Sweet food and stellar recreation greet visitors to Pennsylvania. Feel the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh and slow things down in Lancaster County. In the Poconos, the Tricky Triangle is home to racing thrills.
In July of 1863, the small, southeast Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg was the epicenter of the battle that turned the tide in the Civil War. More than 150,000 Union and Confederate troops clashed here, and over 50,000 soldiers fell in bloody combat. Today, the gently rolling hills commemorate these dark days with several museums and parks both in town and in the surrounding countryside. Encompassing almost 6,000 acres south of town, Gettysburg National Military Park preserves the battlefield itself and provides solemn spaces for remembrance. However, Gettysburg is more than a historic site. Visitors will find a delightful town at the center of Pennsylvania’s scenic Fruit Belt region, which provides ample opportunity for relaxation and recreation.
Located just north of Pennsylvania’s border with Maryland, Gettysburg is almost halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Popular tourist areas of Lancaster (known as Dutch Country) and Hershey (home to the famed chocolate plant and theme park) are conveniently located nearby. Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, sit approximately 90 minutes southeast of Gettysburg. Most visitors arrive via U.S. Route 30, which connects Interstates 81 and 83. Weather varies greatly around the year, with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. During the spring and fall seasons, come prepared for changing weather conditions and be prepared for a lot of walking.
Recreation and History
While Gettysburg National Military Park is notable as a historic site, there are also opportunities for outdoor recreation within the park. Exploring the grounds on horseback offers a unique perspective. A hike up Little Round Top provides a poignant overview of the battlefield, while scrambling around the rocks at Devil’s Den can bring the battle to life. Nearby, the Blue Ridge Mountains offer stunning backdrops to Caledonia, Pine Grove Furnace and Mont Alto state parks, where you can enjoy golfing, fishing, hunting, hiking, boating, biking and swimming. The mountain streams provide great habitat for trout, while numerous lakes are teeming with bass and perch. Nearby, Michaux State Forest is a good pick for deer and small game hunting. Trails for horse-riding and ATVs snake through the area. Drop a line in one of the stocked trout streams for a hearty dinner.
Hunk o’ Burnin Love
Put a new twist on the s’mores recipe for a quick and tasty snack on the go. Recipe by the Good Sam Team.
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- Graham crackers
Place marshmallow and chunks of banana on a skewer. Roast until golden brown. Place on graham cracker smeared with peanut butter. If you miss the classic s’mores flavor, add some chocolate and let the heat melt it into gooey goodness.
Fruit Belt Fun
Located in Adams County, Gettysburg is surrounded by quirky and compelling attractions. Considered the state’s Fruit Belt, the rolling green hills that proliferate in the region form a patchwork of orchards and vineyards. Tour the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail to get a taste of the region by sampling local ciders, wines and brews. Visit Lincoln Square to enjoy the vibrant vibe of downtown Gettysburg, home to art galleries, enticing shops and local restaurants. You’ll find historic taverns and pubs side-by-side with hip cafes offering the latest vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Living in the shadow of a bloody battle, Gettysburg is considered by some to be the most haunted town in America. Explore these tales of the paranormal with a ghost tour or candlelight walk. A tour of the Museum of Haunted Objects in town will acquaint you with some of the world’s most spooky curios. Feel the spirit of haunted dolls and witchy Ouija boards.
Gallivanting Around Gettysburg
Each spring, the hills of Adams County become white and pink as the blossoms on fruit trees begin to bloom, filling the air with a sweet scent. Gettysburg’s Apple Blossom Festival is held each May to commemorate the arrival of spring, while the National Apple Harvest Festival celebrates the bounty of fruit each October. Crafts, music, vendors and, of course, food abound. For history buffs, there are several events marking the region’s role in the Civil War. The largest is the annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment, put on each July by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. Hear the boom of cannons as soldiers march in period regalia. Gettysburg National Military Park annually recognizes Dedication Day on November 19 to commemorate President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. See a Lincoln impersonator read the historic text.
Gettysburg National Military Park is the top draw in the region. Tour the battlefield and museum to gain insight into the strategies that led to the fighting. You can also pay your respects at the Gettysburg National Cemetery or at one of the many memorials that dot the sprawling park. Several ranger-led tours and living history programs help put you in the boots of the combatants. Back in the town of Gettysburg, several Civil War-era homes preserve the lives of locals who were affected by the battle. Stop by the David Wills House, where President Lincoln stayed during his Gettysburg Address visit. Check out the Shriver House, whose attic once served as a sniper’s nest for a confederate sharpshooter; historic reenactors on-site shed light on this dramatic episode. Another piece of the region’s history can be explored at the National Apple Museum in nearby Biglerville.
Find your sweet spot in the town where chocolate is king. It’s a town where you’ll smell the sweet aroma of milk chocolate wafting from the local factory as you cross the city limits. Take a drive down Main Street, where you can turn at the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues and see streetlights that look like beautiful, shiny Hershey Kisses. Once you see these iconic beacons, you’ll know you made it to Hershey.
Families who visit the town often make Hersheypark their first stop. This 113-year-old amusement park has something for everyone. Take in a show and experience over 70 attractions, including 14 roller coasters that will leave you screaming for more. Here, you’ll also find ZooAmerica, which features more than 200 wild animals that are native to North America. Before you leave for the day, stopover at Chocolate World, a sweet exhibit that will take you on a ride around a virtual chocolate factory. At the end of the ride, passengers are rewarded with a free Hershey bar.
Make a Splash in Hershey
You’ll find watery fun for the whole family at Hersheypark’s Boardwalk, with more than 15 water rides that will make your brood’s trip a splash. If you brought your boat, launch it near Hershey. Just 15 minutes north of town, you can put your boat in the Susquehanna River. Anglers will be delighted with the variety of fish you can reel in, including walleye, catfish and smallmouth bass, just to name a few.
Bring your clubs, because the Sweetest Place on Earth also hosts lush links. There are two public courses in Hershey and a half dozen more within 15 minutes of town.
If you’re a fan of plants, trees and flowers, you’ll have to stop by the 23-acre Hershey Gardens. This botanical wonderland has a butterfly house and a hands-on garden for the kids. And if you grow weary of the town’s chocolate offerings, take a taste of the area’s fine vintages; there are about a dozen wineries within 15-30 minutes of town.
Make time for a shopping spree during your visit. Hershey overflows with retail opportunities. Stop in any of the small shops that line the downtown to find antique shops, toy stores and, of course, candy stores. Just across the street from the amusement park is the Tanger Outlet Shopping Center, with over 50 stores that slash prices with big discounts. If you’re looking for a great show, catch a performance at the iconic Hershey Theatre, renowned for its Aeolian-Skinner organ, with over 4,000 pipes.
Challenge the odds at Hollywood Casino in Grantville, and if you’re lucky, you’ll come up a winner. Located at Penn National Race Course, the casino offers slot play, table games and a museum filled with memorabilia and props from popular Hollywood films. Live music has a starring role, too, as do the horses. If motorsports start your engine, stick around for a race or two and see if you can pick a winner.
In his wisdom, company founder Milton S. Hershey placed his factory in Central Pennsylvania because of its proximity to dairy farms. He knew he’d need a steady supply of milk to make his famous chocolate. But before there was chocolate, there was the stone that was the color of chocolate. Famous Manhattan brownstone row houses were built with stones from the Hershey area, and Mr. Hershey used many of the same stones for the structures of his sprawling Hershey complex. In addition to building Hershey, he invested in many of the buildings around town, including the Hershey Hotel and the Milton Hershey School for disadvantaged children, still in operation today.
Explore the lush landscapes of Lancaster County in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The handsome city of Lancaster forms the gateway for the region’s natural pleasures and cultural attractions, while the pretty towns of Lititz and Ephrata are among the state’s most alluring communities. Discover 19th-century German buildings, pretzel factories, quilt shops and traditional farmers’ markets. The area is known for the Amish communities who practice plain living, but there’s a lot more than buggies and barns in this stretch of the Keystone State.
Lancaster Comes Alive
Lancaster City’s colonial history is preserved in a gorgeous historic district with architecture that spans four centuries, ranging from Federal to Victorian styles. The city’s cultural heart is Penn Square, famed for its central market, the oldest farmers’ market in the nation and a local tradition since the 1730s. Local restaurants serve tasty treats like shoofly pie, a dessert with a crumb topping and sweet molasses interior.
Lancaster on Foot
A great place to start your visit is the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour, which will introduce you to the stories of the county seat’s earliest days. Helpful guides dressed in period clothing share the city’s past (it was once the capital of the United States) and explain the area’s contributions to American life through stops at more than 50 locations around Lancaster. Stop in at Saint James Episcopal Church, a beacon of hospitality and an icon of the region. The church has stood at its present location since 1744 and is adorned with stained-glass works of art, paintings and colorful tiles.
Pennsylvania German culture is rich and lively, and beautiful Historic Schaefferstown welcomes you to explore and learn about the traditions and lives of its founding residents. Visit Alexander Schaeffer House and Farm, a mid-18th-century dwelling in which residents distilled whiskey. The Thomas R. Brendle Museum displays cultural artifacts from Pennsylvania German families and the Gemberling-Rex House, once a tavern, invites visitors in to see where travelers whet their whistles.
Lancaster’s history stretches back to 1709 when it was first settled by German immigrants, or Pennsylvania Dutch, as they are better known. From its humble origins as “Hickory Town,” Lancaster City established itself as a heavy economic hitter during the colonial era to become the state capital from 1799 to 1812. It thrived as the region’s cultural and financial center during the early 20th century. A profusion of religious orders and cultures have left their imprint in the form of eclectic architecture, religious rituals and distinct social structures. The region is known as the cradle of America’s oldest and most conservative Amish settlement.
Plain in Pennsylvania
Every year, thousands of tourists visit the region to learn about the Pennsylvania Amish. Culturally sensitive tours of the Amish community can be arranged with local guides, providing rich insight into the history, customs and culture of the community. Learn why the so-called “plain folk” eschew modern technologies and how their simple and spiritual lifestyle has endured through the centuries. Tours include a visit to a traditional one-room schoolhouse, farm buildings and more. Travel around in Amish style on a buggy ride from Kitchen Kettle Village. Whether you trot four miles or meander five, be sure to pass over a covered bridge and take in the scenic countryside. Then, trek through historic Intercourse for more Amish-style fun. As you travel, you’ll glean some great insights into the customs, agricultural methods and ingenuity of this community, who migrated from Europe in the 17th century to escape religious persecution. But be respectful of the Amish. Don’t take photographs of them without permission, and always be polite and courteous.
Living the Amish Life
If you’ve ever wanted to get insights into the day-to-day Amish lifestyle, head to the whimsically named community of Bird-in-Hand. The Amish Experience offers a VIP tour that allows you to visit an Amish home and watch while family members milk the cows and prepare food. Abe’s Buggy Rides has been giving visitors a taste of Amish travel for nearly 50 years, and if you’re lucky, the driver will let you in on the best places to try the traditional molasses treat known as shoofly pie, the region’s most famous dessert.
Known as the “Pretzel Town,” Lititz, just six miles from Lancaster, distills the essence of Lancaster County. Founded in 1756, the town’s 18th-century architectural heritage and Germanic roots have been admirably preserved; the Linden Hall Academy dates to 1794 and is the oldest girls’ school in the nation. Also, in town, the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery has been baking pretzels following the same German recipe since 1861. Enjoy them hot out of the oven.
Fun in Ephrata
Come to Ephrata for the landscapes, stay for the amazing history. Visitors will witness a captivating tableau of serene terrain and historical attractions, including an 18th-century Moravian religious site, the Ephrata Cloister. The historic site attracted pilgrims eager for spiritual development. Eager to reap the area’s bounty? The Green Dragon Farmers Market & Auction puts a world of produce at your fingertips.
Within striking distance of Lancaster, former U.S. President James Buchanan’s exquisite Wheatland mansion, which served as the Democratic headquarters during Buchanan’s 1856 presidential campaign, can be visited on a guided tour. The Federal-style mansion was built in 1828 by a local lawyer named William Jenkins and is faithfully furnished in mid-19th-century period style with Victorian furniture, artifacts and artwork that belonged to Buchanan.
Biking in Bucolic Country
Go cycling along the beautiful countryside and lush farmlands via several trails, including the Conestoga Greenway Trail (1.3 miles), Conewago Recreation Trail (5.1 miles) and epic Enola Low Grade Trail (27.6 miles). Take historic bike tours of the county’s 29 covered bridges. For walkers and hikers, the 1.7-mile Farmingdale Trail winds along Little Conestoga Creek through pretty woodlands, a wildflower meadow and wetlands.
Ready to break in that new pair of hiking boots? The Chestnut Grove Natural Area features five different trails that meander through wetlands, meadows and woods of the River Hills.
Rolling on the River
Bordering Lancaster County to the west, the Susquehanna River flows through the historic river towns of Columbia, Marietta and Wrightsville at the center of the Pennsylvania Heritage Area. This stretch of the river corridor consists of bucolic woodlands and pristine nature preserves, attracting visitors to sail, kayak, paddle and fish on the current.
Travel about 15 miles south of Lancaster to the Trout Run Nature Preserve. Here, adventurers will find a trail system that traverses wooded areas and the picturesque Pequea Creek, which teems with smallmouth bass, catfish, walleye and trout. Looking for more water action? The Conestoga River runs through the country and is a popular canoeing and kayaking destination that flows for over 60 miles before emptying into the Susquehanna. Some stretches of the waterway churn with Class I rapids.
Covering some 18 acres, The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, located in Strasburg, preserves more than 100 historic locomotives, in addition to artifacts, memorabilia, and archival material that chart the history of the Pennsylvania railroad. A series of interactive exhibits allow visitors to simulate driving a real freight locomotive, explore a caboose, examine the underbelly of a 62-ton locomotive, view restoration activities via closed-circuit television and enjoy interactive educational programs. The museum’s highlights include the “Lindbergh Engine” (technically the PRR460), built in 1914, which became famous after racing an aircraft to New York City carrying newsreels of Charles Lindbergh’s return to the U.S. after his transatlantic flight in 1927. Another crowd-pleasing historical touchstone is the official steam locomotive of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (PRR 3750), which pulled President Warren Harding’s funeral train.
The town of Paradise lives up to its name if you’re a lover of farming. Here, Verdant View Farm celebrates the bounty of Lancaster County. Try your hand as a farmers’ apprentice and help tend to the goats, milk the cows, collect eggs for breakfast and make homemade ice cream. You’ll never buy ice cream from a store again. Duck into a fine restaurant for farm fresh dishes or explore backroads.
Toast to a great vacation at Rumspringa Brewing Company, where craft-brewed beers accompany lively conversation and tasty bar-style treats, and where wine lovers can sample vintages from the region. If you’re a fan of salty snacks, you can’t miss the chance to see famed Lancaster County pretzels being made by hand. Some establishments encourage guests to try and twist their own. Homemade jam is a sweet attraction here, too, and the Cannin’ and Jammin’ Tour is a fun way to find out how jam comes together.
Pittsburgh and Countryside
The second-largest city in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is a beautiful, green metropolis with four distinct seasons, vibrant culture and ample green spaces and waterways. While the city itself is full of things to see and do, it’s also a great base for exploring the nearby area and its myriad waterways.
There’s no shortage of attractions in Pittsburgh. Shedding its past as a hub of steel production, the city is stingingly green, with four large parks within the city limits, including beautiful Schenley Park. Other major attractions include the sprawling Carnegie Museum of Natural History, known for its stunning dinosaur skeletons, as well as the Andy Warhol Museum, dedicated to the works of the renowned 20th-century pop artist. The ToonSeum is one of the few cartoon museums in the U.S., while the 42-story Cathedral of Learning is the largest educational building in this hemisphere. The eye-catching, Gothic-revival building is the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh.
Three Righteous Rivers
Pittsburgh’s waterways have helped put the city on the map. The Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge to become the Ohio River, all right in the heart of the city. Plenty of people go boating and kayaking around this confluence, and visitors who want to get great views of the city should look into taking a boat tour. For silly fun, consider a Just Ducky Tour, which features a duck-inspired hybrid land-and-water vehicle. For anglers, there are lots of places to go fishing not far from town. These include the gargantuan Cross Creek Lake, known for its bass fishing, North Park Lake (boat rentals are also available here) and Highland Park Dam, right on the Allegheny.
Hike, Bike and Ride
Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas serve up lots of trails for hikers, bikers, runners and anyone who just wants to get out and spend some time outdoors. The North Shore Riverfront Park & Trail gets lots of foot traffic, and there are a fair few restaurants to stop at for a snack along the way. Running along the banks of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (which join together at Point State Park to become the Ohio River), Three Rivers Heritage Trail offers 24 miles of pathways in total. There’s also the Rachel Carson Trail, which traverses 35 miles of rugged terrain, while Ohiopyle State Park, south of town, offers all sorts of outdoor recreation opportunities, including the three-mile-long Meadow Run Trail to the towering Cucumber Falls. Take a ride on Pittsburgh’s funicular to see dazzling views.
Life in Town
Pittsburgh has long been associated with the steel industry (which even lent its name to the city’s NFL team, the Steelers). However, the city has shed its industrial past and today is a hub of technology and bioscience, with lots of restaurants, bars and cultural attractions. It also has four distinct seasons (but gets a fair amount of rainfall) and a strong urban identity. While the generational makeup of the city is fairly balanced, there’s certainly a large student population here, with colleges and universities galore, including the well-regarded Carnegie Mellon University.
Celebrating Steel Town
Pittsburgh puts on several big events throughout the year. Gourmand types won’t want to miss Restaurant Week’s Winter Celebration in January, which features superb cuisine and local restaurant specials. A few months later comes the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival in April, three days devoted to the performing arts. Summer festivities include the Three Rivers Arts Festival in June, the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival in June and Bloomfield Little Italy Days in August.
Jousting and Jitters
The Renaissance Festival in August focuses on recreating the merriment of times of yore. Along with a smattering of Halloween festivities, October brings with it the Head of the Ohio boat race, one of the largest regattas in the U.S.
Pittsburgh Past Through Present
Pittsburgh gets its name from Fort Pitt, which was established by the British during the French and Indian War in what is now downtown Pittsburgh. The fort had an advantage due to its strategic location at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, which forms the Ohio River. The need for weapons during the War of 1812 led the city to become a steel center, and by the early 20th century, Pittsburgh was responsible for producing around half of the steel in the country. Recently, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself in the information age: A tech boom has taken the city by storm, with firms that specialize in artificial intelligence, robotics and biomedicine establishing headquarters in the city. Trendy restaurants have opened their doors to welcome the techies as well as out-of-town visitors.
Playing Ball in Pittsburgh
Sports are a big deal here, and there are three major league teams in the city: the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL). All share common colors of black and gold, in honor of the city’s flag. Pittsburgh is the only city in the country where sports teams share the same colors.
Parks in Pittsburgh
After catching Steelers games at Heinz Field or watching the Pirates play at PNC Park, sports fans may want to head out to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Senator John Heinz History Center.
Golf is also very popular in Pittsburgh, and the region’s Foxburg Country Club, established in 1887, is the oldest continuously operated course in the country. World-famous golfer Arnold Palmer got his start in the area.
Riding the Rapids
Southeast of Pittsburgh, The Middle Yough River features class I and II rapids, which yield more placid conditions for kayaking, fishing and gentle rafting/floats. Cyclists can also pedal 11 miles east along a picturesque trail that traces the banks of the river.
Falling Water and Kentuck Knob
If you’d like to see architecture defy gravity, head 67 miles southeast to Laurel Highlands to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, considered an iconic architectural treasure. Cantilevered over a waterfall, the house was built in 1936 for a local Pittsburgh department store owner, Edgar J. Kaufman. A jewel of 20th-century aesthetics, the home defied conventional architectural styles when it was built and still stands as an engineering marvel. Many Frank Lloyd Wright purists state a preference for nearby Kentuck Knob, noted for its more intimate and humble design.
The Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania attract thrill-seekers and scenery lovers for good reason. The area is known to the locals as just “the Poconos.” It has 150 lakes, nearly a dozen waterfalls, adrenaline-pumping ziplines, scenery-rich hiking, challenging biking and legendary NASCAR action. There are wineries and breweries, you-pick farms and even the world’s largest country store. All four seasons are represented at this dynamic paradise, which should be a mainstay on your bucket list.
Pocono Keeps Pace
The Pocono Raceway erupts with the roar of engines when NASCAR comes to town. Known as the “Tricky Triangle,” the track challenges drivers with its three sharp turns, while the straightaway allows drivers to top 200 mph. Take the kids to Tricky’s Kit Kamp, which features games, play structures and special entertainment. The Tricky Triangle Club hosts driver Q&As. Infield camping and trackside camping accommodate RVs.
Looking for a one-of-a-kind forest adventure? Check out the Delaware State Forest’s 82-acre Tarkill Forest Demonstration Area, which was established in 1948 as a textbook example of multiuse forestry; a self-guided nature trail provides glimpses of a compelling ecosystem. Also on offer are boating, hunting and horseback riding along 26 miles of designated riding trails, along with biking and ATV trails (for all skill levels).
The riffles runs, pools and a profusion of in-stream habitats of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River make it one of the most ecologically rich rivers in the Northeast. Here, you can canoe through rapids, marvel at the ever-changing scenery from rolling hills to quaint riverside villages or partake of excellent fishing in crystal-clear streams.
Cresting the Camelback
Skiing and snowboarding are big at Camelback Mountain Resort. In addition, the Big Pocono State Park that surrounds it is a great spot for hiking and biking in warmer months. Skytop, known for its historic 1920s retreat hotel, also offers a wealth of outdoor adventures. The many lakes, ponds and rivers that sculpted the mountainous region are open for fishing and swimming, and outfitters are available in most towns to help guide you through exciting rafting and boating excursions. Visit Camelback Mountain Adventures for ziplines, downhill rides and other thrilling pursuits.
Beer and Beautiful Treasures
Small-town treasures lie everywhere you look in the Poconos. Shop for stunning antiques, take a tour of wineries and microbreweries, and bask in the welcoming atmosphere. In Carbon County, visitors can explore the railroad heritage: The first railroad in the U.S. was built in the town of Jim Thorpe, the county seat.
Themed tours in the town of Honesdale, the “Birthplace of the American Railroad,” show off this community’s ties to railway transportation, which ultimately linked America’s East and West. The town of Stroudsburg greets visitors with one-of-a-kind shopping experiences, including a local arts scene and a host of festivals. A visit to the Columns Museum in Pike County will take you on a journey into the local past.
For More Information
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
Hershey Entertainment & Resorts
Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau