It is hard to decide the best way to explore Pennsylvania because it has so many sides to love. From the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia to the Civil War reenactments in Gettysburg, history buffs have no end to the ways to fill their time here. Nature lovers turn to the beautiful national and state parks to discover their wild side, whitewater rafting, hiking, and biking through picturesque, rolling terrain in places like Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands and the Pocono Mountains. Some people gravitate toward the urban action and sports scene in Pittsburgh, while others meander without a care on the winding roads in Dutch Country, stopping only to buy produce from a local farmers market.
The City of Brotherly Love is one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania mostly due to its historical significance. Visit the impressive Liberty Bell and tour Independence Hall where America’s founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Explore Philadelphia’s cultural and artsy side along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where you can tour the Rodin Museum, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and run the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as made famous in the Rocky series of movies. By all means make sure you indulge in an original Philly cheesesteak – the standard by which all other cheesesteaks are measured. If you want a little bit of luxury in the middle of the Philly action, you can stay at The Rittenhouse Hotel, which is centrally located in the city.
The rustic industrial appearance of Pittsburgh is what makes this vibrant, edgy city so appealing. The harmonious clashing vibe of industry-meets-cosmopolitan is why so many US companies establish their headquarters here and why it is the secret location for so many movie shoots. Families love Pittsburgh for attractions like Kennywood Amusement Park, museums like the Andy Warhol Museum, and sightseeing by bike or boat. Sports fans flock to the fields and arenas to see the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins play professional games. There are more than 90 different districts and neighborhoods to explore in Pittsburgh with eclectic food and arts. The uniquely ornate Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, located in downtown, complements the vibe of the city with its intricate eye-catching decor in the rooms and lobby.
Take a step back into the Civil War era when you visit Gettysburg. You will want to plan several days in the area to take in its full significance. Gettysburg National Military Park is full of living history presentations and reenactments, bringing the Civil War era to life. You can step onto the famous Gettysburg Battlefield and the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863. Some other notable stops on your history visit to the city are the Eisenhower National Historic Site; the Shriver House Museum, which depicts the Civil War era from a civilian’s point of view; and the Jennie Wade House museum. For a special treat stay at the historic Inn at Lincoln Square, which was once a family home in the early 1800s.
The state capital of Harrisburg sits along the Susquehanna River, surrounded by a hilly landscape and urban progress. The star of the show in the city is the Capitol building and the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The four-floor museum has exhibits that preserve the history of the state and Civil War artifacts. The National Civil War Museum is also a must-see, with exhibits that highlight some of the major battles that took place in the area. To relax from the sightseeing stop by City Island, which is exactly what the name describes. It is a place for leisure activities and home to the minor league Harrisburg Senators baseball team. The mile-long stretch of land between Harrisburg and Wormleysburg on the Susquehanna River is a great location to walk or bike and see the city.
One of the most tranquil places to visit in Pennsylvania is Lancaster, located in the center of a rural paradise. The signature rolling hills and farmland make this area perfect for a drive. You will see many Amish farms and the Dutch community that lives a quiet life in this region. While Lancaster is probably best appreciated when explored while aimlessly driving along the winding roads, plan some time to stop at the farmers market, which is one of the longest continually running markets in the United States. You will find many Amish attractions to fill your days, from visiting farms and orchards to Dutch Haven, Lancaster’s first documented tourist attraction that opened in 1946 and made the shoofly pie famous.
A visit to the tiny town of Hershey is a magical experience because it is synonymous with the Hershey chocolate company founded by Milton Hershey in 1903. You are greeted by a canopy of streetlamps in the shape of Hershey kisses, and you can smell the scent of chocolate in the air. Hershey’s Chocolate World is a museum attraction that gives you hands-on insight into the history of some of the world’s most famous chocolates. Samples are plentiful, so go with your sweet tooth. The Hershey Park is a favorite for families, with amusement rides and entertainment. The Hershey Gardens, with 23 acres of stunning flowers and plants, is one of the top attractions to see. For a memorable ride through Hershey take a trolley tour around the town to learn about the social contributions made by Milton Hershey beyond the candy he brought to consumers.
