There are a lot of fun things to do in Pennsylvania, like hiking, going to museums, and taking quiet drives through the mountains. There are also a lot of small towns that are worth seeing.
There’s no doubt that Pennsylvania’s big cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Allentown are interesting to tourists, but planning a trip around the small towns in the Keystone State will give you a whole new perspective.
Pennsylvania’s small towns are full of surprises, from the deep historical roots of American history in Gettysburg to the hidden outdoor adventures in Mother Nature’s mountain paradise to the quirky fame of Punxsutawney, which gets most of its attention on Groundhog Day when it predicts the arrival of spring.
Visiting small towns in the Alleghenies or driving through the Dutch Country with the windows down will give you a different kind of Pennsylvania experience than you might be used to.
Check out our list of the best small towns in Pennsylvania to find out more.
Johnstown is a small town in Pennsylvania that is in the Allegheny region. Most people probably know about it because of the terrible flood that happened in 1889 when a dam broke.
When you go to the town, you should stop by the Johnstown Flood Museum. It shows how the area changed after 20 million tonnes of water destroyed this steel town. Another must-see place is the Heritage Discovery Center, which tells the story of the town’s immigrant communities and the iron and steel industries in the area.
The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art is one of five art galleries in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is in Johnstown, which has a strong arts scene, so you will enjoy going there. You can also see a show by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra or plan your trip around the Folk Festival, which is known all over the country and brings people from all backgrounds to the area every year.
You can say that you went to the Johnstown Inclined Plane, which was built in 1891 and is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “steepest vehicular inclined plane in the world.”
You may not have heard of Lititz, Pennsylvania, but you have probably eaten some of the great American treats that came from here. Lititz should be the first place you go when you visit a small town.
It is known as a foodie town, and the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, which was the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S., is probably what people know it for the most. Stop by for a tour and to learn how to twist a pretzel. Then, go to the Wilbur Chocolate Factory, which has been open since 1894, and get something sweet to balance out the salt. Their Wilbur Buds are well-known.
Walk off the Lititz treats as you explore the Dutch Country town’s neighborhoods and look at the unique architecture of the homes and buildings, which dates back to when the town was founded in the 1720s.
Most homes, hotel porches, and churches have a Moravian star hanging from them. It reminds them that the town was founded by Moravians who wanted a place where people of all faiths could live together. You can spend the night at a bed-and-breakfast, such as the Hammer Creek Hideaway Bed and Breakfast, which will give your trip a homey feel.
16. Jim Thorpe
The Lenni Lenape Indians called a nearby mountain “Mountain of the Sleeping Bear,” which is also the name of the small town of Jim Thorpe. The town is in the Lehigh Gorge, which has beautiful scenery that goes well with the town’s history.
One of the best ways to enjoy Jim Thorpe is to walk along the winding streets that gave it the nickname “Switzerland of America.” You can also stroll along one of the many hiking trails and enjoy the beautiful views of the Lehigh River and the gorge.
In the Old Mauch Chunk Historic District, which has eight sites on the National Historic Register, you can take in the historic Victorian architecture. Then, go to Millionaire’s Row and see where the rich people in the coal and lumber industries lived. Take a tour of the Asa Packer Mansion Museum to see how the wealthy lived in the area in the 1800s.
The Old Jail Museum, which gives regular tours, is another popular place to visit in Jim Thorpe.
The town of Gettysburg is known for being the site of a famous Civil War battle and the place where President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. The town is one of the best places to go in Pennsylvania for history buffs who want to touch and feel an important part of American history.
You can get a guided tour of the town and see living history shows. In the Gettysburg National Military Park, you can watch battle reenactments and see what soldier camps looked like. Aside from the historical sites in Gettysburg, you can also go to the rural areas nearby to visit farmers markets and apple orchards.
Shoppers can visit some of the boutiques and antique stores that sell unique artwork and Civil War relics. There are a lot of hotels and B&Bs to choose from in Gettysburg, like the James Gettys Hotel and the elegant Federal Pointe Inn.
The Susquehanna Valley is home to the charming town of Bloomsburg, which has a nice mix of art, architecture, and history. You can easily walk to many of the shops, art galleries, and entertainment spots in this small college town.
Bring your appetite to Bloomsburg because they have some unique foods that you can only find there, like specialty hoagie sandwiches in the cafes and small batch treats made from scratch at local, independently owned bakeries like Nannycakes Bakery.
Along Market Street, which runs through the centre of town, you can see the artistic side of Bloomsburg. Visit the Artspace Gallery, where the displays change every six weeks and local artists’ work is for sale. Then, go see a show at the resident theatre company Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.
