After three years of living in PA, I’m happy to post the ultimate guide on things to do in Pennsylvania. The Keystone State may not be the first place that you think of when you imagine a fun road trip in the U.S. Yet, there are many things to do in PA, as I’m learning the longer I live here!
During this time, we have not only found many delightful things to do in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas (where we have been living during this time). We have also explored lesser-known Pennsylvania attractions during the weekends, and I can assure you that spending some time in this state is a great thing to do.
Philly is a major city in PA and has played a key role in United States history, so visiting it is a must (take advantage of the Sightseeing Flex Pass or the Sightseeing Day Pass to access the main attractions of the city for free). However, Pennsylvania is not just about history and culture. Forests, waterfalls, wildlife, and dark skies come to my mind when I talk about this wonderful state I have the pleasure of living in.
I must admit that I didn’t always like living in Pennsylvania. At first sight, it could seem kind of boring. However, there are plenty of fun things to do in PA once you know where to look. No matter if you just moved here or are going to be visiting PA, this guide will recommend where to go in Pennsylvania as well as PA tourist attractions for everyone.
Don’t forget to review the map at the end so you can find all the places in Pennsylvania to visit during your trip. Now, let’s get to the list of the 30 best things to do in PA.
1. Ben Franklin Parkway & Philadelphia Museum of Art
Named after Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, the Ben Franklin Parkway is a huge thoroughfare connecting City Hall with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are several museums and points of interest along the Parkway, and the street is lined with flags from countries all around the world.
As you walk along the Parkway, you’ll pass by Love Park (named for its large LOVE sculpture), the Philadelphia Free Public Library, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and the Franklin Institute Science Museum (both museums included in the Sightseeing Flex Pass and the Sightseeing Day Pass).
At the end of the Parkway, you’ll find the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s one of the largest art museums in the world and holds works that span centuries and continents, plus it’s free on Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. and on the first Sunday of each month. The Museum owns other nearby buildings like the Perelman Building and Rodin Museum.
It’s also known for its Rocky Steps, a popular PA tourist attraction. Running up them for the first time is an exhilarating experience! Don’t forget to pose with the Rocky Balboa Statue around the corner from the steps. If you’re a Rocky fan, I recommend this Rocky movie tour of the city.
2. Visit the Liberty Bell at Independence Mall, a great thing to do in PA
A visit to Philadelphia isn’t complete without seeing the Liberty Bell, one of the best free things to do in PA.
Built in 1752, the 4-foot bell weighs over 2,000 pounds and sits in a glass box in Philadelphia’s historic district just in front Independence Hall, where one day it made history. As we learned during this amazing walking tour, the ringing of this bell announced the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. Nowadays, and despite its iconic fracture, it’s the crown jewel of the Liberty Bell Center on Independence Mall, which is part of Independence National Historical Park. This 3-block section of the city is where you’ll find all the historical landmarks related to Philadelphia and the state’s role in American freedom.
One of the places to see on Pennsylvania‘s Independence Mall is the National Constitution Center. This is an interactive museum that recreates the discussions involved in the writing of the U.S. Constitution. You won’t find the original Declaration of Independence here, but there are plenty of interesting exhibits.
Another attraction in PA (included in the Sightseeing Flex Pass and the Sightseeing Day Pass) is the Betsy Ross House on Arch Street. A prized Philly landmark, this is said to be the site where Betsy Ross lived and sewed the first American flag. Not far from there, you can check out Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in America.
A few blocks away is Philadelphia City Hall, a recognizable landmark, and where we got married! It is topped with a statue of William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia. City Hall was the tallest building in Philly until the construction of One Liberty Place. Both buildings have observation decks that are also included in the Sightseeing Flex Pass and the Sightseeing Day Pass. I have visited both and recommend checking them out for some great PA sightseeing.
3. Gettysburg National Military Park, a must-see in Pennsylvania
Gettysburg is another historical place and one of the popular cities in Pennsylvania I suggest visiting. This location is an important site that commemorates the American Civil War, particularly the specific Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
The town welcomes Pennsylvania tourists and invites them to explore the Gettysburg National Military Park. Here, you’ll see the Gettysburg Battlefield, which was the site of military combat between Union and Confederate soldiers on July 1-3, 1863.
You can transport yourself back in time through the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, which does live history reenactments. There are also several galleries, exhibits, and a cyclorama (cylindrical painting) of the Battle of Gettysburg.
I also suggest visiting the Gettysburg National Cemetery where Union casualties are buried. This is where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, one of the best-known speeches in American history, four and a half months after the battle. There is a dignified and solemn air about the place.
If it’s your first time visiting this historic landmark and you’re a history buff, don’t think twice and book this bus tour to learn more about this 3-day battle that was a turning point in the history of the country. You will see Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, and the location of Pickett’s charge, among other things.
Before leaving the area, be sure to stop by the Eisenhower National Historic Site. This was the home and farmstead of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. You can walk through the house where this famous figure once spent his days.
4. Lancaster and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Not far from Gettysburg is Lancaster, one of the oldest towns in PA. Lancaster is best known as a hub for Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. While the Amish live in a few other states, they are most prevalent in PA.
