Pennsylvania is a history buff’s dream come true—it’s got a past rich in fascinating events and people dating all the way back to the American Revolution. With historic religious communities, Revolutionary War sites, and kooky museums, you can take a step back in time on your trip to Southeastern Pennsylvania and have an adventure that everyone will enjoy.
A museum with everything from preserved Siamese twins to the world’s largest colon, the Mutter Museum is sure to catch your fancy (or at least your attention) with its variety of bizarre medical oddities and exhibits. The museum has two floors of exhibits that display the strangest real-life medical mysteries and weirdest phenomena, and is conveniently located right in downtown Philadelphia. It also happens that it was voted the grossest museum in the United States, so maybe make sure to save lunch for after your trip.
Located in Newton, Tyler State Park is a testament to our country’s dedication to save historical landmarks. The park contains the Schofield Ford Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in the area. The bridge burned down in 1991, but community members rallied together supplies and funds, and rebuilt the historical bridge using authentic materials and original methods. The new bridge has stood here since 1997, and is a beautiful place for a photo shoot. The park is also home to a nature trail, a top-ranked disc golf course, and a canoe rental facility. The park is open every day year-round, and has free admission.
Located in the heart of the Lehigh Valley is the historic and beautiful Hotel Bethlehem. It was recently renovated to restore its original 1922 opulence, and is famous for its seven large murals depicting the hotel’s history. It’s right next door to the historic shopping district, and hosts its own boutique shop, complete with an ice cream parlor serving Penn State Creamery ice cream. The elegant hotel rooms are reminiscent of the grandeur of the ’20s, and have breathtaking views of the area, including the hotel’s namesake, the Bethlehem star-inspired light display on South Mountain.
The Daniel Boone Homestead is a great stop for history buffs, or anyone looking to stretch their legs on a road trip across Southeastern Pennsylvania. The site shares the story of famed frontiersman Daniel Boone’s childhood, and paints a picture of the daily life of settlers in the 18th century. The homestead is fun and educational for the whole family, offering living history demonstrations and hands-on activities. The property even has a hiking trail and picnic tables, so you will never run out of things to do! Make sure to stop by in December for the Christkindlmarket, an outdoor craft market full of local vendors.
An unexpected sight in Reading, Pennsylvania, the Pagoda Reading is a must-visit for culture lovers and fans of all things offbeat. The Pagoda is a historical landmark that has been in Reading for over 100 years, and acts as a great community gathering space. It was originally intended to be a Japanese-inspired resort when it was built at the turn of the century, but the hotel never materialized, and the Pagoda was sold to the city of Reading, which has cared for it ever since. On weekends, you are able to enter the Pagoda, with its gorgeously detailed architecture, and climb the 87 steps to the top for a spectacular view of the town. There is also a café on the first floor, where you can buy locally-crafted sodas, ice cream and hot dogs. The Pagoda is an extremely popular spot to watch the sun set, so get your camera ready for an epic Instagram!
Founded in 1732 by German settlers, the Ephrata Cloister is one of America’s earliest religious living areas, and it’s now a National Historic Landmark. The cloister is known as “A Quiet Place to Visit,” so this will be a great time to relax and rejuvenate on your trip. A guided tour is included in your admission fee, and the site is constantly hosting events. One of the most popular activities is the Lantern Tour, which takes place right after Christmas. There’s also the Theatrical Tour, performed by high school students, which allows you to feel as if you were back in the 1700s. Admission for this fascinating slice of history is only $10!
Valley Forge National Park is a must-see for those who love both history and nature. It does an excellent job of commemorating the heroes of the Revolutionary War, as the park was the site of the Continental Army’s encampment during the winter of 1777 to 1778. Valley Forge is not only a testament to our past, but it has a variety of present-day activities including nature trails, a 90-minute trolley tour, and even an Encampment Store boasting historical goods. And the best part? Entrance to the park is completely free!
Located in Ridley Street State Park is another historical monument you won’t want to miss. Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation is a 112-acre farm site that aims to teach visitors about farm life in southeastern Pennsylvania in the late 1700s. The plantation gives visitors a glimpse of what it was like to live before and during the Revolutionary War, and offers a variety of tours for all interest levels. Admission is just $8, but the plantation is only open on weekends from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., so make sure to plan accordingly.
With a variety of relaxing activities to learn more about our nation’s history, a trip around Southeastern Pennsylvania is just what you need for an exciting and educational vacation. Whether you want to step back in time to our country’s earliest days, or learn about America’s strangest medical mysteries, you’ll find all different kinds of fun in this region of Pennsylvania. So what are you waiting for? Get exploring!
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. In Pennsylvania, these are not only American ideals; they are the very keystones of our way of life. Find your own piece of happiness, whether it’s in our iconic historic sites, our natural beauty, our bustling cities or our charming small towns.