Experience the Cradle of American History

Along the banks of the Delaware River in southeastern PA, Philadelphia is the “Birthplace of American Independence.” It was here where the country's forefathers adopted both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, and where impersonators of one of Philadelphia's most famous citizens — Benjamin Franklin — still walk the streets, regaling visitors with the city's deep history. Philly is home to the country's “oldest residential street,” Elfreth Alley, and the famous Art Museum, known for its “Rocky Steps,” one of the city's top attractions. Expect cobbled streets and brownstones in Old City, as well as plenty of top-notch restaurants, stylish boutiques, and live music venues in neighborhoods like Manayunk and Fishtown. As for food, Philly's cheesesteaks, hoagies, and soft pretzels are simply unbeatable. University City's The Gables Bed & Breakfast Philadelphia makes a great base for your city explorations and is an easy trek to hubs like 30th Street Station and Reading Terminal Market, a vibrant culinary hub. The factory outlets of nearby Reading make a fun day trip.

Also nearby is Brandywine Valley, which played a significant role in the American Revolution. It’s a lush countryside of rolling hills and ample greenery where visitors can enjoy local wineries, experience Valley Forge National Historical Park (where Washington and his troops bedded down for the 1777–1778 winter), and explore spectacular Longwood Gardens with over 1,000 acres of woodlands, meadows, and flowers on an estate once owned by the du Pont family. The Brandywine River Museum — chock-full of Wyeth family artwork displayed within a former gristmill — is another great area discovery, as is West Chester's Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast. This 19th-century Red-Brick Victorian with six warmly decorated guest rooms hosts a special series of local artisan Harvest Dinners alfresco, beginning each June.

Bucks County sits up the Delaware River from Philly and offers more stunning countryside and several delightful small towns. New Hope is an indisputable favorite: a riverside town filled with antique shops, eateries lining the riverside, and more than 200 arts and crafts galleries. Tubing the Delaware in summer is a popular pastime — and on calm days, hot-air ballooning. Get the full Bucks County experience with a stay at Holicong's 10-acre Ash Mill Farm Bed and Breakfast, a working sheep farm and relaxed luxury inn. Choose between five Grand Manor guest rooms, including what was originally the manor's library, and two separate guest cottages.

 


 

Travel Back in Time (Particularly with a Hearty Appetite)

For a true step back in time, visit Lancaster County, which stretches west from Philadelphia toward the backroads of Central PA. In “Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” Amish, Mennonites, and other mostly Germanic religious orders still travel by horse and buggy and askew technology for simplicity, working their seemingly endless fields of corn, alfalfa, and tobacco by hand. The area is known for its family-style restaurants, where shareable meals of local dishes like fried chicken, baked ham, and Dutch pot pie are served tableside. And during spring and summer, “mud sales” are simultaneously held auctions of everything from farming supplies to handmade quilts.

Along with its kid-centric Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park, Dutch Country attractions include the Strasburg Rail Road, a steam engine train and the country's oldest continually operating railroad, which meanders through the Amish countryside. Riders can hop off for a visit to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, where youngsters go crazy for the petting zoo, pedal carts, and a five-acre corn maze. You'll find plenty of B&Bs throughout the region, including the elegant Lovelace Manor Bed and Breakfast, a late-19th-century Second Empire–style Victorian with four guest rooms and original features like etched glass doors and 12-foot ceilings.

Continue your time travel with a visit to Hershey, the chocolate conglomerate that began as a company town more than a century ago. Today it's a world of nostalgia where the lamp posts are shaped like Hershey’s Kisses. It's also the base of Hershey Park and Hershey's Chocolate World, where you can ride roller coasters, mingle with life-size Reese’s Cups, catch a concert, and create your own chocolate bar — all in one day. For a good night's rest, there's the 1825 Inn Bed & Breakfast, featuring eight refined-country-style guestrooms, plus board games and puzzles to help guests unwind.

