Pennsylvania is a dynamic and diverse state, filled with some of the country’s largest cities and lushest landscapes. That distinct setting provides the perfect backdrop to offer every type of attraction imaginable, from entertainment and historical sites to family fun and outdoor activities. Many of these destinations are easily accessible to residents of the Northeast. With that in mind, these are just a few of the best Pennsylvania day trip ideas.
Although it often gets overshadowed by its Big Apple and Beantown neighbors to the north, Philadelphia more than holds its own as a bustling metropolis. The country’s sixth-largest city is arguably its most historic – and that history is on full display. Must-see landmarks include Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed, and the Liberty Bell. Both sites are free to visit.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is famed for its iconic “Rocky” steps, but the true treasures lay inside. The museum houses 240,000 pieces of art from the likes of Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.
A visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary provides a unique adventure. The prison was once the most famous and expensive in the world, and even housed Al Capone at one point. It has been out of operation since 1971 but is now open for tours. The complex is also rumored to be haunted and, for the brave of heart, offers haunted-house-like attractions around Halloween.
Want to stay longer? Find and book a hotel with AAA in Philadelphia.
Outside Disney World, Hershey may just be the happiest place on Earth – home to an amusement park, water park, zoo and chocolate mecca.
Hersheypark was originally created by Milton S. Hershey as leisure grounds for Hershey’s Chocolate Factory employees. It has evolved into one of the country’s great theme parks. It features 13 roller coasters, dozens of family-friendly rides and a plethora of dining, shopping and gaming options.
The Boardwalk is an 11-acre water park inside Hersheypark with 17 different water rides and attractions. The park’s other main attraction is ZooAmerica, home to more than 200 animals. All three sites are included in a one-price admission.
Just next door to Hersheypark is Chocolate World. Here, guests can take a chocolate-making tour, create their own candy bar and personalized wrapper, and of course, enjoy some delectable treats at the food hall and bakery.
Read more about all the fun ways you can spend a day (or two) in Hershey.
Need more than a day? Find and book a hotel with AAA in Hershey, Pa.
Located in Lancaster County, in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, Amish Country is one of the most picturesque landscapes in the area. The region is blanketed with rolling hills replete with lush grasses and crops, windmills, farms and horse and buggies striding right alongside moving cars.
But this is not just a place to enjoy the sights. Amish Country provides a unique look into America’s past. Settling in the area in the 1720s, the Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County is the country’s oldest Amish settlement. Here, thousands still live a centuries-old lifestyle.
Guests can take personal tours of the area (in a horse and buggy if you like), shop for handmade Amish crafts, and dig into authentic Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies such as apple dumplings and shoofly pie.
(Video: National Park Service – Gettysburg National Military Park)
Gettysburg National Military Park
The Battle of Gettysburg, fought in July 1863, is widely considered one of the most important events in the Civil War. The Northern victory turned the war in the Union’s favor for good. It also served as the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address” speech.
The site is now a National Military Park operated by the National Park Service. Every weekend from April to October, the park puts on living history demonstrations. Visitors can explore the camps, interact with historians, and watch them demonstrate the tools, tactics and firepower of the two armies.
The park is also home to the George Rosensteel Collection, one of the largest collections of Civil War relics in the United States. Adjacent to the battlefield is the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Consisting of a house and farm, this residence served as a weekend retreat for President Eisenhower and a meeting place for world leaders.
The Pocono Mountains
From ski slopes to water parks to NASCAR racing, the Pocono Mountains offers year-round fun and entertainment for the entire family. The Poconos encompasses more than 2,400 square miles in northeast Pennsylvania, just a two-hour drive from the New York metropolitan area.
No matter what sort of day trip you’re looking for, the Poconos has you covered. A family day of skiing? The area has 185 slopes and trails. An afternoon of pampering? Relax and enjoy the services of the numerous spas and resorts. Other activities available include water recreation and boating, golf, fishing, shopping, agritourism and tours and sightseeing.
Do you have any favorite Pennsylvania destinations? Share them with us in the comments below!