Pennsylvania is a great year round destination for travelers in the Mid-Atlantic. We recently lived in Washington, DC for 4 years and enjoyed taking many trips to the Keystone State (nicknamed that for its essential role in the founding of the US). Philadelphia even served as the capital of the country between 1790 and 1800.
The Laurel Highlands makes for a great couples getaway with a wealth of year round outdoor recreation from golf in summer to skiing in winter. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts visitors from around the world. Historic sites and culinary delights abound in destinations like Philadelphia, Gettysburg and York.
Kids (and many adults like us) love the chocolate wonderland that is Hershey’s Chocolate World. Huntingdon County is home to Raystown Lake, the largest in Pennsylvania, and a popular spot for summer recreation. These Pennsylvania destinations are great for outdoor activities like golf, kayaking and skiing, history and mouth watering food and drinks!
Gettysburg is most famous for the epic US Civil War battle that sparked the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in 1863. This history is well documented in the small Pennsylvania town that attracts around 4 million visitors a year. Today Gettysburg is home to lively taverns and restaurants that whip up great American dishes. Adams County is the nation’s fourth largest producer of apples. Great cider houses like Reid’s Orchard Winery produce a variety of delicious fermented apple goodness.
Tour the Gettysburg battlefield on a guided Segway or bus tour. Licensed guides provide highlight interesting facts about the epic battle between the Union and Confederate soldiers. For example, the Greek goddess Nike sits atop the beautiful Pennsylvania State Monument along Cemetery Ridge (the tallest monument in Gettysburg). Nike is the goddess of victory.
Gettysburg Pour Tour
An abundance of orchards, vineyards and other farmlands that produce a variety of fruit, hops, honey and grains can be found in Adams County. Rich agriculture allows for an excellent assortment of locally produced craft beers, wines, ciders and spirits.
Reid’s Orchard Winery is a great stop for both cider and wine tastings, ranging from dry to sweet. Reid’s offers around 10 hard craft ciders on draft. Many are blends with a variety of fruits, including raspberries, pears, grapes and pumpkin.
Mason Dixon Distillery produces small batch spirits. They distill vodka, rum and even a corn whiskey. Their raw grains are grown on the battlefield. Mason Dixon Distillery has an excellent internationally inspired menu, served up in a spacious and welcoming former warehouse. The knowledgable and friendly staff will help guide you through an extensive menu with items like jambalaya, shrimp and grits, skewer-less skewers, Greek salads, Bavarian pretzels and banh mi sandwiches.
Gettysburg Bed and Breakfasts and Hotels
Brickhouse Inn B&B occupies 2 ornate Victorian buildings in the heart of Gettysburg. Quaint rooms have period furnishings, some with balconies. Breakfast is served in 2 elegant dining rooms or on the patio overlooking manicured gardens, featuring a koi pond and waterfalls.
The Wyndham Gettysburg is about 3 miles outside the historic center. Rooms are comfortable, spacious and warmly decorated. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool for year round swimming.
Read much more in our previous article on great things to do in Gettysburg!
Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Located in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Laurel Highlands region is a relaxing vacation destination packed with outdoor recreation options, historic sites, family activities and world-class resorts. Set to beautiful wooded mountains, the region spans 3,000 square miles of Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties.
We have visited Laurel Highlands multiple times and enjoyed a variety of activities between picturesque golf, fun goat yoga, skiing, delicious food and drinks and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fallingwater.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
One of the most popular highlights is legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. In 1935 department store owner Edgar Kaufmann commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a weekend house for his family near Bear Run. Wright designed the home to blend with its surrounding nature in the most seamless way.
The cantilever design of Fallingwater makes you feel like you’ve stepped outside even from upstairs rooms. The home also features original paintings by famous artists like Picasso and Diego Rivera.
In July of 2019, Fallingwater was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It became the second such site in the state of Pennsylvania, joining Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Since Fallingwater opened to the public in 1964, its drawn over five million visitors.
Ohiopyle State Park
Rugged natural beauty is in abundance at Ohiopyle State Park. Serving as a gateway to the Laurel Highlands, the park encompasses approximately 20,500 acres on the southern reaches of the Laurel Ridge. One of the highlights of a visit to Ohiopyle is Cucumber Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Pennsylvania. The falls cascade over a 30-foot drop, and parking is available nearby, making the falls easily accessible to visitors.