There, you can visit the Amish Village, a must-see in Pennsylvania. For a fee, you can walk through the 12-acre property and catch a glimpse of this way of life, including horse-drawn buggies, blacksmithing, and farming. You can also pick up some fresh-baked goodies at the market.
Also, I recommend visiting the Amish Farm and House through this guided tour to learn more about Amish culture. It’s definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Pennsylvania’s Amish country.
If you’re driving around, I suggest heading to two nearby towns. The first is Strasburg, which has an impressive collection of over 100 historic railroad cars and locomotives at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The second is Intercourse, PA, which may attract you because of the name. Here, you can explore more Amish culture through shopping and dining.
However, Lancaster offers more than just a snapshot of the Amish way of life – shopping, theater shows, and lots of natural walking and biking paths are also here. A fun thing to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is to drive along the Musical Road, which has metal grooves that “play” a song as you drive over them. Families with young kids should check out Dutch Wonderland, a castle-themed amusement park, and one of the best things to do in PA for families.
5. The Poconos, the most breathtaking mountains to visit in PA
Another stunning natural place in Pennsylvania is the Poconos Mountains, where we spend a weekend surrounded by snow every winter (it’s one of my favorite spots in the state). Located in northeastern PA, the hilly area overlooks the Allegheny Plateau and Delaware Water Gap. You’ll find lots of beautiful spots to relax and reconnect with nature.
If you want some adventure, the Poconos offer all kinds of recreational fun. The area is most well-known for its ski resorts, which are 6 in total. The 3 most popular resorts are Blue Mountain, Camelback, and Jack Frost/Big Boulder.
During the warmer months, you should check out the other lush, natural areas in the Poconos. I recommend Promised Land State Park and Bushkill Falls, also called “The Niagara of Pennsylvania”. Promised Land State Park is surrounded by two lakes and has 80 miles of trails. The park is a perfect location for camping and all kinds of outdoor activities like kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and trail biking. Many black bears live in the forest, so be careful!
Not far from the state park is the Bushkill Falls area, which has 8 waterfalls and lots of hiking paths. The tallest waterfall here is over 100 feet tall and is the perfect PA sightseeing photo opportunity. I suggest taking your time to enjoy the scenery and exercise.
It’s also worth visiting Lehigh Gorge State Park, especially if you want to go white water rafting. I recommend this rafting tour, or, if you want to stay dry, this bike rental. And don’t forget to stop by Jim Thorpe, nestled right at the gorge and considered one of the most beautiful and romantic towns in PA. Here, you’ll enjoy shops, restaurants, pubs, wine-tasting, and live entertainment.
Another popular state park within the Pocono Mountains is Hickory Run, a place that deserves its own section in this list of things to do in Pennsylvania, so I’ll talk about it later.
6. Ricketts Glen State Park, a great hike to do in Pennsylvania
For a seriously good hike, I suggest visiting Ricketts Glen State Park, one of Pennsylvania’s best places to visit for nature lovers. We also visit this state park every year, at least in spring and in fall since we run private photo tours there. Are you interested? Let’s talk!
The park is about 2 hours from Harrisburg, in northern PA. Covering over 13,000 acres, it’s a National Natural Landmark and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re looking for some outdoor activities in PA, definitely check out Ricketts Glen.
As an old-growth forest, this area is one of the last few untouched (or mostly untouched) places in the state. You could easily spend the day here, or you might choose to sleep at the lakeside campsite.
One of the best parts about Ricketts Glen is its waterfalls; there are 24 of them! If you’re up for it, I recommend taking the Falls Trail, which loops most of the waterfalls in 3 miles and passes through interesting rock formations, such as the Midway Crevasse. It’s quite a steep and difficult trail, but there are other more moderate ones you can try too, like the Evergreen Trail.
By the lake, you can canoe or kayak. The area is also known as a great spot for birdwatching. During the winter, the falls freeze over and are open to ice climbers. Some people try to ice skate on the frozen lake.
Without a doubt, this state park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pennsylvania, so be sure to take some time to see it.
7. Longwood Gardens, the best thing to do in Pennsylvania for couples
While you’re in the state, I highly recommend visiting Longwood Gardens, one of the top things to do in southeast Pennsylvania. These beautiful botanical gardens cover over 1,000 acres and are just a short drive from Philadelphia.
I don’t think there is a bad time to go to Longwood Gardens because the attraction has seasonal displays all year round. During the winter months, the grounds are covered in decorative lights. Bundle up, grab a hot cocoa, and walk around the gardens, taking in the sights.
In the warmer months, the fountains turn on, and the spring blooms are in full display. You could visit every month and find something new to see. Along with the outdoor areas, there are indoor horticultural exhibits, greenhouses, and one-of-a-kind treehouses.
This is definitely a great thing to do in PA for couples, as the colorful flowers, landscaped lawns, and majestic fountains and architecture can be quite romantic.
I should also mention that there is another nearby botanical attraction, Chanticleer Garden. This place is smaller, but still, a lovely place to walk around and get some fresh air. Unlike Longwood, Chanticleer allows picnicking, so it’s another potential date spot!
