18 Top-Rated Small Towns in Pennsylvania
Author Anietra Hamper lives in Ohio and enjoys visiting Pennsylvania. Author Joni Sweet traveled to many small towns in Pennsylvania while on assignment for PlanetWare in 2022.
There are so many exciting ways to explore Pennsylvania, from the outdoors to museums to quiet drives through the mountains, and tucked in-between are small towns that are worthy of visiting.
There's no doubt that Pennsylvania's big cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Allentown have visitor appeal, but planning a trip around the small towns in the Keystone State will give you a whole new perspective.
From the deep historical roots of American history in Gettysburg and outdoor adventure tucked away in Mother Nature's mountain paradise to the quirky fame of Punxsutawney, which gets most of its attention on Groundhog Day predicting the arrival of spring, there are so many surprises awaiting in Pennsylvania's small towns.
Taking a small-town visit through the Alleghenies, or rolling with the windows down on the Dutch Country roads will give you a different kind of experience than what you might ever expect from Pennsylvania.
Find new places to visit and things to do with our list of the best small towns in Pennsylvania.
Situated among the Allegheny region in Pennsylvania is the quaint town of Johnstown. Most people have probably heard of it because of the tragic flood that happened as a result of a bursting dam in 1889.
Your visit to the town should include a stop at the Johnstown Flood Museum, which tells the stories of how the area was transformed after 20 million tons of water destroyed this steel town. The Heritage Discovery Center is another must-visit attraction that sheds light on the town's immigrant communities and the iron and steel industries in the area.
Johnstown has a strong arts scene, so you will enjoy visiting the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, one of five such galleries in southwestern Pennsylvania. You can also catch a performance by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra or plan your trip around the nationally recognized Folk Festival, which draws all ethnicities to the region each year.
If you want to add a quirky stop to your itinerary, you can say that you visited the Johnstown Inclined Plane, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "steepest vehicular inclined plane in the world," built in 1891.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Johnstown
You may have never heard of Lititz, Pennsylvania but you have probably enjoyed some of the great American treats that came from here. On your small-town visit, Lititz should be at the top of the destination list.
It is known as a foodie town and probably most known for the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, which was the first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States. Stop by for a tour and a lesson on pretzel twisting.
Then, balance your salt with some sweet flavor at the Wilbur Chocolate Factory, which has been operating since 1894. They are famous for their Wilbur Buds.
Walk off the Lititz treats as you tour the neighborhoods in the Dutch Country town and admire the unique architecture of the homes and buildings reminiscent of the town's settlement in the 1720s.
Notice the Moravian star, which hangs from most homes, hotel porches, and churches. It is a reminder of their heritage when the town was first established by Moravians, who wanted a region that was accepting of all religions.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lititz
3. Jim Thorpe
The small town of Jim Thorpe was originally called Mauch Chunk, a name given to a nearby mountain by the Lenni Lenape Indians, meaning "Mountain of the Sleeping Bear." The town is nestled in the Lehigh Gorge, so it has beautiful scenery to accent the history, which the town represents.
One of the best ways to enjoy Jim Thorpe is to walk along the winding streets that gave it its nickname of the "Switzerland of America." You can also meander along one of the many hiking trails to enjoy the scenic views of the gorge and the Lehigh River.
Soak in the historic Victorian architecture in the Old Mauch Chunk Historic District that has eight sites listed on the National Historic Register.
Then, see where the tycoons of the coal and lumber industry lived along Millionaire's Row. Take a tour inside the Asa Packer Mansion Museum to see how the wealthy lived in the region in the 1800s.
Another popular stop in Jim Thorpe is at the Old Jail Museum, which offers regular tours.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jim Thorpe
The town of Gettysburg got its notoriety for being the location of a famous Civil War battle and where President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. The town is one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania for history fanatics who want to touch and feel an important part of American history.
You can take a guided tour through the town and watch living history presentations. You can watch battle reenactments in the Gettysburg National Military Park and observe what soldier camps looked like.
Beyond the historical sites in Gettysburg, you can visit the surrounding rural community to stop by farmers markets and apple orchards. Shoppers can hit some of the boutique and antique stores that sell unique artwork and Civil War artifacts.
There are lots of lodging options and B&Bs to compliment your historical visit to Gettysburg like the James Gettys Hotel and the elegant Federal Pointe Inn.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gettysburg
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Gettysburg
The charming town of Bloomsburg, located in the Susquehanna Valley, has a nice combination of art, architecture, and history. This small college town is easily walkable to see many of the shops, art galleries, and entertainment venues.
Take your appetite to Bloomsburg because they have some unique eats that you can only find here, like specialty hoagie sandwiches in the cafes and made-from-scratch small-batch goodies from local independently owned bakeries like Nannycakes Bakery, just a short drive away.
