Along the highways and roadways of Pennsylvania, discover places full of diversity, rich in culture and filled with surprises. Applaud outstanding performances of world-renowned symphonies and theatre. Relax at a quaint bed and breakfast tucked into a secluded corner of the Pennsylvania Wilds. Pass through wooded forests, picturesque covered bridges and towns full of antique stores and specialty shops. Enjoy sandy beaches along Lake Erie or the historic battlefields of Gettysburg. Visit the Amish or float away on one of many meandering rivers through Pittsburgh.
Read on to learn more about the “State of Independence”.
Pennsylvania boasts 17 million acres of forest with breathtaking views, at places such as Pine Creek Gorge, and unique wildlife including hundreds of roaming elk in Elk County.
Pennsylvania is home to more than 83,000 miles of rivers and streams brimming with trout and prime for white water rafting and outdoor adventure.
The undeveloped region of north central Pennsylvania, the “Pennsylvania Wilds,” covers more than 2 million acres of public and and features Cherry Springs State Park, recognised as only the second international dark sky park for its exceptional commitment to dark sky protection.
Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy the various trails throughout Pennsylvania, including the new multi-purpose Allegrippis Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage, a 335-mile link between the nation’s capital and the Pittsburgh area.
The first capital of the United States, first sparks of independence, and turning points in the struggle for freedom and equality are found throughout Pennsylvania.
Other Pennsylvania firsts include: the nation’s first library, zoo, newspaper, all motion-picture theatre, institute of art, television and radio broadcast, Bingo game, volunteer fire company, botanical garden, anti-slavery resolution, pretzel factory, beauty salon, Slinky, bubble gum, and banana split.
Pennsylvania’s Art & Entertainment
Visit the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the largest museum dedicated to the work of one artist, or neighbouring Falling water, an architectural masterpiece by master architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Spend an evening at a world-class performing arts centre like the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia or see the dancers from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, ranked as one of the top eight ballet companies in the country.
Long before the hit “Where the Wild Things Are” film and even before the 1963 children’s book of the same name, Pennsylvania was home to some of the best places to see wildlife from all over the globe. Today, visitors can meet animals of all kinds in all corners of the commonwealth. From rare snakes to rare white buffalo, Pennsylvania is truly “where the wild things are.”
From a white buffalo to a black leopard, the Wildlife Academy at Nemacolin features approximately 100 different species of wild animals. Visitors can take walking trail rides along the two-mile trail surrounding the animal habitats or can get up close and personal with Nemacolin’s animal family on special safari tours. Visitors can also explore Nemacolin’s grounds on their own and have the opportunity to meet some of the resort’s most famous residents, including Humphrey the moose and Sugar and Boo Boo, Nemacolin’s own black bears.
Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country on 22 acres of natural woodland, the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania is the unlikely home of the Speedwell Wolves. It has been more than a hundred years since the last wild wolf was known to exist in Pennsylvania, but for more than 20 years, the Darlington Family has offered refuge to wolves to associate as a pack, choose their mates and raise their offspring. The sanctuary currently provides food, shelter and veterinary care for more than 40 wolves.
Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland is an American Zoo Association-accredited zoo specialising in reptiles and amphibians. Since opening in 1964, Reptiland has provided the public a link to the less-loved members of the animal kingdom. Reptiland offers a perfect blend of environmental education and entertainment to school groups, families and individuals with an interest in natural history.
Approximately 600 elk roam the hills of north central Pennsylvania, and visitors can view these majestic creatures each autumn along Elk Scenic Drive, a 127-mile signed corridor that offers elk and other wildlife viewing stations and lookout points. Visitors may catch a glimpse of elk herds or even witness elk bulls loudly bugling for attention from their female counterparts.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a 2,600-acre natural area that is famous as the world's first refuge for birds of prey. Each autumn, as many as 18,000 raptors fly past its ridge tops, often at eye-level. Scenic overlooks range from 1,300 to 1,500 feet in elevation offering spectacular views. A total of 235 species of birds have been sighted at or near this 75-year-old bird-watching mecca.
At the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side, visitors can meet African penguins, flamingos, and many more colourful birds. The aviary is home to more than 600 exotic and unusual birds from around the globe, and visitors can learn all about the birds and conservation efforts while viewing them in naturalistic exhibits.
This 150-acre farm is home to more than 50 wild buffalo and offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about these wild animals as well as the health benefits of bison meat. The buffalo herds roam the farm pastures freely, and guests may have the opportunity to watch cows tending to their young or witness the challenges between bulls in the herd.
Known as America’s First Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo was founded in 1859 to advance discovery, understanding and stewardship of the natural world through compelling exhibition and interpretation of living animals and plants. Today, it’s home to many exotic animals from around the world, including the Big Cat Falls exhibit and the chance to view gorillas and other primates playing in the trees, a white rhino, polar bears, giraffes, and many more.
