Best Historical Places to Visit on a Pennsylvania Road Trip
Updated: April 19, 2023
Visit Gettysburg and Gettysburg National Military ParkThere is so much history here, honestly, it’s overwhelming at first. The July 1-3, 1863, battle was a turning point of the war as the Union claimed victory. Make your first stop in Gettysburg National Military Park at the visitor center. The $15 adult admission to a film, museum and cyclorama painting is well worth it. Plan for at least an hour at the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park and start with the 20-minute film “A New Birth of Freedom.” It sets the stage for the magnitude of what happened in Gettysburg.
How to Tour the Gettysburg Battlefield
Where Lincoln Gave the Gettysburg AddressJust as we got to Little Round Top, the golden hues of a setting sun shined on the hill overlooking Devils Den. At dusk, we stopped at the Pennsylvania Memorial and finished the auto tour at High Water Mark, the site of the climactic moment when the Confederate army retreated. The next morning in a misty rain, we walked through the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park. The three-day battle inspired President Abraham Lincoln to give his famous “Gettysburg Address” at the cemetery’s dedication on Nov. 19, 1863.
Things to Do in Downtown Gettysburg
Places to Eat in GettysburgSeveral locals recommended Garryowen Irish Pub for a casual dinner. We quickly found they serve up elevated pub grub. The housemade whiskey walnut dressing on the salads was a hit with our group along with the fish and chips. Tommy’s Pizza is another local favorite. For a Colonial dining experience complete with historic dishes, dine at either the Dobbin House Tavern or Farnsworth House. Make a reservation as both are very popular. Dobbin House dates back to 1776 and is reputedly the oldest home in Gettysburg. It offers casual dining in the Springhouse Tavern at the Dobbin House along with an option for fine dining in the Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms in the Dobbin House.
Places to Stay in GettysburgThe Gettystown Inn Bed & Breakfast has nine guest rooms furnished with antiques and reproductions to look like 1863. The Farnsworth House Inn also has a tavern, dining rooms, a beer garden and a 10-room bed and breakfast with Colonial decor. The Farnsworth House dates back to circa 1810. During the battle it was shelter for Confederate sharpshooters, then served as a hospital after the war. Both homes offer tours.For a historic hotel stay, Gettysburg Hotel is right on Lincoln Square, which ironically is a traffic circle. It dates back to 1797. For a romantic stay in a historic inn, book a room at Baladerry Inn at Gettysburg, Inn at Herr Ridge or The Brickhouse Inn. Battlefield Bed & Breakfast Inn is dog-friendly if you’re traveling with pooch in tow. They even offer family friendly ghost stories by the fire with a professional ghost storyteller.We opted for a budget-friendly hotel for our one night in Gettysburg. AAA Three Diamond Courtyard by Marriott Gettysburg is 2.5 miles from the center of town. The 152-room hotel is spacious and was perfect for our group of eight. The next morning, we grabbed lattes and cannoli at Ragged Edge Coffee House before visiting the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park. Before hitting the road, we made a stop at the Ugly Mug Café for coffee and bagel sandwiches.
Visit Pottsville and the Oldest Brewery in America
Visit Philadelphia and Independence National Historical ParkThe drive from Pottsville to Philadelphia is about two hours. We arrived early evening at The Notary Hotel, Autograph Collection, which is now The Notary, an Autograph Collection Hotel. The former City Hall Annex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The landmark is in the middle of Center City and is an excellent location from which to walk or take a short ride to most of the sights in Philly.Since we had visited the oldest brewery in America, we figured we would start our adventure in Philadelphia at the town’s reputed oldest tavern, McGillin's Olde Ale House. Don’t let the dark, kind of seedy alley scare you off. Venture into this lively joint established in 1860, the year Lincoln was elected. While chowing down on some pub grub, we cheered on the Phillies, sang along to ‘80s tunes and laughed as the libations flowed.The next morning, we were off on a journey of historical proportion starting at Independence National Historical Park. Tickets are required March through December. You can reserve tickets for a dollar each ahead of time or wait in line for free tickets. After snagging ours, we had just enough time to grab a coffee at La Colombe before our tour which lasted about 30 to 40 minutes. Our volunteer guide, retired attorney Stewart Berger, was a hoot.Our first stop was Independence Hall or “the most historical building in the National Park Service,” he told us. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed here. I was awestruck seeing the chair George Washington sat in and the chair with a rising sun on it that Benjamin Franklin used. You could hear quiet “wows” and camera shutters clicking. Stewart said, “This room is and always will be the first dot in our country. As long as there is an America, there will be dots to connect and they all come back to this city, this room.” You could have heard a pin drop after he said that, as our tour group took in the magnitude of the birth of a nation that happened in Independence Hall. It was the most prolific patriotic moment I’ve ever experienced, and I wished that every American could stand in this room.Next, Stewart took us over to Congress Hall, where the United States Congress met from 1790 to 1800 when Philadelphia served as the capital. It was in this building where the Bill of Rights was decided, Alexander Hamilton started the first United States Mint, George Washington was sworn in for his second term as president, John Adams was sworn in as president and the nation’s first memorial to a person was installed with a statue of Benjamin Franklin after he died in 1790.
Visiting the Liberty BellBefore you get to the famous cracked bell, learn how the signal became a symbol as you walk through the exhibits of the Liberty Bell Center. Admission is free. During the 19th century the bell became a symbol of liberty for the abolitionists, women’s suffrage and Civil Rights movements. After seeing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, we took advantage of a glorious morning and explored more of the historic district including the Second Bank of the United States Portrait Gallery, Carpenters Hall and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.
Places to Eat in PhiladelphiaWe stopped at , where you can sip ales of the Revolution as you sample 18th-century cuisine. Walk over to Penn's Landing on the Delaware River waterfront and wave to New Jersey. Another great lunch option is trying a Philly cheesesteak. Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks are cattycorner to each other so you can do your own taste test. These are touristy places and always crowded. In search of the best Philly cheesesteak for my crew, I asked locals all day which place has the best cheesesteak. The overwhelming favorite: Jim’s South St.From the cheesesteak corner galore in the East Passyunk neighborhood, we explored South Philly with a walk along 9th Street in the Bella Vista neighborhood. This area is an eclectic mashup of Chinatown and Little Italy with a dose of Mexican thrown in filled with wonderful aromas coming from the many small restaurants. Needing to wet our whistles, we stopped in Bar One for a beverage. The casual eatery is a sister restaurant to Ralph's Italian Restaurant, one of the country’s oldest Italian restaurants.Our walk took us through the Society Hill neighborhood and back into the Old City Historic District. We went by Benjamin Franklin’s grave, Christ Church, the Betsy Ross House and walked along Elfreth's Alley, said to be the oldest neighborhood street in America dating back to 1702. There are 32 homes in Federal and Georgian styles and a small museum in the alley. We stopped in Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar for cocktails and plantains then headed off to Pizzeria Stella for dinner, both true to Philadelphia’s vibrant culinary scene of flavors.
Run the Philadelphia Museum of Art Steps Like Rocky Balboa
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