No matter how much you love your hometown, there are always going to be days when you'd rather be anywhere else. If you live in Pennsylvania, you're in luck. There are numerous charming towns, beautiful state parks, fun-packed theme parks, and secluded islands within reach that offer the perfect escape, even if only for a day. If you're itching to hit the road, stay tuned as we count down the 20 best day trips from Pennsylvania.
20. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
If a day in nature appeals, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is sure to hit the spot. Home to an incredible array of waterfalls (including both the tallest (Raymondskill Falls) and second tallest (Dingmans Falls) falls in PA), an intriguing megalith park that takes its inspiration from ancient Celtic sites like Stonehenge, and a giant network of nature trails, it offers hours of outdoor adventure in some of the most sublime scenery in the state.
Before Hershey was a global juggernaut, it was a small little confectioner run by a man named Milton Hershey. But Milton was a man with ambition, and before long, he was raking in the millions after stumbling on an ingenious method for making caramel out of fresh milk and an equally ingenious method for making milk chocolate cheaply. He turned chocolate from a luxury item into an everyday one, and for that, we should be grateful. We should also be grateful for the city that bears his name, which among other things boasts the giant Hershey park and Hershey's Chocolate World, a godly combination of chocolate museum and theme park. If you like chocolate and don't mind the three-hour trip from Philly to get some, it's a great place for some family-friendly fun.
18. Fort Hunter Mansion and State Park
If you're looking for an easy day trip from Harrisburg, take the advice of The Crazy Tourist and head for Fort Hunter Mansion and State Park. Located just past the northern suburbs of the city, it's home to a historic mansion that ranks among one of the oldest buildings in the state. The mansion is impressive, but the grounds are even more so, so be sure to leave plenty of time for a stroll after touring the interior.
17. Knoebels Amusement Resort
If you've got kids, they'll love you for life if you take them to Knoebels Amusement Resort. Located just 2 and a half hours from Philadelphia, it's got enough rides, attractions, and amusements to keep the whole clan happy from dawn to dusk. Just some of the things to expect include a petting zoo, a mini-golf course, laser tag, museums, carnival rides, multiple restaurants, and a water park complete with a kiddie pool, a sun deck, slides, and a climbing net. The best thing? Admittance is free.
16. Lapp Valley Farm
If you're looking for a destination that all the family can enjoy and that won't involve hours in the car, you might want to consider Lapp Valley Farm. Located just 1 hour 20 minutes from Philadelphia, the farm is a great place to meet some very friendly Jersey cows (kids will love getting to pet the calves as they're being bottle-fed) and sample their offerings at the ice cream parlor. The milkshakes are to die for, and the homemade ice creams aren't exactly shoddy either. Before you leave, be sure to stock up on butter and cheese to enjoy at home.
It might be best known as Christmas City USA, but Bethlehem's charms extend way past the holiday season. Key attractions to check out include the National Museum of Industrial History, the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, and the Hoover-Mason Trestle. If you're an avid reader, stop by the Moravian Book Shop, the oldest continually running book store in the world. If music is more your scene, check out the handmade guitars on the Martin Guitar Factory Tour.
14. Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is unquestionably one of the most idyllic spots in Pennsylvania. A National Natural Landmark, its 13,050-acres promise outdoor adventurers a vast variety of things to do and see. Check out the park's 22 waterfalls as you hike the Falls Trails System; fish for trout on Lake Jean; take a boat out on the sparkling waters; enjoy some al fresco dining at one of the many picnicking spots, or whizz around the bike trails on a mountain bike. Come winter, you'll also be able to take advantage of the park's cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowshoeing opportunities.
13. The Franklin Institute
As funnewjersey.com says, the Franklin Institute is one of Pennsylvania's most famous science museums. Spend just a couple of minutes there and you'll soon see why. As well as being home to a huge array of exhibits, the museum offers multiple opportunities for some hands-on learning, making it a great place for kids to soak up some science-based knowledge. It also hosts numerous events throughout the year, so be sure to visit the website for its upcoming schedule so you can plan accordingly.
12. Chadds Ford
Widely regarded as one of the most scenic spots in PA, Chadds Ford is a great place for a day trip. Located 25 miles west of Philadelphia along the banks of the Brandywine Creek, this rural community offers daytrippers a plethora of activities to enjoy. Check out some art at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, admire the fountains and flora at Longwood Gardens, relax over a glass of wine at Galer Estate Winery, or discover the Covered Bridges of Chester County... whatever you do, you're guaranteed to have a great time doing it.
