The Best Pennsylvania Attractions – Things To Do
Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State and was one of the original 13 colonies. Its founder, Admiral Sir William Penn, heavily influenced the state’s early history. Pennsylvania was known for practicing the principles of religious tolerance, acceptance of diversity, and representative government in times of religious and racial turmoil.
It is “THE” state to visit if you’re a history buff interested in the origins of America. Pennsylvania has been host to iconic historical moments, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the tolling of the Liberty Bell.
The Keystone State was America’s most important industrial center for steel, coal, and railroads. It earned its nickname because of its role in building the nation’s foundations. Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state in the U.S and also shares a border with Ontario, Canada.
Best Pennsylvania Attractions and Activities
Things To Do in Pennsylvania by City
Located in the Mid-Atlantic, the state is home to numerous beautiful natural attractions, historic landmarks, and iconic cities. Fans of the famous television show “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” must be familiar with Pennsylvania.
It is also known for being home to the highest number of Amish communities in the United States, the oldest of which resides in Lancaster County. The unique culture of the Amish people and adherence to traditions and simplicity continue to draw multiple visitors. It can be challenging to develop a travel itinerary when visiting such a culturally significant state with so many activities. Worry not, weary traveler! We’ve got you covered. Join us as we take you on a fun-filled historical ride through the best attractions in Pennsylvania!
Liberty Bell Pavilion
The Liberty Bell is America’s historic symbol of freedom and justice and was first tolled when the Constitution was signed. It is easily one of the best attractions in Pennsylvania! The iconic structure is located across from Independence Hall in the Independence National Historical Park.
It is a highly revered relic of America’s great abolitionist era. The bell features a famous biblical inscription: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof.” Visitors will also be able to see the famous crack. The bell developed a crack during its functional history when it was rung in February 1846 on President’s Day.
Visiting the Liberty Bell is one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania. Moreover, there’s no price of admission, and the famous symbol of freedom is open to visitation throughout the week!
Independence National Historical Park
The Independence National Historical Park is one of the most famous attractions in Pennsylvania. Being one of America’s most historic areas, it is home to iconic landmarks like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Old City Hall, and Congress Hall. Philadelphia has made significant conservation efforts to look after the park, which still features narrow and well-maintained cobblestone streets. It only takes a visit to be transported back to the American Civil War. Independence National Historical Park has seen countless historical moments, such as the tolling of the Liberty Bell and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The Independence Hall and Liberty Bell are among the most popular attractions, while visitors will also see Congress Hall in the vicinity. Congress Hall is the famous site where America’s first president, George Washington, was elected.
History buffs must visit Old City Hall and the National Museum of American Jewish History. You’ll even find the Benjamin Franklin Museum in Independence Park, which honors the legacy of one of the foremost Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Visiting the park is one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania, and a visit to the state is simply incomplete if you miss out on this amazing opportunity.
Pennsylvania is home to the small town of Hershey, the Chocolate Capital of the USA. It is also called Chocolatetown USA and is the place where Milton Hershey based his chocolate factory. The global food giant still remains the main industry in the region.
Hershey’s main attraction is the famous 90-acre amusement park. It’s the perfect place for a day out with your family and offers rides and activities for kids and adults. It was originally built as a recreational area for Hershey Company’s factory workers in 1906. In the following years, it kept expanding as a tourist destination, and it still holds true to the tradition of constantly expanding.
Hershey Park includes roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and even a carousel for whole families to enjoy. In addition to these family favorites, the park also features several water rides and even two arcades!
You’ll also be able to see ZooAmerica next door, so a visit to the park is a twofer. ZooAmerica features more than 200 animals native to the Northern American habitats, such as bald eagles and mountain lions. Here’s an important tip: if you’re bringing kids along, consider signing up for the bus tour for a chance to feed the animals and take cool pictures.
Eastern State Penitentiary
This eerie castle-like structure has been the focus of iconic movies like 12 Monkeys (1995) and Return to Paradise (1998). Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 as one of the most modern American prisons of its time. The former prison-turned-tourist spot is a massive stone fortress with looming archways, twisting corridors, and robust watchtowers.
