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Best things to do in Pennsylvania

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Where in the world: USA  /  Pennsylvania
From well-preserved 19th-century battle sites to modern cities with thriving music, art, and culinary scenes, Pennsylvania offers a plethora of tourist attractions. Exploration of Gettysburg National Military Park--located on the site of the historic 1863 battle between the Union and Confederate forces--is among favorite things to do in Pennsylvania. Lancaster County is best known for its Amish farms, but this land of green fields and gentle hills also features a number of kid-oriented attractions, like Dutch Wonderland.

Pennsylvania is best known for its Specialty Museums, Casinos, and History Museums.

Top 15 things to do in Pennsylvania

1. Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg

Located on the site of one of the bloodiest episodes in American history, Gettysburg National Military Park preserves the landscape of the historic 1863 battle between the Union and Confederate forces. Though the battle resulted in the largest number of casualties in the entire American Civil War, it became the turning point of the dramatic conflict when the Union army turned back the Confederate attempt to invade the North. The military park contains most of the original battlefield, as well as many support areas, including the supply and hospital locations. Start your exploration at the park's museum and visitor center, where you can see over 40,000 war artifacts and an enormous cyclorama painting of the battle by French artist Paul Philippoteaux.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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2. Independence Hall, Philadelphia

The birthplace of America, Independence Hall is the centerpiece of the national historical park located in the oldest part of the city. Known primarily as the location where a young nation declared its independence from the British Empire on July 4, 1776, this landmark building is now a World Heritage Site. A symbol of freedom and democracy, and pictured on the back the $100 bill, the red brick structure consists of a central building with a bell tower and steeple plus two smaller wings featuring arcaded hyphens. For an in-depth look at the interior, pick up your free timed-entry tickets at the park's visitor center. For a small fee, you can also reserve your tickets online or by phone.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

The third largest museum in the country, Philadelphia Museum of Art holds a collection of more than 220,000 pieces, including masterpieces by Picasso, Dali, El Greco, Rubens, van Gogh, and Renoir. With an exterior familiar to most from the "Rocky" movies, the museum preserves the creative accomplishments of the entire world, containing over 200 galleries and spanning nearly 2,000 years of art history. The museum holds important artworks from Asia, notably a collection of Persian and Turkish carpets, as well as recreations of a Chinese palace hall, Japanese teahouse, and Indian temple. The European collection encompasses works from the Middle Ages to the present day, while the American galleries survey three centuries of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts. Ease your exploration of the massive galleries by joining a guided tour of the exhibits.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia

Admire the impressive architecture and haunting atmosphere of one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the world, Eastern State Penitentiary. Once a thriving site of discipline and order, the prison has long since closed, and now you can take a tour of the building’s unique wagon-wheel design that inspired thousands of penitentiaries worldwide. Follow your guide through the cellblock rows, solitary confinement cells, and execution chambers. Don’t miss the chance to visit the original cell of Al Capone. If you’re interested in haunting tales, ask about the prison’s long history of paranormal activity and ghost sightings.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

Barnes Foundation is known internationally for its collection of 19th- and 20th-century French paintings. Established in 1922, the museum houses extensive works by Post-Impressionist and Early Modern masters, such as Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso. It also exhibits American art, African sculptures, Native American crafts, and countless other international pieces. Honoring its founder Albert C. Barnes’s commitment to fine arts and horticulture, the Barnes Foundation also created the Barnes Arboretum, located on the Merion campus. Here you can round out your educational and cultural experience by viewing upwards of 2,000 species of trees and plants.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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6. Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square

One of the United States' premier botanical gardens, Longwood Gardens spans over 436 hectares (1,077 acres) and is home to 11,000 different types of plants and trees. The Longwood conservatory hosts 20 indoor gardens, with one of the world’s most impressive greenhouse structures. The greenhouse spans 0.8 km (0.5 mi) and boasts an array of colorful plants from around the world. Outside, the chimes tower and waterfall and the Italian water garden make fantastic places to sit and relax. End your visit with a cup of coffee and a pastry at The Lodge, where you can enjoy superb views of Longwood.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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7. Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

Part of the Philadelphia Convention Center, Reading Terminal Market features more than 100 lively merchants selling fresh food, baked goods, flowers, and crafts in an antique setting reminiscent of early 19th-century Philadelphia markets. In 1859, popular outdoor markets in Philadelphia were dismantled because they were considered unhygienic. This prompted the opening of two indoor markets--the beginnings of the large market that exists today. At this center, where scenes from "Trading Places" and "National Treasure" were filmed, you can spend the day shopping for authentic goods, eating delicious ethnic food, or trying Bassett's Ice Cream, a favorite of Philadelphia locals. Though most merchants work at the market every day of the week, keep in mind that Amish or Mennonite vendors do not open shop on Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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8. Harrah's Philadelphia, Chester

Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack is a harness racing track and casino (a racino) on the Chester, Pennsylvania waterfront. It is owned by Vici Properties and operated by Caesars Entertainment.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh

Explore 17 different plant exhibits at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is considered one of the greenest facilities in the world. In 1983, mogul Henry Phipps gave these grounds to the city of Pittsburgh with the purpose of introducing exotic plant life and formal gardens to the public. The gardens, along with the glass and metal greenhouse structures, have continued to amaze visitors throughout the years. The gardens are now on the National Register of Historic Places ,and the facility has been honored and celebrated for its sustainability.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia

See site for details.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia

One of the region's major areas for leisure and outdoor recreation, Wissahickon Valley Park offers numerous hiking trails, as well as a number of historical inns, mansions, mills, and bridges. Animal lovers will be delighted by the opportunity to spot deer, foxes, raccoons, groundhogs, butterflies, and other animal species native to Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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12. Hersheypark, Hershey

Explore the chocolate wonderland of Hersheypark, founded in 1906 as a leisure park for employees of the Hershey Chocolate Company. The park's first roller coaster ride opened in 1923, and today the venue contains a total of 70 rides and attractions, covering a vast area of over 45 hectares (110 acres). The six themed areas offer rides ranging from low-speed, gentle adventures for young children, to high-speed experiences for adrenaline junkies. You can also explore a section featuring a large water park, and a walk-through zoo dedicated to North American wildlife. Be sure to drop by the visitor center, containing restaurants and chocolate shops, and offering free chocolate factory-themed tour rides.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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13. Horseback Riding Tours, Gettysburg

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Fallingwater, Mill Run

A Frank Lloyd Wright house built over a waterfall, Fallingwater was named the "best all-time work of American architecture" in 2007 by the American Institute of Architects. The family house was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann Sr., and Wright welcomed the challenge. Kaufmann once dared to go behind Wright's back to consult an engineer about the risky design. Wright was so offended that he threatened to leave the project. Kaufmann relented, and Wright buried the engineer's report in one of the walls. The house was the Kaufmann family's weekend retreat until 1963, when the family gave it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which opened it to the public. Notice the remarkable furniture--Wright designed it specifically for the space.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Liberty Bell Center, Philadelphia

The former site of Washington's slave quarters sits near the entrance of Liberty Bell Center. Upon entering the center, you'll find a series of exhibits before reaching the Liberty Bell. The bell is displayed out of reach (but in plain sight) and still hangs on what is thought to be the original yolk made of American elm. The bell's recognizable crack is clearly visible--observers have referred to it as a metaphor for the fragility of democracy. Be aware that all visitors are required to go through a security screening at the entrance.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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