When visiting Harrisburg, PA, several locals recommended we check out the Midtown Scholar Bookstore. We love reading and bookstores are somewhere Kenin and I both use for solitary recreation. All this being said, I wasn’t sure why such a huge deal was being made about this place. Most bookstores are pretty similar, books, comfy chairs, maybe a cafe to grab a cup of coffee. What would set Midtown Scholar Bookstore so far apart that it would be recommended to “tourists” like us?
The Midtown Scholar Bookstore has more than 200,000 used, rare, and sale-priced books on six floors in two connected buildings. One of the very first things a normal person notices when they enter a bookstore are the books. Kenin’s first sighting is always the coffee shop (even if hidden in the back of a store). Not me though. The very first thing I noticed when I entered the Midtown Scholar Bookstore was this little jar right here.
That’s right! The Midtown Scholar Bookstore is pet-friendly. You can cozy up to the bar of the coffee shop sip on a cappuccino and read a book with Fido at your feet.
Before this wonderful place became a bookstore, Midtown Scholar was a Boston Store. Boston Store was a department store founded in 1897. Midtown Scholar has tried to keep as much of the old store and fixtures intact from the department store days and tries to focus on the historical preservation of the surrounding area.
Midtown Scholar is owned by the recently elected Mayor of Harrisburg, Eric Papenfuse. This is just one example of his commitment to the community. The Midtown Scholar has been named one of “America’s Great Independent Bookstores” and voted “Simply the Best” Independent Bookstore in the region for 10 years running.
My heart skipped a beat seeing these rare antique books lining the shelves of this case. Their deep book collection is only one part of what makes them so great. This store is so much more than what meets the eye. It holds a coffee shop, an independently run cafe, and the Yellow Wall art gallery as well. The Yellow Wall gallery is a place where artists and photographers can showcase their work for a minimal commission.
There is a giant mural covering one wall depicting Sunset at Riverfront Park done by Stephen Fieser. This piece was first displayed in the Midtown Scholar’s original location and then preserved and moved here. On most days, you can still find Stephen working in his space in the bookstore’s bottom floor sketching out amazing art. He has a wonderfully curated collection of original art and prints. Stop by and say “hi”.
The Midtown team is about more than just books and art though, they also use quite a bit of restored fixtures and artifacts in their store. This ornate bell is an example of that and is tolled on special occasions in the store. When Mayor Papenfuse won the mayoral election the store was in an excited uproar and you could hear the bell tolling over and over from the city streets. Midtown Scholar hosts many events each month to bring people together. They believe in growing from within their community and really strive to bring the people of Harrisburg and beyond together for further education and art appreciation. They bring in writers, artists, and even hold small music concerts.
The Midtown Scholar is a perfect place to stop in for a mid day break, or early in the morning to grab a cup of coffee and knock out some writing. They feature a full coffee menu and a wide selection of teas for you to enjoy as well as some locally sourced snacks. Free wi-fi makes it the perfect place for me to pull up a chair and get some writing in.
Heck, even the coffee mugs are a work of art! Each one is hand crafted by an artist they worked with out of Maryland.
If you are looking for more than just a bite, you can visit the independently owned P&R Cafe that’s located inside the bookstore on the lower floor.
I’ve been told that the P&R cafe has the best sweet potato pie around. You can grab a book and sit in the cafe, share a slice of pie with your sweetheart (or get your own slice :) ), and have a relaxing afternoon. This bookstore has a bit of something for everyone. There is even a terrace where you can enjoy a book outdoors when the weather is pleasant.
Leaving the bookstore I passed this basket. You have to appreciate a place that operates with an altruistic heart and a good sense of humor. What more could you possibly ask for in a bookstore? If you’re in the Harrisburg area visit Midtown Scholar Bookstore and see what they are all about. You won’t regret it!
Looking for other Attractions or Hotels Near the Hershey Harrisburg PA area? Check out the Visit Hershey Harrisburg website for fun activities and great savings.
Details for Midtown Scholar Bookstore
1302 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
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If you are planning a trip to the area check out our Hershey Harrisburg Travel Guide.