17 BEST Places to Visit in Pennsylvania [December 2019]

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Pennsylvania is located in the northeastern region of the United States. It’s characterized by wide stretches of rural farmland, big cities, national forests, and towering mountains.

History lovers will delight in the long list of Pennsylvania attractions that date back to the American Revolution. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the abundant offering of recreational activities. Museum-lovers and gallery-goers will find quite a range of interesting institutions.

Whatever vacation activities you prefer, Pennsylvania provides an attractive blend of history, culture, and nature. 

To help you decide what area of the state to visit, we’ve put together a helpful guide to the best places to visit in Pennsylvania!

Staying Safe in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is generally considered a safe state to visit. The violent crime rate is the 21st lowest in the nation. However, there are a few precautions you’ll want to take during your stay.

Be more cautious in the larger Pennsylvania cities, especially late at night. A good rule is to stick to the tourist areas. Most areas of the city that experience higher crime rates are places that tourists would have no reason to travel to.

If you plan to visit Pennsylvania during winter, make sure you’re prepared for the cold. Snowfall and blizzards are common in certain areas of the state. Check the weather forecast before your trip so you know what to expect.

 

#1 – Philadelphia

Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

Philadelphia (Photo credit – Gulfnews.com )

  • Nicknamed the “City of Brotherly Love”
  • One of America’s 13 original colonies and has a rich history

Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania. It’s filled with many important American Revolutionary sites as well as contemporary landmarks. Today, the city has a very modern and arty vibe. Besides visiting museums and art galleries, you should also check out the lively local markets and indulge in a Philly cheesesteak!

Best Attractions
  • Independence Hall is the birthplace of the United States. It’s where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. The building sits inside the Independence National Historical Park. Guided tours are free, but tickets are limited – be sure to reserve ahead of time.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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#2 – Pittsburgh

Easily one of the most fun places to check out in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh (Photo credit – stacktest.com )

  • Pittsburg has 446 bridges, giving it the nickname the “City of Bridges”
  • If you’re a baseball fan, make sure to see the Pittsburgh Pirates in action at PNC Park

Pittsburg has a long list of attractions geared towards every type of traveler. You’ll find plenty of museums, art galleries, and historic sites. The downtown area is a great place to explore the local, modern culture. It’s a hive of activity, buzzing with markets, restaurants, local breweries, and cafes.

Best Attractions
  • The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist. Warhol was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. The museum houses an impressive permanent collection of art from this Pittsburgh-born artist. 

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

#3 – Gettysburg

Gettysburg

Gettysburg (Photo credit – willdrinkfortravel.com )

  • The Battle of Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the Civil War
  • This is the site where President Lincoln made his historic Gettysburg Address in 1863

Gettysburg is one of the top Pennsylvania historical sites. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1- 3, 1863. The Union and Confederate armies suffered around 50,000 casualties. Explore the area where this event occurred and receive a detailed look at the history. Visit museums, Civil War-era homes, and the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Best Attractions
  • The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is the best place to start your visit. You’ll get an introduction to the area and the history of the war and find important information on how to spend your day in Gettysburg.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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#4 – Harrisburg

Harrisburg

Harrisburg (Photo credit – thrillist.com )

  • State capital of Pennsylvania
  • This city sits on the Susquehanna River

Harrisburg is a historic Pennsylvania city with ties to the American Civil War. The city was used as a training center for the Union Army. It was also a major rail center, serving as a vital link between the Atlantic coast and the Midwest. When you visit, tour the Pennsylvania State Capitol and learn more about the city’s rich history.

Best Attractions
  • The National Civil War Museum provides guests with information and insight into the Civil War and its lasting impact. The museum is designed to tell the entire story of the war, without bias to the Union or Confederate side.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

#5 – Lancaster

Lancaster

Lancaster (Photo credit – fodors.com )

  • Located in south-central Pennsylvania
  • The Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster is America’s oldest Amish settlement

Lancaster is located in the heart of rural Pennsylvania. This quaint and scenic area of the state is characterized by rolling hills, farmlands, and a large Amish population. Although Lancaster has a small-town vibe, it offers a long list of attractions. Wander museums, visit art galleries, and discover the quaint Amish shops and restaurants.

Best Attractions
  • The Lancaster Central Market is a historic public market located in downtown Lancaster. It’s one of the oldest municipally-operated markets in the US. There’s a great variety of vendors selling produce, authentic Amish baked goods, coffee, home-made jelly, and more!

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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#6 – Hershey

Awesome place to visit in Pennsylvania with kids!

Hershey

Hershey (Photo credit – themeparkreview.com )

  • Hershey is just 15 miles east of Pennsylvania’s state capital, Harrisburg
  • One of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania for a day trip

Hershey, Pennsylvania is home to The Hershey Company, which makes the famous Hershey Bar and Hershey’s Kisses. You’ll find several fun attractions in this community. Visit the Hershey Museum for all things related to chocolate, including exhibits about the man who created the chocolate brand, Milton S. Hershey.

Best Attractions
  • Hershey Park is a family theme park and is hands-down one of the most fun places in Pennsylvania to visit! With kiddies rides, roller coasters, and a water park, there’s something for all ages to enjoy. There are also find plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options in the park.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Hershey, Pennsylvania

#7 – Erie

One of the nicer places in Pennsylvania to sightsee!

Erie

Erie (Photo credit – flickr.com )

  • The city of Erie is situated on the southern shore of Lake Erie
  • Nicknamed “Gem City” because of the way the lake sparkles

Erie is one of the best places to go in Pennsylvania for some aquatic fun! This city is especially popular with both tourists and locals during the summer. Off the beach, you’ll find museums that both children and adults will enjoy. Erie also has several parks and family-friendly attractions, like a zoo and an indoor water park.

Best Attractions
  • Presque Isle State Park is located just 4 miles west of the city of Erie. The park sits on an arching, sandy peninsula that extends into Lake Erie. Visit the lighthouses, rent a bike or a boat, and explore the park’s hiking trails.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Erie, Pennsylvania

#8 – Laurel Highlands

A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Pennsylvania

Laurel Highlands

Laurel Highlands (Photo credit – blueridgeoutdoors.com )

  • The mountains making up the Laurel Highlands are the highest in Pennsylvania
  • Because of the high elevation, the weather is usually cooler than other areas of the state

The Laurel Highlands is one of the most scenic Pennsylvania destinations. If you’re looking to explore nature, you’ll find ample options in the area. Enjoy the hiking and biking trails. Admire the local wildlife. Or go on a white water rafting adventure! During winter, this is also a popular spot for skiing.

Best Attractions
  • The Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park is a gorgeous area in the Laurel Highlands. Natural water slides and whitewater rafting make this area perfect for aquatic enthusiasts. Or, if you’d prefer to keep dry, there are plenty of hiking trails that feature scenic viewpoints.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

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#9 – Bethlehem

One of the more unique places to visit in Pennsylvania!

Bethlehem

Bethlehem (Photo credit – pinterest.com )

  • Located 50 miles north of Philadelphia and 70 miles west of New York City
  • Bethlehem was founded on Christmas eve in 1741 as a communal society

Bethlehem is a quaint, historic city in eastern Pennsylvania. There are a number of interesting historical attractions and annual events that take place here. It’s also one of the best places to see in Pennsylvania during Christmas. A German-style Christmas market takes place yearly and the city comes alive with holiday cheer!

Best Attractions
  • The Burnside Plantation is a historic farm that was established in 1748. Tour the plantation and see the farm’s original home, barns, and a variety of other buildings. Events are held at the plantation throughout the year, including workshops and cooking, and farming demonstrations.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

#10 – Pocono Mountains

A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Pennsylvania

Pocono Mountains

Pocono Mountains (Photo credit – traveler.rtx.travel/ )

  • Pocono comes from the Munsee word Pokawachne, which means “creek between two hills”
  • Many small towns make up the region around the Pocono Mountains

If you’re looking for an outdoor Pennsylvania vacation spot to enjoy the wonders of nature, head to the Pocono Mountains. This area is beautiful in every season, and outdoor adventures abound. The forested peaks, lakes, and valleys provide plenty of year-round, open-air fun. This is the perfect destination for families, friends, couples, and nature enthusiasts!

Best Attractions
  • Bushkill Falls is the best place to enjoy the splendor and beauty of the Pocono Mountains. The park contains many trails, fish spots, boating opportunities, and family-friendly activities. The paths are well maintained, and many will take you alongside the cascade of waterfalls.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Pocono Mountains , Pennsylvania

#11 – Lititz

Lititz

Lititz (Photo credit – tripadvisor.co.nz )

  • Founded by members of the Moravian Church in 1756
  • Located in Lancaster County, six miles north of the city of Lancaster

Lititz is a historic city that perfectly embodies small-town America. Charm can be found around every corner, from the log, brick, and stone homes to the local stores downtown. Visit the Julius Sturgis Pretzels Bakery and Wilbur Chocolate, both founded in the 19th century. Pursue art galleries, shop chic boutiques, and visit a cozy cafe.

Best Attractions
  • Lititz Springs Park is a well-maintained community park. It’s within walking distance from downtown and has something for everyone. There are multiple pavilions, playgrounds, plenty of shaded spots, and a pond with ducks. During the summer months, concession stand and food trucks set up shop.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Lititz, Pennsylvania

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#12 – Valley Forge

Valley Forge

Valley Forge (Photo credit – pinterest.com )

  • One of the most educational places to see in Pennsylvania
  • Located just a 25 minutes drive (21 miles) from Philadelphia

Valley Forge is one of the most historic tourist attractions in Pennsylvania. This is the site where American soldiers encamped during the winter of 1777 – 1778. They endured unbelievably harsh conditions and suffered nearly 2,000 casualties to starvation, disease, and poor living conditions. Today, visitors can explore the site of this infamous Revolutionary War encampment.

Best Attractions
  • Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge is a revolutionary war era home. This was the building General Washington used as his headquarters during the 1777-1778 Valley Forge encampment. See the rooms where Washington lived for a brief time and glimpse into the life of Washington the war general.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

#13 – Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe (Photo credit – pinterest.com )

  • A quaint historical mining town
  • because of its striking scenery, the town has been called the “Switzerland of America”

Jim Thorpe is located in eastern Pennsylvania. The town is named after James Francis Thorpe, who was an American athlete and the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States. Known as the “Gateway to the Poconos”, the town is filled with local museums, shops, restaurants, and plenty of outdoor adventure.

Best Attractions
  • Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway provides guests with the opportunity to take a good old fashioned train ride! Relax inside a vintage coach while you’re taken through the beautiful Pennsylvania landscape. Train rides are 16 miles roundtrip and last approximately 70-minutes.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

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#14 – Allentown

Allentown

Allentown (Photo credit – tarasellslehighvalley.com )

  • Dates back to 1762 and is one of the oldest cities in Pennsylvania
  • Located in the eastern area of the state

Allentown is the third-largest city in Pennsylvania. It offers visitors plenty of unique cultural and historic attractions. There are museums that cover an eclectic range of topics and plenty of kid-friend attractions, like urban parks and theme parks. The buzzing downtown area is filled with local breweries, restaurants, and a wide spectrum of stores.

Best Attractions
  • The Liberty Bell Museum is the site where the Liberty Bell was successfully hidden from the British during the American Revolutionary War. Learn the story of how this iconic bell was stored and see a replica of the Liberty Bell – which visitors can ring!

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Allentown, Pennsylvania

#15 – Strasburg

A nice quiet place to see in Pennsylvania

Strasburg

Strasburg (Photo credit – pinterest.com )

  • The town is often called “Train Town USA” due to its many railroad attractions
  • A very unique place to visit in Pennsylvania

Strasburg is a great vacation spot in Pennsylvania to experience the Amish culture. Step back in time and experience the simple lifestyle of this self-sufficient community. Visit an authentic Amish farm, enjoy a family outing at the Dutch Wonderland amusement park, and enjoy the best of Amish home-cooking.

Best Attractions
  • The Strasburg Rail Road is the oldest continuously operating railroad in the United States. Enjoy a 45-minute, round-trip ride through the pastoral Amish countryside. There’s no better way to go sightseeing in Pennsylvania than on an authentic steam railroad!

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Strasburg, Pennsylvania

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#16 – Scranton

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Scranton (Photo credit – fineartamerica.com )

  • Nicknamed “Electric City” after electric lights were introduced in 1880
  • Surrounded by scenic hiking trails and parks

Scranton is a small city in northeast Pennsylvania that’s big on history. Many of Scranton’s attractions showcase its industrial role in iron and coal production. Explore the culture of the city at the many museums and historic sites. Tour a coal mine, visit the Electric City Trolley Museum and take a ride on the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.

Best Attractions
  • Nay Aug Park is a large park in Scranton with walking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, two Olympic-sized swimming pools, and waterslides! The most unique attraction in the park is the giant Treehouse. It overlooks the gorge and rises an incredible 150 feet high!

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Scranton, Pennsylvania

#17 – Nockamixon State Park

A very cool place in Pennsylvania to go for a day

Nockamixon State Park

Nockamixon State Park (Photo credit – flickr.com )

  • Very popular with tourists during the summer months
  • Located just 50 miles from Philadelphia this state park is perfect for a day trip

Nockamixon State Park offers 5,283 acres of outdoor fun. Popular activities include hiking, biking, disc golfing, fishing, and boating. There are campgrounds, picnic spots, and a large pool to swim in. The park is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset.

Best Attractions
  • The Quarry Trail is a 2.6 mile, lightly trafficked loop trail rated as moderate. It provides a picturesque view of the lake and an overlook of the old quarry. The trail can be accessed from the Kahagon Road parking lot.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Nockamixon State Park, Pennsylvania

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania. Whether you gravitate toward urban action, outdoor adventure, or history and culture, you’ll easily find what you’re looking for during your visit.

Explore the founding of the nation, visit infamous battlegrounds, and historical landmarks. Travel to majestic state parks and peaceful Amish settlements. Discover quaint towns and bustling cities.

With so many exciting things to see in Pennsylvania, this is a state you’ll want to visit over and over again!

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About the Author Nicola Smart

Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!