Pennsylvania’s Rails to Trails
When the steel, coal and iron industry was booming in Pennsylvania, trains were used to transport goods from one town to the next along flat pathways crisscrossing the countryside. Today, a visit to Pennsylvania allows guests to ride, walk, ski and explore on these well-maintained rail trails that highlight the beauty and history of the Keystone State.
Hop on a bike or lace up the hiking boots and take a trip on the trail once hailed as one of the “10 best places to take a bike tour” by USA Today. This historic 60-mile trail, once used to transport freight by train from Wellsboro to Williamsport, is perfect for a relaxing walk or bike ride. The hard-packed gravel trail gives visitors an outstanding surface to exercise, or take a stroll and view the incredible Pine Creek Gorge. Equestrians can also join the fun with a section of the path designed specifically for horses.
Great Allegheny Passage - Pittsburgh and its Countryside and the Laurel Highlands - Somerset, Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Allegheny Counties
Considered to be one of the nation’s most popular rail trails, the Great Allegheny Passage starts in Pittsburgh, Pa., and crosses the border into Maryland, eventually ending in the nation’s capital. The gorgeous trail passes through five counties in the commonwealth, and the 320-mile journey from Pittsburgh all the way to the end of the trail makes it the longest unpaved bike path in the East. Crushed limestone offers a smooth surface for bikers, hikers, runners and cross country skiers to experience all the natural beauty between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
D&H Rail Trail - Upstate PA - Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne Counties
The variance in trail surfaces and beautiful surroundings is what makes the unique D&H Rail Trail a treat for any outdoor enthusiast. This 32-mile pathway stands in place of the historic Delaware and Hudson railroad, a small but vital rail line during the 1800s. The multi-use trail runs for several miles along the Lackawanna River and alternates between tree-lined sections and open stretches. This semi-rugged trail is comprised of cinder, original ballast and hard-packed dirt, suitable for anyone looking for an active afternoon on a rail trail.
Named for the abandoned mining towns that once existed alongside the railroad corridor, the 36-mile Ghost Town Trail is an ideal spot for a hike or relaxing bike ride. The trail, designated as a National Recreation Trail by the U.S. Department of the Interior, is packed with excitement and numerous historical sites to check out along the way. The journey on the crushed limestone trail is enhanced with historical markers about the area’s intriguing past, as well as the Eliza Furnace, one of Pennsylvania’s best preserved iron furnaces.
Located just outside Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, the Stony Valley Railroad Grade Trail is a 22-mile nature lover’s paradise. Creating the perfect serene setting to escape the hustle of the city, this trail is open year round to bikers, hikers and horseback riders, as well as cross-country skiers and snowmobilers in the winter. The trail is also a very popular spot for hunters, located on 44,342 acres of beautiful state game land.
With the excitement of railroad tunnels, river front scenery and stunning bridges, the 32-mile Allegheny River Trail situated in the heart of the Oil Heritage Region has something for everyone to enjoy. Whether riding a horse on the dirt access trail, inline skating, hiking or road biking, visitors will enjoy a smooth, level and paved journey along the gorgeous Allegheny River.
The combination of crushed stone and a few paved surfaces makes the “Perky,” as some call it, a one-of-a-kind trail located amongst the history and beauty of the Philadelphia countryside. The 20-mile Perkiomen Trail connects numerous public parks and historical sites in the region and is open year round for a variety of different outdoor activities. Visitors can start their journey at the Valley Forge National Historic Park and then bike or hike along the picturesque Perkiomen Creek.
Pennsylvania's Quirky Attractions
Weird. wacky. and sometimes, just plain eerie. Pennsylvania’s quirky attractions may not be in your typical travel guide, but their colourful names, spooky stories and unexplained phenomena are an integral part of roadside Americana. From a giant shoe to a haunted dress, a medical museum to a snake lover’s dream, Pennsylvania’s quirkiest attractions prove why it is truly the State of Independence.
The Mütter Museum is a riveting storehouse for the anatomically strange. The Museum’s display of 20,000 provocative items is designed to give a beneath-the-surface perspective of what physicians study — and it’s not always pretty. Inside the Museum, you’ll find a wide smattering of abnormal body parts preserved in fluid and skeletal formations — like that of a 7’6” man — that doesn’t seem quite possible. Connections to the famous include Marie Curie’s electrometer, Dr. Benjamin Rush’s medicine chest and, most spectacularly, the death cast of Chang and Eng, the original “Siamese Twins,” whose autopsy was performed in the museum.
Amos the Giant Amish Man - Dutch Country Roads - Strasburg
Amos the Giant Amish Man stands 15-feet tall and lives outside the Hershey Farm and Restaurant Inn located in Strasburg. In one hand he holds a giant rake and the other hand he extends as a friendly gesture to all those that travel through the PA Dutch Country.