Eastern State Penitentiary was built to tackle the prison culture of the late 1800s and came with a staggering $800,000 price tag! Modern prisons that you see today with private toilets and exercise spaces are all based on Eastern State’s design.
Furthermore, it cultivated a strictly disciplined and “quiet” environment, where many convicts reportedly went insane and killed themselves because of solitary confinement. Those not interested in the macabre can focus on other things like Eastern State Penitentiary is the prison where Al Capone and Willie Sutton also got cells.
After closing down in 1971, it became a famous landmark in America’s history. Today, you can sign-up for prison tours to witness the site. Visiting Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania for screen junkies and history buffs who want cool pictures and exploration opportunities.
Gettysburg National Military Park
The Gettysburg National Military Park was built on the Gettysburg battlefield to honor the fallen. The 1863 Civil War battle on this battlefield resulted in the deaths of more than 50,000 soldiers. Today, countless markers and monuments pay tribute to the fallen heroes.
In addition to famous iconic battle sites, the park also features a museum and visitor center for those interested in learning about the Civil War’s history. The Park Museum features several exhibits, such as the famous Rosensteel collection, displaying Civil War weapons, uniforms, and personal items. In fact, it’s one of America’s largest collections of Civil War memorabilia.
History buffs will also appreciate the reenactments and history programs organized at the park. For thrill-seekers, the park also boasts vast horse-riding trails! Some of the park’s highlights include Cemetery Ridge, where the Union Lines held their positions for two days; Seminary Ridge, the site of the Confederates for two days; and Oak Ridge, where the first day’s battle took place.
Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex
The Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex, located in Harrisburg, is one of the best attractions in the state. Sprawling over 45 acres of land, the Capitol is home to active government buildings and tourist sites.
One of the most prominent features of the complex includes the signature granite dome, bearing a striking resemblance to the dome on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It was built in 1906 and weighed a massive 52 million pounds! The main building is made entirely out of Vermont granite and features beautiful bronze double doors.
The State Capitol is one of the best attractions in Pennsylvania. It offers tourists the chance to observe the beautiful architecture, visit the buildings, and explore the grounds that house several memorials and museums. The War Veterans Memorial Fountain and the Soldier’s Grove Quadrangle are popular spots worth exploring!
Andy Warhol Museum
The Andy Warhol Museum pays tribute to the famous artist and cultural icon of the same name. Andy Warhol had a long and lucrative career, which the museum celebrates. All exhibits and displays are dedicated to the artist’s life and career.
The Andy Warhol Museum is the best place to visit for fans to gain insight into the artist’s famous works, such as the Tomato Soup Cans or his portraits of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. The huge building spans seven long floors, with sections dedicated to different activities. There’s even a section featuring a large permanent collection of Andy Warhol’s famous artworks.
If you’re more interested in the hands-on experience, consider visiting the Factory section, where visitors can practice the artist’s art techniques. Professional artists help participants throughout the process. You can try your hand at different techniques to make drawings with blotted lines, acetate collages, and even silk screenings.
Moreover, the Andy Warhol Museum also organizes lectures and hosts concerts, film screenings, and performances for visitors. If you’re an art enthusiast or Andy Warhol fan, visiting the museum will be one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Much like other relics from the abolitionist era, the Valley Forge National Historical Park bears witness to the sacrifices of American heroes during the great Revolutionary War. The 3500-acre historic landmark served as the camping grounds for the Continental Army during the winter of 1777.
The park features several recreational trails for peaceful walks, multiple tours, and plenty of facilities, including restrooms. George Washington’s house is also located here and has been well-maintained for tours and visits. The National Memorial Arch serves as the perfect backdrop for Instagram-worthy pictures during Pennsylvania’s golden hour.
Whether you’re a patriot, a history enthusiast, or a nature lover, visiting the Valley Forge National Historical Park is one of the most fun things to do in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
If you’re a Rocky Balboa fan like us, a trip to the Keystone State will not be complete without visiting the world-famous Rocky Steps. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is featured in the famous Rocky movies, which have developed a cult following. The famous site attracts both art enthusiasts and movie buffs alike.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the best attractions in Pennsylvania and features an extensive collection of art pieces dating from the modern era back to the Renaissance. The design of the building itself is an architectural masterpiece, based on Neoclassical styles and featuring the famous set of stairs that lead up into the museum.