Best of all, the gardens are on Philadelphia’s Main Line, which easily connects to other sites in the region. So, you can find many places to explore in Pennsylvania all within a relatively close distance.
8. Cherry Springs State Park, the best place for stargazing in Pennsylvania
Cherry Springs State Park is another scenic place to visit in Pennsylvania. The 80-acre park is part of the Susquehannock State Forest and gets its name from its lovely black cherry trees. You’ll have to visit at just the right time to see the cherry trees in full bloom, usually late April.
Regardless of when you go, this park is one of the best places in Pennsylvania for stargazing. There is very little light pollution, so you don’t even need a telescope to see thousands of tiny stars twinkling in the sky. We also run private tours here where we teach you how to photograph the Milky Way, so if you’re interested, contact me.
Cherry Springs State Park has some of the darkest skies in the eastern United States. It is a popular haven for astronomers and astrophotographers in the area. The park even installed a few astronomy domes to keep telescopes safe from the elements.
Besides stargazing, the park is perfect for backpacking and hiking, and there are about 30 campgrounds here. I can say that camping out here and sleeping under the stars is probably the best thing to do in central PA. If you travel with a camera or telescope, you can use the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field (first come, first served). The gate closes at dusk and the use of any kind of light once the gate is close isn’t allowed so as not to disturb the others’ observations.
However, if you’re more a kind of a landscape photographer instead of a deep-sky photographer, I would suggest heading to Lyman Run State Park, just 15 min from there, so you’ll enjoy the same dark sky but will have more opportunities to compose your Milky Way shots.
It’s also worth noting that the park is part of the Pennsylvania Wilds, which I’ll talk about later.
9. Pittsburgh, a top-rated place for entertainment in Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the 2nd-most populous city in PA, after Philadelphia. It offers something for everyone – sports, culture, history, food – so be sure to add a Pittsburgh visit to your list of things to do in western Pennsylvania.
A place you must see in this city is Schenley Park. I recommend you head down one of the many walking trails to get away from the city and disconnect for a while. As you’re walking, you may pass by the wooded valley of Panther Hollow, which has a scenic pond. Along with the hiking paths, you’ll find tennis courts, skating rinks, and a golf course at Schenley Park. However, the most popular part of the park is the Phipps Conservatory, which I will talk about later in this article.
Another great natural area in Pittsburgh is Point State Park, which overlooks the Ohio River at the tip of Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle.” The park commemorates the historic heritage of the area during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
Museum-hopping is another fun thing to do in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Some of the best museums in the city are the Andy Warhol Museum and Bicycle Heaven, an eclectic collection of bicycles and bike parts.
Finally, be sure to stop by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It’s one of the top five natural history museums in the country and is recognized for its fossil discoveries.
There is a lot more to see in Pittsburgh, so consider this walking tour, which includes 13 stops around the city.
10. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, another thing to see in Pennsylvania
As I said, the Phipps Conservatory is a major attraction in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. This Victorian greenhouse was founded in 1893 and has several formal gardens spanning different eras and plant species.
Most would agree that it’s one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania, and one of the best parts of Pittsburgh.
The Phipps Conservatory is over 120 years old, but it’s also one of the most eco-friendly buildings in the world. The Conservatory produces all its own energy, which seems fitting for a robust greenhouse like this one.
When you first visit the Conservatory, you’ll walk through the indoor Palm Court, a Victorian-style greenhouse with installation art by glass artist Dale Chihuly filled with various palm trees and paper cranes. The area offshoots to the Serpentine and Ferns Rooms, followed by the orchid display and a butterfly forest.
There are also greenhouses filled with tropical fruits and citrus trees. As you walk through this area, you’ll hear bubbling waterfalls, smell sweet fruit, and see soothing fishponds. It’s one of the most peaceful attractions in Pennsylvania.
Outside, be sure to explore the Rooftop Edible Garden and the Japanese Courtyard Garden. There is also a Children’s Garden where kids can run around among birds and butterflies.
If you visit during the summer, check out the floating flowers in the outdoor Aquatic Garden and the Neptune statue. It’s also worth visiting in the winter so you can see the Conservatory’s winter light show. I think it’s the perfect thing to do in PA for couples.
11. Fallingwater, one of the most beautiful places to go in Pennsylvania
As you make your way to Pittsburgh, be sure to stop by Fallingwater, the architectural masterpiece by Frankl Lloyd Wright. It’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Pennsylvania and will take your breath away.
Fallingwater is an incredible house nestled in the forest at Bear Run. What’s so special about this home is that it was built around a waterfall. So, as you walk through the rooms, you feel totally connected to nature.
Many people consider Fallingwater to be the architect’s best work, and it has even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The house was built in 1935 for a Pittsburgh businessman and his wife. Today, anyone can visit Fallingwater, although you’ll need a guided tour to see the interior.
The first thing you notice about the building is the horizontal and vertical structures. The shapes contrast the organic form of the waterfall, but this also seems to bring it all together. If it reminds you of Japanese architecture, that’s because Frank Lloyd Wright was inspired by Japanese designers, particularly their use of space.
The tours aren’t cheap, but if you’re a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, then it’s one of the best things to see in PA.
