Pennsylvania is known as both The Quaker State and the Keystone State, and with 121 state parks that offer free admission to visitors, you’ll have no problem finding things to do on a trip to the state.
For those who didn’t know, Pennsylvania is one of the original colonies and named after its founder William Penn. The breathtaking Delaware River also traverses a portion of the state and offers incredible fishing opportunities.
The state capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg, and the largest city in the state is Philadelphia. Many universities also operate in the state, like Carnegie Mellon and Pennsylvania State University.
With all these attractions, Pennsylvania is a beautiful state to visit for a weekend getaway with the family!
Top Family Weekend Getaways in Pennsylvania
From walking trails to science museums to art galleries, Pennsylvania welcomes all visitors with comfort and class. From incredible bed and breakfast spots to traditional hotels, every city listed below has distinct amenities for families seeking a relaxing and fulfilling weekend trip.
Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city. It’s easy to navigate since Interstate 95 runs along the perimeter of the town near the river. Spruce Street Harbor Park by the water is a warm-weather staple with events, pop-up food stands, gardens, and public hammocks.
The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other historic sites are prevalent in the Old Town neighborhood. Additionally, the Museum of the American Revolution displays exhibits of the time with some interactive pieces. Nearby, a museum near the site of Ben Franklin’s home holds many artifacts from the Founding Father’s life. Be sure to visit Carpenter’s Hall, the location of the First Continental Congress meeting in 1774.
The National Constitution Center is across from Independence Hall; the museum hires actors to be characters involved with the signing. Near the outskirts of Old Town, visit the Olde Bar, which is in the Old Original Bookbinder’s and serves fresh seafood and classic cocktails. You’ll find many hotels scattered throughout Old Town and Downtown.
The Italian Market 9th Street is a fun spot to try a Philly Cheese Steak and a cannoli. Be sure to have dinner at Ralph’s Italian Restaurant serving authentic cuisine since the early 1900s. Also, guests can climb the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and replicate the iconic scene from the film “Rocky.”
Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary, now a museum that educates visitors on the history of punishment in the United States and offers tours of Al Capone’s cell. Nearby is the Barnes Foundation Museum, which holds works of art by famous artists like Picasso and Renoir.
Pittsburgh is a city in western Pennsylvania at the intersection of three rivers. The Fort Pitt Block House is situated in the fork of the rivers and is the oldest structure in west Pennsylvania, built as a defensive structure in 1764. Frick Park and Schenley Park offer lovely green spaces for families to relax in a peaceful atmosphere.
If you’re looking for accommodation during your weekend stay, there are many hotels between the Point State Park Fountain and the Hill District. Most of the places to stay are along one of the rivers, so the view of the water is beautiful no matter where you stay.
Other attractions in the area include the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Phipps Conservatory, and the Carnegie Museum of Art and are beautiful venues for visitors to see. Additionally, the Clemente Museum is in a historic engine house and exhibits items related to Roberto Clemente, a famous baseball player. Nearby is a children’s museum called the MuseumLab. During warmer months, visit the Sandcastle Water Park, a water park with tube slides, a lazy river, and a gigantic wave pool.
In the North Shore neighborhood, you can find the Andy Warhol Museum, the Heinz Field football stadium, and the PNC Park baseball stadium, making it a great place to stay during family weekend getaways in Pennsylvania. Visit the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, a center that features an Aquarium and the Kids Kingdom. Also, visit the National Aviary that houses more than 500 species of bird.
Harrisburg is the state capital. The city sits adjacent to the Susquehanna River. The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts is fun for children, offering science exhibits, kids’ shows, and IMAX films. Be sure to view the events calendar for the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, which often hosts live musical events. Downtown Harrisburg offers a few hotel options that allow visitors the opportunity to stay in the middle of the city. While even more hotels are located along Interstate 81 and Interstate 83, making travel to adjacent towns easy!
