The birthplace of the United States, there are dozens of fascinating towns and cities in Pennsylvania for eager historians or curious travellers. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the two biggest cities and most influential urban areas in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth, but they’re far from the only meaningful destinations to explore.
From the hills of Gettysburg, where the Civil War’s bloodiest battle was fought to the whimsical streets and amusement parks of Hershey that’ll leave you feeling transported into a children’s novel, Pennsylvania features a fascinating collection of small Amish villages, riverside towns and iconic world-class metropolises where you can discover America’s past, present and future.
- 20 Towns And Cities In Pennsylvania
20 Towns And Cities In Pennsylvania
- Dark Philly Adult Night Tour – very popular!
- Gettysburg Battlefield Guided History Bus Tour – two hours with a National Park guide.
- Essential Pittsburgh Experience – The One Tour to Take!
Cities In Pennsylvania
As the setting for the signing of two important documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, Philadelphia deserves its moniker of the “Birthplace of America”.
Nicknamed “Philly”, Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by Quaker William Penn and served as the United States’ first capital after the newly found country declared independence from England.
This city is within driving distance from NYC and Washington DC, only 93 miles (150 km) from New York City and 139 miles (224 km) from the nation’s capital, putting it right in the golden triangle of power.
From the fascinating Philadelphia Museum of Art, made famous by the Rocky film franchise to Philly’s Independence Hall, where the United States was officially founded, Philadelphia is a truly must-see American city with something for everyone to experience.
- Dark Philly Adult Night Tour
- Old City Historic Walking Tour in Philadelphia
- The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia
Also known as the ‘Steel City’, Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania’s second-largest city but don’t be mistaken into thinking there’s nothing to see.
This 19th-century industrial hub has become one of the top 21st-century destinations with attractions and scenic viewpoints.
This city is at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, providing some of the most impressive riverfront views of any city in Pennsylvania.
These days, the gentrification of Pittsburgh has transformed it from its rough beginnings into a sophisticated city with cultural institutions such as the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens provide a tranquil contrast to Pittsburgh’s network of steel bridges and streets lined with historic buildings.
It’s one of the best cities in Pennsylvania to visit if you’re an avid foodie or urban explorer.
Try a Primanti sandwich, pierogies or a Pittsburgh Salad for a taste of local delights.
- Premium Amish Country Tour including Amish Farm and House
- Essential Pittsburgh Experience – The One Tour to Take
- Double Decker bus – sightseeing tour of Pittsburgh
This city in Pennsylvania on the banks of the Susquehanna River is the official state capital and the state’s fourth-largest city.
During the Civil War, Harrisburg was a strategic military hub for the Union troops.
During the 19th century, the starting point of America’s westward migration was spurred on by the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad and Pennsylvania Canal.
These days, you can discover the stories behind the founding of the United States in its historic buildings and cultural institutions, such as the National Civil War Museum, the Pennsylvania State Capitol and the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
History or military buffs will want to put this city in Pennsylvania at the top of the list for its treasure trove of American history and culture to discover.
Scranton is a large city with a small-town vibe, excellent family-friendly attractions, and a charming downtown area.
The city is 125 miles (201 km) from the Big Apple and downtown Philly, so it’s not far from the two largest cities on the USA’s East Coast.
Historic venues in Scranton include the Houdini Museum and the National Register of Historic Places-listed Lackawanna County Courthouse.
This Pennsylvania city is Joe Biden’s hometown and the setting for the US version of the TV sitcom The Office.
One of the oldest inland cities in Pennsylvania and the USA, Lancaster was once the state’s capital.
Its sizeable Amish community and the Dutch Wonderland amusement park draw the crowds these days.
Lancaster treats travellers to a blend of suburbia and rural farmlands where students, farmers and city slickers rub shoulders.
The city is 80 miles (129 km) from downtown Philadelphia; attractions and landmarks to discover include the Lancaster Central Market and the Fulton Theatre.
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- International Food Tour Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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Erie is the fourth-largest city in Pennsylvania and the state’s only port access to the Great Lakes region of North America.
Erie is among the most fascinating cities in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth, especially for outdoor enthusiasts, as it’s home to one of the state’s most-visited state parks, Presque Isle State Park.
