As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
My family is always on the look out for fun things to do (and, when you’re a homeschooling family, it’s great that fun things can also double as field trips!) But, unfortunately, we don’t always have extra money for doing fun things. So, when I can find FREE things to do, that’s even better!
Since I’m sure we’re not the only family who likes free entertainment, I thought I’d share a list of FREE THINGS to do in Central PA. Most of these are things that my family has done in the past and really enjoyed; a few are things that we have on our bucket list for this summer.
Visit the Capital Complex
If you live in PA and you haven’t taken a tour of our state capital yet, what are you waiting for? Fortunately, for us, Brian has a sister who worked at the capital building and has secured a few private tours for us; but, anyone is welcome to visit for a free tour. Guided tours are available from 8:30 a.m.to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday or at 9:00, 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. Saturday, Sundays and most holidays. Call 1-800-868-7672 to schedule.
HERSHEY’S Chocolate World
One of our all-time favorite places to visit is Hershey’s Chocolate World. It’s free to get in and the factory tour ride is free. (Other things involve a fee, such as the show and make-your-own chocolate experience.) We enjoy wandering the gift shop, and Ian could go on the tour ride over and over again. The smell of chocolate throughout the facility is a big plus too!
If you’ve visited Chocolate World before, don’t let that stop you! The tour ride has recently been updated, so you’ll enjoy a new experience when you visit. Kids will enjoy meeting the Hershey’s characters, who are oftening found wandering throughout the complex.
U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
Located in Carlisle, PA, the Visitor Education Center is open Monday – Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 pm. Buildings on the Trail are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4:00pm and Sunday 12:30pm to 4:30pm. Visitors are welcome to walk the trail from dawn to dusk. All USAHEC exhibits and research facilities are free and open to the public.
Ian and I have spent some time walking on the trial here and checking out the exhibits along the way. It’s not only interesting and a great place to walk, it’s educational also.
Wilbur Chocolate Store
My Dad’s favorite chocolate treat is Wilbur buds, and for good reason – these little chocolates are packed with amazing flavor and a creamy chocolate goodness that is hard to resist. For years, you could visit the Wilbur Chocolate Americana Museum in Lititz. This museum has recently closed, but Wilbur has opened a factory store right across the road from the old museum building and it contains windows where you can see Wilbur chocolate being produced, along with many of the old artifacts that were available to view in the museum. What you won’t find here is a shortage of chocolate! In fact, make sure you visit on a cooler day (or take a cooler with you) because you’ll definitely want to bring some home with you (good luck narrowing your choices down).
This store is located very near an awesome park (see below for more details).
UTZ Potato Chip Factory Tour
Several years ago, the kids and I tried to hit up a bunch of factory tours in the central PA area. If you didn’t know this, it’s the Factory Tour Capital of the US! This was one of the tours that we took that summer. At the end, you get to sample a bag of chips.
The tour gallery is open Monday through Thursday 8 Am – 4 PM. It is located at 900 High St in Hanover, PA. Free admission, free parking, self guided tour. After the tour you can visit their Outlet Store located at 861 Carlisle Street in Hanover to pick up your favorite Utz snacks.
Snyder’s of Hanover
Another fun factory tour is at Snyder’s of Hanover. Watch how pretzels are made from start to finish. Afterward, sample a free bag! The tour starts and ends in the Factory Store, where you can buy all the pretzels your heart desires!
Herr’s Snack Factory Tour
We’ve never been to the Herr’s Factory Tour, but it’s been on my list for several years now. Tours must be scheduled in advance by calling the number on the website. Live tours take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and are available to family groups and school groups. Of course, there is also a gift shop filled with Herr’s goodies to take home with you.
Intercourse Canning Company
We discovered this little gem, off-the-beaten path in Lancaster County several years ago. Not only do you get to see them preparing their canned products, but they also sit out a bunch of samples that you can try. There are all sorts of jams and jellies and spreads; there are also various pickled veggies, salsa, etc. Of course, while it’s free to visit, you probably won’t be able to leave empty-handed (we never do).
Intercourse Pretzel Factory
Not far from the Canning Company, you’ll find the Intercourse Pretzel Factory. We’ve visited a few times now. It’s a great experience because everyone gets to twist their own pretzel. Just be sure to visit on a day when it’s not too hot and humid (no pretzel twisting on those days). Again, there are lots of goodies in this store, so it’s hard to resist buying some after your tour!
Martin Guitar Tour
Here is another tour that has been on our list for several years. My oldest daughter plays a Martin Guitar and my Dad’s place of employment actually worked with Martin for awhile, creating backs for guitars. So, we’d really love to visit the factory someday and see how the guitars are made. Public tours are conducted at regular intervals between 11:00 am and 2:30 pm, Monday through Friday. First-come, first-served basis. Explore the art of guitar making, from old world tools to our state-of-the-art facility. Follow a guitar from rough lumber to a finished product which requires more than 300 steps to complete.
PARKS & RECREATION:
The Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg
Many of the attractions in Gettysburg are on my “Cheap Things to do in Central PA” list. However, you are more than welcome to visit the cemetery at no cost! We did. Not only is it well-maintained and pretty, it’s a piece of history and a great educational opportunity for the kids.
It might be a fun idea to create a Scavenger Hunt to keep the kids busy.
Lititz Springs Park
One of the prettiest parks in one of the prettiest towns – Lititz Springs Park is amazing! We could take a picnic lunch and literally spend a full day just at the park alone. There is a stream FILLED with ducks that you can feed, a great play area for the kids, lovely picnic facilities, and perfect photo opportunities.
And last, but certainly not least, Wildwood Park in Harrisburg. This is another place that we’ve visited on several occasions. With an education-filled nature center with lots of hands-on activities and nature trails that you can walk on for miles and miles, you can easily spend a full day here as well. There are also picnic facilities if you want to take your own lunch. So many different birds and plants to see that you’ll be on a self-induced Scavenger Hunt for sure. And there are also lots of great photo opps here too!
If you’re looking for more great things to do in central PA, and you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, I’d encourage you to check out the other posts in this series:
Are there any other great FREE opportunities that you would add to this list?
If so, leave me a comment!
I’d love to have more things to add to our to-do list!
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!