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The Pros and Cons of Living in Harrisburg, PA

living in harrisburg pa

Harrisburg is hailed as the most inclusive city in Pennsylvania, scoring 109 points on the Municipality Equality Index, which measures the city’s inclusive efforts for the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s also a culturally diverse place, offering an abundance of amusements for people from all walks of life.

Awards and accolades are great, but what is it really like living in Harrisburg, PA? Read on to explore the ins and outs of life in this interesting city.

The Benefits of Living in Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg is the capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thanks to its central location alongside the Susquehanna River. It’s also one of the state’s most populous areas, due to the many positives associated with living here.

Cost of Living in Harrisburg

The cost of living in Harrisburg is 3% higher than the rest of Pennsylvania, but it’s still 1% lower than the national average. Housing is the most costly item in the city, with rents an average of 13% higher than in the state. 

Despite this, housing costs are 6% lower than the national average, and most other things are cheaper than the state average. Buying a house is more affordable thanks to the median home price in Harrisburg of $239,098, which is lower than that of the state and almost half the national median price.

Transportation and utilities are higher than the national average and lower than the rest of the state, while the cost of goods and services outstrips both the national and state averages.

Pennsylvania residents also benefit from the low income tax rate of 3.07%, regardless of their earnings, and low property taxes. Harrisburg residents do not pay any additional taxes on local earnings.

Overall, things balance out, making the cost of living in Harrisburg manageable for most families.

Good Job Opportunities

Harrisburg has an unemployment rate of 2.9%, which is one of the lowest in Pennsylvania. Some of the city’s major employers include:

Harrisburg boasts a diverse job market with opportunities in various industries. Some of the largest employers in the area include:

Apart from these big players, the city offers employment in a diverse range of fields, including technology, healthcare, entertainment, transportation, and logistics. This makes Harrisburg a popular option for job seekers.

Compelling Cultural Attractions

Harrisburg has a long and storied history. The city played a prominent role in the American Civil War, the Westward Migration, and the Industrial Revolution. As such, you’ll find many interesting historical sites in and near the city. 

Harrisburg is also one of the best places to live if you love the arts. These are the best historic and cultural attractions to enjoy in Harrisburg:

The Capitol Building

With its attractive green-hued dome, Pennsylvania’s main administrative offices dominate the city skyline. This is one of the most ornate capitol buildings in the USA, and it is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You can gaze at this architectural marvel on guided tours every half hour or take self-guided tours at your leisure.

The National Civil War Museum

This is one of the largest museums in the world, dedicated to the memory of America’s greatest conflict. It’s home to over 6,000 artifacts from this era, with the changing exhibits featuring around 850 of them at a time.

The 25,000-square-foot exhibition space includes audio and video displays and dioramas depicting the events of the Civil War and its aftermath. The museum hosts regular free days for the community and regular events for history enthusiasts to enjoy.

Historic Homes

The city is home to two immaculately preserved historic homesteads that allow visitors to step back to grander times. The John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion was once the home of the city’s founding father as well as Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war.

It’s most famous for the impressive 14-foot European mirrors squeezed into the first-floor hall.

Fort Hunter Mansion and Park ooze Harrisburg’s heritage with beautifully preserved interiors and 40 acres of sweeping lawns. From here, you’ll also get to enjoy wonderful views of the river and the Rockville Bridge, the world’s longest stone-masonry arch railroad bridge.

The Art Association of Harrisburg

This institute has been showcasing local talent by hosting visual arts exhibitions since 1926 and is committed to ongoing education for all who visit.

The association produces over 80 exhibitions, both in-house and around the city, every year and also presents classes for aspiring young and adult artists.

Gamut Theatre Group

There are two components to this theater company: the Popcorn Hat Player’s Children’s Theater and the Harrisburg Shakespeare Company. Both aspire to tell classic tales in a way that entertains and inspires children and adults of all ages.

The Millworks

This 180-seater restaurant promises an inclusive cultural experience. The menu features fresh produce from local farmers along with artisan beers brewed onsite.

The venue is also home to 17 artists’ studios and 3 art galleries, with 32 artists working on-site. It’s a wonderful opportunity to indulge, engage with local creatives, and pick up some great arts and crafts. 

Whitaker Center of Science and the Arts

The Whitaker Center has three stories of fun-filled galleries and interactive science exhibits. The performance theater presents blockbuster movies, interesting documentaries, and live shows by local artists.

Abundant Outdoor Activities

Beautiful views of the river are among the benefits of living in Harrisburg, and you’ll enjoy these glorious vistas from abundant outdoor spaces or while taking part in outdoor adventures.

Some of the best things to do in Harrisburg (with and without the views) include:

Immersive Outdoor Tours

Guided tours are among the best ways to get to grips with your surroundings. At Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, you can admire yak, eland, bison, water buffalo, and watusi on a safari ride in an open-topped bus.

Take a laid-back river cruise on an authentic paddlewheel riverboat, The Pride of the Susquehanna, to enjoy novel views of the river banks and the Harrisburg skyline.

The Millersburg Ferry is the last operating ferry on the Susquehanna River and offers a novel way to get to the other side.