Milford is a town tucked into the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. It has a mix of architectural and environmental points of interest. There are a lot of beautiful Victorian homes in the town.
Start your trip at Grey Towers, a National Historic Site and the former home of Gifford Pinchot, who was the governor of Pennsylvania and the first head of the US Forest Service. Take a guided tour of the mansion and gardens and learn how the Pinchot family helped the conservation movement in the United States.
Plan a trip to the Historic District of Milford to see the Columns Museum. You can take a tour of the 22-room mansion to learn about the history and architecture of the area and to see the famous flag that was hanging from the Presidential box the night that Abraham Lincoln was killed.
Plan to spend some time outside at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Milford, where you can hike, bike, and see beautiful waterfalls.
Plan a trip to Lancaster if you want to see the heart and soul of Pennsylvania’s Dutch country. It has a long history. From 1799 to 1812, it was the state capital. Today, it is known for the Amish community.
Lancaster is best seen when you don’t have any plans. That way, you can enjoy the countryside and see how the Amish live as you pass working farms and buggies on the road. At the Lancaster Central Market at Penn Square, you can get some fresh food. It is the oldest public market in the United States. Since the early 1700s, people have been selling fresh baked goods, flowers, meats, and cheese there.
Stop by the Mennonite Information Center or sign up for a guided tour to learn more about the area and the Amish people who live there. You can take a tour of an Old Order Amish home and farm at the Amish Farm and House.
You can also take the Lancaster County Art Gallery Trail, which starts in Lancaster and goes to several towns with pottery, paintings, and handmade crafts on display.
Lawrenceville is on the edge of Pittsburgh. It is a small town with lots of small businesses and a very creative neighbourhood. Only 2.5 square miles make up the whole town.
The best place to start is the Butler Street business district, where everything is in a two-block area near the Allegheny River. Take home a new favourite piece of art from one of the town’s galleries or boutiques, or plan a night out at the 83-seat Row House Cinema, which has a single screen.
Walk through Arsenal Park, which was made from the old Allegheny Arsenal, which was used by the Union Army during the Civil War to store supplies. Next, go to the Allegheny Cemetery, which is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in the United States.
History fans will enjoy visiting the Doughboy Statue, Arsenal Field, where Johnny Unitas played baseball, and the Stephen Foster House in this small town.
10. New Hope
Even though New Hope is only about 30 miles from Philadelphia, you feel like you are far from the city when you are there. There are more than 200 shops and art galleries to visit in the historic town, where you can get ideas.
You can start your shopping at the Shops at Peddler’s Village, where you can look at a variety of shops selling everything from sports memorabilia to handmade soaps and candy from your childhood. New Hope went from being an industrial town to a place for antiques and the arts. The renovated gristmills and paper mills that are now businesses and homes are reminders of its past.
Take a train ride through Bucks County on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, or plan an outdoor adventure tubing or kayaking on the Delaware River. You can go to the Bucks County Children’s Museum or the Bucks County Playhouse if you want to do something inside.
Strasburg is in the Pennsylvania Dutch county, between Philadelphia and Lancaster. It feels like you’ve gone back in time a hundred years. Strasburg was an important stagecoach stop and trading centre in the 1700s and 1800s, so there are still things from those times that define life in a small town.
Plan a trip on the Strasburg Rail Road to see thousands of acres of farmland while riding this real locomotive that was once used for both passenger and freight rail. You can learn more about locomotives at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania or spend some time at the National Toy Train Museum after your train trip.
Strasburg is in Amish country, so you can spend some of your trip enjoying the peaceful way of life. Visit The Amish Village to see how daily tasks are done, or go to Ed’s Buggy Rides to plan a three-mile ride in an Amish buggy. At Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, you can plan an adventure to try a corn maze and see how people live on a working farm.
Wellsboro is a fun place to visit in the Pennsylvania Wilds. It is a small town with a lot of history, right down to the gaslights that line Main Street. As you walk through the middle of town, you will see buildings in the Victorian style and wide boulevards.
On the Old Covered Wagon Tours, you can see Wellsboro by covered waggon, and on the Tioga Central Railroad, you can see it by train. You can also go to Wellsboro if you want to see Pine Creek Gorge, which is often called the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.”
This beautiful area is 50 miles long and has a gorge that is 1,000 feet deep and runs through a forest. Hills Creek State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park are close by and have trails for walking, biking, and hiking. They are also great places to see wildlife.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a small town that is also called “Christmas City USA.” It is one of the best places in the country to spend Christmas. It’s about an hour and a half from Philadelphia and is especially magical during the holidays, when stores are decorated for the season and horse-drawn carriages take people for rides on the cobblestone streets.
