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gs logo Otter Lake Camp Resort
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania: Five historic hotspots that span centuries of history

History buffs can have it all on this trip through several eras of America’s past. Whether you spend time learning about Amish craftsmanship in Lancaster, the influence of the railroads in Mechanicsburg or the process of making chocolate in Hershey, you won’t find a trip that better illustrates how America was built from the ground up.

Drive 113 miles, 2 hours, 16 minutes

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Lancaster

Starting Point

Ease your way into this trip with a return to the simple life. Amish country is on full display in Lancaster, where horse and buggy rides are easy to come by and windmills dot the horizon. Start at the farms along Old Philadelphia Pike for a buggy tour that winds through the countryside. The drivers will answer all of your questions about the life and history of the centuries-old community. The Amish Farm and House offers a more hands-on approach to the culture: tour a traditional home, working farm, blacksmith shop and one-room school.


Shady Grove Campground
Adamstown, PA
(717) 484-4225
Lake In Wood Resort
Narvon, PA
(717) 445-5525
Tucquan Park Family Campground
Holtwood, PA
(717) 284-2156

2. Hershey

30.6 miles, 36 minutes

Satisfy your sweet tooth at the “Sweetest Place on Earth.” Hershey’s Chocolate World has just about everything you’ll need for your visit from rides, attractions, restaurants and, of course, dessert. Take the Chocolate Tour to learn more about the company’s history and how chocolate is made. Then don a hairnet and apron while you step inside the assembly line and create your very own bar! Spend the afternoon exploring HersheyPark, the amusement theme park with a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and more.

3. Mechanicsburg

20.8 miles, 23 minutes

Another era of American history comes alive in this charming small town. The railroad arrived in the mid-19th century and brought with it trade, jobs and money—many of the town’s original buildings now house museums to this era of industrial boom. The Stationmaster’s House offers a glimpse into family life during the period. The Mechanicsburg Museum Association is housed in the original Passenger’s Station beside the tracks, and guided tours and special exhibits are available.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Gettysburg

31.2 miles, 32 minutes

There are few names more synonymous with American history than Gettysburg. The stories here are so epic and important that you shouldn’t skip on the orientation program at the Gettysburg National Military Park. It’s a great place to learn the context and background of the war’s turning point, and it’s easy to arrange tours of the battlefield by car, bike, horseback or foot. For a truly memorable experience, take a private tour with one of the park’s expert guides. Spring through fall, many of the restored soldier’s encampments are open to the public, and living historians in Civil War garb adopt roles from private to general.


Gettysburg Campground
Gettysburg, PA
(717) 334-3304
Granite Hill Camping Resort
Gettysburg, PA
(717) 642-8749

5. York

30.4 miles, 45 minutes

Lauded as an “architectural museum,” the city is home to four different historic districts, encompassing three centuries of American history. You’ll see plenty of significant buildings by exploring the city on your own, but for a more intimate look, the guided tours of downtown’s Colonial Complex highlight the private and public life of residents in the 18th century through exhibits and living-history demonstrations. The brand new Steam into History attraction features a replica of the Civil War steam locomotive that carried President Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg address. This elegant iron horse takes visitors for regular rides.