Best Family Friendly Activities in Central PA

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Summertime is here. The sun is shining, the pool is calling and the kids are off school at last. Having the kids off school is always great — for a few weeks. But it doesn’t take long for the kids to get bored and start looking for something exciting to do.

That’s why summertime is a great opportunity for you and your family to get together and plan some memorable family outings together. And with all the great family-friendly attractions and events that go on in the Harrisburg area every summer, you’ll be sure to find something your whole family will love.

To help get you started and give you some ideas, we’ve compiled a list of family activities in central PA. We’ve included museums, parks, shows, sports complexes, special events and more in Harrisburg and the surrounding area. With a list this long and with this much variety, there’s sure to be something for everyone here.

Outdoor Fun

  1. Cherry Crest Farm

Cherry Crest Farm is also full-operational, family owned farm that grows corn, soy beans and other crops on over 300 acres of farmland. But it’s also an enormous, family friendly adventure far located in the heart of Lancaster farming country. Their most famous attraction is their corn maze and with good reason. It’s been open for more than 20 years and is one of the longest running corn mazes in the country.

But if corn mazes aren’t your style, there are plenty of other things to do here, too. Cherry Crest Farm gives kids the opportunity to explore a working farm, providing hands-on fun that’s both educational and exciting. Your kids can hold a baby chick, meet all kinds of farm animals, hoist some hay bales, learn how milk is processed, slide down the hay chute slide and much, much more.

  1. Lake Tobias

Lake Tobias is a beautiful wildlife park that combines features of a farm and a zoo, and it specializes in bringing people up close to exotic animals they may have never seen in person before. It features an exciting open air safari where you can ride a bus through over 150 acres of wildlife habitat that’s home to buffalo, deer, elk and other animals.

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There’s also a petting zoo that includes camels, alpacas and other animals for you to get up close and personal. The petting zoo also sells snacks that you can feed to the animals. When you’re done with the petting zoo, don’t forget to visit the reptile and exotics habitat where you can see snakes, lizards, lemurs, exotic birds and more. There’s also a fully operational zoo that houses a stunning variety of animals including kangaroos, zebras, baboons, lions and more.

Located in Halifax, Lake Tobias is just a short drive upriver from Harrisburg. Whether you’re an adult or a kid, it’s an adventure you’ll be sure to remember long after you’ve left.

  1. Possibility Place

The Possibility Place is playground situated within the already spacious George Park in Harrisburg, and it’s truly one-of-kind. What makes the Possibility Place so special? The playground is entirely handicap accessible.

The playground is built in a majestic castle design that features slides, swings, monkey bars a climbing wall, music activities and a water spraying feature. And all levels of the castle can be accessed in a wheelchair through the use of gentle ramps. There’s also a Tot Lot for kids aged 2 to 5, who might be too small for some parts of the main castle.

The playground is just one section of a beautiful park that includes soccer and baseball fields, lots of parking and convenient restrooms, making it a great place for the whole family to spend the day.

  1. Shank Park

Shank Park is a gorgeous 90-acre park located in Hershey Township. It’s open dawn to dusk and is a great place to visit with the family for a day.

The park houses baseball, soccer and softball fields, a playground, swings and sandbox space as well as picnic benches, pavilions and barbecue grills. There is also an interpretive nature trail where guided walks are provided during the summer season. There are also convenient restrooms located in the park.

Fun in the Arts

  1. Paint and Create

Paint and Create provides a calm, relaxing atmosphere for you to enjoy as experienced instructors guide you step by step through the painting process. You don’t even need to bring any of your own equipment, as the studio will provide everything you need. The only thing you’ll need to bring is your creative self and maybe a snack or two.

At Paint and Create, it doesn’t matter if you and your family are all artists, or if you’ve never tried art in your lives. No artistic experience is required to have a good time. And with one location on the East Shore in Harrisburg and one on the West Shore in Lemoyne, you can visit whichever location is closest and most convenient for you.

However, be aware that space is limited per class. Walk-ins are welcome, but it’s recommended that you sign up online ahead of time to be sure there will be space for your whole group.

  1. Popcorn Hat Players

The Popcorn Hat Players are a theater group that specializes in bringing to life fairy tales and fables for children and family. They’re based at the Gamut Classic Theatre in Harrisburg and put on eight different shows every year. This theater group is a delight to any audience, but children are especially likely to enjoy seeing the familiar stories being performed.

This Popcorn Hat Players are consistently met with acclaim, repeatedly being named “Simply the Best” in children’s entertainment by the Harrisburg Magazine. So no matter what show you end up choosing to see, you’ll be sure to have an enjoyable, memorable time.

Museums

  1. Whitaker Center

The Whitaker Center is both a theater and a museum rolled into one. You might catch a movie here, shown on the giant screen in the Whitaker Center’s movie theater. You might watch one of the live shows, which include concerts from popular bands and musicians, ballet performances, plays, magic shows and everything in between. Or you might explore the hands-on science center, featuring interactive science exhibits that are fascinating and fun for visitors of all ages.

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When it comes to the Whitaker Center, there’s always plenty to see and do. It’s located right in the heart of downtown Harrisburg and is a must-visit attraction for anyone living in the city of the surrounding area.

  1. Oakes Museum of Natural History

This unique museum is situated on the beautiful campus of Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, just a little bit west of Harrisburg. It houses more than 40,000 different Smithsonian-quality specimens, including North American and African mammals such as bears, elk, mountains goats, lions, ostriches and hyenas, as well as birds, seashells, insects and minerals. The museum also features a sensory discovery room.

