24 Essential Pennsylvania Bucket List Activities & Food

Updated

If you’re anywhere near the East Coast, a trip to Pennsylvania is a must. It’s the birthplace of America, Hershey’s Chocolate, and home to some of the most stunning scenery in the entire US. Whether the focus of your trip is food, adventure, history, or something else entirely, there is plenty to do in Pennsylvania.

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It’s hard to narrow down the plethora of options into one concise bucket list, but we’ve done our best to pick some of the most well-known and unknown things you should have on your list.

Pennsylvania Bucket List Trip Destinations

You could argue that Pennsylvania is one giant bucket list trip destination since there’s so much to do. We know that’s not practical, so here are five must-see places for a trip to The Keystone State.

1. Explore Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most beautiful and popular state parks in all of Pennsylvania. That’s saying something considering there are around 100 other parks to choose from.

There is plenty to do here, and the park is open year-round. You can camp, swim, boat, hike, bike, fish, and take in stunning views during the warmer months. Enjoy snowmobiling, staying in cabins, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing during winter. 

Pro tip: The park is open year-round, but some areas might be closed off during winter due to hazardous and icy conditions.

2. See Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon at Pine Creek Gorge

If hiking up to see stunning, breathtaking vistas sounds like an activity you want on your travel bucket list, you won’t want to pass up Pine Creek Gorge. The nickname “Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon” will give you an idea of the scenery you’ll enjoy.

Pro tip: Go during the fall for especially spectacular scenery with all the shades of fall colors represented.

3. Spend time at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

We know what you’re thinking: Isn't this an article about Pennsylvania bucket list activities? That it is, and though the name might throw you off, this recreational area is, indeed, in Pennsylvania.

This is a great spot for the whole family with plenty of activities including hiking trails, swimming beaches, and plenty of waterfalls to explore.

4. Take a trip along the National Trails

Pennsylvania is chock-full of things to do, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention exploring at least a few of the national trails. These are walking trails that provide hikers with stunning scenery and interesting information about the history of Pennsylvania. A few we recommend include:

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
  • North Country National Scenic Trail
  • Potomac Heritage National Historic Trail

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for Pennsylvania

Strap on your hiking boots and get ready for some outdoor activities with these ideas.

5. Step foot onto the longest coastline in the state at Presque Isle Park

You may not connect Pennsylvania with the Great Lakes right away, but the longest stretch of coastline in Pennsylvania belongs to Lake Erie. Head to Presque Isle Park and admire the stunning views, waves, wind, and sand.

6. Hike to Bushkill Falls

Bushkill Falls is commonly referred to as the Niagra Falls of Pennsylvania. There are eight different falls to hike to and four hiking trails that range from 15 minutes to two hours, making this doable for every member of your group.

7. Explore the Crystal Caves

Crystal Cave was discovered in 1871 and is a stunning show cave that’s accessible for adventurers of every level. The one-hour tour is popular and includes a guided trip 125 feet underground and a movie about the cave’s history.

Pro tip: This is a seasonal activity and closes for the winter months. It reopens in March.

8. Go back in time at Valley Forge National Historic Park

Valley Forge is the site of Washington’s Continental Army encampment during the American Revolution, and it’s a must-see spot in Pennsylvania for history buffs. Special programs and reenactments take place throughout the year, and there’s also a visitor center and daily tours.

Spring and Summer Pennsylvania Bucket List Ideas

Planning a bucket list trip during the warmer months? Here are a few things you’ll want to do.

9. Catch a flick at Shankweiler’s Drive-In

Shankweiler’s is America’s first drive-in theater, and if you’re around in the summer, you’ve got to catch a show. It first opened in 1934 and has been operating continually ever since.

Pro tip: The theater is open on weekends during April, May, and September, and daily from June through August.

10. Discover the Haines Shoe House

Looking for an unusual and quirky stop? Check out the Haines Shoe House. One look and you’ll be quoting lines from a childhood poem, “There once was an old lady who lived in a shoe…” The house is open for tours and photographs from the first day of spring through October.

Pro tip: The Shoe House tour consists of five levels, all of which are only accessible by climbing stairs.

11. Check out the Bethlehem Steel Stacks

Once a major employer for the Bethlehem area, today the Steel Stacks is a huge entertainment venue that hosts free shows throughout the year including a summer concert series, Musikfest, and more.

