Pennsylvania

Step Back in Time with These 8 Weekend Getaways in Pennsylvania

There are plenty of stops in Pennsylvania great for history buffs and foodies alike. These eight weekend getaways in Pennsylvania will keep you plenty busy.

It’s freezing cold out and my fingertips are going numb, but I continue pushing through fallen trees and dried-up thorn bushes in search of the old path. This journey would be much more comfortable in more cooperative weather, but as soon as the trees and vegetation start blooming this site will be lost to nature.

There it is. To others what might look like a dilapidated wall of bricks is really a beehive coke oven. These ovens were once found all over Pennsylvania, burning 24 hours a day to help fuel the area’s steel mills. Now many of these ovens are forgotten, victims of time and decay, others destroyed in order to make the land useful for other purposes.

Now, these ovens are simply memories of a time when coal was king and Pittsburgh named the Steel City. These days, Pennsylvania is known for its innovation and medical centers, but what many people don’t realize is the rich history Pennsylvania has.

Originally one of the original 13 colonies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century. Its storied history with ties to both the Revolutionary War and Civil War make it a plethora of both well-known locations as well as some that tend to fly under the radar.

Whether you’re currently planning a day trip or a weekend getaway, there are so many locations in Pennsylvania that are not only great for history but also offer great accommodations and top-notch eateries. From one history buff to another, these 8 weekend getaways in Pennsylvania will keep you plenty busy.

Gettysburg

Photo courtesy of VisitPA

The site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War, Gettysburg was the turning point of the war and the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”. This 6,000 acre Civil War Military Park can be overwhelming, but there are many different ways to experience the site. Start your adventure at the Gettysburg Visitor Center where you will learn about the basics of the battle, experience the Cyclorama painting, and visit the Civil War museum.

From the Visitor Center there are many different battlefield tour options including car, bicycle, horseback, and even on foot. The U.S. Park Service guides are fantastic at helping you to understand the history, navigate the sites of the battles, and even direct you to where to find monuments from your home state. In addition to the battlefields, be sure to visit the Jennie Wade House as well as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. In the evenings you can take part in both ghost tours as well as paranormal explorations.

History and elegance collide when you have dinner at Gettysburg’s oldest and most historic home, the Dobbin House Tavern. Built in 1776, this house not only witnessed the battle of Gettysburg but also served as a stop on the underground railroad.

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Hotels in Gettysburg

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Where to Stay in Gettysburg

Known as being the oldest deeded house in Gettysburg as well as the oldest continuous residence, The Brafferton Inn, offers guests opportunity to experience both luxury and history in one.

The Brafferton Inn

Top rated
Gettysburg, 1.1 miles to Gettysburg National Military Park
9.1 Excellent (251 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.4 / 10
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Hershey

Visit Hershey Harrisburg

Dubbed the “Sweetest Place on Earth” Hershey is home to — you guessed it — Hershey Chocolate. In 1903, Milton S. Hershey broke ground on construction of a chocolate plant. Modern-day visitors can experience the sights, sounds, and of course, smells of cocoa beans being transformed into Hershey’s chocolate bars on the Hershey’s Chocolate World attraction. You can also take part in activities such as make your own candy bar, chocolate tasting, and even a trolley ride.

Embrace your inner thrill-seeker at Hersheypark amusement park. With 14 coasters and over 70 other attractions, there’s something for every comfort level. Even if you are visiting in the winter you can experience the Hersheypark Christmas Candylane light display which features over four million lights to help make your season bright.

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Where to Stay in Hershey

Located less than a mile from the city center, enjoy the amenities that the Fairfield Inn & Suites has to offer, including a free hot breakfast, pool, and 24/7 fitness center.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Hershey Chocolate Avenue

Top rated
Hershey, 0.7 miles to Hershey's Chocolate World
8.9 Excellent (1407 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
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Jim Thorpe

Nestled in the scenic Lehigh Gorge, the Victorian town of Jim Thorpe is located just an easy drive north of Philadelphia, and is filled with history and beauty. Built in 1861, the Asa Packer Mansion was home of railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh University, Asa Packer. This three-story home features 18 rooms and approximately 11,000 square feet of living space.

Be sure to visit the No. 9 Coal and Mine Museum which is the world’s oldest continuously operated anthracite coal mine. Visitors can travel safely by train more than 1,600 feet into the mountainside to see and experience what it was like to work underground.

Have dinner and drinks in the Marion Hose Bar, the recently renovated Marion Hose Co. No. 1 Firehouse, located next to the Opera House. There you can enjoy a variety of locally-sourced craft beers, fine wines, and a broad selection of whiskies and cocktails.

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Where to Stay in Jim Thorpe

The Parsonage B&B was originally built in 1844 for the Reverend Richard Webster and remains the oldest complete and unchanged home in Jim Thorpe. This simple, yet comfortable, offers a delicious breakfast made from fresh, local ingredients.

The Parsonage B&B

9.2 Excellent (70 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.4 / 10
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Lancaster

VisitPA

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without modern conveniences such as electricity or cars? With a visit to Amish country in Lancaster, you can find out just that. Lancaster is home to America’s oldest Amish settlement where thousands still live the “Plain” lifestyle. Whether you take in the countryside by car — or even authentic horse and buggy — you can explore Amish-themed attractions, shop for Amish-made goods, or even enjoy a delicious homestyle meal.

If you are in the mood for some whoopie pies, chnitz und knepp (ham or pork shoulder with dried apples and dumplings), or even dried corn, there are many options in Lancaster where you can enjoy authentic, homestyle Amish cooking. You’ll find lots of fruit and vegetable stands, small bakeries, and sit-down restaurants throughout Lancaster. There are even opportunities to enjoy a meal at authentic, working Amish farms.