During the holiday season, shops and lamp posts on Main Street are decorated with thousands of lights and other decorations, and locals sell gifts from outdoor shops. Some of the town’s historic sites can be seen on tours that will take you back to the 1700s.
At other times of the year, it’s worth stopping in Bethlehem to learn about its history and culture. The National Museum of Industrial History is in a 100-year-old steel factory. It shows how Bethlehem and Pennsylvania were important to the steel industry in the United States.
When you’re in Bethlehem, you should also take a walk through the campus of Lehigh University and see a show at one of the venues in the South Side Arts District.
Punxsutawney is a fun name to say and a fun place to visit. It is best known for Groundhog Day, which is held every February. On that day, Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog, comes out to predict when spring will come. Gobbler’s Knob has an event every year in February, but the town is fun to visit at any time of the year.
The town is proud to be the Home of the Groundhog, so start your themed trip at Gobbler’s Knob and walk the half-mile trail through the famous grounds and site.
Next, go to the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. It has hands-on displays about thunderstorms, tornadoes, and other weather events.
Finding the 32 Phantastic Phil sculptures around Punxsutawney is a fun and active way to get to know the town. At the Chamber of Commerce, you can get a map. Both the Lattimer House and the Bennis House in town have displays and historical information about the town and the famous groundhog.
If you want to see the real Punxsutawney, go to Phil’s Burrow on Mahoning Street. Through the windows facing the street, you can see Phil and his wife Phyllis.
The Pocono Mountains are home to the cute town of Stroudsburg. The Delaware Gap National Recreation Area and other outdoor activities are close to this town, which is one of its best features.
You can easily spend a few days in Stroudsburg to enjoy all the different things it has to offer. Spend one day checking out the shops and restaurants in the downtown area.
Spend another day or two hiking and visiting some of the area’s famous waterfalls. If you go to Stroudsburg in the winter, you can spend the day at one of the best ski resorts in the area.
Doylestown is a nice place to visit just north of Philadelphia. The elegant Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle are two of Doylestown’s most beautiful and well-known landmarks. In the early 1900s, an anthropologist and scholar from the area built Fonthill Castle as his home and place to show off his collections. It can now be toured.
The Mercer Museum is another place to get a feel for the area. It has art from Bucks County artists.
There is also a nice museum about the area’s history called the Bucks County Civil War Museum. You can take a break from museums by having lunch at one of the downtown restaurants and then going for a drive to look for antique shops and covered bridges.
Ohiopyle is located in Fayette County in southwestern PA and is home to only 59 residents. However, this community at the heart of the incredible Ohiopyle State Park has a lot to offer, including many great restaurants, activities, and white-water-rafting tour operators.
The 19,000-acre state park that surrounds the town of Ohiopyle features several beautiful waterfalls, including Ohiopyle Falls, which is right in town. There are also several great vistas and the fantastic Great Allegheny Passage rail trail.
Just outside of town, you’ll find two Frank Lloyd Wright homes (Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob), Fort Necessity National Battlefield, and Laurel Caverns.
There are many great spots to stay nearby including Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and the Summit Inn.
2. St Peters Village
St. Peters Village is a former company town in Chester County, PA. To be honest, I couldn’t find a specific population for the village, but given that it’s only a small portion of a relatively small township, this seemed like the best place to include one of my favorite day trips from Philadelphia.
St. Peters Village features a small commercial area that is home to several restaurants (including a delicious bakery), several shops, an arcade, and a winery.
In town, there is also great hiking along a beautiful portion of French Creek. Sadly, there are no solid maps for his area, but there are many great loops and hikes that you can do here. You can also head to the nearby French Creek State Park and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, both of which are nearby.
In town, you’ll find the Inn at St. Peters Village.
1. Eagles Mere
Eagles Mere is a charming community in northeastern PA’s Sullivan County and one of my favorite small towns in Pennsylvania.
Eagles Mere is surrounded by Loyalsock State Forest and is only a short drive from the popular Worlds End State Park. This means that there are many great outdoor things to do here, including beautiful waterfalls like Dry Run Falls, Cottonwood Falls, and Rusty Falls.
If you prefer museums and history, there are several great spots in and around town including the Eagles Mere Museum, the Eagles Mere Air Museum, the Eagles Mere Auto Museum, and the Sullivan County Historical Society.
In town, you’ll also find several quaint restaurants and shops. In the winter, a large toboggan run is set up on the community’s lake.
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