Pennsylvania not only belongs to the three Mid-Atlantic states northeast of the USA, but according to its state motto stands for independence, freedom and virtue. The state is characterized by hilly landscapes and extensive forests. The three rivers Susquehanna River, Delaware River and Ohio River surround the largest cities of Pennsylvania. The largest cities include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh as well as Allentown and Erie, each with over 100,000 residents.
Whether in winter or in the summer months, Pennsylvania is worth visiting at any time of the year. Not only does nature offer impressive landscapes and quiet hours hiking, kayaking or climbing in the Keystone State, but history also attracts many travelers. For this reason, there are impressive memorials and a variety of excellent museums. It is not without reason that the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is home to Independence National Historical Park. This is the place where the United States finally gained its independence. Here is our list of the 18 best places to visit in Pennsylvania.
18. Lehigh Valley
This idyllic metropolitan region is located east in Pennsylvania amidst enchanting landscapes and hills. Lehigh Valley offers a journey back in time to a bygone world with historic towns as well as covered bridges. But it’s not just the buildings that are worth a visit; guitar and music lovers should also keep an eye out for the craftsmanship, as you can witness the making of a guitar yourself.
The Mack Truck Historical Museum stands above all for the eventful past of the American commercial vehicle manufacturers. The antique museum collection includes “Megatron” – known from the blockbuster “Transformers – The Dark Side of the Moon”.
For the little ones, a visit to “The Crayola Experience” can be worthwhile. On a total of four floors, the world of the well-known crayons can be explored for technology, colors and chemistry. In addition to a play park, little ones can print labels and make their own wax artwork.
17. Hickory Run State Park
To enjoy nature, take a hike through Hickory Run State Park. Located in Pennsylvania, the park offers a total of 19 trails for walking, hiking or bird watching. Six trails are explicitly designed for families with children, so there are also less challenging trails to explore the landscapes and forests of Carbon County, Pennsylvania.
In addition to the hiking trails, there are three natural areas and the Boulder Field, an area littered with boulders and protected as a National Natural Landmark. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy some swimming, Sand Spring Lake is ideal for that. It is frozen during the winter, so it can be used as an alternative for skating. It can also be eventful for anglers, since the rivers of Carbon County in Hickory Run State Park are known for trout streams.
16. Allegheny National Forest
A protected forest, the Allegheny National Forest is found northwest in Pennsylvania. It is located in 4 counties and is approximately 65 kilometers in size. In addition to hiking trails, there are also snowmobile riding trails. If you would like to explore the enchanting forests by bicycle, this is easily possible via the 120 kilometers of established bike trails. Mostly, the Allegheny National Forest is frequented by boaters and anglers, as there are numerous streams and rivers with a variety of different fish. Lake Kinzua reservoir is frequented by numerous boats.
In the middle of the forest are the remains of the Kinzua Bridge, which originally had a length of 625 meters. At the end of the 19th century, when it was completed, it was considered the longest and highest railroad viaduct in the world. Thanks to newly built observation platforms, it is possible to look over the Allegheny National Forest even 100 meters above the ground.
Named after its founder, Milton Hershey, Hershey is primarily known for chocolate making. The Hershey Company, which has been in existence since the late 19th century, is one of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers and one of the oldest producers of chocolate in the United States. For this reason, the city is called “Chocolatetown” in the United States.
In addition to a Hersheypark with several roller coasters, the Hershey Theatre with fantastic plays and a magnificent view of the stage, there is also the Hershey Story Museum with interesting insights into the history of the chocolate company around KitKat and Reeses. But Hershey is not only known for chocolate, the Hershey Gardens can also appear impressive for nature lovers. The Butterfly House features all the butterfly species that exist in the United States.
14. The Poconos
The Pocono Mountains are often referred to as the Poconos for short. The mountains are located northeast in Pennsylvania and form a natural boundary between the Delaware River and the Lehigh River. The Poconos, which are composed of hard sandstone, are just under 400 to 780 meters high. In addition to flattened plateaus, which can optimally serve as viewing platforms, there are also hilly areas in the Pocono Mountains, most of which are heavily forested.