Golf Along Picturesque Rolling Hills in the Laurel Highlands
Highlands Golf Club highlights the picturesque beauty of the Laurel Highlands with mountain vistas throughout the tree-lined course. I enjoyed the sweeping views of autumn foliage while playing the course on a beautiful early October day. The hilly layout offers a challenging round for advanced players, while also being beginner friendly for those teeing off from nearer tee boxes.
Stay at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in the Laurel Highlands
Seven Springs Mountain Resort is an all-season resort located in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The resort is a destination unto itself as it features a variety of on-site activities like golf, skiing, bowling, rock climbing, zip-lining, an alpine slide, Trillium Spa and fine dining at historic Helen’s.
Trillium Spa offers a sanctuary of relaxation at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Massages are available and services range from targeted treatment to a menu of signature massages. A variety of facials and body treatments are also offered. Trilliam Spa also has three manicure stations and three pedicure thrones, with massage settings and a whirlpool tub for soaking your feet after an afternoon of golfing or hiking.
“There’s a Chocolate World at Hershey?!” has been the response from several people regarding our experience in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Queue your childhood fantasies because Hershey is like a cross between Willy Wonka and Disney. There’s a lot to experience at Chocolate World including the free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour ride, where you receive a delicious complimentary sample at the end. The Create Your Own Candy Bar Experience is fun and unique for all ages!
Milton Hershey founded Hershey’s chocolate company in 1894. Today a town built on chocolate welcomes visitors from around the world to experience a place where streetlights are capped with Hershey kisses. Prior to visiting Hershey, we knew about the amusement park, Hersheypark, but were unfamiliar with other great activities this family destination has to offer.
Hershey and Harrisburg makes for a convenient weekend getaway from nearby cities like New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC, all of which are under a three-hour drive away.
Trolley Works Tour
The 75 minute Trolley Works tour is a historical sightseeing and chocolate tasting tour. Guides regale visitors with the history of Hershey as they pass around trays of chocolate throughout the tour. The Trolly Works Tour covers the history of the Hershey company and various aspects of the community, from production facilities to everyday life.
Life in the United States prior to chocolate production is referred to as BC (Before Chocolate). Highlights of the Trolley Works tour include Milton Hershey’s birthplace, his former home at Highpoint Mansion, Chocolate Avenue, the Hershey Kiss Streetlights, views of HersheyPark and the Milton Hershey School.
There are several great breweries in Hershey and Harrisburg. Troegs is close to the Hershey attractions, featuring a spacious beer hall with open table seating. You can take a guided tour of the brewery, or opt for a self guided tour. Troegs Perpetual IPA is an excellent choice if you like flavorful hoppy beers. You can also choose your own tasting of beers they don’t sell outside the brewery.
My favorite Troegs brew is the #340 double dry hopped IPA. It has notes of elderflower, mixed berry jam and a hint of citrus. You can also eat at the brewery. Their Troegsworst sausage and brown butter & rosemary popcorn are delicious.
Kayak down Swatara Creek
With so much chocolate in Hershey, some soft adventure is a great idea! Ben and Deb are a wonderful couple that have been running Cocoa Kayak Rentals of Hershey for the past eight years. Ben is also involved in keeping the local waterways healthy by organizing clean ups. They have several options for kayaking trips that range from 2-3 hour trips, both guided and un-guided.
We loved how Cocoa Kayak covers a lot of little details. There was some rain during our tour and they distributed ponchos to our small group to keep us dry. They also loaned everyone waterproof cases to protect our cell phones. So even if there is some light rain, you can still enjoy kayaking with them. Single kayak rentals start at $39.99 for 2 hours. You can see the full calendar of options and book via the Cocoa Kayak website.
National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg (The Capital of Pennsylvania)
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, the National Civil War Museum is the largest museum in the world fully dedicated to the American Civil War. It houses an impressive collection of over 24,000 artifacts, manuscripts, documents and photographs. The museum offers an unbiased account of the American Civil War that occurred from 1861-1865, from both a military and civilian perspective.
There are several impressive displays at the National Civil War Museum. They include an exhibit depicting an amputation following battle. The museum isn’t especially well suited for young children, but consider taking older kids there to learn about the history of slavery and the human costs of war. The inclusion of women in the American Civil War is another significant aspect to the conflict.
The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey
The climate in this region is similar to the wine producing region of Germany, so white wines, especially German-style rieslings are popular. We enjoyed tasting 6 wines for just $6 in the tasting room at the Vineyard at Hershey. A couple of favorites that we brought home are their blackberry fruit wine and the strawberry cider. A portion of the proceeds from the strawberry cider goes towards assisting wounded veterans.
Hershey and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Hotels
Hotel Indigo Harrisburg – Hershey, offers well appointed rooms with designer toiletries, large flat screen TV’s and plush bedding. Breakfasts are made to order and feature tasty options like smoked salmon flatbread and BLT pretzel rolls. Hotel Indigo prides itself on featuring local food and drinks on their restaurant menus. We were thrilled to see only local brews on Hotel Indigo’s beer taps, including Troeg’s Perpetual IPA (a favorite of mine).
Hotel Hershey is a great option to stay near Hersheypark. The hotel was founded in 1933 and is great four star luxury option featuring a spa and fine dining on-site. The Historic Hotels of America member sits on a hilltop overlooking the town of Hershey and its attractions.
Read lots more tips in our previous article on visiting Hershey and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania!
York, Pennsylvania is just 92 miles north of Washington, DC. The city was founded in 1741 by settlers from Philadelphia and named after the British city of York. It lays claim to being the USA’s first capital, as the Continental Congress first drafted the Articles of Confederation there. York County makes for a great getaway for outdoor lovers, beer enthusiasts, foodies and history buffs. Here are tips to enjoy a fun, delicious and action-packed weekend!
York County Ale Trail
York County is becoming a beer Mecca of the mid-Atlantic. If you want to learn a lot about beer history, take a brewery tour with York County Ale Trail. They offer two different walking tours as well as a brew bus tour. The tour typically includes a tasting tray of four 5 oz pours at three different breweries. Glenn Smith, who launched the York County Ale Trail in 2018 is a practicing lawyer in his other profession.
We toured two breweries on The York County Ale Trail tour with Glenn. We were enamored with his knowledge of beer history as well as how delicious many of the brews we tried are. Glenn begins by guiding visitors through the proper way to experience a beer tasting. If you cannot take a tour with York County Ale Trail, we highly recommend visiting Old Forge Brewing Company and Collusion Tap Works in historic downtown York!
Collusion Tap Works’ Paper Chaser is a dry-hopped Kolsch, a German-style pilsner that originated in Cologne, Germany. I enjoyed it more than some of the Kolsch’s I’ve drank in Germany. Their Super Soma, a fruited sour is delightfully tart, refreshing and tasty. Bell enjoys sour beers more than I do, but we both loved that one. The highlight of my tasting at Collusion was their Screamer, a 10% abv Imperial Milk Stout. It’s a wonderfully robust and delicious brew packed with flavor!
Bike the York County Heritage Trail
Outdoor enthusiasts can make their Sunday morning all about biking in York County. Pennsylvania has around 93 rail-trails, which are paths built along railway lines. Pennsylvania rail-trails cover a total of 1,063 miles. The York County Heritage Trail covers 21 miles from York to New Freedom, PA. Enjoy picturesque sites, including the weekend passing of the historic North Central Railway line. Which you can also ride on weekends! The trail is packed with history, including Hanover Junction, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Stop in Glen Rock and Have Lunch at Glen Rock Mill Inn
Glen Rock is a cute town with lovely murals. If you need some water or a snack, there is a convenience store right off the York County Heritage Trail.
The Glen Rock Mill Inn offers elegant dining and boutique accommodation in a historic former mill. It is a unique farm to table experience, as much of the vegetables, herbs and other ingredients come from their own Tulsi Fields Farm. This is the most romantic restaurant in York County, right along the York County Heritage Trail.
Stand-up Paddle Board Lesson or Kayak the Susquehanna River
Along the shores of the Susquehanna River, Shank’s Mare Outfitters is housed in a historic general store dating back to the 1880’s. They specialize in the sales and rentals of fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking and cross country skiing gear. We love kayaking and the Susquehanna River is definitely a great place for it. We had never tried stand-up paddleboarding and decided to try something new.
