It’s more than likely that most people will know the sports teams affiliated with Pennsylvania more familiarly than where the cities are on the map – with two proudly multi-talented sports cities sitting on the forefront of the NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA, and a number of college and minor leagues, it’s no surprise that both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are known for their own respective handheld snacks, perfect for the stadiums. Beyond the sports culture, Pennsylvania is also well known for its history: the city of brotherly love was the setting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and, a year later, the Constitution; less than a century later on the other side of the state, Pittsburgh came into economic fruition through the iron and steel industries. The history can be traced in these cities and beyond, interweaving through the curiosities of the towns and counties along its borders, or following the Delaware River.
The essence of Philadelphia is a confluence of a lot of factors and cultures, traced deep down into the very heart of American history, when William Penn first shook hands as a treaty of friendship with the local Native Americans under an elm tree in 1681. One of the most culturally diverse cities in America, encompassing large populations of Irish-American, Italian, Chinese, and European immigrants as well as local Amish and Mennonite farmers, Philly serves up a lot more on its plate than the simple cheesesteak (although, don’t you dare leave without trying the beloved staple). High-toned diners can get a taste of a spectrum of famous chefs like Masaharu Morimoto, Kevin Sbraga, and Iron Chef Jose Garces, while more casual gastronomes dive into the local scene by picking up a bottle of wine at a liquor store and hitting the large number of BYOB restaurants. Similarly, during the day, art lovers can spend a day checking into the posh galleries and the by now legendary Philadelphia Museum of Art in Center City West and the evening wandering around the popular street art and murals around Broad Street in Center City.
At the center of three rivers in Allegheny County is a naturally stunning city shaped by bridges, hills and valleys that gets a pretty underrated rep. It came up in the steel industry, getting their bearings in the early 19th century and blossoming into Steel City proper by the end of that century. Since then, the city’s gone through major revitalization and it has come out as a leading clean air city, with thriving industries in education, medicine, technology and finance. Throughout the city, one can see the remnants of the old industrial boom, through the well-preserved early 20th-century buildings downtown and magnificent Victorian buildings located just east of the city in Oakland. As well, a favorite attraction for both travelers and residents is the Duquesne Incline, a funicular that dates from 1877 that used to carry steelworkers from up the hill to the waterfront to work. The biggest indicator of Pittsburgh’s roots, though, are through the people and the sports culture: three major league sports team, various college leagues and fanatical team followers across the board help boost the morale of the city through any and every season. As well, partially due to their large student populations, there are a wide variety of indie and punk music venues and comfortable local bars.
Located at the intersection of history, tourism and beloved American sweets, Hershey is a location every kid and kid-at-heart will enjoy. From its humble beginnings as a small farming town called Derry Church to a fragrant, thriving chocolate-making community revitalized by its very own enterprising native son, Hershey has very quickly become the "Sweetest Place on Earth." Since then, it’s only gotten sweeter – visitors can romp around Hersheypark, which was established in 1906 but has grown to include 68 rides, including 11 roller coasters, and nine themed areas that are designed to reflect, for example, a classic minetown, or a ‘50s town fair with everything but the white sport coat and pink carnation. Around the town, there are luxury hotels as well as family friendly economy lodges, manicured parks, an opulent Venetian-style theatre built in the Depression days by Milton S. Hershey, the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum which frequently features the Kissmobile Cruiser and more. For some golden family memories, look no further than the sweetest place on earth.
Woven into the fabric of Gettysburg is a significant part of American History, so it’s not a surprise that there are reminders of history everywhere, particularly through it’s many museums sprinkled all through the town. The architecture has been largely maintained to reflect its textured past, which makes the town itself an educational walking tour. Beyond that, visitors don’t miss the Gettysburg National Military Park, where Abraham Lincoln delivered his timeless Gettysburg Address in 1863; as well, within its 3,965 acres, there is most of the Gettysburg Battlefield and its supporting areas, and the Gettysburg Museum, which houses 43,000 American Civil War artifacts. Also, to learn more about this auspicious town, it is recommended that travelers check into the Gettysburg Museum of History, which also cover such topics as World War I ,World War II, the Civil War, past presidents and pop culture icons. A cool way to preserve one’s vacation memories, the Victorian Photography Studio takes professional portraits and develops them using 17th and 18th century methods.
Located forty minutes driving from Philly, Yardley is an idyllic little one-square-mile town of rolling river, meadowland, hills, farmhouses and quaint main drag. Most people don’t find themselves in Yardley accidentally, but there are enough delightful eateries and attractions to keep anyone entertained for a few days. Shady Brook Farm is a fun and festive working farm in historic Bucks County which features a small market, selling deli, produce, gift baskets and ice cream; as well as garden and lawn materials – perfect for a family jaunt in the autumn. Another great family outing can be had at Pennsbury Manor, a reconstruction of William Penn’s home along the Delaware River sitting on 43 acres of stables and greenspace in nearby Morrisville. Furnished with meticulously sourced and restored 17th century furniture and artifacts, as well as heritage plants, Pennsbury Manor gives an excellent glimpse into the life of a principal figure to Pennsylvania history.
It’s not a strange name if you hear the story of how Mauch Chunk became Jim Thorpe, especially if you know who Jim Thorpe was. An American from Oklahoma born of Native American and European ancestry, Thorpe became one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, winning Olympic gold for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, as well as a professional football and and semi-professional baseball player, thus highly celebrated as The World’s Greatest Athlete of the time. After he died in 1953, there were complications with having him buried in his hometown, and his widowed third wife had heard of a small Pennsylvania town called Mauch Chunk that was trying to attract business and attention. It is in this town that became the final resting place for Jim Thorpe, and in the same stroke, became itself Jim Thorpe. It’s an elegant town, all turn of the century red-bricked buildings with colorful details, nestled between the forests of Lehigh Gorge State Park. Popular attractions in this quaint (in every sense of the word) town include a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which carries passengers on a 16-mile ride through the mountains, rivers and valleys of the state park; as well as the fascinatingly grotesque Old Jail Museum, which details the fate of many area coal miners.