Super useful & totally free Pennsylvania travel guides, written by locals who love Pennsylvania
Why We Love Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania has something for every type of traveler. There are cities, small towns, farmlands including Amish country, and beautiful nature. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg all offer vibrant cultural attractions. In charming small towns like Benezette and Lambertville, you’ll find antiquing, bed and breakfasts, and maybe even some wild elk! After all, Pennsylvania’s well-kept secret is its gorgeous natural landscape. The Appalachian Mountains cross a large swath of the southeastern part of the state. All along the mountains, you’ll find beautiful trails, vistas, and campgrounds. Pennsylvania also has breathtaking waterfalls and a surprising number of caves to explore.
Best of Pennsylvania
🏙️ Pennsylvania Destinations
Pennsylvania is one of the largest states in the northeast. There are endless places to visit in the state, each with its own vibe. Here are some of the top destinations.
- Philadelphia – This city has it all, from great food and lively cultural attractions to bustling nightlife. A variety of day trips are easily accessible.
- Pittsburgh – A burgeoning arts and culture scene is revitalizing this former industrial capital.
- Erie – A beautiful, smaller city right along Lake Erie. You’ll want to visit Presque Isle State Park while you’re there.
- The Poconos Mountains – A vast, mountainous area with activities for every season. There are areas to swim, hike, camp, ski, and everything in between.
- Pine Creek Gorge – The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is in Tioga State Forest. The stunning views will take your breath away.
✨ Things to Do
Pennsylvania has it all. That includes natural serenity, urban adventure, and historical sites.
- Longwood Gardens – A vibrant, curated wonderland of flowers and fauna. About an hour’s drive from Philadelphia.
- Reading Terminal Market – This historic indoor market has vendors serving up cuisine from all over the world. It’s one of the best things to do in Philadelphia.
- Valley Forge National Historical Park – 3,500 acres of monuments and parkland. The park commemorates the Revolutionary War and the Continental Army.
- Cherry Springs State Park – The darkest skies make way for the best stargazing in the state. You may even spot planets and meteor showers.
- Fallingwater – Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural wonder built to honor the natural landscape. Located in Fayette County.
🗺️ Where to Stay
There are endless choices of where to stay in Pennsylvania. Whether you prefer a city vacation, a small-town vibe, or camping in the forest, you’ll find your perfect destination.
- Philadelphia – The most popular destination for tourists in Pennsylvania is a great place to stay. Mountains and beaches are a day trip away.
- New Hope – A scenic small town along the Delaware River in eastern PA. New Hope has cute shops, restaurants, and theatre.
- Allegheny National Forest – Northwestern PA is home to the state’s only national forest. You can hike, fish, ride an ATV, and enjoy a scenic drive.
- Laurel Highlands – A mountainous region in southwestern PA. Known for its many historical sites, amusement parks, and state parks.
- Pittsburgh – An affordable city with lots to do. Attractions include the Carnegie Museums and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden.
🛎️ Best Hotels
Pennsylvania has accommodations for every style and budget. Here are a few of the more unique stays you’ll find throughout the state.
- Nemacolin – Luxury retreat in Farmington, PA. Includes hotels, lodges, high-end private homes, and endless amenities.
- The Rittenhouse Hotel – Picturesque 5-star hotel beside Philadelphia’s gorgeous Rittenhouse Square. Spa on-site with steam room and sauna.
- Glasbern – Formerly a 19th-century farm. This historic Lehigh Valley hotel offers complimentary breakfast and farm-to-table fine dining.
- The Mansion at Noble Lane – A Black-owned luxe resort on a historic 20th century, 22-acre estate in Bethany, PA. Offers all the amenities.
- Omni William Penn Hotel – One of Pittsburgh’s finest hotels providing 1-3 bedroom suites. Enjoy the tearoom with live jazz during your stay.
🚗 Best Road Trips
Pennsylvania’s state and national forests make it an excellent place for a road trip! If you have the time, make sure to take the scenic route.
- Ghost Town Trail – This 46-mile drive in western PA will take through the state’s abandoned towns. Each has its own mysterious history.
- Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail – 16 different vineyards and wineries on one trail. Pick a designated driver so you can fully enjoy the tastings!
- The Appalachian Trail – You can start this famous and scenic route at the Delaware Water Gap and drive south to Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
- Jim Thorpe to New Hope – An hour and 45-minute drive will take you from one quaint small town to another in eastern PA.