Soak in the artsy side of Bloomsburg along Market Street, which runs through the main section of town. Visit the Artspace Gallery, which rotates exhibits every six weeks and features artwork for sale by local artists. Then, take in a performance at the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, a resident theater company.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bloomsburg
Tucked within Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains is the town of Milford with a mix of architecture and conservation points of interest. The town has a number of Victorian homes that are beautiful to see.
Start your visit at Grey Towers, which is a National Historic Site and former home of Gifford Pinchot, a previous Pennsylvania governor and the first director of the United States Forest Service. Take a guided tour of the mansion and gardens and learn about the role that the Pinchot family played in the U.S. conservation movement.
Plan a visit to the Columns Museum in Milford's Historic District. You can tour the 22-room mansion for insight into local history and architecture and see the famous flag that was draped from the Presidential box the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
Make sure you plan some time outdoors in Milford at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where you can take in some hiking, biking, and scenic waterfalls.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Milford
If you want to experience the heart and soul of Pennsylvania's Dutch country, plan a visit to Lancaster. It has a long history starting as the state capital from 1799 to 1812, but today it is associated with the Amish community.
Lancaster is best explored with no agenda, so that you can take in the countryside and Amish life as you pass the working farms and buggies that share the road with you. Pick up some fresh produce at the Lancaster Central Market at Penn Square. It is one of the oldest public markets in the United States, where you can buy fresh baked goods, flowers, meats, and cheese from vendors operating there since the early 1700s.
To learn more about the region and the Amish community, stop by the Mennonite Information Center or schedule a guided tour. You can visit the Amish Farm and House that offers a tour inside an Old Order Amish home and farm.
You can also hop on the Lancaster County Art Gallery Trail, which starts in Lancaster, and spend a day going to several towns that have galleries featuring pottery, paintings, and handmade crafts.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lancaster
Located on the fringe of Pittsburgh is Lawrenceville, which is made up of small local businesses and an ultra-creative neighborhood. The entire town is only 2.5-square miles.
The Butler Street business district is the best place to start since everything is located in a two-block area near the Allegheny River. Take home a new favorite art piece from one of the galleries or boutique shops in town or plan a night out at Row House Cinema, which is a single-screen cinema with a total of 83 seats.
Stroll along Arsenal Park, a city park renovated out of the Allegheny Arsenal that was once a supply center for the Union Army during the Civil War. Next, visit the Allegheny Cemetery, which is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in the United States.
History enthusiasts will enjoy seeing some of the notable sites in this small town, including the Doughboy Statue; Arsenal Field, where Johnny Unitas played ball; and the Stephen Foster House.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lawrenceville
9. New Hope
The town of New Hope is only about 30 miles from Philadelphia, but you feel like you are far away from the city. The historic town has an artsy flare with dozens of shops and galleries to visit, where you can find inspiration.
New Hope's main attraction, the Bucks County Playhouse, is a must-visit for all tourists. Located on the site of a former grist mill, this historic theater has been operating almost continuously since its opening in 1939. It has hosted performances by many famous actors, including Angela Lansbury and Jessica Walter. The venue has fine theatrical entertainment scheduled throughout the year.
New Hope evolved from an industrial town to an antiques and arts community. You will see remnants of its past in the renovated gristmills and paper mills that are now businesses and homes.
Experience part of the town's industrial history by walking along the Delaware Canal. Then, take in the local arts scene at Canal Walk Studios, a stretch of boardwalk that's home to several art galleries. Don't be surprised if you see an artist creating their next masterpiece on the boardwalk in the warmer months.
There are also lots of things for families to do in New Hope. Hop aboard a historic train on the New Hope Railroad, which offers seasonal themed excursions, including a trick-or-treat ride near Halloween. Play a life-size game of "Operation" and experience other hands-on exhibits at the Bucks County Children's Museum.
Climb the steps of the historic Bowman's Hill Tower for an incredible 14-mile view of the countryside. Or, learn about the region's unique flora and fauna at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, a 134-acre nature preserve with several miles of easy trails.
Finally, don't miss the chance to shop at Rice's Market. This massive flea market has been operating in New Hope for more than 150 years and welcomes hundreds of vendors every week.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in New Hope
Sitting at the crossroads of Philadelphia and Lancaster in the Pennsylvania Dutch county is Strasburg, which feels like a step back into another century.
Strasburg was an important stagecoach stop and trading center in the 1700 and 1800s, so there are still elements from those eras that define the small-town existence.
Plan a trip on the Strasburg Rail Road to see thousands of acres of farmland as you ride on this authentic locomotive that was once used in the passenger rail and freight industry.