Interestingly, the Susquehanna Art Museum shows exhibits in a building that was once a bank. Also, the National Civil War Museum offers interactive exhibits and re-enactments. The John Harris-Simon Cameron home is a local landmark dating back to 1766. For a pick-me-up, grab a coffee or latte at Little Amps Coffee. The Pennsylvania National Fire Museum has antique firefighting trucks and artifacts to explore.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania is beside the Capitol building and commemorates the area’s natural, cultural and industrial history. Hersheypark is a short distance from the city; it is a chocolate-themed park offering rides and amusement. For a more relaxed moment, visit The Midtown Cinema, a movie theatre that shows various independent films and serves excellent snacks.
Allentown, Pennsylvania, is one of the largest cities in the state. The distinct neighborhoods in the city are exceptionally friendly and pleasant to visit. There is a place in Allentown for any visitor to enjoy, from the West End Theatre District to the Hamilton District. The Americus Hotel is a neat place to stay near St. Paul’s Park, but many hotels are open in Allentown near the Lehigh Valley International Airport.
Allentown holds lots of important museums. For instance, the Liberty Bell Museum houses a replica of the bell and a mural about its history. Also, the Allentown Art Museum exhibits artwork from the Renaissance and other modern American works. The America On Wheels Museum showcases vintage vehicles. Be sure to visit Bucky Boyle Park, a community space with splash pads, a pavilion, and sports fields.
The Da Vinci Science Center is an excellent family-friendly location and offers creative exhibits and hands-on science experiments. On a nice day, visit the Allentown Rose Gardens, a lovely space with walking paths and pavilions. The Allentown Farmers Market is a fun spot to find local goods. Additionally, the Coca-Cola Baseball Park is home to the IronPigs Minor League team.
Lancaster was the capital of the United States for one day during the American Revolution. Additionally, the Lancaster Central Market dates back to 1889 and is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the United States. Currently, visitors can purchase handmade Amish goods that are unique to the area. Since 1879, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been serving the community; during the American Civil War, the church served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The Lancaster Science Factory Museum allows children to discover science, engineering, and technology principles. Other architecture in the area is notable, like the Cork Factory Hotel, which has always served the community in some way, and it now holds forty-nine loft-style apartments and various retail spaces. Additionally, the Cap & Cork Restaurant operates within the hotel. Visitors can stay in the Lancaster Arts Hotel, built in 1881, and is now a boutique hotel for the arts with 63 guest rooms.
If anything, you’ll quickly notice Lancaster’s dedication to the arts. Indeed, Gallery Row in Lancaster features dozens of art galleries, and across the city, more than forty galleries and artists’ studios are open. The Demuth Museum honors well-known painter Charles Demuth, and to add to its charm, the museum is inside the artist’s prior residence. Lancaster is a special place to visit with your family, especially if arts culture is essential.
Bethlehem is close to Allentown on the eastern side of the state. Historic sites fill the city, like the Burnside Plantation, a 1700s era plantation with historical exhibits and events. The Banana Factory Arts and Education Center was once a banana distribution center and now houses art studios. Geographically, the Lehigh River runs through the city.
Once a bustling worksite, the Hoover Mason Trestle is a site where visitors can view an old Bethlehem Steel factory. During the summer, visitors can experience Dutch Springs Aqua Park that has water slides and boats. For the adults in the family, visit the Black River Farms, a family-owned winery with an on-site tasting room.
The Linderman Library has a glass-ceiling rotunda and a functional book-sharing program. Many hotels are located in the area and offer fine amenities for guests like swimming pools and on-site restaurants. Visitors to Bethlehem should try out The People’s Kitchen, a comfortable neighborhood joint that offers modern cuisine for breakfast and brunch. For dinner, try Edge Restaurant, an eatery serving Asian and French fusion cuisine.
Reading, Pennsylvania, is home to the Reading Public Museum that holds an Egyptian mummy and displays artworks by Degas. The museum also has a planetarium and arboretum. Review the calendar at the Santander Performing Arts Center, which produces concerts and other live entertainment showcases. Often the venue will serve pre-show buffet dinners.
