16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Pennsylvania
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Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State for its role in building the foundations of the United States of America. It is here that the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address were written. Tourists will find an abundance of historic landmarks and attractions, from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the Valley Forge and Gettysburg battle sites. It is also known as the Quaker State for the religion of the state's namesake, William Penn.
Pennsylvania Dutch country is home to the unique culture of the Amish, whose dedication to simplicity and tradition continues to draw visitors who are looking for a peaceful weekend getaway. The city of Pittsburgh is known for its industrial roots and the cultural legacy of the Carnegie family, while the capital city of Harrisburg is loved for its small-town feel and historic buildings.
Other places to visit in Pennsylvania have earned their fame for less serious reasons, like Hershey, which is known for its chocolate manufacturer, and Punxsutawney for its weather-predicting groundhog. From the urban attractions of historic Philadelphia to the numerous parks and open country, there is something for everyone here.
Find your new favorite things to do with our list of the best tourist attractions in Pennsylvania.
1. Independence National Park and the Liberty Bell
One of America's most historic areas and home to the Liberty Bell, Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia is a national treasure. Independence Hall is the central attraction at the park, famous as the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where the Constitution was drafted. The Liberty Bell sits on display across from Independence Hall, surrounded by a series of exhibits describing its history.
Independence Mall, laid out in 1948, extends north of here, forming the remainder of the park, which is paved with old cobblestone streets. Here, you will find historic buildings, like Congress Hall and Old City Hall, and museums including the Ben Franklin Museum and the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Address: 143 S. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Philadelphia: Best Areas & Hotels
2. Hershey Park
Families will enjoy an outing to this famous amusement park in Hershey, a town also closely associated with chocolate. Hershey Park is the town's main attraction with 90 acres of rides and entertainment for kids and adults, ranging from roller coasters to aquatic shows.
The park was originally built in 1906 as a recreational area for Hershey's workers but expanded over the years to attract visitors from all over. Hershey Park continues to expand, offering a wide range of things to do for all ages. In addition to kiddie rides, the park has all the family favorites like a carousel, train, bumper cars, and Ferris wheel. There are also several water rides perfect for a hot summer's day and more than a dozen roller coasters designed to thrill.
Other attractions include midway-style games and two large video arcades. Adjacent to the park and included in admission is ZooAmerica. Here, visitors can see more than 200 animals from North American habitats, including bald eagles, mountain lions, and even roadrunners. Zoo guests can also sign up for special behind-the-scenes tours to get a closer look and an opportunity to help feed the animals. For those who want to skip the big park and just visit the zoo, admission is available at a lower rate.
Address: 100 Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.hersheypark.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hershey
3. Gettysburg National Military Park
The Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg is the site of Gettysburg Battlefield, where in 1863 this Civil War battle was responsible for 51,000 casualties over a three-day period. Hundreds of markers and monuments now grace the park. Key highlights are Seminary Ridge, which was the primary Confederate position west of Gettysburg for days two and three of the battles; Cemetery Ridge, the site of Union Lines for the final two days of battle; and Oak Ridge, the site of the opening day battle of the Civil War.
The Park Museum and Visitor Center has several exhibits, including the Rosensteel collection, which is one of the largest collections of Civil War uniforms, weapons, and personal items in the United States. The park also hosts living history programs and reenactments and has extensive horseback riding trails.
Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike (Route 97), Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gettysburg
4. Presque Isle State Park
One of the top parks in Pennsylvania, Presque Isle State Park sits on a peninsula that curves out into Lake Erie, creating Presque Isle Bay, an important shipping and transport center. The park is open daily year-round and has plenty to offer, including 11 miles of beach and several hiking trails.
As well as swimmers and sunbathers, many visitors come here to collect colorful "sea" glass that has washed ashore. Kite-flyers also love the open space and lake winds, and Sunset Point is a favorite spot. The park also hosts seasonal events and summer concerts that are free and open to the public.
At the entrance of the park, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center houses exhibits about the local history and ecosystems. The center also facilitates activities and has a 75-foot observation tower from which you can admire the surrounding park and lake. There are also amazing views of the lake from atop the Lighthouse on Presque Isle, which can be visited by guided tour, as well as the lesser-known Lighthouse on North Pier.
5. Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses one of America's largest collections of art and is also an iconic building in the city. The museum's front steps were featured in all of the "Rocky" movies, and from the top of these steps is a grand view down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the landmark tower of City Hall.
Inside, the museum's permanent collections include a wide range of art, including an extensive European collection featuring works by Rembrandt, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Chagall, and Manet. Other galleries include those dedicated to textiles and fashion, American colonial furniture, and an outdoor sculpture garden.
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.philamuseum.org
Fallingwater is one of the most famous of the buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, known for its organic architecture that simultaneously harmonizes and contrasts with the natural world around it. In addition to the magnificent architecture, the collections of the home's former residents, the Kauffman family, are a main attraction. Located just 43 miles southeast of the city, Fallingwater is a popular day trip from Pittsburgh.
Sculptures large and small adorn the property inside and out, including pieces ranging from Mexican folk art to the works of prominent Cubist sculptors. Some of the most impressive pieces include a cast iron Buddha head (circa 906-1127), an Austrian-Bohemian Madonna crafted in 1420, and an 8th-century sculpture of the Hindu fertility goddess Parvati.
The home is furnished with an eclectic collection that ranges from folk craft to designer chairs. There is also an impressive international art collection that includes works by Picasso and Diego Rivera. The interior of the home can be seen via guided tour, and there is a café and gift shop on the property.
Address: 1491 Mill Run Road, Mill Run, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.fallingwater.org
7. Reading Terminal Market
Named a National historic Landmark in 1995, the Reading Terminal Market has been a Philadelphia institution since its opening in 1893. Before the Reading Railroad Company built its new station and the market area beneath it, farmers and fishermen sold their goods in an open-air market close to the railway hub. Today, it is frequented by locals and tourists alike, still providing fresh local goods to Philadelphia's families and restaurants.
Nearly all of the market's vendors are small local businesses, including those selling farm-fresh local produce, butchers selling free-range meats, and numerous food artisans offering canned preserves, baked goods, ice cream, and even Pennsylvania Dutch candy. Keeping with the theme, visitors will also find plenty of cookbooks, unique kitchen supplies, and other foodie favorites to make the experience complete.
The market also has more than just food - there are numerous artisan shops that feature a range of one-of-a-kind treasures, including handcrafted jewelry, clothing, handmade traditional crafts, and gifts. The market is open seven days a week, but visitors should note that the Pennsylvania Dutch vendors are closed on Sundays.
Address: 51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Official site: https://readingterminalmarket.org
8. Phipps Conservatory
This enormous complex sits in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park, where its botanical gardens and facilities cover 15 acres. Donated to the city in 1893, the conservatory has grown to include 23 gardens in addition to the massive 14-room glasshouse, which is home to impressive collections of bonsai and orchids.
The glasshouse also has several other permanent environments, including the Desert Room, which features cacti, and the Tropical Forest Conservatory. Other exhibits change throughout the year, with seasonal flower shows and events. Outdoors, visitors will find traditional flower gardens as well as unique ones like the aquatic gardens.
The Conservatory complex also includes the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, which is considered to be one of the "greenest" buildings in the world. The center hosts educational programs and is responsible for maintaining green practices throughout the gardens and facilities.
Address: One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.phipps.conservatory.org
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Pittsburgh: Best Areas & Hotels
9. Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Founded in 1896 by Andrew Carnegie, this is one of Pittsburg's top tourist attractions and one of the best natural history museums in the United States. The museum is best known for its dinosaur and paleontology exhibits, and the on-site PaleoLab gives visitors the opportunity to watch staff scientists work with new specimens as they prepare them to be displayed.
The majority of examples within the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit are genuine dinosaur skeletons and fossils, including one of the first Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons discovered. The exhibit features many of the fossils in their authentic Mesozoic Era settings. The Cretaceous Seaway exhibit dovetails with this to explore the same era's underwater species, focusing on North America's West Interior Seaway as it looked 80 million years ago.
There are fossils from the Cenozoic Era and Ice Age in the Age of Mammals exhibit, and there are several other exhibits that focus on present-day wildlife. These include exhibits about North American wildlife, African wildlife, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Visitors interested in the museum's process can also learn all about how curators create the dioramas that bring the natural world to life.
For younger visitors, Discovery Basecamp is the place to get hands-on with specimens and learn more about the natural world with interactive exhibits.
Address: 4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.carnegiemnh.org
10. Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary is an eerie mash-up of the old and new, with industrial watchtowers looming over stone buildings that look more like a medieval fortress than a prison. The stories and legends that surround this massive facility are as impressive as the building itself, which remains largely unchanged since it closed in 1971. The facility was built in 1829, with arched ceilings and long corridors that make it particularly interesting for photography.
Once one of the leading high-tech prisons in the United States, Eastern State Penitentiary housed such infamous inmates as Al Capone and Willie Sutton. One of the most popular parts of the tour is Al Capone's cell, which is shown with the lavish furnishings that Capone managed to have while in prison. The penitentiary museum's central exhibit takes a look at the present statistics regarding prisons in the United States and the conditions within.
In addition, exhibits explore changes in policy and law and the negative effects this has had on specific groups and communities, especially minorities and non-whites. Audio and guide-led tours are available, as well as hands-on interactive tours that allow visitors a more in-depth exploration.
Address: 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.easternstate.org
11. Pennsylvania State Capitol
The State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg covers 45 acres and houses both active government buildings and several tourist attractions. The Capitol Building itself is an impressive structure built of Vermont granite whose entrance is guarded by a pair of bronze doors weighing one ton each. Sitting atop the building is a grand dome inspired by Rome's Cathedral of St. Peter, which weighs in at a massive 52 million pounds. Tours of the Capitol Building can be scheduled in advance.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania is also located on the complex grounds and includes a natural history museum, planetarium, historical exhibits, and a collection of artifacts and documents from the state's early years. Throughout the complex of historical and government buildings are many statues and memorials, including Soldier's Grove Quadrangle, the Pennsylvania War Veterans Memorial Fountain, and a replica of the Liberty Bell.
Address: Room 129, Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.pacapitol.com
12. The Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo is distinguished as the first zoo in the United States, featuring a wide range of animals in its 42 acres within their own habitats. The zoo's programs focus on educating the public about conservation and caring for its 1,300 residents, as well as rehabilitating wildlife in need.
One of the most popular places to visit in the zoo is the African Plains habitat, where it feels like a safari. It's home to regal giraffes and bold white rhinoceroses. Big Cat Falls is another popular area. This beautiful habitat features African lions, Amur tigers, leopards, pumas, and other large felines.
The PECO Primate Reserve is home to the zoo's population of gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons, as well as smaller primates like the black & white colobus, squirrel monkey, and the Bolivian gray titi monkey. This habitat also has a population of lemurs, a crowd favorite.
Other residents include Humboldt penguins at Penguin Point, red kangaroos in Outback Outpost, sloth bears and others in Bear Country, and two areas devoted to birds. For younger visitors, there is KidZooU, an educational children's zoo that offers hands-on exhibits and up-close visits with the zoo's tamer residents, like sheep, goats, and other farm animals.
Address: 19 S 22nd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.philadelphiazoo.org
This small town in Lancaster County is known for its Amish culture and railroad history. One way to appreciate this area is to take a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road, which offers 45-minute scenic journeys aboard the country's oldest turn-of-the-century steam trains. The coal-powered locomotives pass through Amish country and farms. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania displays historic railroad artifacts with more than 100 locomotives and cars from the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Strasburg is also home to the National Toy Train Museum, which has extensive displays of model train collections from the 1800s through today, hands-on educational exhibits, and special events. In keeping with the town's love of trains, Traintown USA features a 1,700-square-foot model train layout complete with animated figures and 22 trains. You can also stock up on your own model train supplies or get your hobby started up at their store, the Strasburg Train Shop.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Strasburg
14. Valley Forge and Valley Forge National Historical Park
Valley Forge stands as the ultimate symbol of suffering, sacrifice, and triumph of the American Revolutionary War. During the winter of 1777-78, American soldiers endured some 2,000 casualties related to hunger, disease, and poor conditions after the British razed this key supply center.
This piece of history is illustrated through exhibits, tours, and a film. On-site are Washington's Headquarters, a National Memorial Arch, as well as trails and recreational space for visitors to enjoy. Located on the north-western outskirts of Philadelphia, Valley Forge is an easy day trip from the city.
Address: 1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Just a short drive east of Lancaster on SR 340 is Intercourse, a quaint town with an old-style country atmosphere. One of the top attractions is the Old Country Store, where tourists can buy local crafts and tasty, fresh-baked treats, as well as admire traditional handcrafted patchwork quilts at their Quilt Museum.
On Main Street, tourists can take a buggy ride and visit People's Place to learn about the history, traditions, and folk crafts of local cultures, including the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites. Intercourse is also home to the American Military Edged Weaponry Museum, which has an impressive collection of knives, swords, bayonets, and similar weapons.
Other popular attractions include tours of the local pretzel factory and the Leaman Place covered bridge that spans Pequea Creek.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Intercourse
16. Andy Warhol Museum
Located in Pittsburgh, the Andy Warhol Museum offers an insightful look at the life of this great American pop artist. On display are some of his most famous pieces, including the Marilyn and Elvis portraits and the Tomato Soup Cans. In addition to his art are exhibits related to his life from his early years through to the end of his life.
Address: 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.warhol.org