About 15 miles west of Hershey is Harrisburg, PA's state capital and home to the wonderful National Civil War Museum as well as the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Nearby York County has earned the moniker “Factory Tour Capital of the World,” with tours of everything from the making of Harley-Davidson motorcycles to Snyder's of Hanover Pretzels. Hugging the border with Maryland is Gettysburg, a historic city and borough that played a pivotal role in the US Civil War. History runs deep at Gettysburg National Military Park, and the city itself is filled with antique stores and shops selling Civil War memorabilia and Americana. Fully immerse yourself in local lore with a stay at downtown's stunning The Swope Manor, a stunning early-19th-century mansion with 13 guest rooms — six of them suites — that became a front line for Civil War fighting.

 


 

Hit the Ski Slopes and Hiking Trails

If hitting the slopes in winter is what you're after —or just après skiing — northeastern PA's Pocono Mountains have everything you need. With mountainous terrain and a handful of ski resorts, the Poconos are PA's winter sports hub, with dozens of well-groomed trails, supreme snowboarding runs, and one of the largest snow tubing parks in the States. When the weather warms, the region springs to life with gushing waterfalls and verdant woodlands and transforms into a hub for hikers and bicyclists, with over 260 miles of trails. Golf courses and spas are also par for the course. While the area was once known for its kitschy honeymoon hotels, today it boasts a more refined selection of overnight options, like the eco-friendly The Inn at Hickory Run. Built in the early 2000s, this country-style inn features four rusticly elegant guest rooms, each with hardwood floors, fireplace, and whirlpool tub.

Further north toward New York and just west of New Jersey is one of the country's most visited national parks: the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, encompassing 70,000 acres and 37 riverfront miles. The Gap itself is a 1,400-foot-deep, 900-foot-wide natural divide between NJ's 1,527-foot Mount Tammany and PA's 1,463-foot tall Mount Minsky, surrounded by green mountains and meandering brooks and streams. Outdoor activities run the gamut from river kayaking to hiking trails, including 229 miles of the Appalachian Trail, while park residents include otters, beavers, and black bear. The secluded Santosha on the Ridge is a perfect perch for exploring it all, with four spacious guest rooms and freshly made baked goods like raspberry muffins incorporating the inn's own homegrown berries, available daily.

 


 

Delve into State Parks, Small Towns, and PA's Second-Largest City

Central PA is home to the Valley of the Susquehanna, a river valley dotted with state parks and small college towns filled with antique shops and historic architecture. Back roads lead to covered bridges and natural wonders like the country's only all-water cave. For families, nothing beats Danville's Knoebels Amusement Resort, a pay-as-you-ride amusement park with classic roller coasters, carnival games, and a century-old carousel where riders can still compete for the brass ring. One of Central PA's most notable attractions is Penn State, the public university that bursts to life during football season, when tailgating parties are prime events throughout State College, home to Penn State's main campus. The Queen, a Victorian Bed & Breakfast, provides a convenient nearby stay, with a bus to State College that stops right outside the door.

Tucked into the Appalachian foothills in northwestern PA is Allegheny National Forest, one of the state's top spots for leaf peeping. Beginning in late September, the forest becomes a natural kaleidoscope of burnt reds, yellows, and oranges. While here, bed down at Punxsutawney's cozy Barclay Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian over a century old and known for it home-cooked formal breakfasts served on china. Fair warning: The town fills up fast for Groundhog Day on February 2, when its most notable resident, Punxsutawney Phil, predicts the coming of spring.

Pittsburgh is Western PA's shining star — a city built on steel and, surprisingly, ketchup, that's rebuilt itself as a tech and industry center, and with some of the finest brews around. Perched at the convergence of three rivers, the “Steel City” is home to 446 bridges — even more than Venice, Italy. Spend your days exploring fun spots like the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary art; chowing down on pierogies and sausages; or embarking on a day trip to the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed masterpiece Fallingwater, 43 miles southeast of the city. Enjoy nights at the colorfully ornate Montgomery Mansion Bed and Breakfast, a three-guest-room Victorian with tons of unique features, including original stained glass windows and Persian rugs.