Spring and summertime bring large crowds of eager beachgoers to the shores of Erie as the city’s surfing, shipwreck diving, and hiking opportunities take centre stage.
Fall sees Erie’s top-notch craft breweries open their doors to beer connoisseurs.
This city is also known for its fantastic selection of locally produced wines.
Many other historical and cultural attractions and destinations, such as the Presque Isle State Park, the Erie Art Museum and the Erie Maritime Museum, make Erie a great addition to any Pennsylvania itinerary.
Top tour: Lake Erie Smallmouth Fishing Charters
Home to a diverse population of over 95,000, Reading is a historic city whose biggest claim to fame is the appearance of the city’s famous railroad in a classic board game.
Indeed, the original Monopoly board game’s Reading Railroad is located in Reading, Pennsylvania, also one of the largest railway networks in the United States.
There’s plenty more to Reading than just railroads and board games, such as the 72-foot tall (22 m) Reading Pagoda, the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts and the Mid Atlantic Air Museum.
The third-largest and one of the fastest-growing cities in Pennsylvania.
Home to a delightful blend of historical and cultural attractions and landmarks, Allentown is 63 miles (101 km) from downtown Philly.
This makes it a popular getaway for Philadelphians who love visiting its historic industrial buildings, top-notch arts institutions and beautiful riverfront views.
There’s plenty to see from the Liberty Bell Museum and Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum to the Earl F. Hunsicker Bicentennial Park and Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom amusement park.
9- State College
The small city of State College in the central region of Pennsylvania is home to the Commonwealth’s biggest public education institution, Penn State University, whose sprawling campus overshadows all other attractions and landmarks.
State College is home to a wealth of exciting nighttime attractions, trendy shops and flavourful restaurants thanks to Penn State’s large campus, however, there are also plenty of non-campus related landmarks to visit in and around State College.
Among State College’s biggest and most popular attractions is the 106,572-capacity Beaver Stadium, the official home of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team since 1960.
For a more relaxed State College experience, be sure to plan a visit to the Palmer Museum of Art or the Arboretum at Penn State to enjoy some of State College’s best cultural and natural beauty.
Williamsport is an interesting city in east-central Pennsylvania that’s perhaps best known amongst sports fans as the birthplace of Little League Baseball, serving as the home of the Little League Baseball headquarters and the annual Little League World Series.
The city is an enticing destination for avid amateur sports fans and a haven for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of scenic landscapes and old landmarks to savour in and around Williamsport.
Some of Williamsport’s most visited attractions include the World of Little League Museum, the Waterfalls on Miners Run and the charming Millionaire’s Row Historic District, so be sure to add a visit to Williamsport to your Pennsylvania itinerary.
Informally known as the ‘Christmas City’ due to its stunning public lights displays over the festive season, Bethlehem is a former steel manufacturing hub and today a popular destination thanks to its many historical landmarks.
Bethlehem’s home to many one-of-a-kind landmarks, including the Moravian Book Shop, which opened in 1745, making it the world’s oldest continuously operating bookstore, and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, recognised as America’s oldest Bach choir.
Once home to the country’s second-largest steel producer and largest ship manufacturer, modern-day Bethlehem’s Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts and Hoover Mason Trestle ensure that the city is the perfect tourist destination worthy of adding to any Pennsylvania itinerary.
First inhabited by Native Americans of the Iroquois Confederacy, the mid-sized city of Altoona was placed on the map by the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1849 and is situated in the Commonwealth’s scenic Alleghenies region.
Altoona is much more than just a railway stopover destination, as evidenced by attractions such as the 95-year-old Altoona Symphony Orchestra and the Canoe Creek State Park.
The city also serves as the home of the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates of the MLB’s Double-A minor league baseball team, who play their home games at the Peoples Natural Gas Field stadium in downtown Altoona.
A city as steeped in history as any city you’re likely to come across, Easton on Pennsylvania’s eastern edge is a popular weekend getaway destination among city slickers thanks to the city’s proximity to NYC, Allentown and Philadelphia.
Easton sits just 17 miles (27 km) east of Allentown and 74 miles (119 km) west of the Big Apple and is 77 miles (124 km) from downtown Philly, making it easy to reach.
