Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a state in the eastern United States. It is known for its Revolutionary War-era historical sites like Valley Forge, its large cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, its farming regions, some occupied by the Amish, and a (once)-strong industrial history. With equally large swaths of cities and towns as fields and mountains, Pennsylvania is a rich and varied state, as well as a worthy travel destination. Pennsylvania is bordered by the states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio. The main cities are the aforementioned Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, along with other smaller cities such as Allentown, Erie, Reading, Bethlehem, and Scranton.

Regions

Cities

Pittsburgh's skyline

Other destinations

Understand

The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a geographically diverse state with a Great Lake on one shore and a major seaport on the other. The climate of Pennsylvania is pleasant, with cold, often snowy winters, mild to hot, humid summers, and gorgeous green springtimes, and most notably, spectacular displays of colorful autumn foliage.

Pennsylvania hosts a number of vital cities, from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia houses the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, two major national historical landmarks. The interior of the state has a number of subcultures worth exploring, including the famous Amish countryside, a religious community.

Pennsylvania is also home to a diverse group of people, with ethnic enclaves of black, Hispanic, and Southeast Asian populations in its major cities.

Pennsylvania is also diverse in that the Eastern and Southeastern parts of the state are urban and densely populated, while much of the rest of the state is rural and/or mountainous.

Talk

Most Pennsylvanians speak American English, although many subtle regional accents and 'dialects' do exist. There are large Latino, Spanish-speaking populations in Reading, Allentown, and Philadelphia, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have their share of Asian, European, and other languages. There will be no problem communicating with people who live in Pennsylvania, except, of course, if they resort to the famous Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch) dialect of German. Although widescale non-Amish use of the language faded circa 1950, there are pockets of young people who are learning the language as a way to preserve their heritage. The Pittsburgh area and the anthracite coal region of northeast Pennsylvania are known for their colorful regional accents.

Get in

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge: Gateway to Philadelphia

By car

Pennsylvania is a densely populous state in a densely populous part of the country, with many roads in and out. Interstate highways lead most traffic into the state. Major national interstate highways leading to Pennsylvania include I-95 S from New England, I-95 N from the American South, and I-70 E, I-80 E & I-90 E from the American West and Midwest. Specifically, clockwise from north of Harrisburg:

Also, U.S. Routes 219, 15, and 220 (soon to be I-99) all enter the state at alternative points from both the north and south.

State-operated Welcome Centers and Comfort Facilities are located just inside the borders at all major crossings into Pennsylvania.

By train

Amtrak offers a total of nine different passenger train lines in or across the state of Pennsylvania. A fair amount of these run between New York and Philadelphia, continuing to points south, such as Charlotte, and New Orleans. The Pennsylvanian crosses a large swath of the state during its journey from New York to Pittsburgh, and the Keystone travels from New York to Harrisburg. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are also each connected to Chicago and Washington D.C.

An inexpensive and quick rail option to the Philadelphia region from New York City as well as its airports, is to take a New Jersey Transit train from Port Authority in lower Manhattan to Trenton Transportation Center in New Jersey. At Trenton, transfer onto a SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) train to Center City Philadelphia.

By bus

Bronze statue of General Gouverneur Warren on Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park

Most areas in Pennsylvania are serviced by Greyhound Bus service. Bus service from New York to areas in Eastern Pennsylvania, like Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and the Poconos, is very easy, quick, and inexpensive. A convenient way to find bus service to Eastern PA in New York is at Port Authority Bus Terminal in lower Manhattan. To Philadelphia, some options include Chinatown buses, Megabus, and Greyhound. To the Lehigh Valley, some options include Trans-Bridge and Bieber Bus. To the Poconos, some options include USA Coach and Mertz.

By plane

The two major airports in Pennsylvania are Philadelphia International Airport (IATA: PHL) and Pittsburgh International (IATA: PIT). Philadelphia is a major hub for American Airlines, and both are served by all major carriers and have low fare service by Southwest; Philadelphia also has service from Frontier. Philadelphia is also one of the Northeast's major international termini, with flights to an array of European destinations.

Regional airports in Pennsylvania include Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. All of these airports are served by American Airlines, Delta and United.

Get around

Weaver's Mill Covered Bridge in Lancaster County

By car

In addition to the Interstate highways that enter Pennsylvania and travel throughout:

There also exists a wide network of state highways and municipal roads that reach into the mostly forested and farmed rural areas. The more mountainous of these areas should be traversed with caution by visitors as they can be drastically winding, narrow, or steep (or all three!) in parts.

Speed limit signs are almost exclusively posted in miles per hour, "mph". Seatbelts use is mandatory, and a second ticket and fine will be issued to those who are pulled over for speeding, etc. if not worn. Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a ban on hand-held cell phone usage while driving, except for commercial truck drivers. The cities of Philadelphia, Allentown, Bethlehem, Erie, Harrisburg, and Wilkes-Barre have enacted bans. Texting while driving is illegal statewide.

As conditions go, Pennsylvania has two seasons according to an old joke: winter and construction. In the rural majority of the state, large snowfalls render the most minor of roads impassable, but the major thoroughfares like Interstates are comparatively well plowed and salted. Still, car travel anywhere should be done with extreme care in the winter, especially by those unfamiliar with the visited area.

Likewise, the jest rings true in the remainder of the year. Look out for occasional paving, line painting, or road widening projects on freeways that restrict travel to a single lane. Bridge repair or any major redesign may force detours that are typically marked clearly. Speed limits in work zones are always reduced and State Police will impose double fines for breaking them. Proceed carefully around PennDOT (state transportation department) crews, who are easily visible in fluorescent yellow attire.

Wild animals, most notably deer, can be a problem when driving on rural Interstates and highways. Pennsylvania currently has an overpopulation of deer, so try to avoid them crossing the road. They are unpredictable animals and panic when scared, so stopping is usually the best option until it has cleared the road.

By thumb

Although uncommon, hitchhiking is fairly well-received, especially in more rural areas. Keep in mind that it is always illegal to hitchhike on highways closed to pedestrians, so it's better to find a rest stop or a gas station right off the highway.

See

Philadelphia's beautiful City Hall

There is a quite a lot to see in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is a historic city with a neighborhood full of mostly 18th- and early 19th-century buildings downtown, and was the nation's capital before Washington, D.C. was constructed, with historical buildings to match. It also has a world-class art museum and Fairmount Park, a huge park designed in great part by Vaux and Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York, and is in general a great city. On the other side of the state, Pittsburgh has a great skyline and some of the most beautiful university buildings in the country, and its geographic position at the confluence of three rivers, with hills rising steeply from their banks, is quite striking. Closer to the center of the state, Harrisburg is a much smaller city with some pleasant buildings and a great Capitol with a park next to it. Not far from there is the battlefield site in Gettysburg. In the southeastern part of the state, between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, is the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, which includes Amish farming towns where the vehicle of choice is still the horse and buggy. Pennsylvania is also a state of much rural land, with small towns, forests and some gorgeous waterfalls. People counting the distance from New York City and Philadelphia strictly by miles may be shocked at how wild the northeast of the state is.

Itineraries

Do

White water kayaking in Ohiopyle State Park

Pennsylvania has many attractions throughout the state, from amusement parks, historic sites, beaches along Lake Erie, world-class casinos, campgrounds and more!

Amusement parks

Pennsylvania is home to some of the country's well-known amusement parks, such as:

Casinos

Pennsylvania recently legalized casino gambling. Some of the following casinos are also horse-racing facilities, while others stand alone.

Zoos

Pennsylvania has Zoos of all sizes.

Eat

A cheesesteak from Jim's Steak in Philadelphia

Drink

The state Capitol in Harrisburg

However, Pennsylvania is home to many other beers. It is birthplace of Rolling Rock — "#33". Serious beer drinkers probably know Pennsylvania for its wide selection craft breweries. Hundreds of fine ales are produced each year. Some great labels that every visitor should try include Yards, Sly Fox, Victory, Lancaster, Troegs, Philadelphia Brewing Company, and Stoudts.

State liquor laws

Pennsylvania's alcoholic-beverage laws are not only restrictive but confusing. There is a good reason that the last thing you usually pass before driving across the state line from most neighboring states is a liquor store.

