Pennsylvania Travel Guide

One of the Northeast’s most diverse destinations, Pennsylvania offers travelers the perfect mix of idyllic landscapes, small-town America, and big-city charms. From road-tripping alongside horse-drawn buggies in Lancaster’s Amish Country to perusing world-class art museums in Philadelphia, there’s something to satisfy every taste in the Keystone State.

History buffs will find plenty to keep them busy in Pennsylvania. Bear witness to the birth of America on the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia’s Old City, where several iconic historic sites, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, lie. Or visit the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg to stand in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, who delivered his most famous speech here in 1863.

Outside of the main cities and towns, nature lovers will marvel at the state’s natural beauty. Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks burst with outdoor activities, from meandering along hiking trails to kayaking along rivers and lakes.

Ready to plan your ultimate trip to the Keystone Stone? Get started with this quick & easy Pennsylvania travel guide, including where to go, what to do, and when to visit.

Where to go in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

No road trip through the USA is complete without penciling in a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city and the “Birthplace of America.”

At Philadelphia’s iconic historic sites like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center, you’ll bear witness to the birth of the nation. Or, if modern culture is more your jam, spend your days browsing its world-class museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute, or the thousands of striking street art murals peppering the city.

Philadelphia

In between visiting all the usual Philadelphia tourist attractions, treat your palate to a wide array of flavors crafted by award-winning celebrity chefs. The Center City alone is home to more than a thousand restaurants, covering the entire gamut of world cuisines.

Need a break from the big-city vibes? Philadelphia is also one of America’s greenest cities, boasting the world’s largest city-owned urban park system. Spend time exploring its many hiking trails and biking paths within quick reach of Center City.

Ready to plan your Philadelphia trip? Get started with these travel resources…

Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania’s second-biggest city, Pittsburgh is one of the most surprising urban destinations in the Northeast. The historic riverside city has shed its former industrial reputation to become a lively cultural hub with plenty to keep urban explorers busy.

Art lovers should beeline to the Andy Warhol Museum, the world’s largest collection of the Pittsburgh pop-art icon’s work. Also within city limits is the Carnegie Museum of Art, featuring a massive collection of over 34,000 artifacts spanning a variety of art forms.

Pittsburgh

Once you’ve had your culture fix, retire to the Cultural District or Strip District to experience Pittsburgh’s culinary scene. The city is home to thousands of restaurants, serving everything from laid-back street food to fine-dining delights.

For a local Pittsburgh classic, chomp down on one of the Primanti Brothers’ famed sandwiches, jammed with meat, coleslaw, and French fries. Or grab a more refined meal at one of Pittsburgh’s James Beard finalist-led restaurants, including 40 North and Chengdu Gourmet. Wash it all down with a visit to one of the city’s 40 craft breweries, like East End Brewing.

To burn some calories, roll along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System, connecting Pittsburgh to several major Pennsylvania biking routes, like the Great Allegheny Passageway.

Ready to plan your Pittsburgh trip? Get started with these travel resources…

Lancaster

Time to escape the bustle of Pennsylvania’s big cities? Save time in your itinerary to explore Lancaster. The heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Lancaster County charms with its idyllic landscapes, crisscrossed with backroads plied by horse-drawn carriages.

Although Pennsylvania Dutch Country—a broad term that encompasses Amish, Mennonites, and other German religious orders—has become increasingly kitschy in recent years, Lancaster County is still one of the most interesting places to visit in Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County

Whisk yourself back into 18th-century life and experience Amish culture at The Amish Village, north of Strasburg. Or browse dozens of shops and restaurants at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, PA, to load up on homemade food, baked goods, and clothing.

After exploring the Amish countryside, check out Lancaster itself. Briefly the capital of Pennsylvania, Lancaster is loaded with several superb art museums and historic sites, including the Central Market, the oldest farmer’s market in the United States.

Harrisburg

Pennsylvania’s capital city since 1812, Harrisburg deserves a stop on any itinerary exploring the Keystone State. Clinging to the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River, the city teems with beautiful 18th- and 19th-century buildings.

Harrisburg

Start exploring Harrisburg by peering at the Pennsylvania State Capitol, the community’s iconic centerpiece. Inspired by the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica, the Capitol’s 272-foot-tall rotunda is the most defining feature of the Harrisburg cityscape.

If you’re still itching for history after Gettysburg and Philly, don’t miss Harrisburg’s National Civil War Museum. Located in Reservoir Park, the two-story Smithsonian-affiliated museum is home to over 24,000 Civil War artifacts, including weapons, uniforms, and original documents.

Gettysburg

Alongside Philadelphia, Gettysburg is not only one of Pennsylvania’s most important historic destinations but one of America’s. The town of fewer than ten thousand punches well above its weight as the site of both one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War and one of the most iconic speeches in American history.

Gettysburg

Visit Gettysburg National Military Park to experience the Battle of Gettysburg on the battlefield with a two-hour tour guided by a Licensed Battlefield Guide. Be sure to carve out time to peruse the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War, featuring one of the world’s largest collections of Civil War relics.

Once you’ve got your history fix at Gettysburg National Military Park, head into downtown Gettysburg to experience small-town Pennsylvania hospitality at its finest. The historic town offers a surprising selection of trendy restaurants, bars, and boutique shops.

Erie

The state’s only Great Lakes port city, Erie offers visitors rare Pennsylvania lakefront urban charms. As you’d expect, the city’s most compelling tourist attractions revolve around its Lake Erie perch.

Erie, PA

If you’re visiting Pennsylvania in summer, there’s no better place to cool down than by taking a dip at Erie’s beautiful beaches. Sprawl out at Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre National Natural Landmark featuring seven miles of sandy beaches. After a day of swimming, it’s also a wonderful place to marvel at one of the Great Lakes’ finest sunsets.

End your beach day with a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants in Erie’s Bayfront District, to epic views over Lake Erie.

Other destinations in Pennsylvania

  • Hershey
  • Scranton
  • Allentown
  • York
  • Easton
  • Reading
  • Bethlehem
  • Valley Forge

When to visit Pennsylvania

The best time to visit Pennsylvania is between early May and late June. These late-spring and early-summer months offer warm temperatures throughout the state. You’ll also encounter less humidity and smaller crowds than during the peak of summer in July and August.

Autumn in PA

If you’re into autumn color peeping, late September to mid-October is another wonderful time to visit Pennsylvania. September is also one of the driest months of the year, with fewer crowds than at the height of the summer tourist season.

How to get to Pennsylvania

By air

Pennsylvania is home to nine commercial airports. Most visitors enter Pennsylvania through one of two main international airports:

  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)

Travelers visiting other parts of Pennsylvania might also find a handful of flights to/from smaller airports like:

  • Harrisburg International Airport (MDT)
  • Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE)
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP)

By road

Pennsylvania is well-connected by road to the neighboring states of New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. Popular road routes into Pennsylvania and approximate driving times include:

  • New York City, NY, to Philadelphia: 1h47m
  • Baltimore, MD, to Philadelphia: 1h51m
  • Atlantic City, NJ, to Philadelphia: 1h6m
  • Cleveland, OH, to Pittsburgh: 2h10m
  • Wilmington, DE, to Philadelphia: 39m
  • Charleston, WV, to Pittsburgh: 3h27m
  • Buffalo, NY, to Erie: 1h35m