Josh is an excellent guide and teacher. He’s very knowledgeable, caring and a great motivator to get you standing on the board. Bell frequently does yoga and was a natural standing on the paddleboard. Even though she had never done it before, she didn’t fall off! Even if you struggle like I did, it is fun to give it a shot.
York, Pennsylvania Hotels
Wyndham Garden York
Rooms at Wyndham Garden York are spacious, comfortable and quiet. Rooms have large flat-screen TVs, Keurig machines and comfy mattresses for a restful sleep. There is both an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness center and conference facilities. The hotel also features on-site dining and a bar at Fenderz Grill and Pub.
Wyndham Garden York has a convenient location near I-83. So it’s also a short drive to Hershey, Harrisburg, Gettysburg and Baltimore. Downtown York is around a 15-minute drive from Wyndham Garden York. This is where we stayed when we visited York.
Heritage Hills Resort
Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center is another popular option. Many of the rooms overlook their driving range and putting green. Heritage Hills on-site restaurant, Avenue Ale House and Pizza Loft, has an excellent craft beer selection featuring many York County and area breweries. The outdoor terrace at Avenue Ale House and Pizza Loft has a lovely view of the golf course too. The terrace is right next to the 18th green so you can watch people finishing their rounds. It’s also the perfect spot for a 19th hole!
Read lots more tips in our guide to a great weekend in York!
Philadelphia is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and signed, sparking the birth of a new nation. It was also the capital of the United States from 1790-1800, before the US government moved to Washington, D.C. Visit Independence Hall, where the country’s earliest and most important documents were ratified. Across from Independence Hall is the famous Liberty Bell, which rang when the Declaration of Independence was first read.
Philadelpha Food Tour
Philadelphia offers some of the tastiest food in the US, and the culinary scene extends far beyond cheese steaks. Take a tour with Chew Philly to feast on delicious Philly treats like tomato pie and pretzels in iconic establishments. Learn more about Philly’s storied history while touring the historic Manayunk neighborhood. We covered several historic eateries in our article on Philly’s wonderful food scene.
Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market, conveniently located next to Penn Station, is one of the best markets in the country. Highlights include Dinic’s Roast Pork, and an abundance of delicious selections like tomato pie, cheese steaks, whoopie pies, apple dumplings and donuts. Visit the market for lunch and grab some treats for later. We highly recommend the maple bacon donut at Beiler’s Donuts. Visitors are spoiled for delicious choices at Reading Terminal Market!
South Philadelphia’s Italian Market is one of the most authentic in the country. Isgro Pastries has been family run since 1904 and is an iconic establishment for mouth watering Italian cookies. Grab a delicious tomato pie and fresh baked bread from Sarcones Bakery, a fifth generation family business. Go early as Sarcones often runs out of tomato pies, and closes between 1-4pm depending on the day. Stock up on delicious Italian imports like herbs and spices, prosciutto, parmegiano-regiano, olives and stuffed peppers.
Ralph’s Restaurant makes for a great date night in Philadelphia. The restaurant is fourth and fifth generation owned and operated by the Disigno/Rubino family for over 100 years. Go for a favorite Italian dish like Veal Scallopini – topped with marinara, peppers and mushrooms.
The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown makes for a comfortable stay in central Philadelphia. You can order room service and dine in the privacy of your room with views overlooking the city. It’s located just 1,050 feet from the Pennsylvania Centre as well as .
Raystown Lake and Huntington, Pennsylvania
Raystown Lake is the largest lake within the state of Pennsylvania. Around 44 miles south of State College, home of Penn State University, and around a 3-hour drive from Washington DC. It’s a great place for boating, swimming, mountain biking, scuba diving, and fishing during warmer months.
The nearby town of Huntingdon, PA, set along the Juanita River dates to 1767. It’s home to the nation’s oldest automobile museum, Swigart Museum. Lincoln Caverns feature 2 show caves with crystals, stalactites & flowstones, along with woodland nature trails & campgrounds.
Raystown Lake has 12 public access areas across 29,000 acres of land. In summer, it’s a great place for boating, fishing or enjoying a picnic. Visitors can also hit the trails for a hike or go hunting. The area is operated and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. There are on-site campgrounds in spots like Lake Raystown Resort.