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Pennsylvania is full of fantastic travel destinations, popular for its big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But this vibrant state has so much more to offer, including a collection of lesser-known towns where you can unwind in nature or enjoy some arts and culture. Perfect for a weekend away, these are the most charming small towns in Pennsylvania.
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Known as a foodie town, Lititz was once voted the coolest small town in America. Most visitors flock to the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery for a behind-the-scenes tour and lesson pretzel twisting, as it was the first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States. The Wilbur Chocolate is famous for its sweet treats, while those looking to learn more about the town’s history can pop into the Lititz Historical Foundation & Museum. Walk off your eats with a stroll through its bustling downtown and beautiful neighborhoods, where you’ll see homes and buildings reminiscent of its settlement in the 1720s. Afterward, you can take a break in the tranquil Lititz Springs Park.
Escape to the Poconos in the northeastern region of the state to reach Jim Thorpe, a small town with the nickname the “Switzerland of Pennsylvania”. With its historic downtown and gorgeous setting, this is one of the most charming towns in Pennsylvania and a popular weekend getaway from Pittsburgh, beloved for its historic Victorian architecture and scenic hiking trails. Explore the Old Mauch Chunk Historic Districts to see its buildings listed on the National Historic Register, then hop on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway for a leisurely excursion along the Lehigh River. You can learn about the town’s coal mining history at Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center, hike the trails at Lehigh Gorge State Park, or browse the lavish rooms in the 1861 Asa Packer Mansion.
For an exploration of Pennsylvania’s Dutch country, add a visit to Lancaster to your charming small town itinerary. Associated with the Amish community, this is a great place to take in the beautiful countryside while experiencing the Amish lifestyle. Start your day by picking up fresh produce and baked goods from the Lancaster Central Market (the oldest public market in the U.S.), then learn about the history of Pennsylvania Dutch at the Amish Farm and House. Try authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine or enjoy vintage shopping, then take a break at Lancaster Brewing and try some locally made brews.
Often topping the lists of the most charming small towns in Pennsylvania, New Hope is just one hour north of Philadelphia. The small Bucks County town is set on the Delaware River and is known for its beautiful riverside restaurants, art galleries, and eclectic shops. Do some early morning shopping at Rice’s Market or the Shops at Peddler’s Village, then browse the quaint shops along Main Street before enjoying some evening entertainment at the Bucks County Playhouse. If you’ve got the kids in tow, add a stop to the Bucks County Children’s Museum or plan an outdoor excursion like tubing or kayaking on the Delaware River.
A delightful destination particularly in fall with its spectacular foliage, Johnstown is set among the Allegheny region of Pennsylvania. However, throughout the year you can come and explore the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, catch a performance by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, or learn about the town’s history and tragic flood in 1889 at the Johnstown Flood Museum. If you’re looking for adventure, get your adrenaline pumping at the Johnstown Inclined Plane, which is a funicular built in 1891. It’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “steepest vehicular inclined plane in the world.”
You can truly get away from it all in Ohiopyle, a charming small town in Pennsylvania home to less than 100 people. It’s home to the renowned Ohiopyle State Park, which features 20,000 acres of wilderness and scenic hiking trails that lead to the Ohiopyle Falls, a National Natural Landmark. Even if you’re not an architecture enthusiast, Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed home Fallingwater is a must-see in this tiny town, as the 20th-century masterpiece was built over a cascading waterfall.
Set on the eastern edge of the Allegheny National Forest, Ridgway is small but offers lots to do. The artsy small town in Pennsylvania features a collection of mom-and-pop shops and antique stores, with its inviting downtown area dotted with local art galleries. Adults can sample beer at The Brew Bank Brewing Company or moonshine at Chicken Hill Distillery, while all ages can embark on outdoor adventures in the nearby national forest like hiking, boating, horseback riding, and camping. In fall, the Clarion River-Little Toby Trail is famous for its photogenic foliage.
You can take a step back in time in Strasburg, a charming town sitting at the junction of Philadelphia and Lancaster in the Pennsylvania Dutch county. Once an important stagecoach stop and trading center in 1700, this town is home to one of the largest outlet malls in the state and features an array of quaint boutique shops along its charming streets. Ride on an authentic locomotive past acres of farmland at the Strasburg Rail Road or learn about the locomotive industry at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. You can also sign up for rides in an authentic Amish buggy or spend time with the kids exploring the National Toy Train Museum.
It’s hard to complete a list of charming small towns in Pennsylvania without adding Gettysburg, the most well-known small town in the state and popular weekend getaway. History comes to life in this famous destination, as it’s the location of a Civil War battle and where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. It’s the perfect destination for history buffs who want to experience an important part of American history, where guided tours take you through town and offer live history presentations. You can even watch a battle reenactment in the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Stroudsburg is the perfect place for wine lovers, offering plenty of local wineries in the Poconos. Taste local vino at popular spots like RAW – Urban Winery or Tolino Vineyards, then get a dose of culture by touring the historic Stroud Mansion. Enjoy a live concert at the Sherman Theater or stretch your legs along the scenic Levee Loop Trail, while the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm makes a great destination for family outings. Its thriving Main Street area is dotted with charming boutique shops, restaurants, and bars, while shoppers of all ages can find a sweet treat at Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop.
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts can add a visit to Milford to their itinerary, as this enchanting town is tucked within Pennsylvania’s beautiful Pocono Mountains. Stroll the walkable downtown to discover charming shops and eateries, then learn about the town’s history in the Columns Museum or plan some time outdoors at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Only 90 minutes from New York City, it’s a great destination for enjoying spectacular nature views as you enjoy hiking, biking, and waterfall watching.
A popular home base for exploring Pennsylvania’s own “Grand Canyon”, Wellsboro is a charming small town in Tioga County. This Victorian town offers easy access to Pine Creek Gorge, a popular natural landmark and hiking area that is 50 miles long and 1,000 feet deep. Stroll the center of Wellsboro’s small town and Main Street to soak up its quaint ambiance and Victorian-style architecture to see its inviting shops, restaurants, and a historic movie theater. Nearby, the area’s impressive nature is on full display along the walking trails in Hills Creek State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park and scenic rides on the Tioga Central Railroad.
Doylestown is best known for being home to the grand 20th-century Fonthill Castle, which is a mix of 20th-century Gothic, Medieval, and Byzantine architecture. The small town is also home to a collection of interesting museums, including the art-filled Michener Art Museum featuring Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings. Don’t miss exploring the beautiful outdoor scenery in nearby Nockamixon State Park, and if you visit this town in June and July you can see the lavender blooms at Peace Valley Lavender Farm.
Harmony is one of Western Pennsylvania’s most historically important places and its first National Landmark District. Its Landmark District retains much of its old-world charm, with a feel of an old German village. Only 20 minutes away is McConnells Mill State Park, a National Natural Landmark that over 2,500 acres of the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Follow the scenic trails that wind along the river, then retreat back to town to explore local shops within The Center of Harmony, an old opera house and events venue. If you’ve got extra time, take a break with a freshly baked pastry at the Lagerhaus Bakery.
Full of rich history, Ligonier is a tiny borough in Westmoreland County. Beloved for its Idlewild & SoakZone, one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States, it’s also home to the Laurel Mountain Ski Resort. History lovers can explore the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum located in the former railroad station and see captivating war artifacts at the Fort Ligonier Museum, which features a well-restored fort that will have you feeling like you stepped back in time. A visit to the Ligonier Country Market offers a chance to sample the region’s fresh produce and pick up handmade crafts.