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The 20 Best Things to Do in Pennsylvania for First Timers

Phipps Conservatory

Pennsylvania is a fascinating state with a diverse range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Regardless of your interests, you will find something to do when you are visiting this state. Due to the scale of the activities on offer, it makes sense to plan your itinerary in advance to ensure that you include the best attractions to suit your interests so that you can enjoy the best experience of this state possible. To help you decide what to see and do during your visit, the following are the 20 best things to do in Pennsylvania for first-timers.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

20. Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

If you are visiting Pennsylvania with children, then one of the nicest places to spend a day is at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, says Vacation Idea. This is a family-owned and run safari park where visitors can experience getting close to some amazing animals. This is something that both children and adults alike can enjoy. One of the best ways to spend your time at this attraction is to take the open-air safari tour bus, which is an hour-long ride through the safari park. Along the way, you will see animals such as Watusi cattle, deer, elk, and buffalo. Children will also love the petting zoo where they can stroke and handle a variety of animals.

Presque Isle State Park

19. Presque Isle State Park

If you enjoy spending time outdoors exploring your natural surroundings, then one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania is Presque State Park. Located on Presque Isle Bay, which is a peninsula that curves out into Lake Erie, this park has various hiking trails and more than 11 miles of beach. Visitors can also enjoy swimming and flying kites. Throughout the year, there are many outdoor events and concerts hosted at this venue.

Eastern State Penitentiary

18. Eastern State Penitentiary

Those who want to enjoy an attraction that offers something different should add a trip to Eastern State Penitentiary to their list. Located on Fairmount Avenue, this facility has been closed since 1971. Since then, the building has hardly changed. Inside, there are arched ceilings, which many photography enthusiasts find interesting subjects. There is a museum in the prison that looks at statistics relating to prisons in the United States. However, it is Al Capone’s former cell that attracts the most attention. It has retained the lavish furnishings that Capone had in his cell. To get the most out of a visit to this attraction, take the hands-on guided tour.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

17. Eisenhower National Historic Site

Run by the National Park Service, Eisenhower National Historic Site is the former home and farm of Dwight DS. Eisenhower, who was the 34th President of the United States. He had this property constructed in 1950 at the insistence of his wife Mamie Eisenhower as she wanted them to have a home of their home. Visitors to this attraction can take a self-guided tour of the property, which still has the original furnishings from the Eisenhower’s home. There is also a short movie about the history of the house for visitors to watch. The property’s farm is still in operation as a Black Angus cattle breeding center. This breed has lived on the farm since Eisenhower developed an interest in cattle breeding. You will find this attraction on Eisenhower Farm Road in Gettysburg.

Lackawanna County Coal Mine

16. Lackawanna County Coal Mine

Mining plays an important role in the history of Pennsylvania, and this is something that is celebrated at the Lackawanna County Coal Mine. Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, this was once a working coal mine. Now, visitors can take guided tours of the retired coal mine and learn about the working conditions of the miners. The hour-long tour takes visitors through the mining tunnels in the original mine cars. Following the tour of the mines, there is a museum to visit that focuses on the Know Mine Disaster, which happened when the Susquehanna River flooded the mine galleries. Not only did the disaster trap 66 men underground, but it also put an end to anthracite mining in northern Pennsylvania.

Valley Forge National Historic Site

15. Valley Forge National Historic Site

Valley Forge National Historic Site is run by the National Park Service. It covers 3,500 acres, and people can enjoy both walking and trolley tours at this attraction. There are also miles of hiking, jogging, and cycling trails to explore. The highlight of a visit to this park for many people is going to the museum in the visitors center, There, visitors can watch a video that introduces the history of Valley Forge, along with many original artifacts.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

15. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Even if you are not a steam train enthusiast, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is still an interesting attraction to visit. This museum is set in 18 acres, and it has been open since 1975. It boasts more than one hundred historic locomotives and railroad cars in its collection. There are both indoor and outdoor displays to enjoy, and you can learn about the history of locomotives in this state in the education center, library, and archives. Many of the displays have interactive elements that add appeal to younger visitors.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

13. Carnegie Museum of Natural History

An attraction that has something to interest all of the family, regardless of their age, is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Founded by philanthropist and industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896, this natural history museum is divided into sections that cover topics including archeology, zoology, gems, vertebrae paleontology, herpetology, and minerals. For most visitors, it is the dinosaurs that are the highlight of the museum.

Bicycle Heaven

12. Bicycle Heaven

Although there are many museums in Pennsylvania, one of the most unusual is Bicycle Heaven. The uniqueness of this museum is enough reason to make it an attraction you should include on your vacation itinerary. Time Out says that this attraction located in Pittsburgh is the world’s largest bicycle museum. There are more than four thousand bicycles and bicycle-related objects in this impressive collection.

