Editors' Picks: 20 of the Best Things to Do in Pennsylvania!
No matter what time of year, there's always plenty of fun to be had in Pennsylvania.
Entertainment, adventure, and excitement are all on offer year 'round in Pennsylvania. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, each of the four seasons has a special charm all its own. Take a look at our list of the best ways to enjoy the Keystone State throughout the year.
Despite its popularity and pride of place as one of largest festivals of its kind in the entire world, this rip-roarin' celebration of chainsaw art has humble beginnings. It started in 1999 as a bit of backyard fun dreamed up by two chainsaw carving brothers, but has since grown into a weeklong festival, with artists from around the world creating stunning art that is then sold to lucky buyers at auction at the week's end.
Where to go: Ridgway
When to visit: Early March
Admission fee: None
Don't miss: More than 200 chainsaw masters descend on Ridgway for the Rendezvous (also known as "the 'vous" to those in the know), creating everything from intricately detailed fine art to more primal folk art. Those willing to brave the still-chilly spring weather can get their chosen pieces to auction at prices that are usually far below the artworks' actual worth. And if you're looking to get into chainsaw carving yourself, don't miss the string of educational seminars presented by the artists themselves at various times throughout the week.
Irish pride is city wide in the city of Scranton, where the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade has taken on almost mythic overtones in more than 50 years of existence. The second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country, this celebration of all things Irish starts with a traditional mass, followed by a spirited race and then the parade itself, which can often run more than three hours as it wends its way through the streets of Scranton. Food, drink, and merchandise vendors are on hand to offer refreshment of many kinds to parade-goers, and the inimitable music of "Old Éire" floats over the entire proceeding, thanks to dozens of musical groups and traditional bands.
Where to go: Scranton
When to visit: St. Patrick's Day
Admission fee: None to attend. Parade participant and parking fees vary.
Don't miss: For most, the appeal of this massive holiday parade and party lies in viewing the parade and sampling the food, drink, and music on offer. Those with a more participatory bend can apply with their group to participate in the parade itself, with a chance to win one of more than a dozen awards.
Spring brings renewed life to the flora and fauna of Pennsylvania, and the maple trees that produce the state's famous syrup are no exception. This two-day festival celebrates the sweet stuff, and Pennsylvania history, with a pancake breakfast made with local syrup, kids rides (including ponies!), Civil War reenactments, and hand-made crafts.
Where to go: Beaver Falls
When to visit: Early April
Admission fee: None
Don't miss: The syrup is the star here, but there's plenty to see and do while walking off the morning's pancakes. Dozens of artisans are on hand selling homemade crafts and art, along with folks selling a variety of tempting maple treats such as maple cotton candy and maple popcorn. Don't forget to pick up a bottle of syrup (or two) to take home.
This might just be the most interesting, and unique, festival in all of Pennsylvania-if not the United States. Instead of endless lines of craft vendors or staid exhibitions and lectures, the folks in this mountain borough decided to break their celebration into chunks of "living history," with each block depicting a different era in history. Visitors can go back to the nostalgia-fueling 1950s, meet a flower child or two in the Woodstock area, face off against knights in the Renaissance Faire, visit colonial America for a patriotic thrill, or button up their bustle for a trip to Victorian times. Vendors and area businesses offer a huge selection of themed specials, treats, and demonstrations, and buying a festival button gives access to horse-drawn wagon rides throughout this time-traveling to-do.
Where to go: Huntingdon
When to visit: The last Saturday in April
Admission fee: None. Festival buttons $3-$5.
Don't miss: Don't think of this as a festival, per se. Think of it as a town-wide performance focused on fun and local talent. Each time period has its own appeal and activities, but the sheer variety on offer, as well as the eccentric premise, means there's something quirky, wonderful, or winsome to be found at every turn.
Fans of authentic Appalachian bluegrass will love this festival, held annually in late May. Bluegrass legends take the stage over the course of three days, a jam tent is available on-demand for new and veteran players alike, and camping (with amenities) is available for those who want to spend every possible moment listening to or playing bluegrass.