Nearby, you can visit the Bear Run Nature Preserve, which is the land surrounding Fallingwater. The hemlock forest is full of streams, backcountry campsites, and 20 miles of hiking trails. Combined with Fallingwater, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania.
12. Valley Forge National Historic Park, a calm place to go in Pennsylvania
Not far from Philadelphia (and 10 min from where we live) is Valley Forge, a settlement with ties to the American Revolution. It’s a great place to explore in Pennsylvania, plus it’s not far from other attractions like the King of Prussia Mall, the 2nd-largest shopping mall in the country which I will talk about later.
Valley Forge National Historic Park is one of the sites where the Continental Army camped during the Revolutionary War. Today, the area is home to restored historic buildings, log cabins, monuments, and reenactments. Be sure to stop by the visitor’s center and museum to learn more about the nation’s history.
A key feature of the park is a colonial-style house that served as George Washington’s headquarters. You can take a tour through the home and transport yourself back to the 1770s.
Valley Forge is also a lovely place to see during the summer in PA. Besides the historical grounds, there is plenty of wide, open space perfect for hiking and biking. Three of the primary paths here are the Valley Creek Trail, the River Trail, and the Schuylkill River Trail, which you could take all the way to Philadelphia. Along the way, stop by the Mount Joy Observation Tower, the highest point in the park.
Valley Forge is certainly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pennsylvania. I recommend stopping here as you visit Philadelphia. This 4-hour tour from Philly is perfect if you don’t want to drive.
13. Pennsylvania State Capitol at Harrisburg, another attraction to visit in PA
It seems a bit odd to visit a state without seeing its capital, so consider a trip to Harrisburg. This city has a long history and is full of family-friendly activities.
Harrisburg has some great museums, so you’ll always have things to do in central PA if the weather is bad. I recommend the Susquehanna Art Museum, which is constantly switching up its contemporary exhibits.
I also like the National Civil War Museum, the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, and the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
When the weather is nice, be sure to visit the parks and natural areas around Harrisburg. I like Reservoir Park and Riverfront Park, both of which host festivals and events throughout the year. The park at Italian Lake is also a scenic spot with formal gardens. As you walk across the Japanese-style bridge, you may forget you’re in a busy city.
The Capital Area Greenbelt is known for its hiking and biking trails, while the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex is a national historic landmark. Here, you can take a tour of the Capitol and Senate Library exhibits.
While you’re out and about, stop by the Broad Street Market, the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the U.S.
A bit further outside Harrisburg, you’ll find City Island, where you can take a boat ride, go shopping or barhopping, or enjoy some outdoor time.
I also suggest checking out Fort Hunter Park and Mansion, one of the top historical things to see in PA. Here, you’ll find traces of the 1700s, including a spring house, barn, stable, blacksmith shop, and archeological sites. The Fort Hunter Mansion was home to a PA politician and is now a historical museum.
14. Delaware Water Gap, a quiet place to go in Pennsylvania
This PA attraction gets its name from the Delaware River it borders, so don’t get confused! As the name suggests, it’s a gap of water that flows through a ridge in the Appalachian Mountains. Doesn’t it already sound scenic and relaxing?
The Delaware Water Gap covers 70,000 acres of forests, lakes, streams, and trails. It’s one of the greatest Pennsylvania places to go that’s quiet but still close to major cities.
The area includes over 100 miles of hiking paths, 27 of which are on the famous Appalachian Trail. Alternatively, you could take the Red Dot Trail straight into neighboring New Jersey to Mt. Tammany. From there, you’ll have an awesome view of the surrounding region.
Speaking of viewpoints, there are several gorgeous lookouts in the Delaware Water Gap, such as The Point of the Gap Overlook, Arrow Island Overlook, and Kittatinny Point. Mount Minsi, part of the Blue Mountains, is another pretty lookout point.
Further north along the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, you can find and Raymondskill Falls. The impressive waterfall has 3 tiers and a total height of about 150 feet. However, my favorite spot in the area are the Dingmans Falls, another must-see in Pennsylvania.
The Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area also includes routes to some nearby historical buildings, some in PA, others in New Jersey. These mostly reflect local history and include the Foster-Armstrong House, Old Mine Road, and Millbrook Village, an 1830s grist mill.
15. Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania and the PA Wilds
A well-hidden state secret is Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. If you find yourself in the area, a visit to this natural beauty is one of the best things to do in central PA.
The 47-mile gorge cuts through the Allegheny Plateau, creating a magnificent geological formation. You’ll be rewarded with fabulous views of Pine Creek and the surrounding forests. The canyon hits its deepest point at the southern end, at 1,450 feet.
I recommend seeing this area in the autumn when all the trees are changing color. It’s one of Pennsylvania’s best places to visit during this time because the air will be crisper and the climb more refreshing.
Kayaking in the gorge for a couple of days is something we can’t wait to do (there are a couple of places where you can rent a kayak). The last time we were hiking the area, we fell in love with the views from the Golden Eagle Trail and the Bob Webber Trail. However, the most popular route is the Pine Creek Rail Trail, a 62-mile plus long trail that travels through the gorge. Ride these old railroad tracks converted to wonderful biking and walking trail is one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania.
The area has also many places where you can camp. We always try to stay at Black Walnut Campground, that it’s one of our favorite campsites in the state so far. Last time we even saw a bald eagle from the riverbank as the area is one of the best places in PA for birdwatching.
The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is part of the PA Wilds, which encompasses a vast area that also includes Cherry Springs State Park, Allegheny State Forest, and the largest free-roaming elk herd in the northeastern U.S. To see the elk battling for mating rights, head to Benezette during the rutting season (mid-September to October). But for black bear encounters (this area has the highest population of black bears in PA), drive around the PA Wilds in spring.
This region is massive and covers about a quarter of the entire state, so check which areas are closest to your route. Some of the highlights include Cook Forest, Clear Creek State Park, and the Kinzua Bridge State Park & Sky Walk.
A summer in PA is not complete without a visit to the PA Wilds. It’s the best way to get outdoors, disconnect, and recharge.
16. Hersheypark, a unique place to visit in Pennsylvania with kids
Hersheypark is about 2 hours from Philadelphia and 30 minutes from Harrisburg and is known as “the sweetest place on earth”. Candy connoisseur Milton S. Hershey had the park built as a leisure resort for his employees. Today, Hersheypark is one of the best vacation places in Pennsylvania.
The destination is more than just an amusement park, although that part of the resort is a lot of fun. One of the most popular attractions at the park is the 330-foot Kissing Tower, which gently rotates and gives you a panoramic view of the area. There are also family and thrill rides, as well as a waterpark. When you go, see how many Hershey’s candies characters you can meet!
Another main feature of Hersheypark is Chocolate World. Here, you can get acquainted with the history of Hershey’s chocolate and take a ride through the “factory” to see how the candy is made. You even get a little piece of chocolate at the end.
I also suggest checking out Hershey Gardens, another cool place in Pennsylvania that some Hersheypark visitors overlook. The botanical garden is the perfect, serene counterbalance to the action and thrills of the amusement park. There are nearly two dozen themed gardens as well as a butterfly atrium.
Another fun thing to do in Pennsylvania is to plan an overnight trip to Hershey. You can stay at the Hotel Hershey or the nearby camping resort. I’m partial to camping, although the hotel has a spa where you can get a chocolate facial!
17. Eat at Reading Terminal Market, an exciting thing to do in Pennsylvania
Another Pennsylvania attraction with a deceiving name is the Reading Terminal Market. This marketplace isn’t in Reading, PA, but in downtown Philadelphia. Once you learn the history of the place, you’ll understand why it has that name.
The market opened in 1893 under the shed of the Reading Railroad Company. Today, it’s part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and eating here is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Reading Terminal Market is open daily, although a few stalls are closed on Sundays (mostly the Amish ones). You can find just about anything here, not only food, but also accessories, body care, clothing, and books. The food stalls offer a wide range of cuisines, from Indian and Japanese to Greek, Spanish, Caribbean, and more.
You can also find specialty items like fine chocolates, herbal products, and vegan options. The market gets very crowded just about every day, but it’s one of those cool places in Pennsylvania that you must experience. Whether you want a snack, dessert, or a full meal, you’ll find it here. My personal favorites are the homemade Amish donuts at Beiler’s donut stall and, of course, the iconic Philly cheesesteak. There are a few cheesesteak vendors at the market, and everyone has a favorite, so I guess you’ll have to choose whichever looks the tastiest!
Reading Terminal Market isn’t the only food haven in Philly. If you consider yourself a foodie, I recommend this city food tour, which includes stops at the market, Di Bruno Brothers cheese cave, and a few other spots.
18. Penn’s Cave, the best thing to do in PA for families
Penn’s Cave is a tourist attraction in PA that I highly recommend. It’s the only all-water cavern in the country, so you need to ride in a boat to see it.
I will say that the tour is not for everyone; you must walk down 48 steep steps, and the caves are dark and chilly. Still, you’ll be safe for the entire 45-minute guided tour as your boat glides past stalagmites, stalactites, and interesting rock shapes and columns that resulted from years of dripping water. It’s one of the most adventurous things to do in PA.
Penn’s Cave also includes a fun outdoor Miner’s Maze and an off-road mountain tour in a Jeep, which is available June through November. There is also a wildlife preserve on the premises, but we didn’t visit so as not to support the captivity of wild animals.
If you’re further south, near Lancaster, I suggest visiting the Indian Echo Caverns. These limestone caves are like the ones at Penn’s Cave and are accessible via a guided tour. If you’re into geology, this is a cool place in Pennsylvania you don’t want to miss.
19. Eastern State Penitentiary, something to explore in Pennsylvania at night
The natural beauty of this state is exhilarating, but if you’re more of a city dweller, then a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most adventurous things to do in PA.
This former prison in Philadelphia is famous for having one of the spookiest Halloween attractions in Pennsylvania. The prison was in operation between 1829 and 1971, and carries a ghostly presence of days gone by. It was one of the first jails to use separate incarceration, and it housed famed criminals like Al Capone and Willie Sutton.
