As the second largest state in the northeast, Pennsylvania has plenty to offer, from Philadelphia to the shores of Lake Erie. Known as the Keystone State, Pennsylvania saw the birth of the country, with prominent politicians, government buildings, and new ideas of liberty all calling the hub of Philadelphia home.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the state saw industrial growth and the formation of larger cities, many with a local claim to fame, like Hershey’s Chocolate Factory.
Whether you choose to stay in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or somewhere in between, you’ll find attractions ranging from the great outdoors to renowned art institutions. Here are 22 of the best things to do in Pennsylvania that we know you and your group are going to love.
PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART
Overlooking the Schuylkill River, the Philadelphia Museum of Art houses a collection worthy of one of the oldest cities in the United States. The museum shows European masterpieces and Early American work, alongside that of contemporary artists, pairing modern art with historical precedent. Notable elements of the collection include the largest group of Marcel Duchamp works in the world, life size architectural models, and a spacious sculpture garden.
The museum’s statue of Rocky Balboa greets you as you enter the building; once inside, make your way up the Great Stair Hall towards the towering likeness of the goddess Diana, sculpted out of gilded copper. Parts of the building were designed by architect Frank Gehry, making the space a curiosity of its own. Expert- led and audio are available daily, and three gift shops carry local mementos and art- themed souvenirs. Two cafes, a restaurant and an espresso bar are also on-site to help turn your visit into an all- day experience.
By far one of the most- visited art institutions on the East Coast and throughout the country, Philadelphia’s Museum of Art invites you to discover what the city stands for, one masterwork at a time. The museum is open from Thursday to Sunday, with extended evening hours on Fridays.
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Encompassing not one, but three theme parks in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Hersheypark is a popular attraction and a legend over a century in the making. This park in Pennsylvania was originally built for employees of the Milton S. Hershey’s chocolate family, and now serves families from the entire Northeast region.
Founded in 1906, the amusement park has grown into a 121-acre attraction with rides, roller coasters, a waterpark, and the ZooAmerica Wildlife Park.
With seasonal events to celebrate springtime, Halloween, and Christmas, the park is a year-round destination. One admission ticket gets you access to all of the park’s experiences, meaning you can go from waterslides to meeting the animals at ZooAmerica, all in one day. With a whopping 15 roller coasters to choose from, older kids will have a blast, while younger visitors have fun on over 20 kiddie rides.
Make Hersheypark a day trip from Philadelphia, or stay in the town of Hershey to learn more about its sweet history. Hersheypark is approximately a 2-hour drive from central Philadelphia.
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THE HERSHEY STORY
If you’ve decided to spend some extra time in Hershey, stop by the Hershey Story Museum for an interactive journey through a small town’s larger- than- life legacy. The museum’s exhibits follow a young Milton Hershey’s rise to chocolate stardom- and what made his company so quintessential.
A balanced mix of informational and interactive exhibits keep the whole family engaged; pick up life size replicas of chocolate factory equipment, explore virtual displays and sign up for a workshop at the Chocolate Lab to make your own candy.
The Hershey Story Museum is located in the center of town and is open daily. Hours vary seasonally, so be sure to check the museum’s website before planning your visit.
Details: 63 W Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA 17033 | Website
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Located on the Bear Run Nature Reserve southeast of Pittsburgh, Fallingwater is one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s best known creations. Embodying a sense of perfect balance and harmony with nature, the home juts out over a cascading waterfall.
Surrounded by foliage and built of local sandstone, the home was built for the entrepreneurial Kaufmann family, who donated it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. The home is open to guests and ranks highly among architecture and design lovers worldwide.
This National Historic Landmark requires advance reservations and gets most busy between July and October. Arrive early to catch a guided tour and make sure to reserve a Meadow Lunch to enjoy outdoors after your visit. If you’re up for it, the Bear Run Nature Reserve offers 20 miles of hiking trails to get in touch with nature after visiting Wright’s Fallingwater.
Details: 1491 Mill Run Rd, Mill Run, PA 15464 | Website
ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM
Located on Pittsburgh’s Sandusky Street, The Andy Warhol Museum invites fans of the pop artist, as well as anyone who enjoys contemporary art. As the largest institution of its kind in North America, the museum is devoted to the life and legend of Andy Warhol, featuring the artist’s works on paper, paintings, films and archives spanning decades. Warhol’s 610 sealed Time Capsules are also part of the collection, as are his student projects, collaborations, and commercial work.
However, the museum also goes a step beyond its comprehensive study of Warhol to connect the artist’s life to celebrate contemporary artists working in today’s climate. Through rotating exhibitions, public programming and community outreach, the institution makes sure Warhol’s ideas, approaches and processes remain relevant.
