Top 10 Best Destinations in Pennsylvania, U.S. for Outdoor Recreation

Pennsylvania, a northeastern U.S. state and one of the 13 original colonies, has a diverse terrain, which includes wide stretches of farmland, national forests and mountains. Philadelphia, the Keystone State’s largest city, displays its rich history in Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed) and the Liberty Bell, an enduring symbol of American freedom.

Top 10 Best Destinations in Pennsylvania, U.S. for Outdoor Recreation

Pittsburgh is home to the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, known for its dinosaur exhibits. Harrisburg, the state capital, is near the Hershey Chocolate factory and its candy-themed amusement park. The Pocono Mountains are big draws for skiing and other winter sports, while the rugged Appalachian Mountains attract hikers. Gettysburg, a Civil War battle site, and Valley Forge, a Revolutionary War site, are now national parks. Other notable destinations include Pennsylvania Dutch country, known for its Amish culture, and Allegheny National Forest, which offers camping, boating and snowmobiling.

When to visit Pennsylvania?

Most visitors arrive in summer (June–August), when the weather is warm, and the fall (September–November), when foliage tours are popular. Winters (December–March) are cold and often snowy, with skiing in the Poconos and Appalachians. Local events include the Pittsburgh Marathon (May); Philadelphia’s Wawa Welcome America festival (late June–July), with concerts and parades leading up to July 4; Bethlehem’s Musikfest (August); and the Philadelphia Marathon (November).

10 Best Destinations in Pennsylvania, U.S. for Outdoor Recreation at glance:

  • Pocono Mountains
  • Seven Springs
  • Gettysburg
  • Pittsburgh
  • Philadelphia
  • Erie
  • Hershey
  • East Stroudsburg
  • Harrisburg
  • Lancaster

1. Pocono Mountains (Region in Pennsylvania)

The Pocono Mountains, or Poconos, encompass forested peaks, lakes and valleys in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. On the eastern edge is the bird-rich Delaware Water Gap, with river beaches and recreation facilities. Trails and bridges connect the waterfalls at nearby Bushkill Falls. Resorts dot the area, many with ski runs and water parks. Boat launches offer access to fishing in Lake Wallenpaupack to the north.

Claws ‘n’ Paws Wild Animal Park, home to white tigers and bears, lies west of the lake. South, horse-riding trails meander through oak and maple trees in Promised Land State Park. The Pocono Raceway hosts NASCAR races near Lake Harmony. Hickory Run State Park features the huge Boulder Field, formed around 20,000 years ago, while Lehigh Gorge State Park offers white-water rafting through its hemlock-covered ravine. Close by, the Victorian town of Jim Thorpe contains art galleries and the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary. The Appalachian Trail curls along the Poconos’ southern edge.

2. Seven Springs (Village in Pennsylvania)

Seven Springs is a borough in Somerset and Fayette counties in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The Fayette County portion of the borough and resort are part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, and the Somerset County portion is part of the Johnstown Metropolitan Area. The population of the borough was 26 as of the 2010 census, compared to 127 at the 2000 census.

15 of the residents in 2010 were in Fayette County, and 11 in Somerset County. The borough limits encompass the majority of Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County, although the resort's business address may be listed as "Champion", referring to an unincorporated village located 7 miles to the northwest in Fayette County. The borough is served by the Connellsville Area School District.

3. Gettysburg (Town in Pennsylvania)

Gettysburg is a borough and town in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It’s known for Gettysburg National Battlefield, site of a turning point in the Civil War, now part of Gettysburg National Military Park. The park also includes the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, displaying Civil War artifacts, and Gettysburg National Cemetery, where a memorial marks the site of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address.

4. Pittsburgh (City in Pennsylvania)

Pittsburgh is a city in western Pennsylvania at the junction of 3 rivers. Its Gilded Age sites, including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, speak to its history as an early-20th-century industrial capital. In the North Shore neighborhood are the modern Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz Field football stadium and PNC Park baseball stadium.

At the University of Pittsburgh, the towering, Gothic Cathedral of Learning houses many Nationality Rooms, each honoring the culture of a different immigrant group in Pittsburgh. The Frick Art and Historical Center is a former estate that includes an art museum and a car-and-carriage museum. Duquesne Incline, a funicular that once hauled coal, offers city views on its way to the upper station, housing a local history museum. Atop Mt. Washington are traditional eateries on Restaurant Row as well as city views from Emerald View Park. In the east, the Strip District is known for its street-food vendors and outdoor markets.

5. Philadelphia (City in Pennsylvania)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, is notable for its rich history, on display at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed) and other American Revolutionary sites. Also iconic are the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, immortalized by Sylvester Stallone’s triumphant run in the film "Rocky."

The city has a fervent sports culture, most evident when the Eagles (pro football) or Phillies (pro baseball) teams play at home. Colorful murals adorn thousands of building exteriors, the lively Delaware River waterfront offers concerts and festivals, and nearly 10,000 acres of parkland dot the city, from landscaped Rittenhouse Square to sprawling Fairmount Park. Popular neighborhoods include arty Fishtown, Washington Square West, and Bella Vista, home to the longstanding Italian Market.

6. Erie (City in Pennsylvania)

Erie is a city in Pennsylvania, on Lake Erie. Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula with beaches and trails, curves around Presque Isle Bay. Nearby, Waldameer Park & Water World has roller coasters and waterslides. The Erie Maritime Museum traces the history of Lake Erie and is the home port of the US Brig Niagara, an updated 19th-century ship. The Erie Art Museum's art collection features 20th-century works.

7. Hershey (Census-designated place in Pennsylvania)

Hershey is just east of Pennsylvania’s state capital, Harrisburg. The Hershey Story museum chronicles the community's creation as a model town for the workers at Milton Hershey’s chocolate factory. Hersheypark opened in 1907 as a modest green space but grew to include rides and attractions, including a zoo. Hershey Gardens has a rose garden and butterfly house. Hersheypark Stadium and Giant Center host concerts.

8. East Stroudsburg (Town in Pennsylvania)

East Stroudsburg is a borough in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is located in the Poconos region of the state. Originally known as "Dansbury," East Stroudsburg was renamed for geographic reasons when the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad opened a station in town. It lies east of Stroudsburg and is more populous than that town. East Stroudsburg is the largest municipality in Monroe County and in the East Stroudsburg, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area as designated by the Office of Management and Budget based on data from the 2010 US Census. The population was 11,922 at the 2010 census.

9. Harrisburg (City in Pennsylvania)

Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania, sits on the Susquehanna River. The National Civil War Museum illustrates both sides of the conflict via interactive exhibits and re-enactments. Next to the imposing Capitol building, the State Museum of Pennsylvania celebrates the area’s natural, cultural and industrial heritage. East of the city, Hersheypark is a chocolate-themed park offering rides and entertainment.

10. Lancaster (City in Pennsylvania)

Lancaster is a city located in South Central Pennsylvania which serves as the seat of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County and one of the oldest inland towns in the United States. With a population of 59,322, it ranks eighth in population among Pennsylvania's cities. The Lancaster metropolitan area population is 507,766, making it the 101st largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and second largest in the South Central Pennsylvania area.

The city's primary industries include healthcare, tourism, public administration, manufacturing, and both professional and semi-professional services. Lancaster hosts more electronic public CCTV outdoor cameras per capita than cities such as Boston or San Francisco, despite controversy among residents. Lancaster was home to James Buchanan, the nation's 15th president, and to congressman and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.

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