15 Things to Do in Pennsylvania
By Janet Benoir – October 20, 2023
Pennsylvania, a diverse state in the northeastern United States, offers a blend of captivating landscapes and vibrant urban life. As part of the Appalachian, Great Lakes, and Mid-Atlantic regions, you’ll discover stunning countryside, farmland, impressive mountain ranges, and a picturesque Lake Erie coastline. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are teeming with exciting tourist attractions, while Pennsylvania’s history in the Civil War and Revolutionary War provides countless historic sites for you to explore.
Whether you are seeking outdoor adventures among the Pocono Mountains and state parks or immersing yourself in the rich culture of Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has something for everyone. Visit Amish Farm & House in Lancaster, tour historic landmarks such as Eastern State Penitentiary and Valley Forge National Historical Park, or marvel at Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater House. The Keystone State offers a wealth of experiences, ensuring your travels are both enjoyable and memorable.
Liberty Bell Center
Located in the heart of Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell Center is a modern facility that houses the iconic Liberty Bell, a symbol of American independence. As a highly sought-after tourist destination, crowds often form long lines to catch a glimpse of this historic bell. Following the Civil War, the bell was showcased across the United States as a representation of freedom and unity during the nation’s Centennial celebrations.
While visiting the Liberty Bell Center, you may also want to explore other American Revolution-related sites in the nearby Independence National Historical Park. This area offers an abundance of attractions that provide deeper insight into the nation’s rich historical legacy.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg National Military Park, located in Pennsylvania, vividly recounts the tale of the most crucial battle in America’s history. Gettysburg was the site of the monumental Battle of Gettysburg, fought between July 1 – 3, 1863. This decisive victory for the North marked a significant turning point in the American Civil War. As you wander through the vast park, you will encounter numerous monuments and memorials commemorating the fallen and the key figures who shaped the battle’s outcome.
You can also visit the battlegrounds where the largest land battle ever fought in North America occurred, amid the fields and forests that witnessed this pivotal event. The crown jewel of Gettysburg, however, is its awe-inspiring museum, home to an incredible collection of Civil War artifacts and archaeological discoveries. Delve into the museum’s extensive exhibits featuring cannons, uniforms, and firearms, as well as an engaging film recounting the battle and a captivating cyclorama reenacting the events that took place.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Located just outside Philadelphia, Valley Forge National Historical Park provides an insightful glimpse into the pivotal role the area played in the American Revolutionary War. During the bitterly cold winter of 1777-1778, General George Washington and his Continental Army endured a six-month encampment where they faced hunger and extreme hardships.
Today, the park is serene and picturesque, offering a narrative about the exposed encampment and the American Revolution through engaging exhibits, films, and tour experiences. Scattered throughout the park are a variety of statues, monuments, and reconstructed log cabins, with Washington’s colonial home as a notable highlight. In addition to exploring the museum’s vast array of artifacts, visitors can enjoy hiking or biking along the numerous trails and paths that meander through the historical park.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary, established in 1829, operated as a prison until its closure in 1971. Presently, the site functions as a museum and tourist attraction, where visitors can explore its vast ruins and learn about the infamous inmates it once harbored.
This institution, situated in North Philadelphia, represented a symbol of advancement and progress upon its construction, emphasizing prisoner reform rather than mere punishment. Its innovative wagon wheel layout housed notorious criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Touring the decaying cell-blocks provides a captivating and spine-chilling experience, enriched by the facility’s intriguing history and former inhabitants.
Fallingwater House, a remarkable creation by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is nestled in the scenic southwestern region of Pennsylvania. Surrounded by lush forests and partially constructed over a mesmerizing waterfall, this architectural marvel is often regarded as Wright’s most impressive and unforgettable accomplishment.
You’ll find the captivating design and extraordinary architecture of Fallingwater House seamlessly blending with its natural surroundings, exhibiting a harmonious bond with nature. The bold horizontal and vertical lines of the structure reveal its cutting-edge features, earning it the title of “best all-time work of American architecture.” Constructed between 1936 and 1939 as a summer home for Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann, Fallingwater House now welcomes visitors for tours.
Amish Farm & House
Nestled next to the Lincoln Highway on the outskirts of Lancaster, the remarkable Amish Farm & House provides an opportunity for you to dive into the rural and religious aspects of Amish history and culture. Established in 1955, this site allows for an insightful and educational journey as you wander through farmsteads, open fields, homes, and barns.
Take delight in exploring the expansive location housing an antique Amish-built schoolhouse, as well as charming pastures occupied by animals such as donkeys, horses, and goats. As your guide leads you through the historic structures, they will enlighten you on the Amish lifestyle and the community’s heritage within Lancaster County. Be sure to treat yourself to mouthwatering dishes at the BBQ Barn and interact with adorable creatures at the petting zoo.
Nestled along the Delaware River just beside New Jersey, the charming town of New Hope resides in the easternmost part of Pennsylvania. Well-known as a tourist attraction, New Hope has been both an artistic haven and a popular LGBTQ+ destination, with an exciting history of Broadway shows being trialed in its theaters.
