Must-See Cities In Pennsylvania That Aren't Philadelphia, According To Locals

Philadelphia may get the lion's share of tourists visiting Pennsylvania, but there is so much more to see in the state than just its largest city. Those who venture beyond The City of Brotherly Love will find tons of other Pennsylvanian cities to discover that are just as interesting. From charming historical spots to up-and-coming urban centers, there are many places that make for a great day trip or a multi-day getaway.

Stretching from the eastern seaboard states of New York and New Jersey to Lake Erie and the midwestern state of Ohio, Pennsylvania is a state of diverse landscapes. It is home to several mountain ranges, including the Appalachian, Allegheny, and Pocono Mountains. Forests blanket most of the state, and rivers wind through the landscape. It also has a rich and lengthy history. Humans inhabited the area as far back as 16,000 years ago. Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, and it played a crucial role in both the American and the Industrial Revolutions.

With all this in mind, it's surprising that many tourists only put Philadelphia on their Pennsylvania bucket list. Beyond the bustling streets of Philly, there are plenty of urban gems to uncover. For those who want to explore more of the state, these are some of the must-see cities in Pennsylvania, as recommended by locals. Each city was chosen because of its interesting attractions, great amenities, and undeniable charm.


If you're not from Pennsylvania, you might be forgiven for thinking that Philadelphia is the state capital. After all, it's the biggest city in the state by population by some margin. However, the actual capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg, and it's a fascinating city to visit, with plenty of things to see and do for all ages. Take a trip to City Island to catch a Harrisburg Senators baseball game or take a riverboat cruise on the Susquehanna River. Learn about events that shaped the country at the National Civil War Museum, and visit the Arts District to catch a play or peruse street murals. Foodies will love the plethora of dining options in Harrisburg, from steakhouses to sports bars and everything in between.

Hershey is a unique spot to visit, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Harrisburg. The town was established in 1903 by Milton S. Hershey as the site of the Hershey Company chocolate factory. Hershey also built a town around the factory to house the company workers. Over the decades, the town grew to incorporate golf courses, a zoo, a hockey arena, luxury spas, and the Hersheypark theme park. Visitors can ride roller coasters at Hersheypark, take a free tour ride at Hershey's Chocolate World, and visit the Hershey Story Museum to learn about Milton Hershey and make chocolates in the Chocolate Lab.


Lancaster County is best known for having one of the largest and oldest Amish communities in the United States. What many people don't know is that the city of Lancaster is also home to a vibrant arts scene, trendy cafes, craft beer bars, and enticing restaurants. As Pat Brothwell says on his blog PA Weekend Fun, "...there's so much more to this place than just the Amish. In fact, after living here for five years, I could effectively tell you that the Amish don't even breach my top five reasons for visiting Lancaster."

Downtown Lancaster is home to historic buildings mixed in with hip art galleries and boutique shops. You can base yourself in a modern hotel or a cozy B&B just steps from museums and markets. Depending on when you visit, you may find a fun event taking place, like a city food tour or a dance festival. When you're not exploring the city, you can enjoy leisurely drives in the countryside or hiking along the Susquehanna River (one of Pat's favorite things to do). And, of course, if you do want to experience the Amish lifestyle, there are tons of activities like Amish farm tours and horse and buggy rides.


While Philadelphia has a buzzing energy reminiscent of New York, Pittsburgh has a bit more of a laid-back vibe. Mark Kozlowski commented on Quora, "Pittsburgh feels a lot like a Midwestern city in outlook, pace, general friendliness, etc. I'm originally from around Chicago, and Pittsburgh felt a lot like home." The city sits at the junction of three rivers and features an array of neighborhoods amid rolling hills. The streets are brimming with things to see and do, from world-class shops to fascinating museums and dynamic dining destinations.

To get a sense of Pittsburgh's scale, take the Duquesne Incline cable car up Mount Washington. You'll be able to see downtown Pittsburgh spread out below from the observation deck at the top. Back on lower ground, you can visit popular attractions like the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. Foodies will love the culinary scene here, as you can find everything from pepperoni rolls to pierogies and the addictive Primanti Bros. sandwiches. If it's nature you're into, there are 163 parks to explore in the city. You can also set off on a road trip from Pittsburgh to explore waterfalls nearby.


Erie is an incredibly scenic city located on the south shore of Lake Erie, which many consider one of the most beautiful lakes in the Midwest. The lake is the main draw, as it provides plenty of opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water sports. Most people who visit Erie make a beeline to Presque Isle State Park on the peninsula that curves around Presque Isle Bay. Here, you'll find miles of sandy beaches, as well as hiking trails, fishing areas, picnic tables, and restrooms. If you want to learn about the unique ecosystem on the peninsula, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center has some engaging exhibits.

The city of Erie also offers many things to do away the water. History buffs can visit the Erie Maritime Museum and see the U.S. Brig Niagara, a ship that was purposely sunk in the lake in 1820 and then resurrected and rebuilt numerous times. Elsewhere, kids will love seeing animals like zebras, red pandas, and lions at the Erie Zoo. The Bayfront District has several restaurants and bars where you can dine and drink overlooking the waters of Presque Isle Bay, and wine lovers can take a trip outside the city to visit one of the many wineries in Lake Erie Wine Country.


If you're based in Philadelphia and want to explore another nearby city, Doylestown is a delightful spot only about an hour's drive from downtown Philly. This dynamic city has it all — impressive historic sites, boutique shops, cozy cafes and restaurants, and leafy parks. Kikicrazed commented on Reddit, "I think it's the perfect mix of peaceful nature and culture. You can get grass-fed meat from a local farm and shop at multiple farm markets while also being able to go to multiple museums, live shows, festivals, and great locally-owned restaurants within a 20-mile radius. And we're still only about 45 minutes from Philly (with no traffic) and not all that far from NYC either."

If you can only see one thing in Doylestown, it should be Fonthill Castle, a grand 44-room structure built by archaeologist and scholar Henry Chapman Mercer between 1908 and 1912. It was originally his home and a place for him to showcase his collection of artifacts and handmade Moravian tiles, and visitors can explore the rooms and grounds to take in the unique blend of architectural styles and antiques. Mercer also built the Mercer Museum (another castle a mile away) and The Tileworks, a historic tile workshop that still produces Mercer tiles today. Arts and culture buffs can visit the charming County Theater to watch indie films and the Michener Art Museum to see pieces by artists from the Delaware Valley region.


Located on the Lehigh River, Allentown has plenty of attractions to keep you occupied for a few days. Kids will enjoy the Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom for its thrilling roller coasters and water slides. The Da Vinci Science Museum is another family-friendly spot with interactive exhibits focusing on energy, nature, design, and creativity. Art lovers can peruse the paintings and photographs at the Allentown Art Museum. The city was also once the hiding place of the Liberty Bell, and visitors can learn the story of its journey at the Liberty Bell Museum. If all those activities have you craving refreshments, Allentown has some great drinking and dining options, including pizza places, delis, and craft beer breweries.

If you have time to spare in Allentown and want to take a day trip, consider visiting Jim Thorpe, a town that offers a taste of Switzerland in Pennsylvania. Located about 35 miles north of Allentown, this picturesque town in the Pocono Mountains has beautiful European-style buildings, a vintage train, and charming boutique shops, restaurants, and pubs. If you're feeling adventurous, you can go biking on trails that wind through the mountains or take a whitewater rafting trip down rapids on the Lehigh River. 


Rich in history and old charm, Bethlehem is a fascinating spot for delving into Pennsylvania's past. The city was founded by Moravian missionaries and officially named on Christmas Eve in 1741, and some of the buildings from the 18th century still stand today. It later became an industrial center and home to the second-largest steel company in the U.S. Visitors can explore the historic quarter, step into quaint restaurants, microbreweries, and distilleries., and take part in fun festivals and events.

If you want a glimpse into colonial times, locals on Reddit suggest checking out the National Historic Landmark District to see buildings from the original Moravian settlement. The site includes the Colonial Industrial Quarter, which many believe is the first industrial park in America. The structures include an old grist mill, a log springhouse used to store food, and a stone-dye house. The SteelStacks complex is also highly recommended — it was once the home of the Bethlehem Steel Plant, and you can still see the old blast furnaces looming over what is now a festival and event center. Another interesting spot is the Moravian Bookshop, which is the oldest bookstore in the U.S. And if you happen to visit around Christmas time, the city turns into a magical spot for a winter holiday vacation with a Christmas market, ice skating and carriage rides.


Reading may not be on many tourist radars, but it's an excellent spot to visit about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The town was once the home of the Reading Company, also known as the Reading Railroad, which you may recognize from the Monopoly game. Locals on Reddit recommend visiting the famous Japanese-style Reading Pagoda on the top of Mount Penn for views over the city and strolling through the art galleries at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts. The Fairgrounds Farmers Market is another local favorite with treats like pretzels, pizza, and pastries.

If you love outdoor activities, Reading won't disappoint. Just outside the city, there are several trails perfect for hiking and biking, like the Schuylkill River Trail and the Union Canyon Trail. The Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center also has a network of trails winding through woodlands and fields. Neversink Mountain has an interesting trail that leads to the ruins of an abandoned hotel where only a lonely pavilion called the Witch's Hat remains. On foggy days, it can be a creepy sight, but when the skies are clear, you'll get great views of the city.


Fans of "The Office" can visit the city where the fictional Dunder Mifflin company was set. While the television show was mostly filmed in Los Angeles, several real spots in Scranton appeared in the show. These include Cooper's Seafood House, Poor Richard's Pub, and the Marketplace at Steamtown (formerly the Steamtown Mall). Even the place with the "good pizza" is real. Alfredo's Cafe serves up slices that many Tripadvisor reviewers say are just as good as the show made it out to be.

There's much more to see in Scranton than just locations from "The Office," though. Nay Aug Park has 73 acres to explore, so stroll along the paths and trails to discover peaceful pavilions, a covered bridge, and the picturesque Dave Wenzel Treehouse. Take the Davis Trail to the Nay Aug Gorge to see a stunning waterfall. The Steamtown National Historic Site is a must for those who love trains and want to learn more about the history of the railroad in this corner of Pennsylvania. Scranton is also home to Joe Biden's childhood home, and you can see the colonial house on Washington Avenue, but note that it is privately owned and not open to the public.


The small city of Williamsport is the birthplace of the Little League and a must-visit for any baseball fan. The youth baseball organization was founded by Williamsburg native Carl Stotz in 1939, and every August, the top youth baseball teams gather here for the International Little League World Series. When you're not catching the games at Lamade Stadium, you can visit the World of Little League Museum to learn about the history of the organization and see artifacts that date back through the decades.

Even if you're not into baseball, the city has plenty to offer. Spend a relaxing day on the Susquehanna River with a cruise on the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat, an hour-long cruise that includes narration about the history of the river and the area. There is also a full bar on board and snacks available for purchase. The boat runs tours from May to October but takes a hiatus in the winter months. For those who prefer to stay on land, the Susquehanna River Walk is a brilliant route for hiking or cycling. The 4.2-mile trail takes you alongside the Susquehanna River with the option to follow the Timber Trail over two bridges.


Located about 90 minutes from Manhattan, Easton has evolved from a rough-around-the-edges urban center into a revitalized riverside city. Today, visitors will find a lovely historic downtown, several waterfront parks along the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, and plenty of attractions for all ages. Plus, the city has some great restaurants, breweries, and bars. As Steve Zanders told Dave Caldwell of the New York Times, "I feel like Easton is a little Manhattan. It's like one of the blocks of Manhattan fell off into Easton."

