Pennsylvania is home to noted historic locations like Gettysburg National Military Park and the Liberty Bell in Independence National Historical Park. It is also dotted with beautiful nature preserves, rivers, and mountains. A trip here could mean exploring historic railroads, having fun at a theme park, learning about the Amish, or some off-roading with an ATV. The best small towns in Pennsylvania help you explore it all.
Jim Thorpe is an excellent small town to visit when you want to experience the outdoors, thanks to its location near the Poconos and Lehigh Gorge. It’s also a charming, historic community you can see firsthand on a trolley traveling through the city. Take the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway for another opportunity to see the area deep into the mountainous wilderness. Put aside some time for whitewater rafting and biking, too.
Lancaster is one of the best places in the country to learn more about Amish life. You can watch a heartfelt drama at the Sights and Sounds theater, enjoy learning about the Amish at the Unique Amish Immersion, and shop authentic Amish crafts at the numerous shops located nearby. Take Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides through town and tour the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum.
Mill Run is a small community noted for Fallingwater. Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the country’s most notable architects, designed this structural masterpiece. You can tour the property to learn more about the architect, the property’s unique architectural design, and the surrounding landscape. Now a museum, there’s also a cafe and gift shop on site as well.
If you want to try new adventures, visit the Rock Run Recreation Area in Patton. This small community is sparsely populated, but it’s home to a 6,000-acre property allowing you to take an ATV, dirt bike, or Jeep out to explore it. You’ll travel over grasslands, deep into pine groves, and alongside ravines. While in Patton, plan a stop at the Park Avenue Pub for drinks and an extensive menu of options, or grab a beer at the Thirsty Dawg Taverne.
Bloomsburg is a wonderful community for those who want to experience a bit of history and lots of culture. Start by booking tickets to a performance at the Alvina Krause Theatre for the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. Plan a few hours touring the Columbia County Historical Society to explore local ancestry and artifacts. Afterward, check out the Blind Pig Kitchen—a local favorite—or spend some time on the Links at Hemlock Creek.
As the Elk Capital of Pennsylvania, the community of Benezette is one of the best options for wildlife lovers. A wild elk herd roams here, which you can see firsthand at the Elk Country Visitors Center. For more fun with animals, visit the Quehanna Wild Area for a hike or do some birdwatching in the Beaver Creek Nature Area. Check out the petting zoo at Farmers Inn Wildlife Park, too.
New Hope welcomes visitors to enjoy a slower pace of life. Stop here to walk along the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, which is home to thousands of native wildflowers. You can also bike or hike along the Delaware Canal State Park to do some birdwatching. The town is also home to numerous restaurants and shops on Main Street, including artisan shops offering pottery, paintings, and hand-made jewelry.
Yardley may be home to only about 2,500 people, but it’s where you can get some of the best family-first experiences in the state. That includes the Shady Brook Farm, a farmers market with a petting zoo, festivals, and family-friendly activities. Take the kids to Core Creek Park for a short trail hike or a fishing trip. For a quieter moment, visit the Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial, built as a tribute to what happened that day.
The ravine that runs through French Creek State Park in Saint Peters isn’t for those with limited hiking experience. The wet, rock-filled ravine can be a challenging climb, but the beautiful quarry and iron ore mines here make it worth it. On a hot day, some parts are deep enough to wade through to do some fly fishing. The nearby community is small, with an inn and bakery. It’s also close to Royersford Brewery and Restaurant.
Lititz is a small town that is home to a few excellent parks and trails, including Wolf Sanctuary of PA, a park dedicated to protecting endangered wolves. With over 80 acres, it has created a natural woodland for these animals. You can visit the educational facility to learn more about supporting them. While in the city, plan a trip to the Lititz Historical Foundation to learn a bit about the area or go fishing at Lititz Springs Park. The Candy Americana Museum is here, too.
During the warmer months, a visit to Bushkill Falls is in order for any outdoor adventure-seeker. Often called the Niagara of Pennsylvania, the falls are actually a series of eight separate waterfalls, all located deep in the Pocono Mountains. When visiting, be sure to check out some of the other attractions here, including the Bushkill Falls Maze, the Pocono Wildlife Rehab, and the local mining company, where you can pan for gemstones!
A quaint community, Eagles Mere is an excellent choice for those who want an educational trip. Visit the Eagles Mere Air Museum to learn about the region’s role in the development of aviation. The Sullivan County Historical Society offers some insight into the region’s overall growth since the 1700s. You can also visit the Eagles Mere Auto Museum to see a display of vehicles that date back 50 to 60 years.
Honesdale, often called the Birthplace of the American Railroad, thanks to the development of the first steam locomotive, is a community that seems to take you back in time. It’s also home to several chic boutiques and artisan shops. The Wayne County Arts Alliance and the Bodhi Tree Art School and Studio are some of the best art galleries in the area. Stop in at Camp Umpy’s Bagels and Stuff for a coffee, or visit the Here and Now Brewing Company for craft beer.
Milford’s Historic District is one of the best reasons to visit this small town. Start with a visit to the Columns Museum here to tour a 1700s mansion before visiting Grey Towers, the former home of Gifford Pinchot, who was the first director of the US Forest Service. The garden tour during the spring and summer is invigorating.
Located just to the north of Philadelphia is Doylestown, a beautiful location known for Fonthill Castle. It was built in the early 1900s and represents just one component of the area’s history. Make a point to visit the Bucks County Civil War Museum or, for art lovers, the Michener Art Museum. For outdoor fun, try a scenic drive through rural Bucks County to spot gracious farmhouses.