The Pocono Mountains are ideal for hiking or walking. Not only the green forests can be admired, but also natural as well as man-made lakes can be visited. During the cold winter months, there is usually snow on the mountains, so the region also appears as a ski resort of Pennsylvania. Newlywed couples in particular enjoy the tranquility and closeness to nature that come with the Pocono Mountains.
The city of Erie, located in the northwest, is situated directly on Lake Erie, which gives it its name. This is considered the southernmost lake and is the fourth largest of the five great North American lakes. The city offers a total of 27 buildings as well as sites, which is why it is listed in the NRHP (National Register of Historic Places).
Already the Erie Skyline offers an impressive view over Lake Erie and the city of Erie. In addition, there is Presque Isle State Park, which was of decisive importance during the war in 1812. Bathing fun is offered not only by the lake itself, but also by the Waldameer & Water World theme and water park. You can walk in the footsteps of the 19th century at the time of the battles around Lake Erie at the Erie Maritime Museum. The wetlands, streams and forests around Erie can be explored at Asbury Woods.
12. Valley Forge
Originally, the name Valley Forge belonged to a camp where George Washington camped with his troops at the turn of 1777/1778 at the time of the American War of Independence. In place of the former camp is now Valley Forge National Historical Park. There, the reconstructed soldiers’ quarters, Washington’s quarters and the monument to Prussian General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben can be viewed.
The Revolutionary War Memorial is also very impressive. Thanks to the Trolley Tour, visitors can enjoy a 90-minute guided tour around the area. Sports activities are also provided, so you can either go for a walk or explore the area by bike or kayak.
11. Ohiopyle State Park
The park is best known for the best hikes, with a total of 22 trails that can be enjoyed with a variety of outdoor activities. Ohiopyle State Park is located south of Laurel Ridge. As a result of its proximity to several cities, the park is a major destination for many visitors. For some adventure, whitewater rafting activities are located in the Youghiogheny River Gorge.
The river is considered the focal point of Ohiopyle State Park and can be visited during both summer and winter. In addition to seemingly endless forests, visitors can marvel at rushing rivers, watercourses and waterfalls while hiking. Not only are there professional hiking trails, some of which require climbing, but there are also special trails for the little ones, so there is something for families here as well.
10. Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic areas around Pennsylvania. It spans Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia and is home to the Glens Natural Area. The area of the park is full of flowing waterfalls, rocky crevices as well as ancient hills. Among the 22 highest waterfalls is the Ganoga Waterfall. Complementing this natural scene is a diverse array of wildlife.
It is essential to wear suitable footwear for hiking on the Falls Trail hiking path. On hot summer days, you can also enjoy a swim in Lake Jean and spend a few quiet hours on the lake’s beach. During the cold winter months, the opportunity to rent a cottage is offered, so you can enjoy the old rustic cabin life for your vacation days at Ricketts Glen State Park.
The city of Philadelphia is the second largest metropolis on the East Coast. The former capital of the USA is on the one hand the first world cultural heritage city and on the other hand it presents its visitors a lot of historical sites with regard to American history. The Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell must be mentioned here, both are considered monuments of American independence.
If you are interested in American history, it is recommended to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It houses a collection of 2000 years of cultural history. The Reading Terminal Market is very impressive with more than 80 stores with flowers, specialties, food and flowers. Insights into the life of the 18th century can be gained in Elfreth’s Alley. Sports enthusiasts will find the Phillies (baseball), Eagles (American football) and Flyers (ice hockey) in Philadelphia.
8. York, PA
York was founded in 1741 by settlers after the English town of York. A total of 17 structures can be admired in the small town. Among them is the Courthouse, which still appears in the old style and is located on market Street. On the other hand, a visit to the Fairmount Historic District, which was built between 1889 and 1915 in the Queen Anne and Second Empire styles, can also be worthwhile.
The Golden Plough Tavern and the Gen. Horatio Gates House form a museum-like combination of two historic structures. During the 18th century, the buildings were constructed in the medieval style and now, after renovation, appear in a new splendor.
7. Delaware Water Gap
As a recreational area, the Delaware Gap is located on the U.S. East Coast right on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Popular as a park, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is not only used for walking and hiking, but also for swimming, whitewater rafting and canoeing. Anglers can also pursue their hobby at the Delaware Water Gap.
