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The Best Vacation Destinations in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania’s state slogan is “Pursue Your Happiness.”

What could be a better way to describe the point of traveling? Pennsylvanians just get it.

And in the pursuit of happiness, Pennsylvania is the perfect place to start. It’s where our Founders signed their names on a little declaration you may have heard of. But it’s also where picturesque farmlands lead to the mysterious forests of the Appalachians. And where American history echoes around every corner.

Find something for everyone among Pennsylvania’s quaint romantic towns, adrenaline-inducing amusement parks, unforgettable hiking trails, and enough museums to make even the strongest history buff weep. 

Picking the destination should be the only hard part of travel planning. Skip the hassle of browsing through endless travel sites and head straight to Wanderu, the simplest way to book bus and train travel. Find the cheapest train from Boston to Philadelphia, the quickest NYC to Pittsburgh bus, or hundreds of other travel options, all in one easy search.

And to make your choice of vacation a little easier, we’ve rounded up our top 12 best vacation destinations in Pennsylvania. Read on to discover the perfect place to vacay next.

1. Philadelphia

Want the metropolitan vibes of NYC, the historical sites and attractions of DC, and the cobblestoned streets of Boston? Sounds like you’ll feel the (brotherly) love for Philly.

Get cracking early to beat the crowds at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, two of the obligatory stops when visiting the Cradle of Liberty itself. Don’t worry, Independence National Historical Park is one of many free things to do in Philadelphia.

Families visiting Philly should hit up Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, an outdoor gallery space with mosaics as unique and varied as your family tree. Younger children will love the interactive Please Touch Museum – just pack the hand sanny. 🧼

Angela N. / Flickr

Of course, there are more intimate activities if you’re seeking some love of the not-brotherly variety. Romantic strolls along the river in East Fairmount Park are perfect for romantic getaways in Pennsylvania.

Check out the easiest ways to get here below! Traveling by bus to Philadelphia and taking the train to Philadelphia both let you see more of the stunning countryside that surrounds the city. We also love how affordable it is to travel between Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s other exciting towns and attractions.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

2. Valley Forge

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania is ironically home to a battleground where American revolutionaries fought to dispose of kings altogether. The perfect weekend getaway, Valley Forge National Historical Park combines rich American history with stunning woodland hiking trails.

Thomas / Flickr

Visit the weathered log cabins that housed General Washington and the Continental Army when they made camp here in 1777. Step back in time as you step inside the Betsy Ross House or stroll around Washington’s Headquarters, where Washington and his staff (including his right-hand man, Alexander Hamilton) worked to turn the tides of war.

More fascinating historic monuments and statues are on full display to those who hike the Valley Forge Historical Trail. There are plenty of other scenic trails that criss-cross the park, including a lesser-known path that leads to a 19th-century stone ruin.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

3. Newtown

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Newtown is a picturesque town about 30 miles from Philadelphia and the historic charm of its old-fashioned storefronts make it one of the best romantic getaways in Pennsylvania. Add in some Amish delicacies from the Newtown Farmer’s Market and you’ve got yourself an idyllic escape.

Enter a strange new world filled with colorful exotic plants and expertly-crafted topiaries on the grounds of Hortulus Farm. Hortulus is dedicated to the preservation and display of both rare and familiar plants, and this hidden gem guarantees dozens of “where is this??” comments on your insta post of the gardens.

4. Hershey

Doug Kerr / Flickr

What happens when you take Disneyworld, cover it in chocolate, and stick it near the outskirts of Harrisburg? You get Hershey, Pennsylvania!

The Willy Wonka-esque town of Hershey was originally built in 1906 as a leisure town for the chocolate factory employees. It has since evolved into a massive chocolate-theme amusement park, dedicated to America’s most famous 🍫 brand. Undoubtedly one of the best family vacation destinations in Pennsylvania, Hershey proves that Forrest Gump’s mom wasn’t kidding when she said life was like a box of chocolates.

Kids will get an adrenaline rush on the rides and rollercoasters of Hersheypark, and everyone will get a sugar rush from Hershey’s Chocolate World Experience. If you want more things to do in Hershey, check out the unforgettable Falconry Experience or the unique chocolate-inspired spa day!

5. Pittsburgh

Next up, experience the rebound of the Rust Belt in Pittsburgh. Historic buildings nestle between skyscrapers; neo-Gothic, Art Deco, and industrial architecture extend outwards from the place where three rivers meet.

The rivers are the most beautiful at night when the gently rippling waters reflect the city lights and the illuminated bridges. A romantic dinner in the waterside cultural district is hands-down one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh for couples.

The view of the city from the Mount Washington neighborhood is spectacular, and hiking to the top to take in the sunset is one of the best free things to do in Pittsburgh. The best thing to do with kids in Pittsburgh is to explore the innovative Children’s Museum, which introduces little ones to science in a safe and fun way. 

Hit up two of our Pennsylvania faves on this list by taking a Pittsburgh to Philadelphia train, or save a few bucks and hop on a bus from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

6. Strasburg

We ❤️ trains, and that’s why we think the historic Strasburg Rail Road stands out among the many romantic things to do in Pennsylvania. The highlight of any visit to Strasburg, the Rail Road has been in operation since the early 1800s and the trains don’t plan on stopping soon.

Ride in an authentic old-fashioned train carriage as you soar through the breathtaking Lancaster County scenery. Don’t forget to make the trip to the traditional dining car. Or you can put on your fancy pants and book a special wine and cheese railroad experience

When the train trip is over, head back into the heart of the tiny town of Strasburg for an afternoon of antiquing.

7. Presque Isle State Park in Erie

Joe Passe/ Flickr

Fishing a-fish-ianados, this one’s for you. Erie, PA is home to one of the best places to vacation in Pennsylvania if you’re a lake lover. This friendly city on the edge of Lake Erie contrasts with the rolling hills of the rest of the state, and offers unique water activities to add in a little variety.

Head out on a breathtaking sunset sailing tour on Lake Erie to get the best views of the city and the lake, complete with charcuterie and drinks to achieve peak luxury.

The Presque Isle State Park is a tiny peninsula bordering Erie. In the park, you can visit the traditional lighthouse or sample the local wine. For a bit of added adventure, certified scuba divers can head into the dark waters of the lakes to see a dozen historic shipwrecks. 

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

8. Scranton

ajay_suresh / Flickr

Prepare your best side-eye for your trip to Scranton. Any fan of The Office (US) should add this small town to your list of Pennsylvania vacation ideas. There are many self-guided walking tours that lead you around many real filming locations, from Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe to Cooper’s Seafood House.

The “Electric City” is also an excellent destination for families who want both exciting and educational activities. The Everhart Museum is a fascinating natural history, science, and art museum. Railroad fans will be fascinated by the small Steamtown National Historic Site and curious kids will be captivated by the Electric City Aquarium and Reptile Den.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

9. Harrisburg

There’s a reason Harrisburg was chosen as Pennsylvania’s state capital. This laid-back city is centrally located in the state, which makes it super easy to take a bus to Harrisburg or soak in the best of the countryside views on a train to Harrisburg. It’s harder to get here on the water, but once you’re in town, check out the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat. Join one of the many themed events and cruises hosted on this authentic old-world paddleboat.

Walking around Harrisburg, the historic buildings like the grand stone Pennsylvania State Capitol to the traditional wooden Fort Hunter Mansion make it clear the city is among the best vacation spots in Pennsylvania. We recommend packing a picnic to enjoy on the grounds around Fort Hunter Mansion!

Or experience one of the more agricultural things to do in Harrisburg, PA: visiting the Pennsylvania Farm Show each January. The Farm Show is a massive indoor exhibition packed with every kind of farm animal. From ducks and chickens to cows and horses, the animals and their products are sold at the expo by local farmers. Resist the urge to bring home pet baby goats, if you can!

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

10. Gettysburg

“Four score and seven years ago…” makes you picture a top hat and chin beard, right? These words opened President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg Civil War Cemetery in 1863.

Once the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg is now one of the most interesting places to see in Pennsylvania for travelers seeking history, cuisine, and adventure. For a splendid panoramic view of the Gettysburg Battleground, head to the far end of the battlefield and climb the hill known as Little Round Top.

The visitor-friendly town is filled with historic museums and sites, such as the 18th-century Dobbin House Tavern. The downtown area’s local shops offer artworks and antiques, and the surrounding area offers all kinds of activities, from apple-picking and ice skating to music festivals and horse shows.

11. State College

Traveling to State College is the perfect way to combine your family Pennsylvania vacation with a first look towards the future. The secluded rustic town might seem like a sleepy country spot at first glance. But stick around and you’ll see the youthful energy that makes this college town so active.

Throughout the year, State College welcomes current and prospective students who visit the grassy campus of Penn State University. The town is most beautiful in the fall, though, when the trees light up in oranges and reds. 

State College hosts a game nearly every night, whether it’s football at Beaver Stadium, basketball at the Bryce Jordan Center, or ice hockey at the Pegula Ice Arena. Don your navy blue, and when you hear the chant, “We are,” get ready to reply “Penn State!”

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.

12. Allegheny National Forest

Forest Service, Eastern Region / Flickr

The Allegheny National Forest is your chance to get lost in the unspoiled wilderness of Pennsylvania. Hiking trails spread out in every direction across the forests and mountains of Allegheny. Discover shaded paths that wind between the mossy woods, winding tracks that follow the flow of the river, and worn stone steps that guide you to a mountaintop. 

The Allegheny Forest is an astonishing sight all year round, but it takes on a mystical quality in the stillness of winter. If you ask us, racing through the freshly fallen snow of Allegheny on a snowmobile is one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania in winter.

More Great Places To Visit In Pennsylvania

Can’t get enough of the Keystone State? Check out these Pennsylvania destinations that didn’t make it into the top 12.

If Hershey wasn’t enough action for you, head to Knoebels Amusement Resort, the largest free-admission park in America. Or visit the picture-perfect Lancaster County, home to the Amish community. You can spend a day learning the traditional Amish ways of living and farming, or pick up some hand-harvested produce on your way through! 

You can also find more hiking opportunities (and white water rafting) in the panoramic Pocono Mountains. They’re at peak diva each fall, as the changing leaves create the illusion of a mountain range on fire. 

These fun adventures and many more await you on your Pennsylvania adventure. With dynamic cities, exciting amusement parks, and shady mountain trails, there are a thousand memories to make in Pennsylvania!

We’ll help you find the best deals on buses and trains to your favorite spot so you can focus on planning all the incredible things you’ll do when you get there. Download the Wanderu app for on-the-go travel booking, perfect for spur-of-the-moment day trips to the next town over.

Or find even more travel inspiration by checking out our favorite destinations in Virginia, Louisiana, and Michigan. Happy wandering!

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