After your train trip, stop at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania to learn more about the locomotive industry or spend some time at the National Toy Train Museum.
Strasburg is located in Amish country, so you can spend part of your trip appreciating the quiet culture. Visit The Amish Village to see how daily chores are handled or plan a three-mile ride in an Amish buggy at Ed's Buggy Rides.
For a day outside on the farm, you can plan an adventure at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm to try a corn maze and see daily life on a working farm.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Strasburg
A fun small-town visit in the Pennsylvania Wilds region is Wellsboro, which has historic flare all the way down to the gaslights that line Main Street. Walk down the center of town, where you will notice Victorian-style architecture and oversized boulevards.
You can explore Wellsboro by covered wagon on the Old Covered Wagon Tours, or by railroad on the Tioga Central Railroad. Wellsboro is also the destination to visit if you want to experience Pine Creek Gorge, often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania."
This scenic area carves a 1,000-foot gorge through forestland, stretching for 50 miles. There are also hiking, biking, and walking trails, and great wildlife-viewing opportunities in nearby Hills Creek State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Wellsboro
The small town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is also known as "Christmas City USA" and is one of the best Christmas towns in the country.
It's located about 1.5 hours from Philadelphia and is especially magical during the holiday season, when stores are decked out in festive décor, and horse-drawn carriages decorate the cobblestone streets as visitors go for rides downtown.
Thousands of twinkling lights and decorations adorn the Main Street boutiques and lamp posts, and local vendors sell gifts from outdoor shopping huts. Guided tours through some of the town's historic sites will transport you back to the 1700s.
From mid-November through Christmas, the town is also home to Christkindlmarkt, a legendary holiday market where you can find collectible nutcrackers from Germany's Käthe Wohlfahrt and mouth-watering seasonal fare (strudel, anyone?).
Other times of the year, Bethlehem is worth a stop on your small-town tour to experience some of the history and culture. The National Museum of Industrial History is located inside a 100-year-old steel factory and offers insight into the role Bethlehem and Pennsylvania played in America's steel industry.
The town has also converted the Hoover Mason Trestle into a 1,650-foot elevated park, where you can walk next to the towering blast furnaces used to produce iron and learn about the laborers who ran the plant.
Some other recommended stops while you are in Bethlehem include taking a stroll on the campus of Lehigh University. When you want to rest your legs, step inside in the Linderman Library and have a seat at one of the cozy chairs beneath the spectacular stained-glass window in the Victorian Rotunda. It has the perfect atmosphere for getting lost in a good book.
You should definitely go sightseeing in the Colonial Industrial Quarter, as well. It is home to a number of historic structures erected by the Moravians in the mid-1700s, including a 240-year-old Grist Miller's House.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bethlehem
The town of Punxsutawney is just as much fun to say as it is to visit. It is most famous for its Groundhog Day celebrations every February, when groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes an appearance to predict when spring will arrive. The annual event at Gobbler's Knob happens every February, but the town is enjoyable to visit any time of the year.
The town prides itself as the Home of the Groundhog, so be sure to start your themed visit at Gobbler's Knob, and take the half-mile trail through the famous grounds and site.
Next, stop by the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center, which has interactive exhibits about thunderstorms, tornados, and other weather events.
A fun and active way to see the town is by searching for the 32 Phantastic Phil art sculptures that are located throughout Punxsutawney. You can get a map from the Chamber of Commerce. The Lattimer House and The Bennis House in town have displays and historical information about the town and the famous groundhog.
If you want to see the real Punxsutawney, stop by Phil's Burrow on Mahoning Street, where you can see Phil and his wife Phyllis through the viewing windows facing the street.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Punxsutawney
The charming town of Stroudsburg is located in the Pocono Mountains. One of the great draws of this town is its proximity to the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area and outdoor recreation.
You can easily split your visit into several days to enjoy the variety of experiences that Stroudsburg offers. Spend one day visiting the downtown area to stop in at the local shops and restaurants.
Spend another day or two enjoying the nearby outdoor experiences, like hiking and visiting some of the phenomenal waterfalls that the area is known for. If you visit Stroudsburg in the winter, you can plan a day at one of the region's top ski resorts.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Stroudsburg
Doylestown is just north of Philadelphia and is a nice place to visit. One of the most noticeable and picturesque landmarks in Doylestown is the elegant Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle. The Fonthill Castle was built in the early 1900s as the home and collections showroom of a local anthropologist and scholar. It is now open for tours.
Another stop to get a flavor of the area is at the Michener Art Museum, which features artwork from Bucks County artists.
There is also a nice Bucks County Civil War Museum, which has more history of the area. You can break up museum visits with lunch at one of the local eateries downtown then take a drive to find some of the antique stores and covered bridges in the area.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Doylestown
Located in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, Easton is a wonderful destination for families, history buffs, and art lovers.
Easton's Centre Square in the heart of downtown is a long-standing attraction. This is the location where one of just three public readings of the Declaration of Independence occurred in 1776. It now hosts the Easton Farmers' Market, the longest continuously running open-air market in the U.S., during its winter season.
There are lots of things to do in Easton if you're traveling with kids. Young tourists will likely beg to go into the Crayola Experience once they see the giant crayon outside of this colorful attraction. Here, they can customize the label of their very own Crayola crayon, use melted wax to make spin art, and go wild in a crayon-themed playground, among other fun experiences.
Afterward, take a drive to Klein Farms Dairy and Creamery for a scoop of farm-fresh ice cream and a meet-and-greet with friendly animals, including mischievous goats.
Easton is also home to the state's only mule-drawn canal boat. You can get tickets for this experience and learn more about the country's golden age of canals at the National Canal Museum.
Art and culture are on full display at the Karl Stirner Arts trail. Named for a world-renowned sculptor who lived in Easton, this 1.6-mile-long trail in the woods is flanked by 16 pieces of art—and the collection continues to grow.
After a day of sightseeing, catch a show at the State Theatre Center for the Arts. It has a variety of entertainment throughout the year, including stand-up comedy, live music, and tours of Broadway shows. And, if you see a spirit, it might not be your imagination—rumor has it that this theater is haunted by the venue's former manager, "Fred the Ghost."
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Easton
While more populous than other destinations on this list, Scranton feels like a small town compared with Philadelphia and other large cities in Pennsylvania. It's got several museums, beautiful parks, and attractions themed around historical transportation.
Scranton's top attraction, Steamtown National Historic Site, is an amazing place to see antique trains, some of which are well over 100 years old.
Nearby, the Electric City Trolley Museum celebrates Scranton's claim to fame as the first town in the country to get electric-powered streetcars. This attraction offers excursions on authentic vintage trolleys, which run past the Historic Iron Furnaces.
Coal mining is another industry highlighted in Scranton attractions. The Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour takes tourists 300 feet under ground to a coal mine that dates back more than 60 years. You can learn more about the culture of coal miners and the harsh conditions they faced during the workday at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum, just a one-minute drive from the coal mine tour.
On a nice day, you should plan to spend the afternoon at Nay Aug Park. It's famous for its David Wenzel Treehouse and the Nay Aug Gorge and Waterfall, which have a designation as a National Natural Landmark. The park is also home to the Everhart Museum, which has a robust collection of American folk art.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Scranton
Located about 45 minutes west of Lancaster, York is another relatively small town worth visiting in Pennsylvania. The destination has some fantastic parks, as well as a beloved baseball stadium and preserved buildings that are older than the United States itself.
Nature is easy to access in York. It's home to Rocky Ridge Park, a 750-acre nature preserve with more than 12 miles of hiking trails. You can easily access an observation deck, which offers great views of the Susquehanna Valley and York Valley, on a short walk from the parking lot.
Another great spot for a vista is Samuel S. Lewis State Park. From its grassy hilltop, you can see an expansive panorama of East Prospect Valley and Kreutz Creek Valley. It's the perfect spot for a picnic (and you can find lots of edible goodies at York Central Market House).
York's Old Town Historic District has tons of sightseeing opportunities if you're into pre-Revolutionary War sites. Consider taking a tour of the Colonial Complex through the York History Center, or simply wander the streets on your own.
Navy-and-yellow signs posted outside of key buildings tell you about their history. It's also worth venturing to the Royal Square District to see the many murals on display.
If you happen to visit York in the spring or summer, try to catch a baseball game at PeoplesBank Park. This 7,500-seat stadium is the place to be when the local pro baseball team, the Revs, take on an opponent.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in York, PA
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Getting Outside: Pennsylvania is one of the most scenic states in the nation, with plenty of outdoor recreation and experiences to enjoy, from the national and state parks to hiking trails and top fly fishing regions. With so many rivers, like the Delaware and the Youghiogheny flowing through Pennsylvania, outdoor water recreation is second-to-none when it comes to white water rafting and kayaking in the rapids.
Where to Stay: There are many bed-and-breakfasts and historic inns throughout Pennsylvania, and campsites in the state and national parks. You also have the option of some luxury resorts in Pennsylvania and romantic getaways in the Poconos. The highest concentration of lodging will be in the bigger cities like Philadelphia, which has a range of hotels.
Weekend Getaways: Pennsylvania is a great destination for quick weekend getaways because the big cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are easily accessible, and the smaller towns like Hershey have enough to do for a full weekend all in one place.