Today, the penitentiary is a public museum that holds daytime tours and its annual haunted house event. It definitely has a scary atmosphere at night, but it’s a famous landmark, and visiting it is almost a required thing to do in Pennsylvania.
Besides its title as one of the scariest Halloween attractions, the penitentiary is also a historical building. It is one of the most expensive prisons in the country, and it’s famous for its revolutionary wagon wheel layout. Since it closed, it has fallen into decay, but government funding has maintained these “preserved ruins”, which now add to its appeal.
You can purchase admission tickets to the prison with a $3 discount here. The entrance fee is also included in this hop-on hop-off bus tour, and in the Sightseeing Flex Pass and the Sightseeing Day Pass.
20. Hickory Run State Park, a popular place to visit in Pennsylvania
Hickory Run State Park is another thing to see in PA‘s Pocono Mountains. The area covers nearly 16,000 acres and includes 3 natural parks and over 40 miles of hiking trails.
The Hickory Run region is huge, but there are a few points of interest that I want to mention. First is Boulder Field, the largest such field in Appalachia. The boulders range from 3 to 30 feet tall, and the total field is about 16 acres. The first thing I thought when hiked to the Boulder Field was: How all these rocks got there?! I’m sure the same will happen to you.
However, the hike that I liked the most in the area was the Shades of Death Trail to Sand Spring Lake, where you’ll find a disc golf course and campsite. Along the way, you’ll pass by Stametz Dam and a beautiful waterfall. A bit further to the southeast is Hawk Falls, another must-see in Pennsylvania, although I didn’t enjoy it at all since it was packed with people.
The day we visited Hickory Run, it was overcrowded so I need to give it a second chance before deciding if it’s one of my favorite state parks in PA. However, when we were driving back home, we saw a mommy bear with three cubs. This is the only time we have seen black bears in Pennsylvania, so Hickory Run is going to always be a special place for us. This natural spot in the great outdoors is proof that there are other things to do in southeast Pennsylvania besides visiting Philadelphia.
21. Presque Isle State Park, an awesome place to go in Pennsylvania
If you travel all the way to the opposite side of the state, you’ll find Presque Isle State Park. Tucked away in northern PA, this peninsula stretches out into Lake Erie, providing magnificent views and a relaxing coastal atmosphere.
With over 3,000 acres, it’s a popular spot for a summer swim, bike rides, hikes, and birdwatching. A visit to this state park is one of the top things to do in Erie, Pennsylvania, a city that doesn’t get as much attention as ones like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Due to its location in northwestern PA, the Presque Isle peninsula formed from glacial ice sheets in Wisconsin about 20,000 years ago. The winds off Lake Erie are constantly reshaping the coast and creating new ecological zones, which you can learn about at the park’s Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
The park’s unique habitats create a home for many of Pennsylvania’s endangered and threatened species. While you’re here, you might spot rare butterflies and dragonflies, cerulean warblers, and saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows. For the best birdwatching in the area, go to the Gull Point Natural Area.
Moreover, the park has over 20 miles of recreational trails, plus 13 sandy beaches, and a marina. Watching the sunset over Lake Erie is one of the most relaxing things to do in western Pennsylvania. For something a bit more exciting, you could try water skiing, boating, surfing, or swimming in the northern waters.
After visiting the park, check out the other cool things in PA‘s northwest corner. The city of Erie has lots to see, including museums, theaters, historic mansions, and lighthouses.
22. Scranton, PA, another place to visit in Pennsylvania
Most people might know Scranton from the TV sitcom The Office. However, the city has more to offer than a boring office building! Scranton is one of the largest former coal mining communities in the state, so it’s an interesting place to explore in Pennsylvania.
The city was a hub for not only coal mining but also the railroad business. Many of the landmarks and things to do in Scranton, Pennsylvania reflect these industries.
For example, the Steamtown National Historic Site is home to a heritage railroad and museum. Situated in a functional railroad yard, the attraction features several exhibits about the technology and history of steam railroads and locomotives. There are several freight cars on display, and you can also take a train ride through the area.
The Lackawanna County Coal Mine is another Scranton attraction worth visiting. This retired coal mine is now a museum where you can ride in a minecart through an anthracite mine about 250 feet underground. Former miners or children of miners lead the tours, so you get a feel for what coal mining was really like.
Above ground, I recommend checking out Nay Aug Park, the largest park in Scranton. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania, especially in an industrial center like Scranton. Be sure to visit the Nay Aug Gorge, where you can climb the 150-foot David Wenzel Treehouse. It overlooks the gorge and provides awesome views of the Nay Aug Falls. The park also has two Olympic-sized swimming pools, playgrounds, walking paths, and the Everheart Museum of Natural History, Science, & Art.
Other notable points of interest in Scranton include the Houdini Museum, the Electric City Trolley Museum, and the Scranton Iron Furnaces. Built over 160 years ago, these stone blast furnaces are relics of the city’s past.
23. Quehanna Trail and other backpacking hikes in Pennsylvania
If you’re looking for a backcountry getaway, Pennsylvania also has many interesting options to scape the city for a couple of days (or weeks). There are many backpacking trails spanning miles where you can spend time in nature.