The former home city of George Taylor, a signee of the Declaration of Independence, Easton is where the first Christmas tree was erected in the United States.
Attractions range from the Crayola Experience to the National Canal Museum.
York is the tenth-largest city in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth and the official “Factory Tour Capital of the World”, with behind-the-scenes tours of facilities such as the Bluett Bros.
Violins workshop and the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations factory are available to York visitors.
The city is the birthplace of the Articles of Confederation, making York an important historic destination for anyone interested in learning more about the founding of the United States.
York is also a central hub for the region’s Native American tribes, which travellers can learn more about at York’s Indian Steps Museum.
In the heart of Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, the mid-sized city of Strasburg was named after the French city of Strasbourg.
Strasburg was a railway hub during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Surrounded by farmland and rolling hills, it’s not far from both Philadelphia and Wilmington – 62 miles (100 km) from downtown Philadelphia and roughly 43 miles (69 km) from Wilmington, Delaware.
Strasburg’s most popular attractions include the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the town’s lively Main Street and the nearby Amish Village, so be sure to add this charming little city to your Pennsylvania itinerary.
16- New Hope
Situated on the scenic banks of the Delaware River in southeast Pennsylvania, New Hope is a beautiful city renowned for its excellent collection of riverfront eateries, shops and important cultural institutions.
The city straddles the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state border and is within 70 miles (113 km) of cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Allentown and Trenton.
New Hope was named after the first settlement of Coryell’s Ferry, the town’s initial name, burned down in 1790, with residents picking ‘New Hope’ as a fitting name for their rebuilt village.
Today, New Hope has a decent list of attractions, including the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, the Delaware Canal State Park and the Bucks County Playhouse, making it a worthwhile Pennsylvania destination to explore.
Towns in Pennsylvania
Synonymous with chocolates and sweet treats, Hershey’s nickname as “The Sweetest Place on Earth” is well deserved, as the city is home to the Hershey Chocolate Company.
Hershey is one of the most unique cities in Pennsylvania as it is one of the few thriving cities in the United States founded by a company; it was entirely founded by the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1903.
All the attractions in Hershey have a connection with the chocolate manufacturer, including Hershey Park, the largest amusement park in Pennsylvania, and Hershey’s Chocolate World, where chocoholics can explore the chocolate factory.
Gettysburg is a popular city in Pennsylvania for history and Civil War buffs, as it was where the American Civil War’s bloodiest battle occurred.
Fought in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg went on for three days and around 50,000 soldiers lost their lives before ending the ambitions of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to invade the North.
Another reason why Gettysburg is one of the best cities in Pennsylvania for historians is it’s where Abraham Lincoln delivered his infamous Gettysburg Address on November 18, 1863, and where Dwight D. Eisenhower retired to after his stint in the White House.
Visit Gettysburg National Military Park where the battle occurred and the historic Jennie Wade House, where the Battle of Gettysburg’s only civilian casualty lived to the 6,000-acre (2,428 ha).
Top tour: 2-Hour Gettysburg Battlefield Guided History Bus Tour with a National Park Guide.
19- Jim Thorpe
Named in honour of Jim Thorpe, a pioneering Native American athlete described by many as one of the greatest American athletes of all time, Jim Thorpe is a scenic rural town situated just 33 miles (53 km) from Allentown.
Initially titled Mauch Chunk, the city was renamed in 1954 despite the town’s namesake never setting foot there.
Jim Thorpe was ultimately buried in the city and a large monument was erected in his honour, attracting thousands of fans and admirers of the celebrated athlete to the town today.
Several other notable landmarks and attractions can be visited during your trip to this fascinating city, including the Asa Packer Mansion, the Mauch Chunk Opera House and the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
A popular day-trip destination from the overcrowded streets of Philadelphia due to the city’s many historic buildings, museums, public parks and art galleries, Doylestown is a charming storybook town unlike any other in eastern Pennsylvania.
The small city lies just 41 miles (66 km) north of downtown Philly and was shaped by the ideas and designs of famous architect and beloved local son Henry Chapman Mercer, who grew up in Doylestown during the 19th century.
First inhabited by the Lenape people, the city was settled by tavern owner William Doyle in 1745 and is today a great destination to stop at when travelling around Pennsylvania, with an endless amount of small-town charm to savour.
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