Your admission ticket grants you access to galleries and daily events; the museum is open daily except on Tuesdays. Don’t forget to stop by the Warhol Store on your way out to pick up a print or artist catalog.
Details: 117 Sandusky St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212 | Website
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STRASBURG RAIL ROAD
Just over an hour west of Philadelphia lies the small town of Strasburg, a tight knit community with a rich railroad history. A charming Main Street, local eateries and two museums make Strasburg a worthwhile day trip from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, or even Wilmington.
Start by visiting the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, which prides itself on cataloging and sharing a full picture of the region’s railroad era. The institution is home to over 100 original railroad cars and locomotives, all of which once hurtled through the state.
Artifacts like uniforms, tickets and station equipment make up the rest of the collection, along with thousands of photographs, documents and other media. All together, the collection tells the stories of railroad workers, engineers, politicians and Pennsylvania residents that witnessed the state’s industrial era. The museum hosts a number of events throughout the year, so keep an eye on the calendar especially if you or someone you know is a true train aficionado.
Then, make your way to the National Toy Train Museum, located on Paradise Lane. This museum is the headquarters of the Train Collectors Association, meaning you’ll be among experts. Vintage and model toy trains are on display in a space made to feel like a Victorian train station.
Models date back to the 19th century, and a walk through the galleries will feel like an uncanny step back in time. It’s safe to assume the museum has inspired plenty of first- time train collectors, and you might feel the pull yourself while taking in the meticulous detail of each exhibit. The museum and gift shop are open seasonally, beginning in April.
While you’re in town, you must take a ride aboard the Strasburg Rail Road. Take a ride on a steam train through Lancaster County’s famous Amish Country. With daily rides, and themed events throughout the year, this is a must-do activity for any train lover in your group.
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GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK
If you’ve always associated the battle of Gettysburg with the American Civil War, but never learned more about it, your next visit to Pennsylvania is your chance. The Gettysburg National Military Park is located north of Pennsylvania’s border with Maryland, just outside the town of Gettysburg.
This was the site of the famous 1863 battle between the Union and Confederate armies that became one of the Union’s most important victories. Today, the park hosts exhibits, tours and events to acknowledge Gettuyburg’s role in the Civil War.
After an introductory film, take in the famous Cyclorama painting of Pickett’s charge, and head out on a guided tour of the battlefield. You can take the tour by bus, reserve a personalized car tour from an expert or participate in a ranger program at the Museum’s Visitor Center. Visit the Soldier’s National Cemetery to see where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, or look through historic mementos at the Museum Bookstore.
However you arrange your day in Gettysburg, the site and its dramatic role in history will leave a lasting impression. The Military Park and Visitor Center are open daily, with slight seasonal variations.
Details: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325 | Website
READING TERMINAL MARKET
Located in the Center City neighborhood, Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market is your stop for daily shopping, Philly Style. The market has occupied its landmark building since 1893, preserving a long tradition of local wares, eateries and hustle and bustle.
Whether you’re looking for unique ingredients to spice up your cooking at home or a fresh meal made to order, you’ll find it at Reading; produce, metas, dairy products and sweets from all over Pennsylvania are sold by small merchants and artisan makers.
Specialty food products and diverse recipes from around the world make their way to the stalls, and the market is a dining destination in itself, especially if you’re spending all day in the city. The market is only closed on major holidays, meaning you can stop by any day of the week- or all seven.
Details: 51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 | Website
EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY
Unassumingly located on Philadelphia’s Fairmount Avenue, Eastern State Penitentiary invites visitors to spend a few hours in one of the country’s eeriest ruins. Once a maximum security institution, the penitentiary was once home to Al Capone himself, and saw many of the Northeast’s most ruthless criminals pass through its gates.
Now a designated historic site, the prison offers tours Wednesday through Sunday. Choose a guided tour or embark on an audio journey through time- and crime. The penitentiary also hosts hands on, interactive activities, various exhibitions and contemporary artist installations. To take your experience up a notch, book a nighttime or Halloween tour.
The penitentiary is conveniently located within walking distance of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art, meaning you can plan your day around two of the city’s top historic attractions and still have time for dinner Downtown.
Details: 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130 | Website
Located in the center of the city, Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum of Art celebrates French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s extensive career. The museum opened in 1929, the result of a local philanthropist’s efforts.
Re-interpretation of traditional methods and a love for material defined his most monumental works, many of which are housed in Philadelphia. The current collection consists of busts, bronze casts, mythological figures and more.
The museum garden is home to eight of the artist’s sculptures, and adds a tranquil outdoor space to your traditional museum experience.
The Rodin Museum is open Friday to Monday and operates on a suggested admission policy.
Details: 2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130 | Website
THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE AND THE FOUCAULT PENDULUM
In an ode to Philadelphia resident Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin Institute brings science- themed adventure to the youngest explorers. The museum is filled with interactive exhibits meant to spark curiosity, encourage problem solving and visualize earth’s mysteries.
