What's it like to live in Harrisburg, PA?

Melissa McDaniel

Profile written by local expert:

Melissa McDaniel

The great outdoors are easily accessible in Harrisburg: Pennsylvania's capital. Bikers and runners take in the scenery of the Susquehanna River on the trails of Riverfront Park, which also hosts many of the metro area's annual festivals and events. Residents also enjoy hiking the famous Appalachian Trail or camping and mountain biking in the many nearby state parks and forests.

The Harrisburg metropolitan area has more of a small-town atmosphere than many of the East Coast's larger metro areas. And with one of the country's most affordable housing markets and a cost of living below the national average, Harrisburg provides an urban atmosphere with a manageable price tag.

Should you seek entertainment beyond what's offered within the city limits, Harrisburg residents are within easy driving distance of Amish country, Gettysburg National Military Park and Hersheypark – with its amusement park, concert series and The Spa At The Hotel Hershey, famous for its chocolate treatments. Big-city weekend getaways are also there for the taking; New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are a few hours away by car.


U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is ranked:

#44 in Best Places to Live

#29 in Best Places to Retire




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Harrisburg, PA Quick Stats

  • 565,008

    Metro Population

  • $48,270

    Average Annual Salary

  • 62.5° / 43.7°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 40.3

    Median Age

  • $162,967

    Median Home Price

  • 40.9 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.7%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $903

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 22.9 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Harrisburg, PA?

While Harrisburg isn't necessarily regarded as an affluent area, its housing market is exceedingly affordable. That, coupled with a cost of living well below the national average, may result in a greater expendable income for Harrisburg residents than those in other parts of the country – especially given that the average annual salary in the area isn't all that much lower than the national average.

Value Index

Index Score: 7.4 /10

How we calculate this.

Harrisburg offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2018



Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Harrisburg, PA.

What's the weather like in Harrisburg, PA?

The climate in Harrisburg is typical of much of the mid-Atlantic region.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

3.2 in


4.1 in


3.7 in


3.6 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Harrisburg, PA?

Many people drive to work, and there is more traffic than you'd expect in a region this size. Much of the congestion is caused by high volume or accidents on the two main highways: Interstate 81 and Interstate 83.

A smaller number of people commute by bike. The downtown area is extremely pedestrian-friendly. Many points of interest in the area – including restaurants, retail stores and riverfront attractions – are within easy walking distance of one another.

Public transportation is limited to the Capital Area Transit, which provides a bus service in Cumberland and Dauphin counties and throughout Harrisburg proper. Service to some areas is limited, and buses do not run on Sundays.

At the Harrisburg Transportation Center, passengers can catch Amtrak trains or buses to other metro areas. Harrisburg also has a small airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport is less than two hours away by car.

Commuting in Harrisburg, PA

Means of Transportation
Above national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

22.9 minutes

3.5 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Harrisburg, PA?

The Harrisburg population is fairly young. The metro area is home to a number of colleges and universities, which lends a youthful feel to the area.

Singles and younger residents might be more inclined to live downtown or in Midtown, near restaurants and nightlife, especially if they work downtown. Older couples and families might be more attracted to the bigger space and better schools that suburban areas like Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg and Hershey have to offer. 

Nearly half the people in Harrisburg identify themselves as religious; a large portion of those individuals practice the Catholic or Methodist faiths. 

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

About the same number of single people in Harrisburg as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Harrisburg, PA?

When it comes to entertainment, the metro area's small size means limited options for eating out and nightlife in general. But those who live here aren't bored.

Outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of the trails along the Susquehanna River and the region's proximity to several state forests for recreational activities, such as hiking, climbing and camping.

Music lovers can attend concerts at local arenas and experience live music at area coffeehouses and bookstores. Harrisburg also features many galleries and museums, such as the Susquehanna Art Museum, and local artist exhibits at the Art Association of Harrisburg. Theatre Harrisburg, Open Stage of Harrisburg and the Harrisburg Area Community College's Rose Lehrman Arts Center offer regular performances.

To enjoy the area's history, locals head to the National Civil War Museum and the State Museum of Pennsylvania.