Pro tip: All free concert info is listed on their website.

12. Learn about the Amish way of life in Lancaster County

Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County is Amish Country. Take a drive or visit area farms for tours to learn about the Amish way of life. Stop into the many stores and sample Amish baked goods or purchase handicrafts to take home. Finally, take some time to admire the beautiful countryside while you’re there.

13. Take a ride on the Duquesne Incline

Take a ride on the historic cable car to catch stunning views of the Pittsburgh cityscape. This is one of the last remaining inclines in the country, and the cars have been immaculately preserved. Watch the inner workings with a visit to the interior before you ride up the slope, then tour the museum once you reach the upper incline station.

Pro tip: Exact fare is in cash required upon arrival. There are no advanced tickets or reservations. No debit or credit cards are accepted.

Fall and Winter Pennsylvania Bucket List Ideas

When making a travel bucket list, it’s a good idea to group activities according to their season. Here are some of the best fall and winter activities in Pennsylvania.

14. Dive into poetry at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Bibliophiles and word nerds will love this stop. Take a tour of the home Poe and his wife lived in during their time in PA, gain insight into the reason for his writings, and learn about the obstacles he overcame with his creative genius.

15. Visit the Gettysburg Battlefield

The Gettysburg Battlefield is a solemn place to visit. Take time to reflect on our nation’s history. Remember those who lost their lives right there on the grassy field. Listen to the echoes of battle and the voices of soldiers. Finally, see if you can catch the sound of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as it reverberates off the hills of history and enters into our modern day.

16. Learn how chocolate is made in Hershey

Hershey’s chocolate is made right in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the site of Chocolate World. Take a tour of the factory, learn the history of Hershey’s, and by all means, sample some chocolate.

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Pennsylvania

Are you planning a food bucket list trip? If so, add these items to your list. You can thank us later.

17. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a whoopie pie

This is another Pennsylvania creation, and it’s made with two disks of chocolate cake and a large layer of cream sandwiched in between. Many bakeries offer variations, so if chocolate isn’t your thing, you’ll be able to find something else.

18. Sit down to a plate of scrapple

Scrapple is a love-it-or-hate-it Pennsylvania food, but it’s well worth a try. It’s made from pork and cornmeal, then fried and served piping hot. It can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between.

19. Have a slice of shoefly pie

This is a Pennsylvania-Dutch creation made with molasses, brown sugar, spices, and a delicious crumb topping. Have it for dessert or for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

20. Enjoy chipped ham for lunch

In Pennsylvania, a chipped ham sandwich might just edge out PB&J if they ran a popularity contest. The sandwich is made with pieces of thin, sliced ham and delicious gravy. It’s always served hot on a burger bun.

21. Chow down on a Philly cheesesteak

Is there anything more Pennsylvania than the Philly cheesesteak? It’s a creation that was created in Philadelphia and has been recreated countless times since. Order one anywhere in Philly and you’ll be treated to a hoagie roll loaded with thinly sliced beefsteak, dripping with juice, and smothered in melty cheese.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Bucket List Ideas

There is plenty to do in Philadelphia alone, so if you only have time for one stop, head to the City of Brotherly Love for these activities.

22. Check out the Philadelphia Art Museum

Feeling the need for some arts and culture? Add the Philly Art Museum to your list. There are daily guided tours, rotating exhibits, and permanent collections that are sure to inspire.

23. Be inspired at The Magical Gardens

This stop is a unique Philly location that should make the list for lovers of street art and unique art installations. Walk around to view extensive mosaics, hand-painted tiles, and art crafted from modern items such as bottles and wheels.

24. Relive history at Independence Hall

Go back to where it all started with a visit to Independence Hall. View the Liberty Bell, take a guided tour to refresh your history knowledge, and walk in the steps of Paul Revere. This stop is an absolute must for everyone’s trip to Philly.

Explore All Pennsylvania Has to Offer

Pennsylvania may be a small state, but it has a ton to offer. It’s okay if you can’t fit everything into one trip. Just pick the things from this list that get you the most excited and throw in a few alternate ideas in case weather or life keeps you from an item or two. Then, get out there and go have your adventure! We’re sure you’ll have a blast.

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