Where to go: Wind Gap, Mountain View Park
When to visit: Late May
Admission fee: Weekend tickets range from $70 to $80, based on purchase date. One-day tickets range from $10 to $35, based on date attending (No camping permitted with one-day tickets). Tickets for youths age 12-16 are $15 if pre-purchased, and $20 at the gate. Children 11 and under are free.
Don't miss: In addition to two stages featuring a variety of bluegrass talent, visitors should definitely check out the Bluegrass workshop, led by professional, multi-instrumentalist Mark Panfil.
Pennsylvania is coal country, and this annual celebration gives visitors a chance to experience a piece of coal mining history, along with plenty of entertainment, food, and crafts. Coal is no longer mined in the area, but every year the city brings an old-time "company store" to life, giving festival-goers a glimpse of living history with reenactments and exhibits showcasing life as it was during the town's 150-year coal-mining period. Other highlights include the Coal Festival parade, a talent show (with prizes), a raffle, a craft show, and, for those with an interest in other fossil fuels, a hot rod car show.
Where to go: Blossburg
When to visit: The week(end) after Memorial Day
Admission fee: Festival admission buttons are $3 and are good for all four days. Children 3 and younger are free.
Don't miss: In addition to the anthracite-ment of exploring the coal museum and interactive living history exhibits, you won't want to miss the smorgasbord of live entertainment, music, and activities on offer throughout the festival. The craft show is another highlight, focused on the hand-crafted creations of local artisans, and fair food lovers can feast on a variety of treats, including the birds served up by two local clubs competing for the title of "best barbeque chicken."
Duncannon is one of the few towns actually on the famous Appalachian Trail, and this mountain community takes its role in hiking history seriously. Every year, residents come together to celebrate the great outdoors in all its splendor with this one-day festival focused on hiking, food, music, and family fun.
Where to go: Duncannon
When to visit: Mid-June
Admission fee: Admission is free and includes one raffle ticket per attendee.
Don't miss: Grab some fresh air with one of several available guided hikes, learn about local wildlife at exhibitions hosted by experts, or grab some fresh-made barbeque chicken from the local fire department. And definitely make time for "Tales from the Trail," a collection of narratives presented by those who have explored the natural wonders of the Appalachian Trail.
Family-friendly fun meets patriotic pizazz every Independence Day weekend at this festival. Held annually on Independence Day Weekend in East Stroudsburg's beautiful Dansbury Park, the American Freedom Festival is much more than just fireworks and funnel cakes, with rides, live entertainment, a 5K, and plenty of activities for kids and adults alike.
Where to go: East Stroudsburg
When to visit: Independence Day Weekend
Admission fee: Admission is free. Parking is limited.
Don't miss: Carnival-style rides, in addition to various food, drink, and craft vendors, make this one a must for those seeking thrills and chills along with their food and fireworks. Kids will be especially excited to visit the Liberty Fun Fair and Kids' Kingdom for face painting, clowns, rides, and activities, while adults can explore the Artisan Bazaar, boasting row upon row of handcrafted decor, collectibles, and art from local merchants. And, of course, don't miss the fireworks spectacular on the fourth!
Some festivals use nostalgia to tug at your heartstrings. And then there's BlobFest, which uses it to remind you that nothing can stop: THE BLOB! Combining screenings of the 1950s horror classic with a costume contest, street fair, and tons of food, merch, and special guests, this three-day festival brings old-school horror and modern snark together for maximum fun.
Where to go: Phoenixville
When to visit: Mid-July
Admission fee: Admission to the Run-Out is $17 for the public. Other prices for screenings and events vary. Admission to the parade and street fair is free.
Don't miss: The Run-Out, recreating the famous mass exodus from the theater in "The Blob," is a must-do for serious fans. Other highlights include the Fire Extinguisher Parade, a themed costume contest, and screenings of other vintage horror movies, as well as plenty of collectibles, food, and drink in the vendor area.
10. Waterfire Sharon
Get ready for a "world-class, multi-sensory event" when you attend this unique festival. Part of the global Waterfire phenomenon, this one-day festival is held three times a year in Sharon, and features interactive art displays, fine cuisine, music, dance, and the singular beauty of fire meeting water in a dazzling river-borne display.
Where to go: Sharon
When to visit: August (other Waterfire events occur in July and September)
Admission fee: Admission to most events is free. Donors can support the event by purchasing a "wishing star" in the Starlight Garden.
