums in Harrisburg are centered on history. It’s one of the few places in the nation where there’s so much history that it warrants multiple museums exhibiting different parts of it. However, our list also has some other fun types of visits so even if you are not in it for the history, we’ll have something for you.
As usual, we’ll give you pricing, opening hours, and directions to each of the museums. This way you’ll be able to pick out what’s interesting for you easier and also you’ll instantly know how to get there. So without further ado, let’s jump into our favorite museums in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
1. The State Museum of Pennsylvania
Hours: Wed-Sat 9AM – 5PM, Sun 12 – 5PM
Of course, what would be the best place to start your journey of the Harrisburg museums than at the local state museum? If you want to visit a huge exhibit and learn about the history of Pennsylvania then The State Museum of Pennsylvania will be a great match for you.
It’s located in the city center right next to the capitol building making it easy to visit and a prime location. This is also one of the most famous museums in the city with how expansive their display and how many artifacts they keep.
First of all, they have a big display of everything in Pennsylvania. This includes items that are produced in the city and the historical artifacts that were uncovered in the area.
Then they’ve got a huge prehistoric display with bones and reconstructions of animals from the era when humans have not yet roamed the lands.
To finish up they keep a nice collection of art pieces such as paintings. One of the most famous paintings on display is the Battle of Gettysburg which is an absolute classic.
The museum is quite cheap while being pretty big. It is great value for money and we can highly recommend this one to every single visitor in town.
2. Susquehanna Art Museum
Hours: Wed 10AM – 7PM, Thu-Sat 10AM – 5PM, Sun 12-5PM
Next up is the incredibly cool Susquehanna Art Museum. Even the building is special. It was once a local bank that has been turned into the Art Museum.
This modest but captivating museum features entrance fees that are highly affordable, especially for students. The majority of the artworks showcased are from the current temporary exhibit. They do have a permanent exhibit as well featuring some great paintings.
We loved the knowledgeable staff and the excellent curation work that goes into each exhibit. Keep an eye out for the temporary exhibits when you visit as there are some true gems to find here.
3. Pennsylvania National Fire Museum
Price: $10 Individual / $30 Family
Hours: Tue-Sat 10AM – 4PM, Sun 1 – 4PM
Our next pick among the best museums in Harrisburg, PA is the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum. This one is a truly great choice for families especially if your family is interested in firetrucks.
Yes, as the name suggests this is a firemen museum. They’ve got everything from vintage firetrucks to vintage equipment. The museum tells the story of how the fire service started and formed up to be what it is today.
Of course, this museum is focused on Pennsylvania but this is among one of the best collections of firefighter relics in the whole nation. It’s a good museum with many interesting things to learn. Families will love it.
4. The National Civil War Museum
Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM – 5PM, Sun 12 – 5PM
One of the best historical museums in Harrisburg PA is the National Civil War Museum. It’s an extensive exhibit that tries to focus on the facts without putting one side over another.
They have tons of artifacts and relics that tell the story of two sides fighting for the same nation. It’s an incredibly exciting place with a deep history.
The museum has two floors with quite a lot of rooms and quite a lot of reading if you want to check everything out. Plan at least 2 to 3 hours for your visit.
Apart from the actual exhibit they also hold some periodical events and even reenactments. Check the official site for any upcoming events that you may be able to catch when you are in Harrisburg.
5. Harris Tower & Museum
Hours: Sat 9AM – 4PM (May – Oct)
The Harris Tower & Museum is a railroad museum in Harrisburg making it another great stop for family visits. If your kids love trains then they’ll absolutely love this place.
The building itself was the original control tower for this part of the railroad and after it was decommissioned they transformed the place into a museum.
Visitors will have a chance to relive the past and learn how railroad junctions were controlled in the era without computers. They can even control virtual trains in a replica of the original railroad here.
This museum is free to visit and is supposed to be open every Saturday, however, we’ve had some tough luck when it was not actually accessible. Make sure to either drop them a mail or call them to check if they are open when you are planning a trip here. Here’s the page where you’ll find the contact info: https://www.harrisburgnrhs.org/visit
6. Doll House Museum
Hours: Wed-Sat 9AM – 3PM
We are never sure if doll museums are fun or creepy. Probably a bit creepy. However, there is a great Doll House Museum in Harrisburg and if you are not creeped out by the vintage dolls then it’s a great place to have on your to-do list.
It is especially nice if you have kids who are into dolls. The museum features an impressive and informative collection of hundreds of dolls, some dating back to 1840. There are also more recent entries to the collection making it represent a huge variety in shape, size, and age.
7. Historical Society of Dauphin County
The Dauphin County historical society dates back all the way to 1869. Upon its foundation, they already began offering tours and history lessons for anyone who was interested.
Today the foundation is housed by the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion which was the mansion of one of the city’s founding members. How cool is that?
You can get a guided tour of the mansion to check out the interior that has barely changed since the 1940s. It’s a great tour into the past of the city and a peek into how people used to live in the area.
8. Fort Hunter Mansion and Park
Another historical mansion that allows guided tours. Situated on a prominent outcrop overlooking the Susquehanna River, Fort Hunter Mansion and Park has been a military fortification, a center for frontier trades, and a luxurious retreat over time.
The guided tours are around 45 minutes and will take you around the elegantly restored mansion. You will feel as if time stopped as you explore the period-accurate furnishing and learn about the history of the mansion itself.
9. Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence
Do you think that’s all the estates and mansions you can tour in Harrisburg? We’ve got more! Another exciting place to take a guided tour is the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence.
The 30,000-square-foot Georgian Style mansion was designed by architect George Ewing and built on the Susquehanna River. Construction was completed in 1968 and has since provided a home for eight governors and their families.
10. Pennsylvania State Capitol
Finally, the pride and beauty of Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Available for free tours, this building is a must-see for everyone who visits Harrisburg. On tour days there is a group every 30 minutes and we recommend signing up in advance.
The building was completed in 1906 and ever since it has been an important landmark in Pennsylvania. It has a striking exterior and an equally interesting interior to match it. That’s why we always recommend the free tour. You must experience it from the inside as well.