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Did You Know…?

  • The name Pennsylvania means Penn’s woods.
  • The nation’s first commercially successful oil well was drilled near Titusville (1859).
  • The only surviving Benjamin Franklin residence is in London, not Philadelphia.
  • The Hershey plant is the world’s largest chocolate and confectionery factory.
  • D.G. Yuengling and Son in Pottsville is the oldest brewery in the U.S. (1829).

Quaker origins

One of the original American colonies created to ensure religious freedom, Pennsylvania is a product of a special mix of settlers. Founded by Quakers, it later added various German sects and Scots-Irish pioneers pushing westward from Philadelphia.

The state has plenty of tourist attractions, thanks largely to its part in American history, its Pennsylvania Dutch enclaves and recreational sites in the Poconos Mountains. A large state, Pennsylvania offers much variety, from big cities to quaint villages, from mining country to the Great Lakes, from broad rolling farmland to skiable mountains and even an area of real wilderness.

A standard starting point is, not surprisingly, Philadelphia, where one of the greats of the founding era, Benjamin Franklin, made his home. The city, which was central to the creation of the great American experiment, shows off Independence Hall and related sites. Valley Forge is in the neighboring countryside, as well.

Also well loved are Hershey, the town that smells like chocolate; the area called Dutch Country Roads, which encompasses Lancaster County, aka Amish country; and Harrisburg, the state capital.

As for mountains, the Poconos in the northeastern part of the state are popular for skiing and other outdoor activities as well as luxurious resorts. The Alleghenies in the center of the state encompass state parks and forest lands. The Pennsylvania Wilds in the north central area is another mountainous region and particularly noted for being, well, still wild. These areas are touted for their wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, water activities, camping or fishing options. And then, there is Lake Erie in the northwest, which lures boaters, bird-watchers and others.

Pennsylvania’s largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are modern and lively, with museums, culture and nightlife. Numerous small towns are of interest for their quaint architecture, charming inns and B&Bs, farmers markets, antiques shops and quiet way of life. The state’s attractions also include wineries and breweries.

Summer is the most popular season for visiting Pennsylvania, but, for those with the flexibility, it is a satisfying experience to see attractions like the Liberty Bell or Valley Forge minus summer crowds.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Chart a biking tour through the southern Allegheny Mountains, one of the country’s best biking areas. Take that ride through Amish country.
  • Go whitewater rafting on the Upper, Middle and Lower Youghiogheny River in the Laurel Highlands in southwest Pennsylvania.
  • For the brave adult and any child: Visit the Insectarium in Philadelphia, billed as “the largest insect museum in the nation.” A lot of these exhibits are alive.
  • Take a break from vigorous activities and tour the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville.
  • Join the Tour de Forest, a spring ATV and motorbike ride in the Allegheny National Forest.
  • Attend the midsummer Bark Peeler’s Convention at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum on Route 6 in Potter County, celebrating the state’s lumbering past, featuring greased pole, frog jumping, tobacco spitting, birling and fiddling contests.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a trip of a few hours by covered wagon along Pine Creek in Pennsylvania’s 50-mile-long Grand Canyon. Another alternative is to bike on the Pine Creek Trail, or fish or kayak on the creek itself.
  • Go under ground. Tour the Lackawanna Coal Mine in Lackawanna County.
  • What about a lunch break? Stop in Hershey at the Chocolate Town Cafe or chow down at Chipper’s Cafe at Herr’s Snack Food Factory.
  • Take your family biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, swimming. You have 117 state parks to choose from.
  • Visit the Ephrata Cloister, founded in 1732 by a group of German settlers who were also one of America’s early religious communities. It is now a National Historic Landmark open for tours.  Try to visit when a special event is scheduled. An example is the Christmas holiday Lantern Tour during which high school students play roles of early residents in order to bring Ephrata’s past alive.
  • Bike or hike on Pennsylvania’s rail-trails. More than 1,100 miles of former rail lines have been converted into biking and hiking trails and more are in the works. The trails are also open to cross-country skiers, equestrians and joggers.

Things to do for Authentics

  • In Philadelphia, see the Liberty Bell and other sites associated with America’s founding. Visit the nearby Gettysburg National Military Park, as well.
  • Visit Pennsylvania Dutch country for the food. But, shop for crafts, too.
  • Go fishing on Lake Erie aboard a chartered boat. Or, take a narrated tour on the lake by day or a relaxing cruise in the evening.
  • Chocoholic or no, you’ll find the town of Hershey a sweet experience. It has a theme park and a museum dedicated to chocolate, and the Spa at Hotel Hershey uses chocolate in its treatments. You can smell the town long before you see it.
  • Attend the autumn National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, which celebrates apples and the best of the region’s other foods.
  • Drop in on and stroll at a leisurely pace through Milford in Pike County, sometimes called the prettiest county seat in America. Stay at the restored 19th century Hotel Fauchere.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Pennsylvania Tourism Office at