Families will love the Crayola Experience, a four-story attraction devoted to Crayola crayons. Kids can learn how crayons are made, create colorful art, and play interactive games. Afterward, swing by the Easton Public Market for tasty eats like Asian noodles, barbecue, and tacos, and the Karl Stirner Arts Trail for those who like spending time outside. The trail runs for 1.75 miles along Bushkill Creek, and it features over 25 sculptures by local artists. In the evening, you can grab a drink at the Easton Wine Project or Böser Geist Brewing Co. in the Simon Silk Mill.


It's easy to see why residents of York are proud of their city. It has all the accouterments of a happening city but with a small-town vibe. Think boutique shops, trendy cafes, historic buildings, and colorful street art. Just outside of the city, there are plenty of green spaces and trails to explore. Travel blogger and York native Aleah Myers of Happily Ever Exploring calls her hometown "Another hip little town that you've never heard of." The city is just a two-hour (or less) drive from Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., making it an easy excursion or weekend escape from either place.

York has played an interesting role in American history. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted at the York Colonial Courthouse. That year, the Continental Congress also proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving in York. You can see a reconstruction of the courthouse at the York County History Center. The city was also an important site along the Underground Railroad. Entrepreneur William C. Goodridge helped numerous freedom seekers escape slavery from his home in York, which is now part of the Goodridge Freedom Center & Underground Railroad Museum


With its enviable location along the scenic Susquehanna River and just a 40-minute drive from the Poconos, Wilkes-Barre is the perfect city for outdoor enthusiasts. The city itself is pleasant enough, with a good selection of restaurants, bars, and cultural centers. There are also several riverfront parks and two golf courses. However, many visitors come to explore the state parks outside the city and enjoy hiking, whitewater rafting, and biking.

One of the most beautiful hikes near Wilkes-Barre is the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park. The trail is a 7.2-mile loop that takes you through old-growth trees and passes by 21 waterfalls cascading down rocky cliffs. It can be challenging, as parts can be slippery, and there are some steep spots. The Seven Tubs Recreation Area is another must-see destination for outdoor adventure seekers. Located in the Pinchot Forest District just outside Wilkes-Barre, this 400-acre nature area has waterfalls and streams that tumble into unique pools carved into the rocks.  If it's an urban hike you're after, locals on Reddit recommend the Concrete City, a fascinating ghost town consisting of 20 homes built for railroad workers at the turn of the 20th century. The crumbling, abandoned houses are now covered in graffiti and partially hidden by the forest.


The picturesque city of Franklin sits at the confluence of French Creek and the Allegheny River in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. As of 2021, just over 6,100 people were living in the city, so it has more of a small-town vibe than a big-city atmosphere. This is the kind of place where you can take leisurely strolls through the streets to see historic homes and pop into a quaint cafe or antique shop along your way. There are also riverside trails where you can stroll through the forest or take a bike ride over bridges and through tunnels.

There aren't too many tourist attractions in Franklin besides the Debence Antique Music World Museum. Inside you'll find over 100 mechanical instruments, many of which are over a century old and rare. If you're an architectural buff, you'll love the wide range of design styles in Franklin, from Victorian to Colonial Revival and Queen Anne buildings and homes. The St. John's Episcopal Church is also worth checking out for its gorgeous Tiffany stained glass windows.


There are 57 cities in Pennsylvania, so narrowing down the best was no easy task. To determine which ones were worth visiting, we turned to the people who know best — Pennsylvania residents. We asked local people which cities they loved visiting in their home state and which cities were on their bucket lists. We also used forums like Reddit and Quora to see what cities Pennsylvanian people recommended most to potential travelers. In addition, we sought out travel blogs written by people who grew up in or lived in the areas they write about. These cities got the most recommendations and had the most to offer travelers. We included a mix of bustling urban spots for people who want tons of restaurants, nightlife, and attractions, as well as smaller cities where you can escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy some peace, quiet, and nature.