Guests will learn about everything from how the brain works to machine mechanisms and the laws of physics. The on-site planetarium hosts presentations, sky tours and themed learning experiences about our skies. Keep an eye on the planetarium show schedule, as events have limited capacity
The Franklin Institute is centrally located, making it an ideal stop on any museum tour. The Institute is open daily; hours for certain exhibitions may vary, so be sure to plan ahead.
Details: 222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | Website
Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum embodies the city’s long academic history as a center of politics, education and philosophy. With specimens displayed in 19th century cabinets, the Mutter Museum collection speaks to medical history, blurring the lines between contemporary science and early medical discoveries.
Permanent and rotating exhibitions are sure to fascinate, stun and awaken a morbid curiosity. Through a combination of preserved artifacts, visuals and historical records, the museum explores the controversial and muddled history of medicine, including its breakthroughs and pitfalls. Anatomical models, metal instruments and dried specimens are just some of the oddities you’ll come across while touring the museum, including…drum roll, please… Albert Einstein’s brain!
The museum is open daily, with the exception of Tuesdays. Keep in mind that the Thomson special exhibit gallery and Medicinal Garden hours can vary, so it’s best to call ahead.
Details: 19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | Website
Hidden in central Pennsylvania, Penn’s Cave is an all day excursion located three to four hours from both Philadelphia and New York City. With its underground springs and stalactites, his haunting cavern is the focus of local Seneca lore involving a tragic love story.
The cavern first opened as a tourist attraction in 1885, and Penn’s Cave Hotel was built shortly after. Today, visitors can take a tour of the cavern entirely by boat- gliding through natural cave springs as otherworldly formations take shape around you is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. Farm and nature tours of the grounds around the cavern are available as well, as well as family-friendly activities like Prospector Pete’s Miners Maze and hands on gemstone panning.
The historic hotel building, paired with the natural wonders within the cavern transport you back to the region’s wilder times. Choose from one of the many ticket packages offered, and take note of the cavern’s tour schedule, as hours may vary month by month.
Details: 222 Penns Cave Rd, Centre Hall, PA 16828 | Website
If you’re looking for something to do on a perfect, cloudless day, consider visiting one of the Philadelphia area’s most visited botanical gardens. With equal emphasis on horticulture and design, the Longwood Gardens were the vision of Brandywine Valley’s Pierre S. du Pont, a lifelong gardener.
Today, this botanical sanctuary brings art installations, performances, talks and, of course, the joy of plants to the public. Highlights include the orchid house, winter meadow garden and on-site archive library, which catalogs the history of the garden and its plant life. A popular venue, the garden also hosts a summer performance series, along with theater, orchestra, and various other musical showcases.
Classes, tours and kid- friendly activities round out what the garden has to offer; needless to say, there’s always something going on. Check the Longwood website for up to date garden and cafe hours.
Details: 1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348 | Website
INDEPENDENCE HALL & LIBERTY BELL
It’s no secret that Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy, dating back to the time of the founding fathers. Both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are symbols that we all learned about, but did not necessarily experience for ourselves. Though both sites are extremely busy, you won’t regret setting aside a day to visit while in Philadelphia. The area of downtown Philadelphia where the bell and the hall are located is home to some of the city’s most significant historical buildings; Philadelphia is where the Declaration of Independence was signed into existence.
Open daily, Independence Hall allows visitors to set foot in the building where the United States Constitution was signed- and where the young country took shape. You must be part of a tour to enter, and your guide will lead you through the building’s famed Assembly Room.
The Liberty Bell is also part of the Independence National Historic Park, located only a few steps from Independence Hall. The bell, along with its infamous crack has become an icon visited by people from all over the world. It once rang to alert Philadelphia residents and politicians to meet, congregate and listen. Over time, it has come to symbolize American freedom and has been a source of inspiration for rights groups since the nineteenth century.
Details: 526 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | Website
VALLEY FORGE NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK
Located just northwest of Philadelphia, Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site of the Continental Army’s famed winter camp of 1777. Led by George Washington, the army was headquartered at Valley Forge because of its proximity to Philadelphia.
Today, the park is open all year and introduces visitors to nearly 3,500 acres of history and Pennsylvania landscape. The park features a 10-mile driving loop with plenty of historic sites and overlooks to stop along the way. If you’re tired of driving, take on the park’s 30 miles of hiking and biking trails; there are bicycle rentals available on site. Before you start exploring, head to the park’s visitors center to pick up helpful maps, tips and a ranger program schedule.
Whether you experience it from the comfort of your car, on foot, or on two wheels, Valley Forge guards Revolutionary War history dating back to the 18th century. Walk in Washington’s footsteps as you admire the scenery, learn from a ranger and imagine the soldiers’ wintertime encampment experience.
