Pennsylvania is known for its diverse terrain, which includes, forests, farmland and major waterways. Moving east to west across the state, the terrain becomes more rugged and diversity of the state soon becomes apparent. Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies of the United States and is where the declaration of independence was signed. The state played a key part in the demise of the British colonial empire and its pride in its own history is clear to see. The Liberty Bell stands as an enduring symbol of American Freedom even in the present.
The Keystone State provides much more than American history and is also home to some stunning natural scenery such as the Poconos and Allegheny National Forest, which provides nature enthusiasts with endless hours of recreational activities. The state is also home to several architectural masterpieces and prevalent examples of Amish culture.
Here is our list of the best things to do in Pennsylvania:
1. Pennsylvania State Capitol
The Pennsylvania State Capitol building, located in Harrisburg, is one of the finest examples of architecture in this small city and the surrounding area.
It was features a huge dome and was built in 1906.
Some of the interior designs are based on the Paris Grand Opera House.
2. Valley Forge and Valley Forge National Historic Park
When the British razed this supply centre in 1777, it led to 2000 casualties on the American side due to hunger, disease and exposure.
Valley Forge tells the story through tours, exhibits and films.
A National Memorial Arch and Washington’s Headquarters are amongst the points of interest as well as several trails and recreational areas for visitors.
Intercourse is an old town with a country atmosphere and is situated a short drive east of Lancaster.
On Main Street, visitors can learn about the Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite crafts.
The Old Country Store stocks a selection of local cakes and crafts while the quilt museum displays beautiful and traditional examples of handmade quilts.
4. Gettysburg National Military Park
The Gettysburg National Military Park marks the location of the Battle of Gettysburg where, in 1863, around 51,000 people lost their lives during the American Civil War.
There are several markers and monuments throughout the park including Oak Ridge, the site of the opening day battle in the Civil War and Cemetery Ridge, the site of union lines in the last two days of battle.
5. Andy Warhol Museum
This museum in Pittsburgh offers an informative look into the life of this great American pop artist, from his birth to the later years.
Some of his most famous pieces are displayed within the museum including his portrait of Elvis and Tomato Soup.
The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to only one artist.
This small town is known for its historic railroads and Amish culture.
Taking a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road is a great way to get to know the area whilst on board one of the country’s oldest steam trains.
Over 100 locomotives and cars are on display in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania including trains from the mid 19th century.
7. Eastern State Penitentiary
Built in 1829, the Eastern State Penitentiary was once one of the United State’s leading high tech prisons and home to notable inmates including Al Capone.
The building’s long corridors and arched ceilings remain largely unchanged from when it closed in 1971 and has an impressive collection of tales and legends.
The site now offers tours and exhibits telling the story of this intriguing landmark.
8. Philadelphia Museum of Art
This museum in Philadelphia is home to one of the largest art collections in the USA, holding over 227,000 pieces.
The artwork is varied and includes painting, prints and drawings from both America and Europe.
The building itself is also an iconic one with its front steps that were famously featured in all of the “Rocky” movies and the spectacular views of Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the City Hall tower.
9. Hershey Park
This famous amusement park in Hershey, a town also associated with chocolate, is a great family attraction offering 90 acres of entertainment and rides for both children and adults.
The park was originally built for the workers of Hershey but expanded over the years and began to attract visitors from far and wide.
10. Independence National Park
The Independence National Park is home to the Liberty Bell and is one of the country’s most historic areas.
The park allows visitors to witness the location where the Declaration of Independence was signed, including the table used by George Washington.
The cobbled streets within the park pass historic buildings such as Old City Hall, Congress Hall and Carpenter’s Hall. The Liberty Bell, recognisable for it’s crack, bears a timeless message of liberty “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”.
11. Dutch Wonderland
This theme park, located just east of Lancaster, covers 48 acres and is a self-professed “Kingdom for Kids”.
The park has a castle, slides, rollercoasters and live entertainment, all of which is primarily aimed at children.
The park was opened in 1963 and has been voted one of the top five theme parks in the world for children.
12. The Franklin Institute
This popular science museum is the foremost centre of scientific research and education in Pennsylvania.
As well as being named after the famous scientist Benjamin Franklin, the museum also houses a National Memorial in his honour.
