12 Things to See and Do in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a historically important part of the United States since it is one of the original 13 colonies. It is also known for its diverse ecosystem which includes farmland, lush forests, major waterways and the Appalachian Mountains that run right through the middle of the state. It has 51 miles (82 km) of Lake Erie coastline and 57 miles (92 km) of shoreline along the Delaware Estuary. There are many attractions throughout the state worth visiting whether you just want to have fun or if you’d like to experience something a little more educational.

12. Hersheypark

Located in Derry Township about 15 miles east of Harrisburg, Hersheypark is a 121-acre (49 ha) family theme park originally designed as a leisure park for Hershey Chocolate Company employees. The park currently has about 70 rides including Children’s Rides, Mild Thrill Rides, Moderate Thrill Rides, High Thrill Rides and Aggressive Thrill Rides which are identified in the park maps so you can enjoy the ride suited to your tastes. There are number of entertainment venues including Hersheypark Amphitheatre and the Music Box Theater, as well as strolling shows throughout the park. There are several themed areas with a variety of eateries catering to various dietary needs and preferences. Make sure to allow a full day for enjoyment and adventure when you visit Hersheypark.

11. Dutch Wonderland

Located in Lancaster, Dutch Wonderland is a 48-acre (19 ha) amusement park primarily catering to families with small children. It is known as the park “Where Kids RULE!” apparent in their theme “Kingdom for Kids” and features over 34 fun-filled rides, tropical-themed interactive water play area and activities designed for children of all ages to enjoy. The entrance to the park has a stone imitation castle facade creating the illusion that you are entering a palace. Also found at the location are Wonderland Mini-Golf and Old Mill Stream Campground so you can make a weekend family retreat out of a visit here. It offers an extended season of “Happy Hauntings” and “Dutch Winter Wonderland” for Halloween and Christmas. It’s a fun-filled experience for everyone with their costumed characters, rides, kids’ games and shows and animatronic dinosaurs.

10. Liberty Bell

Housed at Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell is one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of American freedom. The bell was sent to Philadelphia back in 1753 from Whitechapel Foundry in the East end of London. It is 12 feet in circumference around the lip and features a 44 pound clapper. The inscription on the bell reads: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof”. The famous crack in the bell occurred during its first use and though it was recast adding more copper and later more silver to sweeten its tone, nobody was quite satisfied with the results. There is no charge to enter to see the Liberty Bell but visitors are required to pass through security screening to gain entry. Though millions have seen pictures of the Liberty Bell, very few actually get to see it in person.

Liberty Bell

9. Gettysburg National Military Park

Located in the heart of the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Battlefield is the area in which the 1863 military engagements of the Battle of Gettysburg were fought and is located in and around the borough of Gettysburg. It was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle and the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. You can start your tour at the National Park Service Museum where you will learn about what there is to visit in the park and how to visit to get the most out of your experience. The museum features 22,000 square feet of exhibit space that showcases relics of the Battle of Gettysburg, interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations covering the conflict from its beginnings to the end and the aftermath. It is a wonderful and educational piece of Americana and an experience you won’t soon forget.

Gettysburg Pennsylvania

8. Sesame Place

Located in Langhorne, Sesame Place is a children’s theme park where Sesame Street characters come to life. It features a variety of rides, shows, water attractions and is ripe with family fun. The park first opened in 1980, with a focus on entertainment for young children. The 14-acre (5.7 ha) park consists of play areas, large computer labs, rides and water attractions. Children will be thrilled to visit Cookie’s Monster Land, Grover’s Vapor Trail, Twiddlebug Land, Sesame Island, Sesame Street, Splash Castle Area, Elmo’s World and Sliding Land. After their tour, you can take in a show – Neighborhood Street Party (parade), Elmo the Musical – Live at Sesame Place!, Elmo Rocks!, Let’s Play Together and Dragon Experience. They’ll see live costumed characters they know and love (maybe even eat breakfast with them), walking the grounds and enjoy parades, dancing and music – a child and parents’ paradise.

7. Eastern State Penitentiary

Located in Pittsburg, Eastern State Penitentiary, also known as ESP, is a former prison which was operational from 1829 to 1971. The penitentiary was responsible for refining the separate incarceration system which focused on reform rather than punishment. The innovative wagon wheel design of the prison housed some very famous criminals – namely Willie Sutton and Al Capone. Once completed, it was touted as the most expensive and largest public structure ever erected and became the model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. It is currently named a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as a museum for tours seven days a week all year round. You can take a guided tour during the winter and warmer months or you can opt to take a self-guided tour with the assistance of headphones. There are also scavenger hunts hosted for children who visit the prison.

6. Fallingwater

Designed in 1935 by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater or Kaufmann Residence is a house located in rural southwestern Pennsylvania 43 miles (69 km) southeast of Pittsburg. This very unique home was partially built over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. It has been listed in Smithsonian’s Life List of 28 places to visit before you die and in 1966, was designated a National Historic Landmark. The total cost of building the house was $155,000.00 USD which in 2014 dollar is equivalent to $2.6 million. You can look at photos of the house, but to truly experience its magnificence, you have to visit it in person and experience the total ambiance of the interior design and surrounding natural beauty.

5. Kennywood

Located in West Mifflin, Kennywood is a 16 ha amusement park featuring rides and structures dating back to the 1900s and is one of only two amusement parks listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Kiddieland was one of the first ride areas specifically for small children and features 14 rides. Lost Kennywood refers to the park’s long history and gives the illusion of yesteryear’s dangerous rides. Volcano Alley is a volcano themed area featuring the Volcano, Pirate and cement volcanoes which spew smoke. The park is home to six different roller coasters, sixteen flat rides, and a couple of upcharge attractions, award winning dark rides and water rides include Log Jammer, Pittsburg Plunge and Raging Rapids. Transportation rides include Kenny’s Parkway and Olde Kennywood Railroad. Besides the rides, there are many other special features in the park that must be experienced to be appreciated.

4. Hershey’s Chocolate World

Located in Hershey, and formerly known as Hershey Foods Corporation, Hershey’s Chocolate World is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America. It has become an American icon for its chocolate bar and is one of the oldest chocolate companies in the United States. When you visit Chocolate World, you become immersed in sweetness and fun while exploring the chocolate attractions and treating your senses to the wonders of chocolate. The chocolate tour is free of charge, but you can purchase tickets to have some real fun Creating Your Own Candy Bar, solve a 4-D Chocolate Mystery, have a Chocolate Tasting Experience, take a ride through town on Hershey Trolley Works, shop and visit the bakery, enjoy some good eats at the food court, get some souvenirs photos or visit the Hershey’s Dessert Creation Studio. You can’t have a sweeter time on a vacation anywhere.

3. Philadelphia Zoo

Located in the Centennial District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Zoo is 42-acres (17 ha) and home to more than 1300 animals. It is famed for being the first zoo in the United States opening to the public July 1, 1874. At that time, it was home to 1000 animals and admission was 25 cents. It now features a children’s zoo, a paddleboat lake, a rainforest themed carousel and many interactive exhibits. The three trail system, a first of its kind, consists of Big Cat Crossing, Gorilla Treeway, Treetop Trail and Great Ape Trail. You can see many kinds of endangered animals as well as others when you visit the different areas like Zoo360, PECO Primate Preserve, The Rare Animal Conservation Center, The Reptile and Amphibian House, Small Mammal House, KidZooU, McNeil Aviation Center, Bird Valley, First Niagara Big Cat Falls, Carnivore Kingdom, African Plains and Impala Lawn.

2. Knoebels Amusement Resort

Knoebels Amusement Resort is an amusement park, picnic grove and campground located in Elysburg. It is the largest free-admission amusement park in America and has been in operation for 89 years. The park has more than 60 rides which includes wooden roller coasters, a 1913 carousel and haunted house dark ride featured on the Discovery Channel. Other rides include Kozmo’s Kurves – a high speed steel roller coaster, Black Diamond – an indoor steel roller coaster, Old Smokey Train, Pioneer Train, Ferris Wheel, Log Flume and more. There are restaurants located throughout the park where you can either sit and eat or just order from a counter and have fast food or something a little more nutritious. Also located at the resort is Three Ponds Golf Course – an 18 hole, 71 par golf course. It’s a wonderful place to spend a day or a week.

1. Indian Echo Caverns

Located near Hummelstown, the Indian Echo Caverns are limestone show caves open to the public to visit by guided tour. In a bluff along the Swatara Creek is the entrance used by visitors to enter the caverns. The second entrance was sealed for security purposes. The caverns are over 440 million years old formed by water erosion and then geological forces that led to an “uplift” of the surrounding limestone which eventually resulted in more water flowing through the formation. This created small crevices which led to larger ones which created the caverns there today. Just outside the caverns, you will find picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a Gift Shop and a Gemstone Mill where you can pan for gems. Come spend a day exploring the mystical rooms in the caverns, enjoying the crystal clear lakes, an enjoyable picnic, panning for gems and a great souvenir from the gift shop.