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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:03 AM
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I am a guy in my late 20s, lived on the west coast most of my life and I've been offered a promotion to Pennsylvania. I've been told I can either live in Harrisburg or Allentown area, but I literally have no point of reference for either city. I've never even been to the state.

I'm single, enjoy sports and outdoors, good restaurants, fun nightlife, etc. Anyone have recommendations on which city would be the better choice for a 28 year old single male? I'm kind of going in blind and any information would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-20-2012, 05:49 AM
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Originally Posted by jjayp View Post
Anyone have recommendations on which city would be the better choice for a 28 year old single male?
In Europe or many places in Asia if you live within range of a big city, the assumption is that people will sometimes want to come in to the city, drink and party, and go home late on public transportation so they don't drink and drive.

In America there is very little consideration for that kind of visit. Inner city hotels are expensive, and they frequently want a 2 night stay on weekends. There are no $30 coffin hotels like they have in Tokyo where you can fall asleep and 3 AM, and make your way home 5 hours later. In addition most of the extra late bus or train schedules don't run on weekends.

Although some consideration is made for late night sports events, there is often not that much.

If you are an ironman and can go from a club to a Waffle House and return on the 5:30 AM bus or train then it isn't an issue. If you don't drink or go to big cities than it also doesn't apply. If you only go to museums then you are fine, you can drive. If you have tons of money and can always afford hotel rooms then you don't have a problem.

But to get back from Philadelphia to Harrisburg on a Saturday night, the last Amtrak leaves at 9:45P on a Saturday night. The last Greyhound leaves at 9:00 which isn't even good for a baseball game. The last SEPTA train to Thorndale leaves at 1:19 in the morning, but there are no hotels (cheap or not) in Thorndale and you are only a third of the way back to Harrisburg.

In NYC the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is not open to the general public from 1:00AM-5:30AM, you must have a bus ticket. So if you leave a club at 3 AM and walk back to PABT, you have to be able to sit upright, not fall asleep, kill some time in a coffee shop, until your bus leaves. At least you are safe, and the worst thing that will happen is a terminal guard will shake you if you fall asleep. It's a lot easier to get back to Allentown from NYC than Harrisburg.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:39 AM
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
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Originally Posted by jjayp View Post
I'm single, enjoy sports and outdoors, good restaurants, fun nightlife, etc. Anyone have recommendations on which city would be the better choice for a 28 year old single male? I'm kind of going in blind and any information would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
I haven't lived in Allentown, so I can't really speak about its quality of life or compare it to Harrisburg.

I can tell you that Harrisburg's nightlife is outstanding. Downtown is the city's nightlife & entertainment district, with dozens of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, ultralounges, and live music venues crammed in along Second between Market and South streets. On any given weekend night, that stretch of Second street will be swarming with 20- and 30-somethings out enjoying themselves. Even on off nights people are still out -- last night we caught a show at Abbey Bar (microbrewery), then walked over to McGrath's (an Irish pub), then Zembie's (sports bar), then Molly Brannigan's (another Irish pub), then Mulligan's (sports bar). We didn't see the usual weekend crowds, but every place had a fair number of people.

Some of the downtown venues cater specifically to the single professional 20- / 30-something crowds. Privado and Level 2 (both ultralounges, with Level 2 being the more upscale of the two) lead the pack. Ceoltas / The Thatch, Carley's (a fantastic, subdued piano bar with a great Scotch selection), and Molly Brannigan's also come to mind. Arooga's is also worth a visit if for no other reason than their impressive tap selection (though the service is usually so poor, we try to avoid it). Ditto on Anthony's -- great tap selection, mediocre service.

What makes our nightlife so special is that it's all so concentrated. I can walk from my apartment to meet friends for happy hour at Molly Brannigan's, walk next door to Bourbon Street Saloon to meet more friends, walk a block to Aroogas for some microbrews, walk a few doors down to Hardware Bar / Eclipse for their ridiculous drink specials, walk a few doors down to Ceoltas for some drinks on their rooftop bar, walk to McGrath's for their famous Flaming Dr. Pepper, cross the street to Pep Grill and their amazing jukebox, walk few doors down to Level 2 for martinis and DJs, cross the street to Privado for more martinis & dancing, and walk a few doors over for some scotch & class at Carleys.

And when I'm all done, I just walk back home. No cabs, no checkpoints, no risk of DUI.

Midtown is the city's arts & culture district. You'll definitely want to check out the Sturges Speakeasy -- hugely popular, decent tap selection, and recently remodeled into a very warm and welcoming place. Aside from that, most of midtown's happenings take place along Third from Forster to around Reilly. Midtown Scholar is a very large upscale used bookstore that also brings in speakers and acoustic acts. Broad Street Market is the oldest continually-operating market house in the United States, and carries everything from locally-grown produce & meats to prepared meals. Just picked up some NY strips for the grill tonight myself. Cafe De Luna is a tiny boutique coffee house with a very friendly owner -- perfect place to decompress and get away from the Starbucks crowd. You'll also want to check out Shady McGrady's, a local no-frills watering hole with a huge tap selection. HMAC (Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center) gets a lot of eclectic bands, but the crowd is a little ... weird ... for me. Hard to put my finger on it, but I just get a weird vibe every time I'm in there.

Old Uptown (or "Olde" Uptown, if you want to be that way) is the city's up-and-coming residential district. For all practical purposes, it's more or less the area from Third & Reilly to Front & Maclay. The architecture is beautiful and you've got easy access to Riverfront Park. Little Amps Coffee Roasters is at the corner of Green & Muench (pronounce it "munch" if you want to fit in; those who say "meinch" or "Munich" get stares) and is arguably the hotspot of Old Uptown. In fact, directly across the street is a schoolhouse that's been converted into loft apartments. Last time I looked, their rent was seriously underpriced -- probably due to the fact that up until 3-5 years ago, that was a borderline part of the city.

