From nature to history, options abundant
If you’re looking for fun on a budget, look no farther.
With its rich history, beautiful downtown area and nearby outdoor escapes, Williamsport has a lot to offer in the way of free entertainment.
Situated in the heart of the largest geographical county in Pennsylvania, Williamsport led the way in diverse community development back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, according to Gary Parks, Thomas T. Taber Museum executive director.
In 1795, it was chosen as the county seat, and advances such as the canal and booming lumber industry quickly catapulted the city’s status.
Fast forward to today. A revitalized downtown area is filled with unique small businesses and hosts special events that provide a fun night out for area residents. First Friday brings culture to the forefront at the beginning of each month with its showcase of arts and music.
But not every day is a special event. For days when downtown festivals aren’t planned, here are five options that won’t break the bank:
One of the coolest things about Williamsport is its historical roots.
During the 1800s, the city experienced an economic boom in the lumber industry. Williamsport was known as The Lumber Capital of the World, and many lumber barons built their impressive estates in the city. A walk down West Fourth Street showcases a wide range of Victorian architecture.
“You can see that transition of wealth through the architecture and through some of these wonderful buildings that exist in Lycoming County,” Parks said.
“This county is so rich in architectural history. The diversity of different styles, there were not only architectural designs that were popular during the mid-19th century that were kind of new and innovative, but there were a number of styles that hearken back to the past.”
The list couldn’t exist without mention of Williamsport’s biggest claim to fame, the Little League Baseball World Series. During the big event, admission to the games is free, with tickets for seats in the Howard J. Lamade Stadium going each year on a first-come, first-served basis. Many spectators gather on the hillside surrounding the field to view the games. If you aren’t around during the actual Series, you still can stop by the impressive complex and see where the magic happens.
“The Little League International Complex is one of the most iconic venues in all of sports,” said Brian McClintock, Little League director of media relations. “And whether you want to enjoy the action of the Little League Baseball World Series, or come and see the stadiums the rest of the year, you get a chance to experience not only an amazing attraction in the world of sports, but also a landmark for our community.”
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER WALK
AND TIMBER TRAIL
In 2009, the county commissioned the creation of a four-mile paved bikeway/walkway that runs along the Susquehanna River.
The Timber Trail, the section of the Riverwalk between the Maynard Street Bridge and the Market Street Bridge, features public art installations and a series of interpretive signs that provide information about the use of local forests.
According to Mark Murawski, Lycoming County transportation planner, the trail provides three benefits for its users, giving a healthy option for entertainment, offering education through the informational signs and allowing people to reconnect with the river.
Since the trail opened, it’s seen a lot of activity.
“What we’ve seen over the years since the River Walk was opened in 2010 is strong usage of the River Walk year after year,” Murawski said.
Recently, the county built a 91-space parking lot on Hepburn Street near the railroad tracks and city pump station to allow easier access to the trail.
The county is looking into connecting the trail to the Lycoming Creek bikeway and Pine Creek Rail Trail in Jersey Shore to create a larger system of trails, Murawski said.
Williamsport provides the perfect blend of city and nature. A traveler doesn’t have to journey too far to enjoy the great outdoors. Susquehanna State Park provides 20 acres of riverfront area for picnics or general enjoyment of nature. A short drive away is Ravensburg State Park, a 78-acre tract of land that has plenty of hiking, fishing and wildlife-watching opportunities. Riverfront Park, along the Susquehanna River in Loyalsock Township, offers opportunities to hike and picnic, as well as an interesting historical background.
“It’s a great way to get free entertainment and get some exercise,” said Shikellamy State Park Manager John Clifford, who also oversees Susquehanna State Park.
Clifford shared that many of the parks offer concession stands, jet ski rentals, boating and environmental education programs. The Hiawatha riverboat is stationed at Susquehanna State Park and offers a cruise up the river, for a small fee.
For added fun, park visitors may participate in a state park passport program, in which visitors can collect stamps from each park they visit.
Located in Riverfront Park, the site formerly was the Native American Village of Ostonwakin.
Visitors may take a self-guided tour of the island, a former archaeological dig site that earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. An archaeological-themed trail leads visitors through the island’s interesting past.
“If you’re curious at all about Native American history, you just can’t miss it,” said Northcentral Chapter 8 President Thomas “Tank” Baird.
The island’s history dates to between 3000 to 5000 B.C., making its inhabitants some of the earliest to settle the area.
“People should be aware, we have such a rich history here,” Baird said. “Not just the first white settlers, but people here long before that.”
Baird said the park not only is historically rich, but a beautiful area to go for a picnic or walk the dogs. “I think these little gems should be used by the general public,” he said.