New Hope boasts an array of art galleries, live music venues, and fascinating historical landmarks, presenting visitors with a wealth of old houses and a picturesque railway station. The Bucks County Playhouse hosts Broadway shows and theater productions, entertaining both locals and out-of-towners. After meandering through the town’s antique stores, art shops, and boutiques, you can make your way across the river to explore the charming sister town of Lambertville.
Located in the town with the same name, Hersheypark promises a delightful experience for families and thrill-seekers. Established in 1906 by Milton S. Hershey, the amusement park was initially designed to provide leisure for employees of his chocolate factory, but has since become a favorite destination in the region.
Hersheypark offers over 70 exhilarating rides and attractions, including roller coasters, spread across themed zones, such as Pioneer Frontier and Kissing Tower Hill. Moreover, an amazing water park and zoo provide additional entertainment options for visitors. The lively atmosphere is intensified with regular fireworks displays and live performances. After enjoying the park’s attractions, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World, located nearby.
Nestled on a picturesque hill, the tranquil Hershey Gardens offers a view of the lively theme park named after the town of Hershey. Established in 1937 by the affluent chocolate entrepreneur Milton S. Hershey, the enchanting space includes a botanical garden and arboretum adorned with extraordinary flowerbeds, charming plants, and beautifully maintained lawns.
In addition to the lush flora, you can explore the tropical Butterfly Atrium or take young ones to the Children’s Garden, where they can engage with the stunning nature that surrounds them. Discover the alluring Hershey Gardens for a memorable experience amidst nature’s beauty.
Dutch Wonderland, located just east of Lancaster, offers a thrilling and enjoyable experience for families, especially those with young children. As you enter through the impressive stone castle façade, you are welcomed by a vibrant festival of sights, sounds, and smells with an array of colorful rides and attractions all around.
This vast amusement park not only houses 32 fun-filled rides but also features a fantastic water park. The park comes alive with entertaining shows, games, and interactions with its beloved costumed characters, Duke the Dragon and Princess Brooke. After all the excitement, you can explore the various shops and eateries situated near Dutch Wonderland. This “Kingdom for Kids” truly provides a magical experience for the entire family.
Located in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park, the Phipps Conservatory showcases not only a remarkable steel-and-glass Victorian-style structure built in 1893, but also features 14 captivating floral exhibits, each with a unique design and lush foliage. You can enjoy strolling through rooms such as the Tropical Forest Conservatory, Orchid Room, and Palm Court, where the delightful atmosphere is complemented by magnificent architecture, sculptures, and waterfalls.
The outdoor areas of Phipps Conservatory match the beauty of the indoor exhibits. Discover the serene Japanese Courtyard Garden, or visit the Children’s Discovery Garden for both educational and entertaining experiences. The perfect combination of art and nature ensure a memorable visit to this extraordinary destination.
Presque Isle State Park
Located in the northwest region of Pennsylvania, Presque Isle State Park showcases breathtaking scenery on a sandy peninsula extending into Lake Erie. The area was formed around 11,000 years ago during the last ice age, resulting in a magnificent backdrop of serene beaches, dramatic dunes, lagoons, and forests. The diverse habitats make it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
The park offers a wide range of activities for visitors, including hiking and biking trails, and relaxing on the sandy beaches. Watersports enthusiasts can also find ample opportunities to partake in activities such as boating, canoeing, water skiing, and scuba diving in the surrounding waters of Lake Erie. No matter your interest, this pristine piece of Pennsylvania’s natural beauty provides an unforgettable experience for all who visit.
Indian Echo Caverns
The astounding Indian Echo Caverns, situated near Hummelstown in Pennsylvania’s southeast corner, have been a sought-after destination since opening to the public in 1929. As you explore these mesmerizing caverns, you become one of the millions of visitors captivated by the remarkable rock formations.
Before becoming a popular attraction, it is believed that Native Americans utilized the caves for shelter and storage. Evidence of their presence can be found in the archeological discoveries surrounding the entrance area. While on a tour, you’ll have the chance to learn about the caverns’ intriguing history. During your visit, enjoy the on-site picnic area, playground, and petting zoo, or pick up a souvenir at the adjoining gift shop.
Bicycle Heaven, located on the banks of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, holds the title as the world’s largest shop and museum dedicated exclusively to bicycles. With an impressive collection of over 4,000 unique models and makes, exploring this enormous selection provides an unmatched experience for bicycle enthusiasts.
Not only does the museum showcase rare and vintage bikes from around the globe, it also features some prop bicycles used in movies such as A Beautiful Mind, Fences, and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Furthermore, you’ll encounter eye-catching futuristic designs like Bowden Spacelanders and fun themed bikes inspired by iconic bands and artists such as The Beatles and Elvis.
An intriguing and mysterious location, Centralia has transformed into a near-ghost town since 1962, when an underground coal fire was detected beneath the once bustling mining community. The population has significantly decreased from over a thousand to a mere few, with deteriorating houses and crumbling structures occupying its graffiti-filled streets. You can visit the lone standing church and drive on the silent, overgrown roads, occasionally spotting smoke escaping from the ground’s fissures.
Centralia’s post-apocalyptic appearance has made it a model or muse for countless fictional ghost towns and hellish depictions. It has been featured in numerous films and TV series over time. If you’re interested in experiencing its unique aesthetic, you can find Centralia nestled in Pennsylvania’s Coal Region, in the eastern part of the state.