Independence National Park and the Liberty Bell

11. Independence National Park and the Liberty Bell

If you are a history enthusiast and you want to more about the role this state has played in the United States, then Planetware recommends a visit to Independence National Park and the Liberty Bell. This national treasure is famous for being the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was drafted. Not only will you see the Liberty Bell, but you can also visit Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, the Ben Franklin Museum, and the National Museum of American Jewish History.

The Susquehanna Art Museum

10. The Susquehanna Art Museum

Local, regional, national, and international art is showcased at this interesting art museum. Originally, the museum was founded by a group of art educators in downtown Harrisburg. It has since moved to North Third Street and is set within the Keystone Trust Building. The main focus of the museum is to represent the rich history and culture of Pennsylvania through art.


9. Chanticleer

Dating back to the early 20th-century, Chanticleer is an estate and gardens that was once the home of the Rosengarten family. This family was well-known in Pennsylvania and prominent in the pharmaceutical industry. This is a stunning property to visit, and it is surrounded by beautiful gardens that the public can explore. Some interesting features of the garden are the Asian Woods, which contains plants that are native to Asia, and the ornamental pond. It is best to visit this attraction in Wayne during spring, summer, or fall when the gardens are at their best.

The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art

8. The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art

Originally opened in 1971, the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art showcases the work of Andrew Wyeth, an American realist painter. The museum is housed in a picturesque 19th-century mill along the banks of the Brandywine Creek.Alongside the works of Wyeth that are on display, there are also the works of his father, N.C. Wyeth, who was a children’s illustrator.

Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center

7. Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center

Set on the site of the Civil War’s Gettysburg Battle, this museum and visitor center are part of the Gettysburg National Military Park. There are bus tours of the battlefield, ranger-led programs, and the option to take a self-guided tour. The museum at this attraction features artifacts from the Civil War, such as uniforms, cannons, and firearms. This attraction also includes a restaurant, a bookstore, and a theater that hosts educational productions.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

6. Philadelphia Museum of Art

One of the largest collections of art in America is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is an iconic building, the steps of which have featured in all the Rocky movies. From the top of the steps, there is an excellent view of the City Hall and along Benjamin Franklin Highway. There is a large permanent collection of European art in the museum that features artists including Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt, Manet, Matisse, Cezanne, and Renoir. Other collections in the museum include American colonial furniture, textiles, and fashion. Visitors can also enjoy the outdoor sculpture garden.

The Wharton Esherick Museum

5. The Wharton Esherick Museum

Wharton Esherick is an American sculptor and design artist, and this museum is a celebration of his life and work. This artist played a major role in the Studio Furniture Movement of the 20th-century. The museum is set in Esherick’s former estate, which covers 12-acres and contains his former studio. This attraction is a National Historic Landmark for Architecture, and it features more than 300 of Esherick’s works.

Hershey Park

4. Hershey Park

One of the top attractions for families visiting Pennsylvania is Hershey Park. This is a fun-filled amusement park in Hershey that boasts an array of rides ranging from thrilling roller coasters to tamer rides for young children. Originally built as a recreation area in 1906, the park now boasts attractions such as a carousel, a train ride. A Ferris wheel, bumper cars, games stalls, and video arcades. There are even some water rides for some extra family fun. When you pay for your ticket to Hershey Park, you also get access to ZooAmerica. This zoo is home to more than 200 animals that are native to North America, such as mountain lions, roadrunners, and bald eagles.

Andy Warhol Museum

3. Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol is one of the most famous artists of the modern-day. If you are a fan of his work, there is an excellent collection on display at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. This attraction is spread over seven floors, and the extensive collection features some of the artist’s best work. There are also archive documents relating to Warhol. An interesting feature of this museum is The Factory. This is a space where visitors can have a go at some of the art techniques used by Andy Warhol.

Rodin Museum

2. Rodin Museum

Auguste Rodin is a famous sculptor, and most of his work is exhibited in Paris. However, the Rodin Museum in Pennsylvania has the largest collection of his work outside of Paris. The museum is set in a beautiful Beaux-Arts-style building, and it has been opened since 1929. Outside, Rodin’s most famous work, The Thinker, is on display. You will need approximately half a day to explore all the exhibits in this museum.

Phipps Conservatory

1. Phipps Conservatory

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Pennsylvania for first-timers is to go to Phipps Conservatory. Founded in 1898 by Henry Phipps, he gifted the conservatory to the City of Pittsburgh. It is now a public garden that features Victorian-style greenhouses. This attraction is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The conservatory has 14 rooms, all of which are filled with exotic plants. Outside the conservatory, there is a rooftop edible garden, a children’s garden, and a Japanese garden. There is also a café where you can grab a bite to eat.

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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