11. New Hope
Located just 45 minutes from Philadelphia is the small town of New Hope. Replete with old-world charm, it's a lovely place to enjoy a pleasant stroll along the Delaware Canal, a cup of coffee at one of the many cute little cafes, or a browse of the dozens of antique stores and independent shops. While you're there, be sure to visit the New Hope & Ivy Railroad, which offers a 45 minute narrated ride aboard an incredibly charming vintage steam engine from the 1920s. If you'd rather walk than ride, head for Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Boasting over 1000 species of native plants, it's a superb place to enjoy a quiet few hours in nature. Explore the winding trails, admire the wildflowers, or watch out for turtles and frogs in the pond. Whatever else you do, be sure to keep your camera to hand - the views are glorious.
10. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
If you've always been interested in the golden age of steam, don't miss a visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Located not far from Philadelphia in Strasburg, it boasts one of the biggest and most fascinating collections of railroad artifacts in the country. Learn more about the significance of the railroad via educational programs, tours, and events. There are also 100 display locomotives to check out, along with a wealth of old photographs, books, and memorabilia.
9. Crystal Cave Park
If you're looking for the kind of place that educates as much as it informs, don't miss Crystal Cave Park in Kutztown. Since the cave was discovered in 1871, hundreds of thousands of visitors have been descending on it each year. Open from March to November, it offers a ton of activities and attractions to enjoy, including underground tours, exhibitions, natures trails, panning for gemstones, and movie presentations about the cave's history. There's also an ice cream parlor, a miniature golf course, and a cafe.
8. Longwood Gardens
If the hustle and bustle of the city are wearing thin on your nerves, take the short 50-minute drive out of Philadelphia to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Spread over 1000 acres, the gardens are home to multiple indoor and outdoor gardens, sparkling water fountains, and some stunning architectural finds. Kids will love exploring the children's gardens, while the whole family will get a kick out of the open-air fountain show. If you can, stick around till evening to check out the Silver Garden, which transforms into a mystical wonder under the moonlight.
7. Pine Creek Gorge
Named as one of the top getaways from Pennsylvania by PlanetWare, Pine Creek Gorge is heaven for nature lovers. Consisting of a 47-mile-long canyon that descends up to 1450 feet in places, it's a dramatic sight. Once you've had your fill of the gorge, take some time to explore the surrounding Tioga State Forest, which boasts over 160,000 acres of ancient woodlands, camping spots, snowmobile trails, wildlife, and hiking trails.
6. Chanticleer Garden
Named as one of the best day trips in Pennsylvania by Vacation Idea, Chanticleer Garden is a delightful place to spend a morning, an afternoon, or even an entire day. Known as one of the best gardens in the state, it offers visitors the chance to explore eight very distinct gardens along with numerous themed wooded areas. Intersected with meadows, a creek, and an orchard, it's a must-visit for botany lovers. There are also guided tours and workshops to enjoy.
If you're into arts, beer, and nature, you're going to want to visit Lancaster. Set deep in the heart of Amish country, it's loaded with things to do. Check out Wheatland to find out more about the life and career of President James Buchanan, the only US present to have been born and raised in PA, or head to Chickies Rock to enjoy some fine hiking along the Susquehanna River. You might also want to make time to discover the Covered Bridges of Lancaster County and indulge in some train-spotting adventures at the Strasburg Railroad, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and the Choo Choo Barn. Before you leave, be sure to stop by Spring House Brewing for a pint.
4. St. Peters Village
St. Peters Village used to serve as a company town for a local mining company. Today, it's a charming small town that's perfect for a day of browsing antique stores, visiting wineries, and hiking along French Creek. While you're in the area, be sure to make the short drive out to the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, which offers a fascinating insight into the history of the area’s iron production.
3. Seven Tubs Natural Area
Named as one of the best day trips in Pennsylvania by Only in Your State, Seven Tubs Natural Area is perfect for daytrippers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and restore their spirits in nature. Located just a few minutes from the heart of Wilkes - Barre, the 400-acre recreation area is named after its series of springs (or 'tubs') created by glacial meltwater. Swimming in the tubs is strictly forbidden, but you're free to dip your toes in when no one's looking. Watch out for the Wheelbarrow Run, a sparking stream carved through the bedrock. There are also numerous hiking trails scattered throughout the area, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Named as one of the best day trips in PA by Uncovering PA, Doylestown is a fabulous place to visit. Its best known for the Mercer Mile, which houses three historic buildings designed by legendary artist Henry Chapman Mercer. Other attractions worth a visit include the Mercer Museum, the Michener Museum, and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. If you prefer nature over museums, indulge in some hiking or fishing at the wonderfully bucolic Peace Valley Park.
1. Gettysburg National Military Park
Located east of the Appalachian Mountains and an easy 2 and a half hours drive from Philadelphia is Gettysburg National Military Park. Named as one of the top day trips from Central Pennsylvania by Triple Crown Corp, the park boasts over 6000 acres of woodland, meadows, streams, and wildlife. As well as offering a smorgasbord of ways to enjoy nature, it also serves as a useful lesson in history, presenting a ton of information via reenactments, audio battlefield tours, exhibits, and multimedia presentations about the Battle of Gettysburg.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn