The National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg)
You're going to want to spend a good chunk of time here. It's a necessary first stop before you set out on the PA Civil War Trails. The National Civil War Museum is the only museum in the country that lays out the entire-and unbiased-story of the Civil War. It sits proud atop a hill overlooking Pennsylvania's capital city. On your way in, stretch your legs with a stroll on the beautiful grounds outside the museum, with sweeping scenic views of the Susquehanna River valley. Stop to ponder the red brick "Walk of Valor," lined with names of vets honored by their surviving descendents. You'll find Pennsylvania's plaque amidst the dozens of other states that gave to the fight. Over 337,000 Pennsylvanians served in the Civil War, the most of any state in the Union. Now inside, wander the soaring rotunda and galleries. The museum and its many interpretive exhibits inspire the mind's eye with stories of real people and nearby places. Each exhibit instills a deeper sense of the great sacrifice made by the soldiers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and the towns and cities they called home.
Your journey is just beginning.
Broad Street Market (Harrisburg)
After your visit to the museum, drive towards downtown via State Street and notice the majestic capitol building in the distance, growing more magnificent as you near the heart of town. Not too far from there is a bit of history served with a side of chips (or whatever side you'd like). Open Wednesday - Saturday, The Broad Street Market, founded in 1860, has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated market house in the United States and thrives today as a culturally rich place for residents and visitors to experience a broad diversity of food, people, and Harrisburg city life. While you're enjoying a lunch break or snack, take a walk around the long complex and consider that it was here at this market that farmers helped feed over 300,000 Union soldiers who mustered at nearby Camp Curtin.
After you've chatted with a couple of the market vendors, grab a coffee or tea and you're off to your next Harrisburg stop. On your way, head northwest on 3rd street, hang a left at Maclay Street and take it to the river's edge (Front Street). As you make your way southeast on Front Street, notice the Governor's Residence on your left and to your right the wide river that you'll come to know well on your Civil War Trails roadtrip. You're now riding along the Harrisburg Green Belt, a beautiful and long stretch of pathways throughout the city. It's just a short distance on the same road to your next location.
John Harris-Simon Cameron House (Harrisburg)
Simon Cameron, one of the eight owners of this ornate mansion in Harrisburg, was once a Senator and President Lincoln's Secretary of War. It was Mr. Cameron, a long time abolitionist and early advocate for enlisting African American volunteers in the Civil War, who greeted the US Colored Troops (USCT) from the front porch at the conclusion of the USCT Grand Review on November 14, 1865. Excluded from the official "Grand Review of Armies" the previous May in Washington D.C. the USCT, led by Thomas Morris Chester - a Harrisburg resident and the only African American reporter to cover the Civil War for a major white newspaper - assembled a parade through downtown in honor the USCT's courage during the Civil War.
Today, the mansion is home to the Historical Society of Dauphin County. During your tour, note the 14-foot French mirrors in the parlor, a pair Cameron picked up along his time as Minister (Ambassador) to Russia and for which he'd had the home lowered three feet to accommodate.
It's been a long day in Harrisburg, so take a load off and enjoy dinner on Harrisburg's nearby "Restaurant Row."
Stock's on 2nd
Stock's is a well-known favorite of the Harrisburg dining scene. The cuisine is eclectic American fare with Asian and Southeastern influences. The granite bar features Harrisburg's first martini bar, well complemented by the high ceilings, exhibition kitchen, and mahogany woodwork. And if the weather is right, take your meal and drinks outside on Stock's sidewalk seating.
The Hilton is conveniently located at the south end of Restaurant Row with plenty of options for breakfast in the morning. Notice on the far corner outside the hotel, one of the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails Gateway Signs, one of six placed throughout the many counties of Civil War Trails. Get some rest. Big roadtripping days are ahead.