Don't miss: In addition to the grand illumination at dusk, visitors should be sure to visit as many artists, performers, and storytellers as possible. Kids will love the Mobile Learning Adventure and crafting areas set aside just for them, and there's plenty of delicious food and fascinating artisanal crafts for the adults, too.
11. Cornfield 500
Labor Day Weekend has never been this muddy-or exciting. Expect to see massive monster trucks, loads of legendary jumps, stunts, and crashes, all accompanied by a heaping helping of roaring engines and sticky mud. In between, you can catch live music and fireworks, grab a snack, or even enter a race for cash prizes.
Where to go: Columbus
When to visit: Labor Day Weekend
Admission fee: Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children (kids under five are free). Various other fees (including camping and pit access fees) vary.
Don't miss: The Cornfield 500 has seen two world records set for longest monster truck jumps, and the big draw for most will be the multitude of monster truck demos and drags. But there are also plenty of other demonstrations and exhibits to see, as well as open tracks for those with an ATV and opportunities to race for those looking to score bragging rights-and cash. And for the adventurous, a bird's-eye view of the festivities can be had by taking a helicopter ride for $40.
Music lovers will be anything but blue at this festival, which features 17 nationally acclaimed acts on two stages over three guitar-strumming days of melodic magic. Throw in heaping helpings of soul food, a collection of eclectic vendors, and lots of late night jams, and you've got a recipe for blues bliss.
Where to go: Palmerton
When to visit: September
Admission fee: Prices range between $12 (weekend showcase) and $235 (VIP package) based on ticket purchase date and package selected. Parking is free.
Don't miss: The two main stages feature a wide array of nationally and internationally renowned blues and roots artists, and are definitely the main pull for fans of the genre. Those looking for a closer encounter with their favorite performers may want to consider the VIP package, which allows for total access to festival events, as well as photo opportunities and special meals.
You can toss a keg, cut a rug, or hoist a mug at this classic celebration of German heritage in Mifflinburg. This being Oktoberfest, you'll find plenty of beer and wine to enjoy, but the food, dancing, and activities are a blast even if you're inclined to say nein to the stein.
Where to go: Mifflinburg
When to visit: The first weekend in October
Admission fee: Wristbands vary in cost and are a required for all drinkers. Non-drinkers are free.
Don't miss: In addition to a wide array of tasty beers and select wines, you won't want to miss the keg toss, authentic Bavarian and Bohemian dancing, or the must-be-seen-to-be-believed "Cow and Chicken Plop Bingo." Don't forget to arrive early to purchase your commemorative stein-and wear authentic German attire to score a discount!
Pumpkins. Some people carve them. Some people turn them into pies. And some people hurl them thousands of feet in the name of glory and gourd-based explosions. If you're in the last of these groups, come on down for the Howard Fire Department's annual celebration of food, music, firefighting, fall fun and medieval technology.
Where to go: Howard
When to visit: Late October
Admission fee: Admission and Parking are free.
Don't miss: Plenty of famous and aspiring punkin' chunkers make a stop at this festival, including the internationally renowned Team Carbo. The sight of trebuchets and onagers hurling pumpkins thousands of feet with pinpoint (or nearly so) accuracy is the main attraction here, but visitors should also check out the firefighting demonstrations and working blacksmith, along with the live music that plays throughout the day. Naturally, all those chunked "punkins" have to go somewhere, so you may want to stay for the pie eating contest, too.
15. PA Bacon Fest
Do you love bacon? Do you wish it was liberally incorporated into every facet of your food, beverages, art, and life? Then this is the festival for you. Bacon lovers will be in hog heaven sampling treats from dozens of vendors, browsing "art du cuchon," cheering on their favorite swine in the pig races, and much more.
Where to go: Easton
When to visit: November
Admission fee: Admission is free. Fees for activities vary. $2 suggested donation to support local charities. Parking is $10 per car (free shuttle to and from festival).
Don't miss: The heavenly aroma floating over this two-day bacon-alia may be enough to bring you and the whole family running. But be sure to swing by the bacon cooking contest, crafting booths, and bacon cupcake challenge, too. Too much bacon? Settle in and let the live music soothe you as you digest.