Details: 1400 N Outer Line Dr., King of Prussia, PA 19406 | Website
PRESQUE ISLE STATE PARK
Pennsylvania’s Erie Lake shoreline is one of the state’s lesser known natural attractions; only a sliver of Pennsylvanian land borders the lake. However, that makes it all the more special; Presque State Park is the ideal beach destination if you’re on the western side of the state.
The park lies on a peninsula that extends out onto the lake, and is a day use destination. Expect hiking trails, birdwatching opportunities, views of Presque Isle Bay and windswept beaches. The peninsula is a unique Great Lakes experience, bringing a new landscape to Pennsylvania’s hills, valleys and woodlands.
Presque Isle is four miles outside of the city of Erie, a historic lakeside port with plenty of small businesses, restaurants and opportunities to learn more about the area. Facilities and beaches are open seasonally, so make sure to plan ahead.
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When in Pittsburgh, drop by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for a relaxing morning or afternoon surrounded by blossoms. Operating for well over a century, the conservatory and gardens are home to over 20 gardens, along with a 14-room glasshouse.
Orchids, bonsai trees, herbs and ferns are just some of the many plant categories you’ll find throughout the gardens; all the plants are part of the permanent collection. Phipps also has a number of artworks on display, including glasswork by Dale Chihuly and pieces from the Center for Sustainable Landscapes.
Exhibits and events are held in spring and summertime; you can find an updated schedule on the gardens’ website. Creativity- boosting classes for kids and adults, along with opportunities to learn about Phipps’ “Green Innovation” initiative. Tickets must be reserved before your visit, and the gardens are open daily.
Details: 1 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 | Website
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Located within driving distance of Philadelphia, the community of Intercourse defines Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. Known for its sizable Amish population, Intercourse and surrounding areas are an introduction to local culture and products.
Driving by Pennsylvania Dutch farms, you’ll feel the serenity of rural life, both outside of and within the town of Intercourse. Wander into specialty shops like The Old Country Store, quaint eateries and gift shops selling hand- crafted wares.
Start your day off in Intercourse and explore everything Lancaster County has to offer, from roadside stands to historic sites. Intercourse is located just over an hour west of central Philadelphia.
CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh include The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which is a great place for adults and kids alike. See authentic dinosaur fossils, and visit the PaleoLab and see the museum’s paleontologists at work.
Learn more about the giants and predators that lived underwater during the Age of Dinosaurs at the Cretaceous Seaway exhibit. Discover plant life in the Hall of Botany, and then explore four Native American cultures at the Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians.
Kids will love Discovery Basecamp, an interactive, hands-on gallery where they can explore and learn to their hearts content.
This museum is amazing, and well worth a visit! The museum is open everyday, except Tuesdays.
Details: 4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 | Website
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NATIONAL CIVIL WAR MUSEUM
Though Pennsylvania’s capital may not be as popular a destination as Philadelphia, it offers both a vibrant cultural scene and a small- city feel along the Susquehanna River. Harrisburg is also home to The National Civil War Museum, which presents a comprehensive history of the conflict. Since 2001, the museum has been acquiring, preserving and displaying wartime artifacts and the stories behind them.
The museum continues to add to its growing collection, which focuses on commonplace life during the war, individuals, and personalities. This perspective on the people caught up in the war is a unique curatorial approach that makes the museum extremely accessible.
The museum is open daily and is located just east of central Harrisburg.
Details: 1 Lincoln Cir, Harrisburg, PA 17103 | Website
INDIAN ECHO CAVERNS
If you do plan to stay in Harrisburg, the Indian Echo Caverns at Echo Dell are a short drive outside of the city, and rival Penn’s Cave, another Pennsylvania attraction. Open daily, the caverns have been open to adventure seekers since 1929, and played a role in Native American culture for centuries before that.
The property has been family- owned since 1942, and offers tours. Led by an expert, you’ll begin your tour at the gift shop and move through the caverns while learning about the geology all around you. Once you finish the tour, the Discovery Barnyard, Gem Mill Junction and playground
The caverns are open daily most of the year; hours and days may vary in January, so plan ahead.
Details: 368 Middletown Rd, Hummelstown, PA 17036 | Website
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO PENNSYLVANIA
- ROMANTIC GETAWAYS: 25 Best Romantic Getaways In PA Couples Will Love
- ALLENTOWN: 19 Fun Things To Do In Allentown PA (& Lehigh Valley)
- HERSHEY: 14 Yummy Things To Do In Hershey PA You’ll Love
- ERIE: 17 Fun Things To Do In Erie PA Everyone Will Love
- PHILADELPHIA: 28 Things To Do In Philadelphia You’re Gonna LOVE
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