- Somerset County driving tour – This 3.5-hour route crosses four historic bridges and the Mt. Davis Observation Tower. Visit in the fall when the foliage is most captivating.
🏕️ Best Campsites
I go camping at least a couple of times every summer. These sites are some of my favorites, from backpacking sites to those with RV hookups.
- Ricketts Glen State Park – Comfortable campground for tents and RVs. The Falls Trail is nearby where you’ll hike alongside 21 different waterfalls.
- Leonard Harrison State Park – This campground provides easy access to the stunning Pine Creek Gorge. The waterfalls along the Turkey Path are nearby.
- Delaware Water Gap – Several campgrounds with forest and river tent sites. Wildlife is abundant in this conservation area.
- Allegheny National Forest Campgrounds – You’ll find accommodations for every experience level of camper. There are bare-bones sites and those with water and electric hook-ups.
- Loyalsock State Forest – Beautiful trails, creeks, and waterfalls wind through the many campsite options.
🦇 Best Caves
There are many caves to explore across Pennsylvania through guided walking and boat tours. Both allow you to witness unique geological formations.
- Crystal Cave – Located in Kutztown in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. This cave has rock formations over a half-million years old.
- Lost River Caverns – Natural limestone cavern in Hellertown, PA. Knowledgeable guides offer walking tours, and there’s a small museum on site.
- Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park – Take a boat tour through the limestone cavern. Then, visit the wildlife park by bus tour to see elk, wolves, and more.
- Echo Dell Indian Echo Caverns – A living cave where the limestone formations continue to grow. Once used by the Susquehannocks as living quarters.
- Coral Caverns – A hidden gem in Bedford County, PA. Once underwater, it features fossilized, 420 million-year-old coral in the caves.
🎢 Best Theme Parks
Try out the roller coasters and water rides at these amusement parks across the state. You’re sure to scream your head off and squeal with joy!
- Hersheypark – One of the largest amusement parks in PA. Has rides for all ages, a waterpark, and Hershey’s Chocolate World!
- Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom – Get two parks for the price of one. Admission includes over 75 rides, shows, and kid-friendly attractions.
- Sesame Place – A wonderland for children under 10 years old. Rides and characters are based on the classic children’s show Sesame Street.
- Kennywood – The best amusement park in southwestern PA. Offers thrill rides, kiddie rides, shows, and seasonal attractions.
- Waldameer and Water World – Right on the shore of Lake Erie. The park has over 75 rides and free admission to the park with a pay-per-ride option.
🖼️ Best Museums
Each of Pennsylvania’s largest cities has an incredible assortment of museums. You’ll find gems in small towns and rural areas as well.
- National Constitution Center – Dedicated to education and debate on the U.S. Constitution. Located in Philadelphia, where the Constitution was signed.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art – Grandiose architecture gives way to a collection of fine art from different eras.
- Brandywine Museum of Art – These beautiful grounds include nature conservation. The museum hosts a 20th-century fine art collection.
- The Carnegie Museums – Pittsburgh’s natural history museum, fine art museum, and contemporary art museum are all worth a visit.
- Bicycle Heaven – The world’s largest bicycle museum located in Pittsburgh. The shop sells antiques, collectibles, and rare parts.
Pennsylvania Travel Advice
🗓️ Best Time to Visit
Pennsylvania is gorgeous from spring through fall! Winter is enjoyable, too, if you can stand the cold.
- 🌼 Spring – A fantastic time to see flowers in full bloom and enjoy the warm weather without the humidity.
- 🌞 Summer – The weather can get hot, but you can’t beat the sun, rooftop bars, camping, and beach day trips.
- 🍂 Fall – Take a drive through the Poconos to see the full spectrum of leaves changing colors.
- ❄️ Winter – Temperatures can drop particularly in mountainous regions. A perfect time for ice skating and skiing.
🚌 Getting In & Around
It is easiest to get around Pennsylvania by car, but there are other options as well.
- ✈️ Airports – Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) are the major airports.
- 🚗 Driving – A rental car is great for exploring more rural areas and seeing the sites surrounding major cities.
- 🚇 Public Transit – Public transit is available in the cities, but less so in suburbs and rural areas.
- 📲 Ride Share – Lyft and Uber are common in cities and towns. Availability is less common in rural areas.
- 🚴♀️ Biking – Many state and national parks have excellent mountain biking trails. Cities are bikeable as well.