What’s great is that the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum displays military airplanes and other vintage aircraft. Also, visit the unique Reading Pagoda, a seven-story Japanese-style pagoda built in 1908. A cafe sits atop the Pagoda and offers beautiful city views. Additionally, the Union Canal Bicycle & Walking Trail is a great place to stretch your legs. The city is relatively expansive, so visit another lovely space called the Gring’s Mill Recreation Area with trails and a picnic area.
For history buffs, check out The Daniel Boone Homestead, which marks the 18th-century birthplace of the legendary frontiersman. The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts is a great family adventure venue, which opened in 2005 and still exhibits a contemporary art center. Another fun historical place is the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower and The Peace Rock, which are within walking distance. If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, check out the historical The Inn at Centre Park for its incredible architecture. Other chain hotels are available in Reading for perfect family weekend getaways in Pennsylvania.
York, Pennsylvania, has a well-preserved downtown area, and the Historical Society Museum showcases fine art and tall-case clocks. The Victorian-era Bonham House is available for visitors to explore and learn more about the site and architecture. You can find some hotels in the Brook Hill South community, while others are near the intersection of Interstate 83 and Highways 30.
The Agricultural and Industrial Museum displays York’s farming and industrial past. Be sure to visit the Colonial Complex, including a mid-1700s home, a courthouse, and the Golden Plough Tavern. If you enjoy skateboarding or extreme biking, enjoy the Reid Menzer Memorial Skatepark. The Kids Kingdom Playground offers a neat outdoor playground, perfect for younger children.
Notably, the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail runs through York and is excellent for a parent’s day out. For an outdoor play area, visit Farquhar Park with playgrounds, tennis, horseshoes, and a place to launch a boat! To prepare for your picnic at the park, visit Central Market House, a building that holds a local Farmer’s Market. If you are looking for some downtime during your vacation, visit the Queensgate Movies 13 & IMAX to see a new movie and enjoy some popcorn!
Presque Isle State Park offers visitors beach access and walking trails. The Bicentennial Tower is a 187-foot tower with multiple observation decks providing panoramic views of Lake Erie and the city. Many hotels are adjacent to the tower and offer central housing for your stay, and you’ll find many other places to stay at the exit to Erie on Interstate 90.
Waldameer Park & Water World has exciting roller coasters and waterslides that are perfect for families with children. Furthermore, the Erie Zoo has different spices like kangaroos, giraffes, and gorillas, and the park includes an ice-skating rink. Visit Mighty Fine Donuts for breakfast or Federal Hill Smokehouse, a snug eatery serving smoked BBQ and sandwiches in downtown Erie.
The Erie Maritime Museum highlights the history of Lake Erie and holds the U.S. Brig Niagara, a modernized 19th-century ship. Additionally, the Erie Art Museum’s art collection emphasizes 20th-century works of art. On a related note, the Erie Land Lighthouse at Lighthouse Park is now a preserved historical monument. The Hagerty Family Events Center is a sports complex that is a fun stop to plan for family weekend getaways in Pennsylvania.
Scranton, Pennsylvania, is known for the Steamtown National Historic Site, which houses century-old locomotives. The Electric City Trolley Museum is located in a refurbished 19th-century mill and offers interactive exhibits and vintage trolleys. Scranton has experienced some recent notoriety since it became the setting of the popular American television show, The Office.
Visit McDade Park, home to the Lackawanna Coal Mine, where a mine car descends to tunnels. Additionally, the Everhart Museum is located near a park and is a center for arts and history education. Kids will enjoy visiting the Electric City Aquarium & Reptile Den; the fish swim above guests in one room! For a unique activity, visit Electric City Axe Throwing, where you can learn to toss an ax at a target with friends.
The Lackawanna River runs through the center of the city. Along the river, visit Poor Richards Pub, which has a bowling alley and offers karaoke. Additionally, review the calendar at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain, a live music venue on the city’s outskirts. A few hotels are located near the University of Scranton, while a few more are by the Penn State Scranton campus.