Sleep

The Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, a grand hotel completed in 1916

Pennsylvania has many country inns in the Northeast and some grand old hotels in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And naturally, you'll also find branches of national chain hotels and motels at various price points throughout the state. As there are many universities in the state, you may also want to inquire about whether you can stay in a dorm during intersessions or in the summer, as you might be able to save money that way.

Stay safe

View of Nuremberg, a small town in Luzerne County in mainly rural Northeastern Pennsylvania

Outside of Greater Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Lehigh Valley, crime is not a major problem in Pennsylvania. Gang activity is high in the larger cities, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Reading. You know you are in a rough area when you see graffiti, abandoned houses and vehicles, and shoes tossed over telephone wires, known as shoefiti, to mark that drugs are for sale. Street drag racing and prostitution are also problems in the state's urban areas.

As with most locations in the United States, a major cause of injury and death in Pennsylvania comes from automobile accidents. Drivers can be down-right hostile on some of the more notorious urban freeways, such as the Schuykill Expressway in Philadelphia (usually it's a parking lot anyway), route 22 in Allentown, the 376 in Pittsburgh and on the Interstate 95 corridor in the southeast section of the state. The roads in Pennsylvania are notoriously bad, so be careful.

Road rage can be a problem during rush hour, so if you aren't familiar with the highway system, stay out of the left hand lane. The key to safe driving is to stay defensive, you are in unfamiliar areas and while you may feel wronged, it may be the norm.

Motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets in Pennsylvania, but it is still advised.

Rural mountain roads can sometimes be steep, and impassable in times of heavy snowfall. In many parts of the state, especially around Pittsburgh, steep cliffs reside next to major roads, and rock slides can occur, though rare. When traveling in the central to western part of the state, it is best to stay on main roads and highways. If you're canoeing, skiing, or doing any other outdoor activity, take necessary precautions.

Be sure to stay out of abandoned mines and quarries. As this industry falls out of the state's economy, mines and quarries are left abandoned. If you explore one, you risk the dangers of unstable supports, unstable ground, rats, snakes and other animals, forgotten explosives, blasting caps, explosive methane gas, and pockets of "blackdamp" or air without enough oxygen to support life.

Exploring the woods alone can be dangerous, due to the large deer and other wild animal population. Use insect repellent to avoid disease, wear long clothing, and do not wander onto someone's property.

Flooding and snow are the most common natural disasters. Flash flooding can be a problem. Tornadoes are rare but experienced, and earthquakes are almost unheard of. Hurricanes coming up the Atlantic can strike, so be prepared. Temperatures in the summer can reach 100 degrees in places, so bring water and sunscreen. Thunderstorms are common in the summer.

If you are not from Pennsylvania you can buy any 1.4g (Class C / Consumer Grade) fireworks from an outlet for transport out of state, however, Pennsylvania residents can only purchase "Safe and Sane" fireworks (those that do not leave the ground or explode) without a permit. All brick and mortar stores will have additional information, but tents and other temporary sales locations may or may not have correct information. Local laws vary greatly and many campsites prohibit their use outright, so you will need to check before you use them in-state. Fireworks stores and tents tend to be located in border areas but can be found throughout the state.

You do not need a permit to carry a firearm openly throughout the state, except in the city of Philadelphia. Gun laws are fairly loose compared to other states. Carrying concealed, however, requires a state license to carry, issued by county sheriffs (or city police) with various policies and levels of strictness. Licenses for non-residents are available, the county with the most favorable non-resident license policy is Centre County. (Sheriff's Office, Bellefonte, PA) Carrying a handgun in a vehicle is considered concealed carry, and therefore requires a license. If in possession of a handgun, remember that both New York State and New Jersey share very lengthy borders with Pennsylvania, and both have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.

Drugs, including marijuana are illegal in Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia, the punishment for under 30 grams of marijuana is only a $25 fine, or $100 if caught smoking in public. Elsewhere, you can expect a heightened punishment.

During periods of hunting season, persons entering the woods are advised by the PA Game Commission to wear "blaze orange".

Go next

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