The museum is open every Saturday and is free to explore at your leisure. Tours are also given, although these must be scheduled ahead of time.

  1. Army Heritage Center

The Army Heritage Center is an army museum located in Carlisle. Here, you and your family can have both a fun and educational experience as you look at the exhibits of tanks, uniforms and other war artifacts. If you’re interested in more of a live, interactive experience, there are also live re-enactments as well as lectures and demonstrations.

The heritage center is located at the Carlisle Barracks, a former military site, and is dedicated to providing educational experiences for visitors of all ages.

Sports and Other Active Fun

  1. Paramount Sports Complex

The Paramount Sports Complex is a large sports facility located in Annville PA, just a little east of Palmyra. It offers classes for all age ranges in all kinds of activities and sports.

They offer classes in cheerleading, gymnastics, trampoline as well as personal training and all sorts of fitness classes. They also offer a wide variety of summer camps and classes such as gymnastics, cheer, ninja warrior and superhero training classes so that there’s something for all your kids here.

If you’re not interested in structured classes, there are other options as well. There’s a climbing wall, a ninja warrior course, trampolines, exercise equipment, vaulting runways and all kinds of gymnastics equipment. There’s so much to do here that it would take more than a summer to do it all.

  1. Get Air

If you’ve never experienced the fun that is a trampoline park before, this is a trip you won’t want to put off any longer. At Get Air, the floor is a giant trampoline where you can bounce to your heart’s content.

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There’s no level of skill required here. Whether you’re a trained gymnast or you simply like to jump, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself here. You can enjoy jumping and flipping by yourself or with your whole family.

Miscellaneous Fun

  1. Challenge Family Fun Center

The Challenge Family Fun Center is one of the most dynamic options on the list, an exciting combination of a ton of different activities. There are both indoor and outdoor options, so rain or shine, you’re guaranteed to have fun.

To name just a few of the many activities you’ll find here; there is a 22-hole mini-golf course that includes a beautiful brook and fountains, batting cages, duck bowling and an arcade. They also serve lunch and ice cream in case you get hungry after a full day of fun.

They’re also conveniently located between Hershey and Harrisburg, making them a great central location that’s close to other attractions like Hershey Park, in case you’re planning a multi-day trip to the area.

  1. The Lazer Factory

Located in Annville, this is another great mix of fun activities for you and your family to enjoy together. There’s laser tag, an arcade, a bounce house and indoor playground, a snack bar and so much more.

You can bring your family and enjoy these activities with the other visitors, or book a private party just for you and your guests. Either way, the Laser Factory is guaranteed fun for the whole family.

  1. Carlisle Sports Emporium

Similar to the Laser Factory and the Challenge Family Fun Center, the Carlisle Sports Emporium is a large complex that offers a diverse assortment of activities for you and your family to enjoy. The emporium is over 20 acres of indoor and outdoor fun, open day and night.

This complex included two mini-golf courses, laser tag, go-kart tracks, an arcade and a roller skating rink, just to name a few of the highlights. Best of all, the space is big enough that you can bring a large group and never feel cramped, no matter how many other visitors are there as well.

  1. Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

It’s difficult to find an experience equal to the one you’ll have at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. There is so much to do and see and so many colorful sights and sounds that it’ll take all day just to do it all, if not longer.

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The Renaissance Faire takes place at the Mount Hope Estate and Winery located in the Lancaster area and features hundreds of costumed characters to help immerse you in the medieval world. You’ll see kings and queens and shopkeepers and knights and ladies. You can browse through shops selling food, jewelry, keepsakes and many other things. You can watch a jousting tournament, musicians and hilarious plays as you wander the estate and stop anywhere that attracts your fancy.

If you’re bringing your kids, you’ll want to be aware that certain shows and events may be inappropriate for children. But there’s still plenty for the kids to do and see. They can even dress up to get into character if they like.

This is a limited festival, however, and is only open on the weekends from August 9 through October 29, so be sure to mark a weekend on your calendars and get there while it’s still open.

  1. Let’s Pretend

Let’s Pretend is a play center designed and built around the idea that kids and adults can have fun playing together, free from any electronic distractions. The target age range is 2-10, but kids of all ages are welcome, and even adults can enjoy the fun activities you’ll find here. The toys and items provided are all realistic, with the idea that kids and adults can say to one another, “Let’s pretend we’re ____.”

Some of the “pretending” centers provided include a post office, a grocery store, a diner and a school. All of these stations can interact with one another. A child might pretend to be the postman, stamping the mail and delivering it to the school and the hospital before stopping in to eat dinner at the diner.

Let’s Pretend is family owned and operated, and is located in Middletown. It’s a great, nostalgic play experience that will have both you and your child wanting to come back as soon as possible.

Of course, this is far from a complete list of all the many fun family friendly activities and attractions in the Harrisburg area. But we hope this list will give you started thinking about some of the fun places you can take your family this summer.

If you’re working, but still want your child to get to some of these exciting destinations, consider enrolling your child in Aa to Zz Child Care and Learning Center. We offer child care and educational opportunities for kids from infants to school age. Not only do we have lots of great programs for your child at our facilities, but we also take field trips to places like the ones mentioned here. And with 8 locations throughout the central Pennsylvania area, we’re always easy to find.

Find a location near you to get started today.