- 🛴 Scooters – Pittsburgh has scooter rentals. Availability is city-specific and uncommon in towns.
- 🚶♀️ Walking – Cities, state parks, and national parks are very walker and hiker-friendly.
👉 Tips & Things to Know
- 🥪 – Cheesesteaks Aren’t Always the Best – Yes, the Philly cheesesteak is famous…I find they’re not worth the hype. There are many other delicious options!
- 🌿 – Explore Beyond the Cities – Pennsylvania’s cities have a lot to offer. The Poconos, Appalachian Mountains, and other rural areas are must-sees as well.
- 🌧️ – Weather is Unpredictable – Weather across the seasons can be unpredictable, now even more so with climate change. Plan for varying temps.
- 🏙️ – Consider an East Coast Tour – East Coast cities are neighbors! New York, Baltimore, and D.C. are all a short drive or bus ride away from Philly.
- ⛰️ – Plan for Spotty Cell Reception – If you’re driving through rural areas, download Google Maps offline ahead. This comes in handy in case of weak reception.
🧳 What to Pack
- 🧥 – Layers – Weather can be unpredictable on the East Coast, and Pennsylvania is no exception.
- 💧 – Water Bottle – It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated while traveling. Why pay when you can prepare?
- 👟 – Comfortable Shoes – Whether you’re in a city or out in nature, you’ll want comfortable walking shoes so you can go the distance.
- 💊 – Allergy Meds – Between pollen and poor city air quality, if you’re prone to allergies, it’s best to prepare for the worst.
- 📱 – Portable Phone Charger – A crucial travel item for any destination! This can save you in a pinch since we all rely on our phones.
🤓 Facts & Info
- Population – 12.96 million
- Capital – Harrisburg
- Largest Metro Areas – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown
- Time Zone – EST Time (UTC -5 / UTC -4 during daylight savings)
- Airports – Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), University Park Airport (UNV), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP)
- Colleges & Universities – University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Swarthmore College, Penn State, Lehigh University
- Nickname – The Keystone State, Pennsyltucky, Birthplace of America
- Demonynm – Pennsylvanian
- USPS Abbreviation – PA
- Governor – Josh Shapiro (Democrat)
- Country – United States of America
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- MERIC Cost of Living State Rank – 27th most affordable
- 3 Star Hotel Room – $100-$200/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $50-$250/night
- Rental Car – $40-$160/day
- Public Transit Ticket – ~$2.50-$7.00
- Take Out Meal for Two – $30
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $25-$100
- Draft Beer – $8
FAQs About Visiting Pennsylvania
Is Pennsylvania safe for tourists?
Pennsylvania is safe for tourists. Natural disasters and weather-related dangers are very low. Cities tend to have higher crime rates than small towns, so you’ll want to practice common sense safety.
What is the number one tourist attraction in Pennsylvania?
The number one tourist attractions in Pennsylvania are Independence National Park and the Liberty Bell. Independence Hall is part of the National Park. It is the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the U.S. Constitution was drafted.
What is the prettiest place in Pennsylvania?
Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, is the prettiest place in Pennsylvania. This 47-mile-long gorge is in Tioga State Forest. There are many scenic outlook points, as well as campgrounds and hiking trails.
What is Pennsylvania famous for?
Pennsylvania is famous for Hershey’s chocolate, being the birthplace of American democracy, and the Liberty Bell. Originally, the Liberty Bell was the Pennsylvania State House bell. In the 1830s, abolitionists adopted the Liberty Bell as a symbol of the movement to abolish slavery.
Why should I visit Pennsylvania?
You should visit Pennsylvania to experience important historical and cultural sites. These include the U.S. Constitution Museum in Philly and the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County. It highlights the region’s role in the Underground Railroad.
Meet Our Pennsylvania Travel Expert
Maya Nojechowicz is a freelance writer from Boston now living in Philadelphia. Maya’s passion for travel began with family trips to Argentina over the years to visit relatives and has only grown since then. As a city person with a deep love for nature as well, Maya is happy traveling to almost any new destination.
📰 Pennsylvania Travel Guides
I’m a Philadelphia local that’s explored destinations across the state. See our complete Pennsylvania travel guide index for insights on things to do, where to stay, and so much more:
- 41 Things to Do in Philadelphia in 2023 (By a Local)
- Where to Stay in Philadelphia (Best Places, By a Local)
- 21 Best Day Trips from Philadelphia in 2023 (By a Local)