The iconic stairs have been dubbed the Rocky Steps after being featured in the movies and attract hordes of movie fans to the museum for pictures. Inside, the museum offers art enthusiasts a plethora of exhibits featuring iconic artworks, such as the Baroque and Renaissance pieces. It also has dedicated exhibits for specific artists, like Van Gogh, Degas, and Renoir. You will also find plenty of exhibits featuring contemporary artwork from famous 20th-century artists, such as Picasso!
Conclude your day at the museum with a cool picture of the iconic Rocky Statue found at the base of the famous stairs. The bronze sculpture was gifted by actor Sylvester Stallone, who played Rocky in all movies of the franchise, to the city of Philadelphia.
If Neoclassical architecture doesn’t cut it, we suggest visiting Fallingwater. This famous building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and will blow your mind. Also known as the Kaufmann Residence, the building is one of the finest private homes designed by the world-renowned architect.
Located 43 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Fallingwater is one of the best attractions in Pennsylvania. The name is an homage to the structure’s natural appearance, protruding over a waterfall on Bear Run. The beautiful landscape, the rustling of leaves, and sounds made by the running water evoke feelings of peace and calm among visitors. Fallingwater is famous for pairing organic architecture with the natural environment in perfect harmony.
The house was built in 1935 for the Kaufmann family and cost $155,000. The walnut wood furnishings alone cost $4500. Fallingwater instantly became an architectural icon and was even proclaimed the greatest American architectural work by the American Institute of Architecture. The house was opened as an attraction for the public in 1964 and turned into a National Historic Landmark in ’66.
In addition to the marvel that is Fallingwater’s architecture, it is also famous for the Kaufmann family’s unique collection of artifacts and art pieces. On a typical visit, you’ll be able to see Cubist sculptures, designer furniture, and even Mexican folk crafts. However, keep an eye out for the iconic cast-iron Buddha head and the 8th-century sculpture of the Hindu deity Parvati. The famous Australian-Bohemian Madonna is another impressive piece found in Fallingwater.
Moreover, there’s even an international art collection featuring the works of famous artists Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera. You can find artworks from several diverse cultures at the house. Visit the gift shop to bring back souvenirs from your trip. Fallingwater is a must-visit for locals and tourists alike, and it is one of the best attractions in Pennsylvania.
While we’ve reached the end of our article, we can still squeeze in a couple of honorary mentions. You can’t do justice to a list of best attractions in Pennsylvania without including the following:
The Mutter Museum was opened in 1858 as a medical museum. You should be prepared to be welcomed by several anatomical oddities, like the bones of Harry Eastlack and the Soap Lady. Harry Eastlack died of a rare disorder that caused his bones to fuse. The Soap Lady is a bizarre corpse from the 1800s that was exhumed as it started to produce a waxy substance upon decomposition.
The John F. Kennedy Plaza, or LOVE Park as it’s commonly known, is one of the best attractions in Pennsylvania. The beautiful park is located in Philadelphia and features the iconic “LOVE” statue made by Robert Indiana. It is a gateway to other attractions in Philly and is home to beautiful scenery, calm walking trails, a massive fountain, and plenty of fun activities. It’s a treat to watch the park during Christmas time, when it is transformed into a magical winter wonderland.
Presque Isle State Park
The Presque Isle State Park is found next to Lake Erie and is an 11-mile long beach strip coupled with multiple hiking trails. It’s the perfect relaxation spot for all types of people and even features the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, which has interesting exhibits about the ecosystems and local history.
This concludes our list of the best attractions in Pennsylvania. We hope you liked reading about them and have decided to visit the Keystone State. Remember to interact with the locals for a unique and authentic tourist experience. There are plenty of fun things to do in Pennsylvania, but these are the best ones. So, be sure to check out some of the spots we mentioned! Happy traveling!