Attractions and Amusement Parks

Hershey Park has over 70 rides and attractions on offer, including an 11-acre water park, 14 rollercoasters, and 20 kiddie rides. Active visitors can try laser tag, cruise on the bumper boats, or take a swing in the batting cages and the driving range.

Next door, ZooAmerica showcases North American wildlife from up close, and the Echo Dell Indian Echo Caverns, near Derry, let you try your hand at gem mining.

City Island’s Water Golf attraction is a beautiful place for a round of mini-golf followed by a refreshing ice cream. Baseball fans can catch a game at the Harrisburg Senators’ Island stadium in Harrisburg.

Parks and Nature

Harrisburg is surrounded by serene natural areas filled with wildlife trails and water. Little Buffalo State Park, near Newport, has eight miles of trails, great fishing spots, and pools for swimming.

Wildwood Park offers green spaces secluded from the hubbub of the city and perfect for walking along easily navigable paths.

Intriguing Entertainment Options

Harrisburg is no sleepy hamlet, with plenty to keep young and old amused. The city’s bustling cultural scene means you can always find something on offer at theaters and galleries around the city.

There’s no shortage of excellent dining options, nightclubs, bars, lounges, and taprooms to choose from. Family activities include arcades, trampoline parks, cinemas, and amusement parks.

Harrisburg is alive with celebrations throughout the year, which draw crowds from far and wide. The Harrisburg Wine Festival takes place in May every year at the State Museum of Pennsylvania and allows patrons to sample over 400 wines from across the globe. 

ArtsFest takes place at the end of May, showcasing the work of artisans and craftsmen from all over the county alongside live music, food trucks, and community arts projects.

In August, the annual Kipona Festival kicks off, drawing the crowds to enjoy a celebration of Harrisburg’s diverse cultures with bubbles, fireworks, food, and non-stop entertainment. 

Cons of Living in Harrisburg, PA

Every city has its ups and downs, and Harrisburg is no exception. These are the things that residents dislike about living in Harrisburg, PA:

Less-Than-Ideal Weather

Living in PA is no match for those who prefer warm weather. Harrisburg winters are extremely cold, with temperatures swooping down to 29°F between December and February.

On the bright side, icy winters do bring opportunities for ice skating and enjoying a beautiful white Christmas every year.

Harrisburg is located in a low-lying area alongside the Susquehanna River. While this is a benefit in many ways, it places the city at risk of flooding when the snow melts rapidly or during heavy rains.

The city has been flooded several times in the last decades, with the last event occurring in 2021.

Although the city has installed numerous levees and pumps to shield residents from floods, residents must be aware of the risks involved with living close to a watercourse.

Crime Rates

Harrisburg’s crime rate is above average, making the city less than ideal for raising a family.

Property theft, like burglaries, is widespread in some areas of the city, and violent crime rates are also exceptionally high. The city is taking drastic steps to address this problem by increasing its police force, especially in known problem areas. 

There are also areas where crime rates are relatively low, such as:

Camp Hill

This small borough along Route 15 is just west of the Susquehanna River. It’s one of the better areas for families, with activities like an escape room and Monkey Joe’s for smaller kids.

Shipoke

Shipoke is a quiet, spacious riverside community sandwiched between Washington Street and Second Street. When you crave a little action, a short walk or drive takes you to nearby suburbs with restaurants and entertainment aplenty. 

This peaceful suburb has direct access to the green trails alongside the river and offers a cozy, close-knit community.

Camp Curtin

A historical neighborhood, Camp Curtin, overflows with history and has an abundance of green spaces. It boasts a striking contrast between old and new architecture, along with a diverse range of housing options.

This tight-knit community is alive with local events, neighborhood enhancement initiatives, and community organizations. 

Linglestown

Another quaint, historic, and charming village, Linglestown, is located just outside of Harrisburg. It’s filled with historic homes, delightful shops, and pretty streets.

The annual arts and crafts fair is a highlight of the town’s social calendar and just one of many community events in this lively, welcoming place.

Bellevue Park

Bellevue Park came about in the early 20th century as a garden neighborhood. Winding streets, lovely stone homes, and picturesque landscaping are trademarks of Bellevue Park. 

The active neighborhood association ensures a tight-knit and engaged community in this suburb, thanks to regular community celebrations and events. 

Complicated Commuting

The commute time in Harrisburg is almost half an hour longer than anywhere else in the nation. The I-81, U.S. 15, and I-83 are notorious for traffic congestion and grid-locked conditions.

This is largely due to the city’s close location to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where many of the city’s workers live.

Thankfully, residents can also get around using ride service options, public transportation, and bicycle routes. 

Urban Development

Harrisburg is growing rapidly, and there’s always some type of construction underway. Constant upgrades and new construction can cause even more traffic delays and inconvenience to residents.

Explore New Horizons

Have you decided that living in Harrisburg, PA, isn’t the right fit for you? Are you looking to start over in a new environment? Perhaps you’re perfectly happy here and have found your dream home at last.

Either way, you need to focus on selling your home fast so you can move on to bigger, better things.

First Choice Homebuyers can help you do just that. We are an established cash home-buying company that’s eager to help you get rid of unwanted property, navigate a complicated divorce sale, or free yourself from liens on your property.

We specialize in crafting win-win solutions for complicated problems. Request a cash offer today and let your new adventure begin.

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