The Quehanna Trail is one of the many great hiking paths in Pennsylvania. Its total length is 70 miles, and it runs through the Moshannon and Elk State Forests of the PA Wilds. You’ll need around 5 to 7 days to complete it. The most popular start/endpoint for the trail is the Parker Dam State Park, a beautiful area in central PA with a lovely lake and beach that are open to campers and picnickers. We have hiked around 80% of the trail during two separate weekends, and the northeast section is breathtaking!
Two hours from there, you will find the Black Forest Trail, with a total length of 43 miles overlooking the Pine Creek Gorge. The trek takes 3-5 days and runs through the Tiadaghton State Forest, where you’ll find lots of natural swamps, hemlock forests, and streams.
If you’re near Pittsburgh, check out the Laurel Highlands Trail, also known as the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. It’s good for all skill levels and takes 5-7 days to complete the 70-mile trail.
The Mid State Trail was named PA’s 2019 Trail of the Year for its diverse views of the wild landscape. The 327-mile trail is moderate but becomes challenging at times and takes 3-4 weeks to hike from the Mason Dixon Line to the NY border.
Finally, you can’t go wrong with the Appalachian Trail, which covers 229 miles in PA, starting near Gettysburg in the Michaux State Forest, and traveling diagonally up to the Delaware Water Gap. The full trail length is 1993 miles, so you will need around 5 months to hike from Georgia to Maine. However, with only two or three weeks you can hike the whole PA section.
24. King of Prussia Mall, one of the most popular places to go in Pennsylvania
The King of Prussia Mall is worth mentioning because it’s the 2nd-largest shopping mall in the country. Less than 40 minutes from Philadelphia and 10 minutes from Valley Forge, it’s a luxurious place to shop, dine, and enjoy a night on the town. The mall is close to other stores and restaurants, making it one of the trendiest Pennsylvania places.
It covers over 2.7 million square feet and has over 400 shops. Here, you can shop at high-end department stores like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as more casual retailers like Primark and Urban Outfitters. You could spend all day perusing the smaller shops for books, accessories, art, and just about anything else. There are also casual and fine dining restaurants and cafes, along with a food court.
The nearby movie theater and indoor skydiving center offer more things to do in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. One of the more recent additions to the area is the Town Center, a shopping and lifestyle area with a downtown feel. The center includes retail outlets, independent stores, and a range of eateries and specialty cafes.
The King of Prussia Mall is close to hotels and public transportation, so it’s a convenient hub for those in southeast PA. It’s a good place to go on a rainy day for a weekend with friends or a romantic date night.
25. Andy Warhol Museum, one of the Can’t-miss attractions in PA
Another Pittsburgh attraction that I wanted to focus on is the Andy Warhol Museum. Most people are familiar with this artist and, as you can expect, an entire museum dedicated to Warhol is one of the coolest places in Pennsylvania.
The museum is part of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and is the largest U.S. museum dedicated to a single artist. The facility is a grand testament to Warhol’s work as a pioneer of the Pop Art movement. Inside, visitors can observe thousands of pieces of Warhol’s work, including prints, photographs, films, sculptures, and paintings.
Along with its permanent collections, the museum also hosts gallery talks, workshops, and other programs throughout the year, most of which are open to the public. Given Warhol’s legacy as a gay icon, the museum is also an active supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and offers related resources and performances.
No matter when you visit, there will always be something happening at the museum. Part of what made Warhol’s art so iconic was how accessible it was, so even if you’re not an art aficionado, I’m sure you’ll find the museum to be a fun place to go in Pennsylvania. The bright colors, punchy patterns, and playful approach to popular ads and celebrities are sure to leave you in a good mood.
26. Ohiopyle State Park, the best place to see the sunset in Pennsylvania
About 1.5 hours south of Pittsburgh is the Ohiopyle State Park, a must-see place in Pennsylvania‘s southwest. The park encompasses over 20,000 acres of land and has a network of over 300 miles of hiking and biking trails. The paths range from the easy 1.7-mile Ferncliff Trail to the challenging 10.4-mile Sugarloaf Trail System.
The park’s centerpiece is the Youghiogheny River Gorge, one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania for white water rafting. There are several runs, each varying in difficulty, that are popular with rafters, kayakers, and canoers. The rapids can be quite dangerous if you’re not experienced, so I recommend this guided white-water rafting tour with a picnic lunch.
If you prefer to stay on land, you’ll still be able to witness the stunning natural beauty of the park. Try to see how many waterfalls you can find; there are several near the park office.
There are several campsites in the park, as well as rustic cottage and yurt rentals. The beautiful scenery and clean sites make this a popular Pennsylvania vacation spot for families.
27. Penn’s Landing, one of the top free things to do in Pennsylvania
Back in Philadelphia, I suggest taking a walk along Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River waterfront. It is named after William Penn, and few people know that the actual landing is further south in the city of Chester. Even so, Penn’s Landing is a hotspot during summers in PA and is a must-see in Philly.
On any given day, you can sit at Penn’s Landing and watch tugboats, barges, and jet skis cruise down the river. You might hop aboard the RiverLink Ferry or visit the Independence Seaport Museum to learn more about the city’s maritime history. Nearby is a roller rink that doubles as an ice-skating rink in the winter.
