Pennsylvania's sophisticated cities and great outdoor attractions beckon you to explore a huge variety of activities. You can see the famous Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, walk in the footsteps of fallen Civil War heroes in Gettysburg, ride on a train, or soak up some culture at the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh. If you love the great outdoors, you can explore the wonderful scenery near Jim Thorpe, hike in the Delaware Water Gap, have fun at the water parks in PA, or enjoy the beaches on the shores of Lake Erie. Here are the best Pennsylvania destinations.
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You can plan on spending every moment on the move when you visit Philadelphia, where an almost endless list of attractions and activities vie for your attention. Buying a Philadelphia Pass just down the road from the famous Liberty Bell will give you access to more than 30 city attractions.
Art lovers should not miss the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To learn about science and medicine, you can head to the amazing Franklin Institute and the Mutter Museum, while history buffs should not miss the Independence Seaport Museum and the National Constitution Center. Families can tour the Please Touch Children’s Museum, the Adventure Aquarium, and Philadelphia Zoo, among many other exciting attractions. Next read: Best Tours for Getting to Know Philadelphia, Things to Do in Philadelphia
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Pittsburgh is literally bursting at the seams with attractions to please all ages. You can spend days exploring the many wonderful museums in the city, starting with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall (a military museum which doubles as a concert hall), and the Carnegie Science Center.
Art lovers will find themselves drawn to the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the very unusual Mattress Factory, which showcases contemporary art. Nature enthusiasts can stroll through the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and hike the Three Rivers Heritage Trail or the Allegheny State Park. Children can have hours of fun at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, or the Sandcastle Water Park. Things to Do in Pittsburgh
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A decisive and bloody Civil War battle took place in Gettysburg in 1863 – consequently the town is home to a treasure trove of military history. The Gettysburg National Military Park covers an enormous area that you can explore along 40 miles of scenic roads dotted with over 1,000 monuments and cannon; a fun way to see it all is to jump aboard a Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tour.
Once you’ve had your fill of Civil War history, you can visit the Lincoln Train Museum and the Gettysburg Railroad Station Museum. Families can take the children to see the Land of Little Horses, while foodies can taste regional food at several venues on a Savor Gettysburg Food Tour. Things to Do in Gettysburg
4. Places to visit in PA: Lancaster
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In Lancaster you will find historic buildings and monuments comfortably co-existing with a thriving modern arts scene, good museums, and great shopping and dining. You can learn about the Amish culture and lifestyle on a tour of the Amish Farm and House, or have fun joining a First Friday Art Tour to explore unique galleries, studios, boutiques, and restaurants.
The whole family will enjoy the interactive displays at the North Museum of Nature and Science and have fun at the nearby Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park, while foodies can get their fill at the Lancaster Central Market and taste all the offerings available from the food trucks at Prince Street Park. The surrounding greater Lancaster County offers a wide variety of outdoor activities. Things to Do in Lancaster
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Hershey is proudly home to America’s favorite chocolate, and thanks to the innovative ideas of chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey, the town boasts a long string of attractions for visitors. Jump right in by visiting Hershey’s Chocolate World, where the historic Chocolate Trolley will take you on a tour to see how their world-famous chocolate is made – you can make your own chocolate bar and taste as much as you like.
If you would like to know more, you can visit the Hershey Story interactive museum and Hersheypark (amusement park). Other interesting museums include the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum and the Pennsylvania State Police Museum. Outdoor attractions include Hershey Gardens and Zoo America North American Wildlife Park. Hershey is one of the best places to visit in PA. Things to Do in Hershey
6. Jim Thorpe
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Jim Thorpe is a quaint historical mining town located in the heart of the Pocono Mountains. Here you can step back in time as you walk down the main road and visit some of the town’s beautifully preserved buildings and homesteads such as the Asa Packer Mansion Museum (1861).
You can polish up on your history at the Old Jail Museum and Mauch Chunk Museum or have some fun on a ghost tour with Walk this Way Tours. For a change of pace you can go white water rafting, canoeing, or kayaking with Jim Thorpe River Adventures or take a scenic train ride through the Lehigh Gorge State Park. Hikers should try the strenuous but rewarding Glen Onoko Falls Trail. Things to Do in Jim Thorpe PA
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You can start your visit to Harrisburg on a high note as you tour the impressive Pennsylvania State Capitol, an imposing building which dates back to 1902. Other gracious and historic buildings you can add to your itinerary include the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion and the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park.
