Literature Lovers Need To Visit Harrisburg!
When Charles Dickens visited Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1842, he was highly unimpressed. Describing the state capital, he said it had "feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did not shine out upon a very cheerful city". It's a shame he didn't take more time to make better acquaintance with Harrisburg's charms, as I suspect he would have found some kindred literary spirits.
Today, Harrisburg is the perfect destination for literature lovers - no matter what Dickens might have muttered! Here are my top pics for a beautiful, book-filled adventure!
The Midtown Scholar
Before you check into your hotel, before you head out to dinner, you need to visit the Midtown Scholar to sooth your soul and fill your heart. THIS is what other bookstores dream of being when they grow up. This independent, vibrant, community-loving, high-end second hand bookstore is actually the gateway to a number of businesses-within-a-business, including a bakery, coffee shop, rare print seller, and art gallery. It's well worth inquiring about special events, as the Midtown Scholar is host to a number of book clubs and social gatherings and also stocks The Burg, a free magazine of Harrisburg happenings.
You could get lost for hours among the stacks as you admire their rare tomes on art history, American art history, and American and world history - they're some of the most extensive collections in the United States. You could wile away the afternoon, writing and drinking organic, fair trade coffee at the cafe bar - and see if you can tease some of the staff into revealing the bar's unique, century old, political history. Or you could do what I did and spend some quiet time alone in the cool, snug room housing the rare prints, picking up one-of-a-kind book plates for as little as $4.
McKee Library at Char's Restaurant
Beloved by locals as one of the finest dining establishments in Harrrisburg, Char's restaurant at the Tracy Mansion has a number of beautiful spaces but I was captivated by the charming and handsome McKee Library. Named after local artist Gerald McKee, who took up painting at the age of 70, the library houses many of his artifacts and McKee's paintings are displayed throughout the restaurant. This is the perfect place to unwind with a gourmet cocktail and scrumptious dessert!
The John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion
History buffs and architecture fans will be swooning over Harrisburg's centuries old mansions. The Harris-Cameron mansion is especially interesting both for it's period fixtures and for it's exceptional connection to two of Harrisburg's most influential fore fathers.
I loved how the tour combined some quirky chatter about Simon Cameron (be sure to ask about the mirrors that were two feet too long!) with dollops of local happenings (like who had the most opulent bathroom in town!) But what book lovers will enjoy best of all is the beautiful and sunny library, complete with a rolling ladder and fragile, old books. And as we all know that no library is complete without the means to have a little nip of gin, the 'refreshment' closet will be sure to delight!
The Sheraton Hotel
Happily, Charles Dickens was very happy with one aspect of his visit to Harrisburg - the accommodations! Describing the owner of the now closed Eagle Hotel as “the most obliging, considerate, and gentlemanly person I ever had to deal with," Dickens perfectly summed up the area's hospitality. While the Eagle Hotel is no more, the Sheraton Hotel can easily sub in as a worthy substitute for the literature lover.
The Sheraton's bedrooms are exactly what you would expect from a 4 star hotel - clean, comfortable, stylish, and consistent. But it's peerless lobby is where the Sheraton really stands out. The hotel buys second hand "books by the foot" and displays them not according to subject matter or title but instead by color.
The attractive curves of blue books in every possible hue - along with a smattering of grey and green, includes everything from classic novels to college alumni directories - and the guests love it! Some regulars apparently even borrow books in between their stays!
One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to relax with a good book - and if that book has a local connection, even better! While I'm always tempted to go-go-go while on the road, it's nice to take things slow and recharge and relax every now and then. I hope on your next trip to Harrisburg - or wherever you travel - is a wealth of inspiration and relaxation!
I'd love to hear about your favourite book related travel discoveries - where have you found the perfect bookstore?
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My visit to Harrisburg was facilitated by the Hershey-Harrisburg Visitor's Bureau. This did not affect my reviews and all opinions remain my own.