Due to the enormous black bear population, a visit to the Delaware Water Gap may inevitably result in a bear sighting. In addition to family and beginner hiking trails, there is also what is known as the Red Dot Trail. This is a challenging trail that leads to the top of Mount Tammany. After the exertions, however, you’ll quickly find that they’re worth it for the incredible panoramic views of the entire Delaware Water Gap area.
Also known as Red Rose City, Lancaster is located in Dutch Country and is about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia. In addition to cozy accommodations that offer idyllic and tranquil settings, there are also glimpses of the Amish Village that resides there. The Amish have inhabited parts of Lancaster since 1720 and today offer authentic glimpses of their life and culture.
Equally impressive appears the oldest farmer’s market with the Lancaster Central Market, where farmers have been offering their wares since 1730. In addition to food, handicraft products can also be purchased. A visit to the former residence of President James Buchanan is just as much an option as a hike in the Montage Mountains. The practical thing about Lancaster, however, is that the city is centrally located, so that other cities, such as Baltimore, can be reached in a short time.
In Pittsburgh, no one comes up short. Sports fans, history and culture buffs, as well as sightseeing enthusiasts have plenty to do in Pittsburgh. The most culturally rich major city of Pennsylvania has 90 neighborhoods in the old historic style of the 19th century. The Andy Warhol Museum is ideal for art lovers and offers extensive impressions about the life of the artist and his created works of art.
But Pittsburgh can also shine with outdoor activities and sports. Apart from the local professional teams, current games in baseball, ice hockey or football can be watched. If you also want to do some sports yourself, this is easily possible through parks, hiking trails and sports facilities. If, on the other hand, you have a sweet tooth, a trip to the bakery to try a piece of the famous Burnt Almond Torte is recommended.
4. Pennsylvania Dutch Country
The area around southeastern and southern Pennsylvania is also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Besides the Amish living in Lancaster County, some historic buildings and the former Gettysburg battlefield can be visited in Harrisburg. On the other hand, besides the mix of different cities, you can also turn to the country life. Besides the hiking trails there is also the possibility to explore the rivers by kayak and marvel at waterfalls.
However, if you want to take it a bit easier, visiting the countless art museums and coffee shops can be worthwhile. The local specialties can be not only savory, but also downright sweet and delicious. Pennsylvania Dutch Country is also known for its many different breweries, which can be tried as well.
3. Bushkill Falls
Bushkill Falls is the name given to a grouping of several waterfalls in the Poconos northeast of the U.S. state. The highest waterfall is the so-called Bushkill Creek, which is almost 30 meters high. Bushkill Falls is also known among locals as the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania, although the falls were not officially opened until 1904 by Charles Peters. To date, the falls are owned and operated by the Peters family for public use.
The area is especially popular among hikers and birdwatchers. Thereby, the Bushkill Falls flow right on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border in the middle of the Delaware River. Bushkill Falls includes Bushkill Fall, Pennell Fall, Laurel Glen Fall, Bridal Veil Fall and Bridesmaid Fall.
2. Lake Wallenpaupack
Lake Wallenpaupack is about 21 kilometers long and has a width of almost 1.6 kilometers. The man-made reservoir was created in 1926 and is still used to generate electricity. At the time of Lake Wallenpaupack’s creation, the water had such clarity that all the houses of the local town could be seen even at the bottom of the lake. Nowadays, Lake Wallenpaupack serves mainly as a recreational area and a destination for many tourists.
For example, if you are traveling from Philadelphia or New York City, it only takes a few hours to arrive at Lake Wallenpaupack. The lake area is also ideal for hiking, relaxing and fishing. Most visitors to Lake Wallenpaupack simply want to unwind and enjoy the idyllic setting.
Gettysburg was once marked by the tragic battle surrounding the American Civil War. At the same time, the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, gave his most famous speech in the small town. In addition to the extraordinary past, visitors to Gettysburg can take informative tours of modern history museums. The diverse cultural offerings include interesting entertainment programs and guided tours for both young and old.
In addition to the rocky Devils Den mound, which remains unchanged from the 1863 Gettysburg battlefield, the Jennie Wade House can also be visited. The Sachs Covered Bridge, formerly used by military forces, is also impressive. A bit more special is the Lincoln Train Museum, which should be ideal for model train builders.