Ringing Rocks Park, located in the far north of Bucks County, is the most famous of several Pennsylvania fields of igneous rock which produce variously-pitched ringing sounds when hit with hammers or other rocks. For years, occultists have touted Ringing Rocks as a near-lifeless area of paranormal activity, a convergence of ley lines where compasses won't work properly. Although scientists don't know exactly why the rocks sound like they do, plenty of flora, fauna and beautiful waterfalls can be enjoyed in the approximately 100-acre area.
Gravity Hill, located in the suburbs of New Paris, is a gravitational phenomenon. This attraction proves that gravity has gone haywire. Water flows the opposite way and cars glide uphill. There are no explanations for this phenomenon and this attraction is completely free to explore.
The Weather Discovery Center excites and educates visitors about the old and new ways of predicting and studying weather. Kids and adults alike pass through the door of a 12-foot tall tree stump and into Phil’s famous burrow, completely immersing themselves in groundhog culture and science. Through interactive, hands-on exhibits, visitors learn about tornadoes, thunderstorms, meteorology, winds, weather folklore and more.
Haines Shoe House along the Lincoln Highway is a home stuffed into a white, 25-foot stucco boot. Colonel Haines built the “Shoe Wizard” in 1947 as a wild advertising ploy. Today the house can be toured by appointment Friday through Sunday.
The Haunted Wedding Dress of the Baker Mansion can be seen as part of Blair County Historical Society's museum. Legend tells that this was the wedding dress for the daughter of Mr. Bell, a prominent local man. Bell founded and gave his name to the nearby town of Bellwood. Over the years, the wedding dress has gained a reputation as being haunted. Visitors claim to have seen the wedding dress move within its glass case.
Titled “the most tasteful museum in the world,” the combo museum and restaurant features the world’s largest Big Mac statue (measuring 14 feet high and 12 feet wide), and hundreds of historic artifacts and high-tech exhibits that celebrate the Big Mac, which was invented 40 years ago in Uniontown by Jim Delligatti. The unusual museum is located outside of Pittsburgh (Route 30 near Irwin Exit on Pennsylvania Turnpike).
Family Fun in Pennsylvania
From crayons to canoes, bumper boats to Big Bird, Pennsylvania offers a bounty of fun, educational activities for children young and old. Whether families prefer the energy of the city or the peace of the country, or both, Pennsylvania is the place for family-friendly fun.
Hands-on House is designed for children ages two to 10 to learn, explore, and play. The exhibits, classes and programs are short on lectures, and long on interactive and participatory activities. While the exhibits change regularly, the experiences are always hands-on and self-guided.
A family-oriented Four Seasons resort lies in the Poconos, the Woodloch Pines Resort. Situated on a private lake, the seasonal offerings of the 250-acre resort are endless. Parents magazine acclaimed Woodloch as "one of America's favourite vacation resorts." Various activities include a pre-k activity centre, boat rides, bocce ball, bumper boats and cars, canoeing, children's arts/crafts, sailboats, sauna, scavenger hunts, kiddie cars, mini-golf, nature trails, Woodloch family Olympics, fitness classes, game show contests and hayrides.
Nestled among the trees of northeastern Pennsylvania, Knoebel’s was established in 1926. Enthusiasts have touted the rides at Knoebel’s including The Haunted Mansion, named in several publications as one of the best dark rides anywhere; The Grand Carousel, which includes 63 horses, three chariots, two antique organs and a brass ring machine; and The Phoenix, which at its opening was hailed as "the largest roller coaster in the world" and has been consistently ranked among the top ten coasters. To top it off, Knoebel’s admission is always free!
The Crayola Factory is a hands-on discovery centre for children and adults to explore the magic of light and colour and experiment with innovative art techniques. It provides creative personal development experiences that are targeted to improve role-playing, social interaction, self-expression and gross motor skills. In 2004, Crayola introduced The Color Park with a section for preschoolers that includes a ball play area with a series of tubes and bins that collect, sort and move coloured balls from one location to another; and a soft play area for children ages two and under that includes a crawl space, oversized puzzle pieces and interactive panels.
For families with children aged 2 to 13, Sesame Place provides an interactive experience. Children can enjoy more than three dozen stimulating play activities, including exhilarating water attractions such as Sky Splash; live stage shows; the "Rock Around the Block" musical parade; the thrilling Vapor Trail roller coaster; and memorable Sesame Street character greetings throughout the day. Recently renovated, the Count’s Splash Castle is a multi-level waterplay attraction featuring more than 90 play elements, including a 1,000-gallon, eight-foot tipping bucket, multiple water slides, water curtains, hydro blasters, water wheels and much, much more!
