Leisure and Entertainment Options Abound in the Region
South-central Pennsylvania has a long history of leisure and entertainment options:
• The York Fair, a 10-day event billed as “America’s First Fair,” began in 1765.
• The State Museum of Pennsylvania, the official museum of the commonwealth, was established in 1905. The Harrisburg-located museum showcases the state’s cultural and natural history.
• Hersheypark, named one of the Top 10 amusement parks in the United States by USA Today readers in 2017, opened in 1907.
• Hershey Stadium, the most prominent outdoor stadium between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, opened in 1939. It can accommodate 30,000 for concerts.
• The free summer music series at Long’s Park in Lancaster began in 1962.
Over the years, there has been tremendous growth in leisure and entertainment activities, and today, south-central Pennsylvanians have more options than ever.
Regardless of your interests, there’s plenty to do. For the outdoors oriented, there’s a network of county and state parks that offer boating, swimming, camping, hiking, and fishing. Golf courses, regulation and miniature, present a mix of competition and fun.
Sports fans can attend professional baseball games in York, Lancaster, and Harrisburg. At Roundtop Mountain Ski Resort in Lewisberry, adventure seekers can try zip lining, super water slides, a ropes course, and more.
Live concert venues attract the biggest names in the music business, such as Luke Bryant, and legends, such as Tony Bennett, as well as up-and-comers and eclectic performers. Community theaters give patrons the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of plays, from South Pacific to Million Dollar Quartet.
There are numerous community fairs, festivals, and carnivals. Outdoor art shows, river walks, and cruises on the Susquehanna River attract sizable crowds.
Families can add a dose of education to their activities with visits to numerous museums in the area, including the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, the Agricultural & Industrial Museum in York, and the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum in Harrisburg.
“Our region has so much to offer,” emphasizes Ashlee Hurley, director of marketing and sales at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg. “The Whitaker Center was built to be a cultural hub for the region.”
The center reflects the diverse programming available in the area. It features the 700-seat Sunoco Performance Theater; the three-story Harsco Science Center, filled with hands-on exhibits; and the Select Medical Digital Cinema, with its 38-foot-high screen.
While south-central Pennsylvania isn’t a primary entertainment market like Philadelphia, the area’s multiple options benefit each other.
There’s definitely a symbiotic relationship, says Hurley: “A rising tide lifts all ships.”
“People in our region are very fortunate to have so many leisure and entertainment options,” says Becki Fellin, director of marketing for the Appell Center for the Performing Arts in York. “Many people outside the area are amazed by the variety of opportunities we have.”
Fellin points out that whatever your preference is, it’s available in south -central Pennsylvania. Jazz, symphonic music, ballet, live concerts, plays, comedy clubs, and classic film series all can be found.
“Studies have shown that people want to live where there are cultural events, as well as plentiful leisure and entertainment options,” says Fellin. “The more variety, the better.”
Fellin is excited about the $1.6 million renovation to the Capitol Theatre, which will increase the number of programs for area residents. The renovation includes the replacement of all 450 seats, improving the sight lines from the balcony; improved audio; the purchase of a new cinema projector; and all-new ADA-compliant restrooms. The renovated theater is expected to open at the end of October.
“The renovated Capitol Theatre, which hosts our CAP Live series, as well as our film and comedy series, will be more conducive to introducing new events,” she says. “The small, intimate theater venue will be more appealing for rentals. We hope to have 200 events a year there.”
Denise Trupe, vice president of marketing for APEX Touring and former general manager/marketing director for Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster, says, “People in our area are fortunate to have such a myriad of theaters. You would have to go to larger cities to find a similar variety of theater companies in the past.”
Trupe says the cultural atmosphere of the region is a positive factor for those considering relocating to the area for their job. It also attracts vacationers and retirees.
“Leisure and entertainment are quality-of-life factors people look for when they are moving, or even for college students looking to move back to Lancaster,” she says. “This also is bringing more diversity to the area, as Lancaster has become a trendy city to live in, and theater is just a part of that. Theater presents opportunities to meet new people and just have fun or challenge ourselves.”
Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, in its 31st year of operation, strives to attract a variety of audiences.
“The makeup of our audiences depends on the show and the time of year,” Trupe says. “Our biggest shows tend to be April – October, such as our national tour of The Wizard of Oz that came here this summer before heading back out on the road in October.
“Audiences are made up of a strong percentage of subscribers that are not only local, but also from New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and other surrounding areas,” Trupe says. “Tourists are also a large part of the audience, whether it is families or groups who are daytrippers or staying for a few days.”
Dutch Apple’s audiences tend to be more local in the winter months, and the shows are smaller boutique shows, such as murder mysteries, jukebox musicals, or even comedies. And the new served-dinner menu on Thursday evening has brought in another option for those who don’t like buffets.
“People in the area sometimes take the leisure and entertainment opportunities we have for granted,” says Trupe.
She adds that besides the quantity and quality of the options, there’s something to fit everyone’s budget.
“I think we are all conscious about serving our communities and meeting their needs, as far as what we offer in the shows and the costs.” BW