During the summer months, Penn’s Landing transforms into Spruce Street Harbor Park, a top-rated urban beach. Stroll the boardwalk, enjoy yummy treats, lounge in a hammock, visit the beer garden, or play outdoor games. It’s one of the best free things to do in PA.
In June, Penn’s Landing holds the Roots Picnic, hosted by Philly hip-hop group The Roots. A variety of other concerts and cultural events take place during the summer and fall, too.
For couples and groups, the area offers two unique dining experiences. The Spirit of Philadelphia is perfect for a night of dining and dancing on the water, while the four-masted Moshulu is a romantic floating restaurant docked at the Landing.
A few blocks into the city, you’ll find even more fun on South Street, a unique venue with an alternative atmosphere. One of the coolest attractions here is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a large mosaic, and folk-art gallery.
28. Hawk Mountain, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pennsylvania
If you have a passion for photography and nature as we do, then you’ll love Hawk Mountain. This wild bird sanctuary is about 80 miles north of Philadelphia and is one of the best Pennsylvania places for wildlife photography. Bring your telelens!
As the name suggests, this is a great spot to see a variety of hawks. We’ve seen other bird species here too, including falcons, eagles, and ospreys.
Along with the fabulous birdwatching opportunities, Hawk Mountain is also a gorgeous natural area. It’s nestled on a ridge overlooking the Blue Mountain chain. Scattered throughout the sanctuary are several viewing sites where you can get optimal panoramic views. Some of the birds are quite personable and aren’t afraid to fly close to visitors! It truly is one of the most incredible things to see in PA.
Moreover, there are campgrounds and hiking trails to explore after your viewing session is over. It’s also worth visiting the Natural Habitat Garden. The blooms attract all kinds of butterflies, birds, and dragonflies, and the ponds are full of turtles and frogs.
There are also opportunities to learn more about raptors and their native habitats at the Visitor Center, which has interactive displays, a bookstore, and the Wings of Wonder gallery. Learn when different birds will be migrating and, for the best birdwatching chances, visit between mid-August to mid-December in autumn and in April through mid-May in spring.
29. Brandywine Valley, another interesting place to go in Pennsylvania
The Brandywine Valley offers lots of things to do in southeast Pennsylvania. This upper-class neighborhood is home to Longwood Gardens, which I mentioned earlier, as well as historical sites, museums, and natural parks.
One of the most popular Pennsylvania tourist attractions in the Brandywine Valley is the Brandywine River Museum of Art. The museum focuses on the work of Andrew Wyeth, who was born in the area. Nearby is the Wharton Esherick Museum, which is dedicated to the sculptor of the same name. For the younger crowd, there is also the American Helicopter Museum, which has a collection of over 30 aircraft.
The Brandywine Valley is also known for its nature-oriented landmarks. These include Chanticleer Garden, the Jenkins and Tyler Arboretums, and the Brandywine Creek State Park, a 933-acre park with a nature center, tulip preserve, and 14 miles of trails.
This charming southeastern region of PA is also home to a good number of historical sites. A few examples include Paoli Battlefield, The Mill at Anselma, Marshallton blacksmith shop, Hibernia Mansion, and Newlin Grist Mill.
Finally, there are several nearby wineries, not to mention all kinds of restaurants and specialty shops. The downtown areas of Kennett Square, Phoenixville, and West Chester are quaint, walkable areas with a charming atmosphere, perfect for a laid-back evening in town.
30. Bucks County, PA, an area with more things to do in Pennsylvania
Bucks County is another suburban area not far from Philadelphia that offers unique Pennsylvania tourist attractions.
Many of these attractions are relics from the past, such as the covered bridges scattered throughout the county. Fonthill Castle, an over 100-year-old National Historic Landmark, was the home of local archaeologist and tile artist Henry Chapman Mercer. The 44-room mansion is open to public tours, and the nearby Mercer Museum and Moravian Pottery & Tile Works showcase his intricate artwork.
New Hope is a charming borough in Bucks County with a quaint, artsy atmosphere. Its Peddler’s Village is the best place to visit in Pennsylvania year-round because there are always seasonal activities going on. I also recommend checking out Solebury Orchards and Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.
Tyler State Park and Washington Cross Historic Park are two areas in Bucks County where you can get outside and learn more about the region’s past. If you’re around on a weekend, stop by the Quakertown Farmers Market for fresh produce and flea market finds.
Bucks County is also a great place to play, both for kids and adults. Small children will love Sesame Place amusement park, where they can meet Cookie Monster, Elmo, Big Bird, and the whole gang (you can book your ticket here). For the older crowd, there are two large shopping malls in the area and a casino.
There is something for everyone in Bucks County, so I recommend adding it to your list of things to do in eastern Pennsylvania.
At first glance, Pennsylvania may seem like a dull state in the Mid-Atlantic. However, after reading this guide of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania, I’m pretty sure you’ve changed your mind. To help you plan where to go in Pennsylvania, check out our Pennsylvania tourist map below.
Which places in Pennsylvania are you excited to see? If you have any questions or another attraction you’d like to add, leave a comment for me and I’ll get back to you!