Lancaster is a unique city located in the heart of America’s Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
Because of this location, the city is heavily influenced by Amish, Mennonite and German migrant culture.
Lancaster, which used to be the state capital, has many other attractions to offer including museums, historic monuments and agricultural attractions.
It is also well-connected to other areas of Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region, making it a great base from which to take day trips.
Here are the 15 best day trips within easy traveling distance from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
1. Lancaster County Amish Village
One of the most popular attractions close to Lancaster is the Amish Village.
The Amish and Mennonite people are known for embracing the simple life, living without electricity and other modern conveniences.
In Lancaster County you can learn more about the Amish way of life, and embed yourself in the Pennsylvania Dutch culture which is so integral to the state.
You can visit traditional Amish stores including bakeries and family restaurants.
There is even a museum for you to learn more about the history of the Amish and the Lancaster Country area.
Many of the tours in the area include a buggy ride with the locals.
The largest city in Pennsylvania, and an integral part of the American struggle for independence, Philadelphia combines historical attractions with a unique modern culture that sets the city apart from many of the others in the Northeast US. You can wander the streets of the Old City to gain insight into some of the key moments during America’s journey to independence and visit some of the oldest bars in the country.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is also famous thanks to the Rocky movies.
You can run up the Rocky steps as well as visit the Rocky statue on the grounds of the museum.
You should, of course, also sample the Philly Cheesesteak: a sandwich made with melted cheese and shaved beef.
Delaware is off the radar for most tourists to the region, but Wilmington is a great entry point into the state.
The city has recently been redeveloped and features a number of tourist attractions worth visiting.
The Riverfront has been transformed from a dilapidated local hangout to a thriving attraction in its own right with a new series of trendy restaurants and bars.
There are also some great outlet stores along the Riverfront and a brand new sports and exhibition center.
You can also explore the New Sweden area with various monuments to Swedish culture.
Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania and is an important city for learning about the history of the state.
The city is becoming increasingly popular with artists and hosts a wide range of galleries, museums and theatres.
The State Capitol building is a popular visitor attraction in the city thanks to the Italian Renaissance style architecture and collection of artistic works housed inside.
City Island is also a great recreational area in the middle of the Susquehanna River with a variety of shops, boutiques and fairground-style attractions available.
You can also enjoy a ride along the river with the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat, a traditional paddlewheel style riverboat.
The largest city in Maryland, Baltimore is easily accessible from Lancaster in a couple of hours.
Baltimore hosts a vibrant creative scene with various events and galleries to keep any art lover happy.
The Creative Alliance host events most days of the year, so be sure to check their website before planning your visit.
Baltimore is a majority African American city, so there are also great places to experience African American culture.
The Great Blacks in Wax Museum displays works of African American art, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Black History tells the story of African Americans in the state of Maryland as well as in the wider United States.
6. Washington DC
The capital city of the United States, Washington DC will already be on the radar of many visitors to the area and can easily be visited as part of a day trip from Lancaster.
The obvious attractions include the White House, various government buildings and monuments and the Smithsonian Museums.
DC also has a vibrant dining culture with a number of restaurants to suit a variety of budgets, as well as some cool bars across the city.
There are also plenty of parks, with 21.9% of DC being green space.
Many of these parks have hiking trails and rivers which are available for kayaking and canoeing.
7. Atlantic City
Tourism runs in Atlantic City’s blood and the city has everything you could possibly imagine to keep most visitors happy.
The city is mostly known for its casinos, thanks to legalized gambling within the area, and all of the best gambling establishments on the East Coast can be found here.
Aside from gambling, Atlantic City is also known for its popular beach and entertainment district.
The world’s first boardwalk was built in the city and is still popular to this day with an amusement park, restaurants and even an entire arts district.
Boat charters are also popular in the city and cheaper than many other US coastal towns.
Though not immediately on anyone’s radar when visiting Pennsylvania as a tourist, Allentown has some surprises waiting to be discovered.
The city has a great underground arts scene with a number of independent musicians, artists and dancers calling the city home.
Allentown is a gateway to the Appalachian Region, and a great place to learn more about the history of the region at one of the city’s many museums.
The large migrant communities from Latin America also mean Latin culture is thriving in the city, and many of the restaurants reflect this.
The town of Hershey is the birthplace of Hershey’s Chocolate, and the theme park nearby celebrates the brand.
Hershey’s Chocolate World, right next to the park, is a place where you can learn about the history and production of the chocolate bar, and indulge yourself or your family in a chocolate tasting experience.
The park itself also has a number of fairground style rides and rollercoasters.
There is a water park section, so if visiting in the summer be sure to bring a bathing suit.
In between exploring all the rides there are plenty of restaurants, cafés and picnic areas to relax, and of course gift shops to grab yourself some chocolate and Hershey’s merchandise.
10. Pocono Mountains
Located within the greater Appalachian Region, the Pocono Mountains area is popular with locals and very easy to reach from Lancaster.
There are plenty of hiking trails in the region for outdoorsy types, particularly in the Hickory Run State Park area.
The Boulder Field is an entire area covered in boulders thanks to a glacier that has since melted away.
Lake Henry is a popular area for fishing and canoeing.
The region is also full of native North American wildlife including eagles, beavers and minks, and the campsites surrounding Lake Henry often hold events such as live music and other performances.
11. Lackawanna State Park
Located in the north of Pennsylvania, Lackawanna State Park has many great options for getting close to nature.
The State Parks Department runs educational facilities throughout the park which are great for families to help teach children about local wildlife and conservation.
The Lackawanna Lake in the center of the park has many recreational activities including kayak and canoe hire.
There are also picnic and barbecue facilities and basic restrooms.
There a number of relatively easy hiking trails stemming from the lake, which are perfect for children.
One of the trails even has a series of ponds where you are free to try out fishing.
Possibly most well known as the location of the fictitious Dunder Mifflin paper company from the TV sitcom ‘The Office’, Scranton is a great example of American industrial culture and of the transformation cities have undergone after modernisation.
Scranton showcases typical examples of early 1900s US architecture, in particular the county courthouse which is located in the centre of the city.
You can learn about Scranton’s industrial past at one of the various museums, with the Electric City Trolley Museum being one of the most popular in town.
The Houdini Museum is also an interesting museum dedicated to the famous magician and is very popular with kids.
13. Montage Mountain
If you are visiting during the winter, Montage Mountain is one of the best ski resorts in the country and is only a short drive away from Lancaster.
There are 26 trails in total in the resort for all levels, and you can hire both skis and snowboards.
Though there are skis and snowboards for kids too, there are also special attractions for families including snow tubing and airboarding.
After you have finished skiing there is a great American bistro-style range with a huge range of craft beers available and great, all-American food options.
Visiting during the summer? Montage Mountain transforms into an epic waterpark for all the family to enjoy.
14. Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom are two seperate parks in the same area, comprising a regular theme park and a water park.
Dorney Park itself has some of the best rides in Pennsylvania, including thrilling roller coasters and smaller rides for younger kids to enjoy.
Wildwater Kingdom is a very relaxed waterpark with easygoing slides and lazy rivers, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day.
Both parks are packed with great dining options to cater to a variety of tastes.
The main theme park hosts events throughout the year as well as seasonal rides, so if you are visiting near a major occasion, check their website to see what is available as it can be a great option on public holidays.
15. Penn’s Cave
Penn’s Cave is a unique theme park based around a large limestone cavern system.
You can take a boat ride through the caves with an experienced guide to talk to you about the naturally occurring attraction.
Outside the caves there is also a small park area that comes with a maze, mountain jeep tour and small wildlife park.
Only North American animals are kept in the wildlife park, so this is a great option for educating kids about some of the most well known animals in the US. There is a small café and gift shop in the park, and there are some areas where you can enjoy a picnic.