As for outdoor things to do, Riverfront Park is a huge, miles-long park that runs the entire length of Front Street. It has well-manicured gardens, split level jogging / cycling trails, and is VERY well used in the summer months. You WILL meet other singles there. In the summer months, it's home to multiple music & arts festivals. The park connects to City Island via a very old wrought iron pedestrian bridge. City Island has more trails and a few sports fields including a brand new baseball stadium.

We've got a symphony, we've got numerous theater groups, we've got your usual run of box stores. We're about average when it comes to that sort of thing.

I think Harrisburg has the advantage when it comes to the outdoors. Drive 20 minutes out of the city in any direction but east and you'll be inundated with state parks, nature preserves, mountains, hiking trails, hunting / gamelands, skiiing, and more history than you'll know what to do with. The Susquehanna River also provides for aquatic activities; I see everything from pontoon boats to jetskis to canoes. In fact, Susquehanna Outfitters regularly hosts river expeditions for all skill levels.

Again, I can't really compare this to Allentown, since I've never lived there. I can tell you that Allentown is a much bigger city. Harrisburg is a population of about 48,000 in a metro area of about two million (we are very closely integrated with York and Lancaster in social, economic, and political circles). This makes the city feel much bigger than it really is, but we're still a small city. Allentown has about 2.5 times our population, and is adjacent to another city (Bethlehem) with about 75,000 people. The two combined have about four times the population of Harrisburg.

Finally, what I've always liked about Harrisburg is that when you need a break, you have several other major metros just a short drive or train ride away. NYC is about a 3.5 hour train ride from downtown Harrisburg. Atlantic City is about a 2.5 hour train ride. Philly is a 90-minute train / car ride. Baltimore is about 90 minutes by car. Pittsburgh is about 4 hours by car. I really disagree with the post above me regarding ease of transit to / from NYC; I live in a downtown hirise, and if I want to go to NYC, I simply walk three blocks to the train station. 3.5 hours later I'm pulling into Penn Station. Train service to / from NYC isn't 24 hour, but there's only about a 5-hour window overnight where there's no service.

I don't think you can go wrong with either choice. I'd strongly recommend taking at least a weekend trip out here to look around before making up your mind. Allentown is about a 45-60 minute drive from Harrisburg. I wouldn't want to commute that every day, but it's short enough to make a visit out of it.

If you have any specific questions about Harrisburg or Central PA, I'll be happy to help!
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:47 PM
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA
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I posted this in the Allentown section.
It is as follows;

I have worked and lived in both areas.
The Harrisburg area affords you direct access to Baltimore and DC in decent time depending on traffic.
I'm a huge fan of the Harrisburg area due to the many recreational activities afforded a person within the confines of a 30 mile radius.

The club scene on 2nd st. in Harrisburg is HUGE and spills out into the streets every weekend evening.
The downtown Harrisburg entertainment scene offers great night clubs, restaurants and events.

Harrisburg proper concerning actually living there is a completely different story.
Violent crime in many sections of the city is quite common place.

The city has deep seated financial issues and continues to struggle yearly in an attempt to rise above it.

If I was going to live there again I would look into places on the west shore in Camp Hill near the Carlisle Pike.
The Carlisle Pike is a major thoroughfare that runs east to west on the west shore.
It offers a huge amount of shopping choices for anything and everything.

The east shore is the side of the Susquehanna River that Harrisburg resides on.
East of Harrisburg is where viable locations to reside exist.

Hershey, Hummelstown and points east offer numerous choices concerning rentals.

Allentown itself does not offer a concentrated area of nightlife like Harrisburg does.
Center city is rife with crime and outside of a few redeeming qualities like the art museum and some other intellectual pursuits offers nothing more than being a holding area for the city's poor and disenfranchised.

Harrisburg has the Riverfront that attracts a heavy volume of festivals and events whereas Allentown offers next to nothing concerning events.

A major plus for Allentown is it's park system and is one of the best in the entire country.
Very clean and heavily patrolled.
I can leave my house in South Allentown and be at the Little Lehigh river fly fishing with my fly hitting the water in under 15 minutes.

The entire metro area encompasses Bethlehem, Easton and Phillipsburg NJ.

Bethlehem offers a vibrant downtown area and a huge arts and music scene thanks to Arts Quest and Steel Stacks which is located on the former Bethlehem Steel site.

As has been mentioned Allentown to NYC is only 90 miles.
You can take the bus or you can drive to Jersey City and take a water taxi across the harbor to Battery Park City and the world is your oyster.

If driving you can be at Newark in 50 mts and at the port authority parking area in another 30 to 40 mts depending on time of day traffic.

The fastest I've made it to Battery Park NY from Allentown driving is 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Not too bad at all.

Allentown's proximity to Philly is approx 60 miles depending on where you live and is an easy drive.
Depending on traffic you can be in Philadelphia metro in an hour.

Also because of Allentowns location driving to the Jersey shore is very easily done which opens up yet another world to you.

Harrisburg's proximity to points east like NYC is certainly much much longer.

Harrisburg to Allentown is 81 miles north/northeast via I-81.

To summarize; Harrisburg and area provides decent nightlife and entertainment.
It offers everything you could want or need concerning shopping.

Allentown; I sold Allentown based on it's proximity to areas that provide said nightlife and entertainment along with recreational opportunities.

I trust this assists you.
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