As well as the permanent exhibitions housed within the museum, the temporary exhibits are usually fantastic including the current one about art using Lego building blocks.
13. Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Located on Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Museum was founded by Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896.
The museum boasts an impressive collection of fossils, animals, minerals and gems as well as a fascinating permanent exhibit on the impact of human population growth on the planet and the damage that it may cause if left unchecked.
This architectural masterpiece, built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939, was built for the Kaufmanns and blends in effortlessly with its environment.
The house is a National Historic Landmark and appears to hover majestically above a 30-foot waterfall.
The house was built as a weekend retreat for the Kaufmanns, who were the founders of the Kaufmann Department Store (now part of the Macy’s chain) in the 1930’s.
Tours of the house are available and should be booked in advance.
15. The Hershey Story
The Hershey Story is a museum telling the tale of Milton Hershey and the rise of his chocolate empire.
Located on Chocolate Avenue, the Hershey Story features exhibits and interactive experiences relating to Hershey’s struggles as an entrepreneur before his eventual success and fortune.
There is, of course, plenty of chocolate to taste at the museum and a fun chocolate lab for children.
16. Reading Terminal Market
Among the highlights of this massive, multi-ethnic market in downtown Philadelphia are Tommy Dinic’s roast pork, Amish cuisine at Dutch Eating Place and Beiler’s doughnuts.
Gourmets will find everything they need to create an exquisite meal from the ingredients to the tableware and freshly cut flowers.
The market, which has been in this location since 1890, can get very busy at weekends.
17. Mercer Museum
The Mercer Museum features an extensive collection of objects from everyday life in America in the 18th and 19th Century.
The collection of 40,000 objects, put together by Henry Mercer, provides a unique insight into the life for citizens of the United States during the time period.
Many of the 55 rooms hold tools or products from early American crafts whereas the other rooms display architectural hardware and lighting devices.
18. Fonthill Castle
Located about a mile away from the Mercer Museum is the stunning Fonthill Castle, home of Henry Mercer.
The building, an eclectic mix of gothic and medieval architecture, was built between 1908 and 1912.
Upon his death, Mercer left the building in a trust in a museum of decorative prints and tiles.
19. Philadelphia Zoo
No trip to Pennsylvania would be complete without a visit to the oldest zoo in the United States.
Home to an impressive 1300 animals including, pumas, polar bears and tigers, the zoo covers an impressive 42 acres of land.
The Unique Zoo360 attraction at the zoo, allows some animals, including tigers, apes and small primates, to walk through the zoo via mesh walkways elevated above the public paths.
20. National Civil War Museum
Located in Reservoir Park in Harrisburg, the National Civil War Museum portrays the entire story of the American Civil war in a variety of exhibitions, video and dioramas.
The museum will keep you busy for at least as few hours and prides itself on telling the story of the civil war in a balanced, educational and humanistic manner.
21. Indian Echo Caverns
These spectacular caverns in Hummelstown were formed by water cutting through the 440 million year old limestone and are a stunning natural sight.
While exploring the caves, you will discover crystal clear lakes, beautiful rock formations and intimate passageways.
Tours take around 45 minutes and provide an insight into the geology and history of the caverns.
22. Mütter Museum
Situated in the very centre of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum provides a fascinating look at the history of medicine in the United States.
The slightly disturbing museum features antique medical equipment and over 100 skulls housed in 19th Century cabinets.
Permanent exhibits in the museum include pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain and the Soap Lady, a name given to a body exhumed in 1875, which is encased in a fatty substance called adipocere.
23. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The gardens feature a range of flora and fauna and even a Tropical Congo Forest showcasing specimens never before seen at the gardens and detailing how the plants are used by indigenous people to sustain and enrich their own lives.
24. State Museum of Pennsylvania
This museum tells the story of Pennsylvania throughout its history and prehistory.
Exhibits are varied and cover fossils, such as Mastodon and dinosaurs, as well as the American Civil War.
The museum is not-for-profit and currently maintains a collection of just under five million artefacts and objects relating to Pennsylvania’s past.
25. King of Prussia Mall
A must visit for any shopaholics. This mall is the second largest in the United States and contains over 400 shops, boutiques and restaurants.
The mall is located about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia and labels itself as the East Coast’s premier shopping destination.
The King of Prussia is one of the nation’s most iconic malls and features famous stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom.