First, sorry for such a long post…
A little over six years ago, my family and I moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Harrisburg, PA. We were not familiar with Harrisburg at all (had never actually been here), but we needed to be closer to my mom (who lives about an hour away), but not TOO close.
You mention the weather…Let me tell you, after surviving Summers From Hell in Tulsa, the summers in Pennsylvania are amazing. Most of the time, it’s not warm enough for me to go swimming. When the PA natives are complaining of the “humidity”, all I can think of were all the summers in Tulsa where the humidity was likea thick, wool blanket which settled over you and into your lungs. There were many summers in Tulsa when it hurt to breathe, the humidity was so bad. What about the winters, you may ask. In the “midwest”, they have this thing called wind. It comes across the land, sweeps into your body, nips at your bones and steals your breath. In the winter, it can be beautifully warm one minute and sleeting the next. (I actually recall one day when I put on shorts in the morning, and by the time we’d finished dinner, it was SNOWING. Granted the snow didn’t stick, but it was SNOWING!) In PA, yes, we get snow. Yes, it get’s cold. However, here’s one advantage: When it snows in PA (at least in the cities), they plow and sand the streets! There’s not a layer of ice coating everything (this may happen rarely, but in the six years I’ve been here, it’s never occured), and usually within the afternoon, the streets are easily driveable. Plus, the snow sticks around long enough for skiing and sledding.
Oh, did I mention that the grass is green in July and August?
Okay to answer some of your questions…
–Harrisburg liberal or diverse? Sort of, but not really. There’s a little bit of everything, depending on if you’re in the city (something like 58% black), or in the suburbs (something like 72% white). Resturaunts stink here–very, very, very limited in that area (unless you like the chains such as Applebee’s)–especially when you compare it to Austin (which has some of the best entertainment and eating establishments, from what I’ve heard).
–College town…not really, although we have several within 20 minutes driving distance. (Penn State, York College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Messiah College, Dickinson Law, etc.)
–Lake nearby? Absolutely, there are several within under an hour. Our favorite, Gifford Pinchot Lake has swimming, hiking, camping and (I think) horse trails. The state parks in PA are wonderful (and inexpensive to camp).
–Congested? Nope, rarely.
–Identical houses? No way. One of the things I absolutely LOVE about the area are the different styles of homes. Personally, I like the character of the older homes in the city (our house is near 100 years old, which is young), but you can also find the new homes as well in the suburb developments.
–Flat topography? Ha. I’d like anyone to name one place in PA that is flat. I have yet to find it, and I’ve been from one end of PA to the other. Personally, I love looking north and west and seeing the “mountains”. (It’s also cool knowing I’m less than 3 hours from the ocean, 1.5 hours from Baltimore/DC, 2 hours from Philly, 3 or so hours from New York, and literally minutes from the mountains.)
Would I suggest that someone move here? Well, I did, even if it was somewhat of a fluke, and it’s been six years and I’m still here. Like any place else, it has pluses and minuses, but right now, I can’t think of anywhere I’d prefer (not even Tulsa, and there’s a lot of things I miss about that, but not enough to lure me back.)