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Hotels in Lancaster

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Where to Stay in Lancaster

The simple charm of Lancaster’s Amish country meets the hipster local arts atmosphere at the Lancaster Arts. This hotel, fashioned from an old tobacco warehouse, features art from various artists from around Pennsylvania.

Hotel Lancaster Arts

Top rated
Lancaster, 6 miles to The Amish Farm & House
9.3 Excellent (2213 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Philadelphia

M. Fischetti, Visit Philadelphia

Known as the “City of Brotherly Love” Philadelphia holds the distinction of being the birthplace of the nation. It is where the country’s forefathers gathered at Independence Hall to shake off the chains of tyranny from Great Britain.

In a city so rich with American history, it can be difficult to take it all the sights in just a weekend but it can be done! Begin the weekend with the Once Upon a Nation storytelling benches. These thirteen benches (see what they did there?) allow you to hear free stories from both American and Philadelphia history. They are perfect for both kids and those experiencing the city for the first time. You won’t want to miss landmarks such as Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, and The Betsy Ross House.

Did you also know that Philadelphia is considered one of the best beer drinking cities in the nation? Philadelphia is known for its pub culture and the opportunity to visit both modern-day watering holes and historic taverns. I recommend the historic City Tavern where you can dine as our forefathers did and not only enjoy a cold beer, but also indulge in authentic 18th-century cuisine made from scratch from local ingredients. You may even run into some of Historic Philadelphia’s reenactors that frequent the tavern.

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The Independent Hotel sits on the site of what is rumored to be the site of Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiment. This hotel offers a boutique atmosphere and is centrally located to many of the area’s historic attractions.

The Independent

Top rated
Philadelphia, 1.2 miles to 30th Street Station
8.7 Excellent (1570 reviews)
Excellent Location 9 / 10
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Pittsburgh

Laura Petrilla, Visit Pittsburgh

Once known as The Steel City, Pittsburgh boasted a booming steel industry located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. Although many of the steel mills that dotted the city are now distant memories, visitors can relive Pittsburgh’s steel days by visiting sites such as Carrie Furnace. Over 100 years old and towering 92 feet above the Monongahela River, the Carrie Furnaces 6 and 7 are extremely rare examples of pre World War II iron-making technology. In fact, since the collapse of the area’s steel industry, these are the only non-operative blast furnaces in the Pittsburgh District to remain standing.

Be sure to visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit which features original fossils from one of the finest paleontological collections in the world. Including a full-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex, this collection features dinosaurs and other creatures from the Mesozoic era.

Get a panoramic view of the city when you take a ride on one of the city’s two historic inclines which will take you atop the neighborhood of Mt. Washington, overlooking the city and the rivers. Be sure to snap a selfie or two on one of the overlooks while you are up there.

Whether you are wanting to dine, shop, or simply grab a drink, Station Square has you covered. Anchored by the Grand Concourse, which is set in the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie railroad train terminal, Station Square offers a variety of nightlife attractions as well as casual eating establishments.

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Enjoy the sophistication of the Omni William Penn Hotel located just steps from the city-county building in downtown Pittsburgh. This 100-year-old hotel has played a starring role in the City of Pittsburgh, hosting movie stars, politicians, heads of state, and leaders of business and industry.

Omni William Penn Hotel

Top rated
9.4 Excellent (8473 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Somerset

Photo courtesy of VisitPA

On September 11, 2001, a brave group of passengers realized that their plane had been hijacked and was heading for Washington D.C. when they wrestled control of the plane from the hijackers and crashed in a Pennsylvania field, narrowly missing any populated areas. When you stand in the presence of the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville you will be awed by the amazing sacrifice this group of 40 passengers and crew made to protect our country.

History doesn’t end in Shanksville, however. While you are in Somerset County, be sure to visit the site of the Quecreek Mine Rescue. This rescue, which took place in 2002, successfully freed nine miners who had been trapped in a flooded mine shaft. When you visit the site, you are able to walk right up to the rescue shaft where the miners emerged from 240 feet below the surface. You can also touch the rescue capsule the miners were extracted with as well as the drill bits used to create the rescue shaft.

After a long day of sightseeing, be sure to check out the Summit Diner, a fun retro diner known for reasonably priced food and delicious pies. Complete with a tin exterior and neon lights, The Summit Diner offers a true piece of Americana.

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Where to Stay in Somerset

When it comes time to check in for the night, The Hampton Inn Somerset offers reasonably-priced accommodations and is close to the city center.

Hampton Inn Somerset, PA

Top rated
8.5 Excellent (658 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9 / 10
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Strasburg

Calling all railroad buffs! Experience the power of steam on America’s oldest operating railroad with a charter which dates back to 1832. Strasburg Rail Road had been on the verge of abandonment when it was rescued and turned into a tourist railroad. Take a ride through Amish country aboard one of the five authentic steam engines and 19 operating passenger cars.

If you love trains, be sure not to miss the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania located adjacent to Strasburg Rail Road. Here you can get up close to real locomotives while learning about Pennsylvania’s rich history with the railroad. Peruse extensive exhibits of railroad artifacts, along with artwork, books, photographs and corporate railroad material. In addition to the 100 locomotives and railroad cars, the Railroad museum offers a giant model train display.

Dine in an authentic historic train car at Casey Jones’ Restaurant. From the restaurant, you can enjoy views of the trains passing by. Be sure to check out the collection of cabooses next door at the Red Caboose Motel.

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Channeling the charm of Strasburg, the Strasburg Village Inn is a top-rated bed and breakfast that incorporates both quaint lodgings with historic charm. What is even better is that it features an attached ice cream shop to indulge your sweet tooth.

Strasburg Village Inn

Top rated
8.8 Excellent (257 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.1 / 10
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Feature photo by Clark Young on Unsplash