The whole family can spend hours at the Whitaker Center for Science and Arts and have fun touring the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum and the planetarium at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, while culture vultures will not want to miss the Susquehanna Art Museum and the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. If you need some fresh air and exercise, you can head to Wildwood Park. Things to Do in Harrisburg PA
8.Places to visit in PA: Allentown
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Dating back to 1762, Allentown is one of the oldest cities in Pennsylvania and boasts a treasure trove of interesting museums and historic building that document its past. You can spend an interesting afternoon strolling through Old Allentown Historic Area before increasing your knowledge about everything old and interesting at one of several unique museums that include America on Wheels (transport museum), the Allied Air Force Museum, the Haines Mill Museum, the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, the Mack Truck Museum, and the Liberty Bell Museum.
For art lovers there is the Allentown Art Museum, while science enthusiasts can visit the Da Vinci Science Center for hands-on fun and learning. You can visit seven historical covered bridges on the Lehigh Valley Covered Bridge Tour or stay in town and visit some local breweries.
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Bethlehem started off as a tiny Moravian mission village in 1741 and has many well-preserved historical attractions where visitors can learn about its industrial past. The visitors center at Steel Stacks is a good place to start your tour of the Hoover Mason Trestle, one of the highlights of any visit to Bethlehem.
You can take a self-guided stroll (or go on a walking tour) through the Colonial Industrial Quarter, visit the Burnside Plantation, and walk/hike the river-side Heritage Trail. Art lovers should visit the Banana Factory (gallery and studios) for the First Friday monthly art event and attend a show at Steel Stacks. You can walk, jog, picnic, or fish at the Illick’s Mill Park, visit the Sands Casino, or tour some of the fascinating museums in neighboring Allentown.
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Nestled on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the town of Erie is an ideal getaway destination for all ages. You can get a great overview of the city from the observation deck of the Port Erie Bicentennial Tower before you set off to explore the Erie Maritime Museum and the Firefighters Historical Museum or go on a tour of local historic buildings.
If the arts are more to your taste, you can visit the Erie Art Museum and the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra or catch a show at the Erie Playhouse. Outdoor enthusiasts can visit Presque Isle State Park for hiking, biking, and water sports in summer and a variety of snow sports in winter. Families will love the Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens and the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum. Things to Do in Erie
11. Places to visit in PA: Scranton
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Way back in 1849, Scranton PA became a major railroad junction, which put this little town on the map. Later expansion into the industrial sector followed and today visitors can explore the town’s historic legacy on a tour of the 40-acre Steamway National Historic Site, the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum and Iron Furnaces, and the Lackawanna Coal Mine.
Other interesting museums you can visit include the Everhart Museum of Natural History Science and Art and the Electric City Trolley Station and Museum. Hikers can enjoy scenic trails around Lake Scranton or take on the 23-mile Pinchot Trail on the Pocono Plateau. Bikers can head to the Lackawanna State Forest or try the 70-mile Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, while wine lovers can tour a few of the local wineries. Things to Do in Scranton PA
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State College is the home of Pennsylvania State College and makes a good base for visitors wanting to enjoy the college town vibe and explore all the attractions of Central Pennsylvania. The area has many interesting historical sites you can visit, including the Centre Furnace Mansion Historic Site, the Boalsburg Heritage Museum, and the Fort Roberdeau Historic Site.
If you would like to get outdoors, you can visit the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, Rothrock State Forest, and Mount Nittany Conservancy for hiking and nature observation. State College hosts several annual events and festivals, including the Central PA Festival of Arts, BookFestPa, and the Downtown State College Italian Street Painting Festival.
The coal mining town of Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1770 and is chock-full of interesting historical buildings and sites, side-by-side with excellent outdoor attractions for active adventurers. You can soak up the atmosphere in the River Street Historic District, which includes over 200 buildings in a variety of architectural styles, some of which date back to 1860.
Art lovers can join the Third Friday Artwalk and visit the Marquis George MacDonald Art Gallery, the Sordoni Art Gallery, and the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. You can get all the info you need for outdoor adventuring at the Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau. You can go hiking along the scenic Black Mountain Trail or head to the Francis Slocum State Park for biking, boating, canoeing, fishing, and more.
14.Places to visit in PA: King of Prussia
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King of Prussia is situated next to Valley Forge Park, close to Philadelphia, offering visitors excellent shopping at one of the largest shopping malls in the country and a great mix of outdoor activities right alongside all the city attractions of Philly. History buffs can learn about the famous Continental Army at the Valley Forge National Historical Park, where there are also extensive recreational areas for hikers (over 30 miles of trails) and crystal-clear waterways beckoning fishermen.
In nearby Phoenixville you can go paddling and tubing with Port Providence Paddle. You can try a gravity-defying indoor skydive at iFly Indoor Skydiving, or shop until you drop at the King of Prussia Mall, which boasts eight major department stores and scores of smaller shops catering to all tastes and desires.
15.Nockamixon State Park
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The Nockamixon State Park is an ideal back-to-nature getaway in the rolling hills of Buck’s County. The park is home to Nockamixon Lake, where you can enjoy a variety of watersports, including boating, sailing, fishing, and wind surfing. You can bring your own boat and launch it at one of six public launch sites or hire a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or paddleboat on site.
Hiking is very popular along the six hiking trails and for bikers there is a 2-mile paved bicycle trail as well as a more rugged 10-mile trail for mountain bikes. In winter you can enjoy cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice fishing. You can rent a modern fully equipped cabin on site and spend evenings star-gazing around the outdoor barbecue.
16.Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
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The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area covers an enormous 67,000 acres of forests, rivers, waterfalls, valleys, and historic sites, all of which provide a wonderful scenic playground for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
There are several ways for you to enjoy the area; you can hike over 100 miles of trails (including a 28-mile stretch of the famous Appalachian Trail), get out on the river on a canoe or kayak, or drive along one of several scenic roads, stopping at the many lookout points. There are 30 miles of biking trails, or you can follow the historic Old Mine Road. You can swim at three swimming beaches along the Middle Delaware River, go fishing, or visit historic Millbrook Village.
17.Wissahickon Valley Park
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Nestled in the heart of Philadelphia, the Wissahickon Valley Park is an enormous 1,800-acre green space that provides locals and visitors with great hiking, wildlife viewing, and other recreational activities. The beautiful Wissahickon Gorge has over 50 miles of trails where you can go hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding past several historical and geological sites, including Philadelphia’s only remaining historic covered bridge.
You can try your hand at trout fishing along the Wissahickon Creek or do some bird watching – birding walks are arranged in the spring. A few of the historic sites you can visit in the park include Livezey House, the site of a grist mill dating back to 1700, and Rittenhousetown, a 30-acre site surrounding a former paper mill built in 1690.
18.George W. Childs Recreational Area
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This very attractive recreational area (which was formerly a state park) is located along the western edge of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area in the Poconos Mountains.
You can admire the beautiful forested area and a series of three waterfalls by following an easy and very scenic trail along Dingmans Creek. The first waterfall is called Factory Falls and is situated alongside a historical woolen mill. A little further on you will come to the 56-foot Fulmer Falls, which drop into a semi-circular rock pool before continuing downstream to the Dear Leap Falls. There are lookout points along the route and you can cross the creek at the bottom and retrace your steps on the opposite side of the creek.
19.Nay Aug Park, Scranton
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Nay Aug Park provides locals and visitors to Scranton with a green oasis in the heart of the city where you can go hiking, walking, picnicking, swimming, or simply relax. You can explore the walking trails, one of which leads through the very attractive Nay Aug Gorge and waterfall area, which has been named a National Natural Landmark.
You can get a birds-eye view of the gorge from the David Wenzel Treehouse, which towers over 150 feet above the ground. Children can let off steam at the two playgrounds or go swimming in one of two Olympic-sized swimming pools or at the waterslide complex. For a change of pace you could tour the Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science and Art or take a stroll through the rose garden.
20.Pennsylvania points of interest: Tyler Arboretum
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The Tyler Arboretum near Philadelphia covers an area of over 65 acres on what was once a private estate established in 1681 by the Minshall/Painter/Tyler family, whose descendants began creating these remarkable gardens around 1825. Besides viewing the wonderful variety of plants, you can go hiking along a network of trails that wind their way through the arboretum.
Children can have hours of fun exploring a collection of fabulous tree houses, magical pathways, bridges, and goblin shacks. In addition, there is a butterfly house and the Stopford Family Meadow Maze where various discovery stations will educate and entertain. You can get all the info you need at the visitors center, where you can buy refreshments or use the picnic area.
21.Peace Valley Park
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Peace Valley Park covers around 1,500 acres surrounding Lake Galena, offering visitors a great recreational venue surrounded by scenic landscape and plenty of wildlife. You can go walking, hiking, or running along 14 miles of groomed nature trails that vary from easy family-friendly circuits to more remote and rugged forest trails. If you enjoy cycling, you can try the popular Hike and Bike Path around the lake.
Although the wildlife area is not open to the public, you can observe the rich bird and amphibian life from Chapman Road Bridge, the duck blind, or the bird blind near the nature center, which offers guided birding walks in spring. Picnicking is popular, and you can rent a canoe, paddleboat, or kayak to enjoy the lake.
22.Laurel Caverns Park
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In Laurel Caverns Park you can visit Pennsylvania’s largest cave system, which has over three miles of passages for you to explore. You can go on a 60-minute guided tour that is suitable for most visitors who have a reasonable level of fitness. Because the labyrinth spreads over an upper and lower section, there are a significant number of steps and inclines to navigate, so an easier 30-minute tour through a fairly level section of the caves is also available.
Adventurous souls can choose a guided spelunking (caving) adventure deep into the heart of the caverns or try cave rappelling on weekends during the summer. There is a picnic area available and children can enjoy panning for gemstones. Laurel Caverns are closed during the bat hibernation period from November to April.
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Hidden deep in the heart of the scenic forested Pocono Mountains, Bushkill Falls is a series of eight beautiful waterfalls, some of which are easily accessible on foot. You can reach the lookout point for Main Falls, where the Bushkill Creek tumbles over a 100-foot cliff into a deep pool, via a short 15-minute hike along the Green Trail.
From there you can continue along the Yellow (45 min), Blue (75 min), or Red trails to see some or all of the other waterfalls. The Red Trail is the most strenuous and takes about two hours to complete, but will reward you with views of all eight stunning waterfalls. Children and families can have fun playing mini golf and panning for gold or just enjoy the playground and picnic area. Things to do in the Poconos
24.Presque Isle State Park
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Eleven miles of sandy beaches are the main drawcard for the many tourists who come to Presque Isle in Lake Erie, but there are several other less obvious activities to keep visitors busy. You can try kite flying at Sunset Point or go hiking, skating or cycling along the Karl Boyes Multi-purpose National Recreational Trail, which winds around the perimeter of the isle. Alternatively, you can take to the waters on a canoe or kayak to explore the many waterways and lagoons – equipment is available for hire near Perry Monument.
Other activities are bird watching (Presque Isle is an important resting spot for migrating birds), searching for beach glass, and exploring the lighthouse on North Pier and the Presque Isle Lighthouse.
25.Cook Forest State Park
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Situated in the heart of northwest Pennsylvania’s marvelous old-growth forests, the Cook Forest State Park provides an ideal opportunity for an active back-to-nature vacation. From April to December you can pitch a tent or park your RV on a serviced camp site to be right at the heart of the action. (Rustic cabins are available year round).
You can go hiking along 47 miles of scenic trails through the forests or along the banks of the Clarion River, or have days of fun on the water – canoes and kayaks are available for rental or you can bring your own boat and use the public launch area. There are 13 miles of biking trails and a few great bridle paths for horseback riding. In winter the park offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and sledding.
25 Best Places to Visit in Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia, Photo: Courtesy of sborisov - Fotolia.com
- Pittsburgh, Photo: Courtesy of rudi1976 - Fotolia.com
- Gettysburg, Photo: Courtesy of squirlgirl - Fotolia.com
- Places to visit in PA: Lancaster, Photo: Courtesy of antoinemonat - Fotolia.com
- Hershey, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Jim Thorpe, Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Kazmierski - Fotolia.com
- Harrisburg, Photo: Courtesy of mandritoiu - Fotolia.com
- Places to visit in PA: Allentown, Photo: Courtesy of cfarmer - Fotolia.com
- Bethlehem, Photo: Courtesy of kevinshau - Fotolia.com
- Erie, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Places to visit in PA: Scranton, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- State College, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Wilkes-Barre, Photo: Wilkes-Barre
- Places to visit in PA: King of Prussia, Photo: King of Prussia
- Nockamixon State Park, Photo: Courtesy of AardLumens - Fotolia.com
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Kazmierski - Fotolia.com
- Wissahickon Valley Park, Photo: Courtesy of rayhennessy - Fotolia.com
- George W. Childs Recreational Area, Photo: Courtesy of Gary Saxe - Fotolia.com
- Nay Aug Park, Scranton, Photo: Courtesy of Rexford Jordan - Fotolia.com
- Pennsylvania points of interest: Tyler Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of Steven - Fotolia.com
- Peace Valley Park, Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
- Laurel Caverns Park, Photo: Courtesy of Kokhanchikov - Fotolia.com
- Bushkill Falls, Photo: Courtesy of dancer_89 - Fotolia.com
- Presque Isle State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Cook Forest State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of mandritoiu - Fotolia.com