For the aquatic side of Pennsylvania, the shores in Erie are one of the most popular spots in the state. Erie is located on the coast, so it is prime for summer vacation or a quiet fall weekend when the flock of vacationers have all gone home. Presque Isle State Park has hiking trails and a peninsula on the water that is ideal for a sunset picnic. Visit the Erie Maritime Museum for impressive displays showcasing Lake Erie history and rotating maritime exhibits. For even more water fun visit the Waldameer Park, which is an amusement park and water park combined, with plenty of activities, especially for kids. For a unique experience on the water, you can book a trip on the U.S. Brig Niagara, a replica of a ship used in the War of 1812 in the Battle of Lake Erie.
A visit to the Laurel Highlands region is an unforgettable way to imprint the natural beauty of Pennsylvania into your mind, especially if you enjoy exploring the outdoors. Ohiopyle State Park is an outdoor playground with some of the best white water rafting and kayaking in the state. After your trip down the river and a hike on some of the rugged trails through the park, hop on a rental bike to explore a paved section of the Great Allegheny Passage. Every experience in the Laurel Highlands, from your drives on the winding western Pennsylvania roads to lunch in the cafes of the tiny towns that dot the region, is surrounded by dense forest and mountains. Your time here is filled with sensory immersion into the scenic landscape that draws people here. Plan a visit to Fallingwater, the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright home designed to take advantage of the region’s hypnotic beauty. If you stay at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort during your visit, you can indulge in a luxury resort and spa and take advantage of the dozens of outdoor recreation options on-site, from ziplining to off-road driving.
The rustic historical town of Bethlehem is most noted for its German architecture, old steel plants, and elaborate Christmas festival. The town is worth a visit just to admire the architectural details of the downtown buildings, with special attention to the Brethren’s House, constructed in 1748; Gemeinhaus, erected in 1741; and the Old Chapel, still standing from the mid-1700s. Walk the manicured grounds of the beautiful Lehigh University. For some historical adventure in Bethlehem drive past the network of stacks left over from the old Bethlehem Steel Factory, which was once one of the largest in America. You can also take a walk through the Moravian Cemetery to see graves that date back to 1742. If you are in town around the holidays, Bethlehem comes alive with an old-fashioned Christmas festival, and the town is decorated to get you into the holiday spirit.
One of the most popular regions in the state is the Pocono Mountains, where majestic forest-covered peaks and valleys make you want to sit and enjoy a park picnic just to soak in the view. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is where you want to visit first in the region. Hike one of the many trails, including part of The Appalachian Trail, in the recreation area and peer down into the 1,000-foot-deep gap from a lookout point above. Hiking, biking, and rafting are popular things to do, but so is kicking back and enjoying the view from the window of one of the many resorts in the area. Other towns to check out during your visit to the Poconos are Jim Thorpe, a tiny historical town; Milford; and Honesdale.
The quaint town of Lititz is a charming 2.3-square-mile spot in Lancaster County and worth every minute that you spend here. Park the car and walk down Main Street, where you will find small boutique shops and eateries. Plan a lunch or snack at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, where you can learn how to twist a pretzel or just indulge in the bakery’s 150-year-old heritage. You can complement the salt on your taste buds with some chocolate at the Wilbur Chocolate Museum and store. Be sure to walk to the Lititz Springs Park, which is within walking distance of downtown and has events going on throughout the year.
If you want to visit one of the oldest children’s amusement parks in America, you will want to make Ligonier a part of your Pennsylvania itinerary. The small historical town has plenty of nostalgia, shopping, and parks. Fort Ligonier is one of the must-sees here because it was a significant battle location during the French & Indian War. Families visiting Ligonier almost always spend a day at the Idlewild Park and Soakzone, which has been around since 1878.
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