You’ll find the Village of Valley Forge near Valley Forge National Historical Park, and the town includes some of the monuments within the region. The village sits at the junction of Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River. Guests can access Valley Forge from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Valley Forge is a historical adventure perfect for families who enjoy American history and hiking.
Valley Forge National Park is historical and beautiful. During the autumn, the foliage views are incredible. The Visitors’ Center at the historical park is welcoming, and the orientation film offers the perfect explanation of what the park holds. Guests can tour Washington’s Headquarters, a historic building used as a war room in 1777. Other landmarks like General Frederick Von Steuben Headquarters are present in Valley Forge along some of the walking trails.
Interestingly, the Bottling Plant At Colonial Springs is a ruin; it is not apparent when water was first commercially bottled, but it still runs clear. The plant is along part of the Horseshoe Walking Trail. Most of the places to stay in the area are around Interstate 76 and Interstate 276. Various restaurants also surround the area, with a large grouping of hotels that can cater to any appetite.
Altoona is home to about 45,000 people. Visit the Valley View County Park, a beautiful green space with picnic pavilions, a playground, and multiple sports fields on your family vacation. Another great spot for families with children is the Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park, a place for jumping classes and dodgeball. The Boyer Candy Factory Outlet is a great place to stop to fill a bag with various candies!
The city is the home of the Altoona Curve baseball team of the Double-A Northeast, which is the affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team. The Altoona Grand Hotel is an excellent place for a family stay; many other options exist in Altoona, like a Holiday Inn and Marriott. For a family-friendly dinner, visit Bella Italia Pizza & Restaurant or Tavern 27. Interestingly, The Castle Halloween Museum is a spooky and exciting museum with exciting artifacts; it is a great place to celebrate the harvest season.
Prominent landmarks include the Railroaders Memorial Museum, the Horseshoe Curve, and the Juniata Shops of the Altoona Works. Additionally, the Baker Mansion History Museum is a beautiful building lined with columns. When you visit, check out the Blair County Convention Center to see if there are any ongoing exciting events.
Punxsutawney is known for its Groundhog Day celebration each February 2, where Punxsutawney Phil draws crowds from across the country. The Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center is a science museum located in the center of town. The center offers guests the opportunity to experience the feel of a tornado, generate a thunderstorm, or wriggle inside Phil’s burrow. The Gobbler’s Knob Visitor Center is the location where guests can visit Punxsutawney Phil.
The Groundhog Wine Trail surrounds Punxsutawney and features more than fifteen wineries. Specifically, Shadow Vineyard and Winery is inside the city limits of Punxsutawney, while several others are a short drive away. Stop by the Freedom Phil Statue and take photos with the cartoon groundhog in an adorable, themed dress. Punxsutawney is all about the groundhog and a fun place to visit for family weekend getaways in Pennsylvania!
The Barclay Bed & Breakfast is a fun place to stay that is not a traditional hotel. Another similar place is the Plantation Bed and Breakfast, with a lovely outdoor area and comfortable accommodations. Harmon Field is a great adventure park with a playground for children. The Punxsutawney Skate Park is another excellent location, especially for those who enjoy skateboarding and extreme skating. For authentic Italian foods, visit The New Anchor Inn.
Are You Ready for Family Weekend Getaways to Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is a notably historic state. From the capital of Harrisburg to the Independence Hall of Philadelphia, the state oozes with historical relevance. Founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin and William Penn helped shape the state to become a prosperous modern-day Commonwealth.
From hiking trails in Valley Forge to science museums in Reading, there is something for every family member to experience in Pennsylvania. For instance, Allentown offers lovely rose gardens, while York has venues from the Mason-Dixon wine trail.
Parks and green spaces fill the state so you can sit riverside and enjoy the peaceful bliss of a picnic at one of the many municipal parks across the state. The Erie Maritime Museum and lighthouse Park are unique reminders of the area’s history and how many riverways traverse the state of Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as the Carnegie museum of natural history, so whether you are a sports fan or scientist, embarking on a weekend getaway with your family to Pennsylvania is a great decision.
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If you’re considering other destinations for your weekend away with the kids, take inspiration from our other handy guides below!
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More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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