Modeled on the long-cherished Chriskindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, this month-long festival has brought German traditions, art, food, and music to countless visitors since its founding in 2008. Visitors can expect a taste of Old World holiday magic, with live music, more than seventy vendors for one-of-a-kind holiday shopping, and a sleigh full of authentic German food and drink.
Where to go: Philadelphia
When to visit: Thanksgiving through the last weekend in December
Admission fee: Admission is free. Parking is limited.
Don't miss: Adults and kids will love to meet Santa and his Germanic friend, Christkind, a Teutonic holiday angel who comes all the way from Deutschland to kick off the festivities. If you love German cuisine, grab a bratwurst in the Weihnachtshütte ("Christmas Hut"), and then fill all your stockings with delicious Stollen, frosted almonds, German shortbread, and more. And if you're in the market for a unique gift, be sure to swing by the Kathe Wohlfahrt marketplace to find ornaments, clocks, figurines, and other traditional crafts direct from "the Old Country."
Kids of all ages will love this two-day festival ringing out the old year and ringing in the new with help from everyone's favorite marshmallow treat. Plenty of family-friendly fun is on hand, from a festive kids' fun run to a Family Disco Lounge to a variety of exhibitions and demonstrations that will delight kids and parents alike.
Where to go: Bethlehem
When to visit: December 30-31
Admission fee: Admission is free. Workshops and events may require a nominal fee.
Don't miss: The Peeps Breakfast gives candy fans big and small a chance to meet the Peeps mascot, take a photo, and take home a bag of the sweet, fluffy treats. And while the focus might be on consuming the marshmallow miniatures, you definitely want to take a pass or two through the art and crafting areas, where the collective confectionary genius of artists, diorama contestants, and enthusiastic fans comes to sparkling, squishy life. And for families who want a kid-friendly way to celebrate New Year's Eve, be sure to stay for the Peep Drop on the 31st.
When the winter "blahs" take hold, it's a good time to get out and enjoy the chilly majesty of nature's bounty. Held on the frozen lake at Black Moshannon State Park, this frosty fest is full of fun for the whole family, with physical activities like ice skating, ice bowling, and the ever-popular broomball. More adventurous souls can take in some cross-country skiing and snowshoeing before meeting around the roaring fire to roast marshmallows.
Where to go: Black Moshannon State Park
When to visit: Mid-January
Admission fee: Admission and parking are free.
Don't miss: Plenty of exercise and fresh air are on offer at this midwinter marvel. Be sure to bring your own skis for the cross-country beginner's class, and be ready for adventure and deep snow by packing your own snowshoes for the guided ranger hikes.
Forget everything you might've learned about this holiday from the Bill Murray movie of the same name. For more than 130 years, people across America have relied on the prognosticating powers of a groundhog living in the small town of Punxsutawney-and more than a century of celebration has led to a truly massive, globally recognized festival. Snap a photo with Phil, share a stack at the pancake breakfast, take in a show, or join the fun yourself by entering the costume and talent contests.
Where to go: Punxsutawney
When to visit: On and around Groundhog Day
Admission fee: Admission and parking are free. Some activities require a nominal fee.
Don't miss: The list of available activities, which includes scavenger hunts, art shows, dances, chainsaw carving, craft fairs, and a lot more, is both exhaustive and potentially exhausting. Don't forget to grab a photo of Phil and his "inner circle," and stop by the many vendor and craft booths for delicious treats and unique keepsakes.
This February festival is billed as "the Poconos' Coolest Event," and with good reason: the venue is carved from 100 tons of ice! Expect frozen fun of all kinds, from ice carving competitions to interactive ice displays to a towering 40-foot ice slide that'll have you more than ready for some free hot cocoa.
Where to go: Lakeville
When to visit: February 5 to 28
Admission fee: Admission ranges from $10 to $15 for individuals. Children under three are free.
Don't miss: This hotspot is ice cold-literally. So pack your snow pants, refuel at the BBQ pit and hot chocolate stands, and don't forget to take in all the amazing ice sculptures. Adults looking for another way to warm up can swing by the free wine tasting, and everyone will enjoy the ice factory tour.