The Hershey Story is a new museum that allows visitors to take a journey through the legacy of Milton S. Hershey, as well as the town, school, and history he created. Highlighting this American entrepreneur’s rags to riches story, the museum tells the tales of how he revolutionised the process of chocolate making and exactly how the Hershey Industrial School’s orphan boys became the heirs to his seemingly endless fortune. Inspired by Milton Hershey's own candy-making apprenticeship and his flair for experimentation, the Chocolate Lab explores the unique qualities of chocolate through playful, hands-on experiences and interactive demonstrations. Guaranteed to bring out the kid in everyone, the Chocolate Lab offers participatory classes such as tempering, molding, dipping and even making chocolate from scratch.
The National Steamtown Historic Site preserves the steam railroading era so visitors can relive that time period as the fire-breathing behemoths lumber back to life. The cinders, grease, oil, steam and people of railroading have returned. Steamtown National Historic Site offers world-class museum facilities which tell the story of steam railroading. Both the nuts-and-bolts side and the personal side of railroad life are shown at the Park and visitors can ride various trains on site.
The children's museum of Philadelphia, Please Touch Museum, is the perfect museum for families with young children. Home to nine interactive exhibits, including The SuperMarket, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Barnyard Babies (designed for the under 3 set), Move It, Kids Construct and Sendak. In addition to exhibits families will enjoy other playful activities and live theatre performances daily.
Bringing the world of science alive, the Carnegie Science Center is for visitors of all ages. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center features more than 400 hands-on exhibits, three live demonstration theaters, a four-story IMAX Dome theater, an interactive planetarium, a 36,000 square foot science-of sport exhibition, a Cold War submarine moored on Pittsburgh’s Ohio River, and a world-renowned model railroad display.
The Houdini Tour & Magic Show is a non-stop spectacle in the world's only building devoted to the most famous magician of all time, Houdini, who performed many special challenges here. The show is perfect for all ages featuring noted professional magicians and live animals, as well as a fun guided tour of the fabulous collection in the 100-year-old historic building and the rarest film footage of Houdini doing escapes.
Winter in Pennsylvania: Wonderlands and Outdoor Adventures
Winter in Pennsylvania
Boasting more than 100 scenic state parks, 80 ice fishing destinations and countless trails for snowmobiling and snowshoeing, Pennsylvania’s winter activities offer an outdoor adventure for everyone. Whether speeding down a hill aboard a snow tube or enjoying a relaxing sleigh ride through the Pocono Mountains, chase away winter blues in Pennsylvania.
Dog sledding - Laurel Highlands - Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
While many winter activities take your breath away, a dog sledding excursion at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is truly an unforgettable adventure. Take a trip through the magnificent countryside with the resort’s exclusive team of sled dogs, and experience the wintery Laurel Highlands like never before.
Ice skating - Philadelphia and the Countryside - Blue Cross RiverRink
City dwellers don’t have to travel far to breathe in the refreshing winter air. The Blue Cross River Rink at Penn’s Landing is Philadelphia’s only outdoor public ice rink and offers the perfect outdoor activity close to home. For first-time skaters or those looking to improve their skills, the River Rink offers lessons on Sunday mornings during January and February.
Snow tubing - Dutch Country Roads - AvalancheXpress at Heritage Hills Resort
Located at the first-class Heritage Hills Resort in York, AvalancheXpress is central Pennsylvania's newest snow tubing Terrain Park. With multiple downhill runs including "Xtreme," intermediate and family lanes, there's something for everyone at the facility. For added convenience, two powered rope lines to tow tubers to the hilltop and high-intensity, full-flooding lighting illuminates the park after dusk. Guests also are invited to warm up at the resort’s fire pits and indoor bar.
When it comes to snowmobiling, McKean County is in the loop. More than 140 miles of trails in the county connect with a total of 360 miles of trails in the Allegheny National Forest, including the beautiful 114-mile Allegheny Snowmobile Loop. A sure cure for cabin fever, take a ride through the Pennsylvania Wilds and explore the beautiful, rugged scenery this winter.
For more than 30 years, Pocono Country Carriages has given guests the chance to travel back to a quieter, more peaceful time aboard a horse-drawn carriage ride, complete with the sound of jingle bells as the horses step through the snow.
Snowshoeing - Pennsylvania Great Lakes Region - Presque Isle State Park
Attracting millions of visitors each year, Presque Isle State Park offers beautiful landscapes and the perfect backdrop for a snowshoeing adventure. While travelling through the park, discover the impressive ice dunes formed by the combination of lake ice, wave surge and freezing spray.
Ice fishing has an allure all its own. For outdoor enthusiasts looking to escape the winter blues, there is nothing like walking on a frozen lake, carving a hole and pulling up the elusive fish from the mysterious depths. Beginning this December, Pennsylvania state parks offer the chance to catch largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappies and more.