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Pennsylvania Weekend Getaways for Families | Family Vacation Critic

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All Ages

Pennsylvania Weekend Getaways for Families

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

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Pennsylvania weekend getaways for families can naturally include lots of history lessons (particularly in Philadelphia, Gettysburg and Lancaster) and outdoor adventures (in the Poconos and beyond). Pennsylvania vacations include two one-of-a-kind amusement parks — Hersheypark, otherwise known as “The Sweetest Place on Earth” and Sesame Place, located in charming Bucks County. Or climb the “Rocky” steps in Philadelphia and feel like Rocky Balboa!

Considering a trip to the Keystone State? Check out our ideas for weekend getaways in Pennsylvania.

Written by Courtney Elko



Pennsylvania"s second largest city, dubbed “Kidsburgh,” Pittsburgh has it all -- an amusement park (Kennywood Amusement Park), water park (Sandcastle Water Park) and museums galore; don"t miss the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Science Center.

Also not to miss is the iconic Duquesne or Monongahela Incline -- cable cars that ride up and down Mount Washington and provide the best Pittsburgh river views.

The “City of Bridges” also has numerous walking trails, especially along the riverfront, affording more gorgeous views on a weekend getaway in Pennsylvania.

See Pittsburgh Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh – A Kimpton Hotel


While families could easily spend a Hershey getaway solely at Hersheypark, there are lots of things to do in this chocolate-crazed town.

The amusements and water park at Hersheypark are open mostly during the summer months, but a special Halloween or Christmas Pennsylvania weekend getaway to check out Hershey in the Dark or Christmas Candyland is also worth a trip. Families will love strolling through ZooAmerica, which is open year-round, to see the animals. Or visit Chocolate World, the Hershey Gardens or the Falconry, with hawk, eagle and falcon demonstrations.

Events of all kinds can be found at Hershey Stadium and Giant Center, too. Ice shows, concert events, the circus and comedy shows will thrill the whole family on a weekend getaway to Pennsylvania.

If parents can sneak away during a Hershey getaway, the spa at Hotel Hershey will not disappoint.

See Hershey Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Hershey


The capital of Pennsylvania offers families a piece of history and some lessons in agriculture. Families can enjoy touring the National Civil War Museum, the Pennsylvania State Capitol building and Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, a former war fort with train displays and a playground.

You can also take a riverboat ride down the Susquehanna River with the kids. Make a stop at Riverfront Park to watch the boats go by down Susquehanna River or bike or jog along the trail. Harrisburg also hosts the Pennsylvania Farm Show, which boasts thousands of animals and exhibits and a giant butter sculpture (yes, butter!).

Harrisburg is right next to Hershey (in fact, many Hershey visitors stay in Harrisburg), so you can see both towns during one weekend getaway in Pennsylvania.

Recommended Hotel: Homewood Suites by Hilton Harrisburg East – Hersey Area


This Civil War destination, which was a turning point during the war, is an excellent weekend getaway in Pa. for those seeking history. The Battle of Gettysburg, which ended with President Abraham Lincoln"s famous Gettysburg Address, left many dead, and Gettysburg is now notoriously haunted. Teens and tweens will love tours with the Ghosts of Gettysburg, where visitors are told haunting stories while walking through downtown Gettysburg. Ghosts have been spotted!

The Gettysburg National Military Park, Museum and Visitors Center and a Gettysburg Battlefield bus tour will leave families with the interesting knowledge of what took place on the hollowed grounds more than a century ago.

For something truly unique in Gettysburg, make a stop at the Land of Little Horses Farm Park. Miniature horses (not ponies) roam the land and kids will get a big kick out of the smaller equine. Kids can feed the horses, hang out in the miniature Western town or take a wagon ride. Families will not want to miss the daily shows either! There"s a pig who plays the piano -- need we say more?!

See Gettysburg Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Federal Pointe Inn


To witness a simpler way of life, families should take a weekend getaway in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, otherwise known as Amish Country. Kids will love to ride horse-drawn buggies and explore The Amish Village, an authentic replica of a working Amish community, complete with farm animals and a blacksmith shop.

When it"s time for some modern day fun, visit Dutch Wonderland amusement park. Younger kids especially will love the small size of the park and its tame rides.

The food of the Pennsylvania Dutch is not to be missed either. Visit Central Market for fresh pastries and produce, or head to Plain and Fancy Farm or Good ‘N Plenty for a family-style feast.

Other highlights include Strasburg Rail Road, which offers A Day with Thomas the Tank Engine on select dates; and the Turkey Hill Experience (just outside of Lancaster), where families can create their own ice cream flavors.

A trip to Lancaster, located within a few hours of Hershey, Gettysburg and Philadelphia, could easily be combined with a larger week or long weekend getaway in Pennsylvania.

See Lancaster Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Red Caboose Motel


Located a few hours from Philadelphia and New York, a weekend getaway to the Poconos is always a good idea, no matter the season.

Skiing during the winter months is especially great for new skiers or boarders, and the whole family will love the area"s wealth of water parks, including the new Kalahari Resort Poconos.

Families can enjoy a lake getaway in the Poconos at Lake Harmony or Lake Naomi, where camping and hiking are popular. Families who love to hike can also visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. If your family likes racing, head to the the Pocono Raceway for a family-friendly NASCAR fix.

See Poconos Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Woodloch Pines

Sesame Place

“Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” The amusement park -- the only one of its kind -- is located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, less than an hour from Philadelphia. The amusements and water park at Sesame Place are best for young kids, with tame roller coasters and character meet-and-greets among the highlights.

Elmo the Musical Live is especially perfect for little kiddos. The show happens several times throughout the day in the Sesame Studio. And don"t miss the Neighborhood Street Parade that happens both during the day and at night -- kids will love the block party on actual Sesame Street.

Visit around Halloween (and wear your costumes!) or Christmas for The Count"s Halloween Spooktacular or A Very Furry Christmas show.

See Sesame Place Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: SpringHill Suites Philadelphia Langhorne

Lehigh Valley

Families will love a weekend getaway in Pennsylvania to the Lehigh Valley, especially during the summer. Head to Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, or Musikfest -- the country"s largest free music festival -- in Bethlehem in August.

Bethlehem is also popular around the winter holidays. Otherwise known as Christmas City, the charming town celebrates the holiday season with lots of lights and tinsel, horse-drawn carriage rides, and Christkindlmarkt, a traditional German Christmas market. Christkindlarkt is hosted at the SteelStacks, where families can take a free, self-guided tour along the former Bethlehem Steel Factory year-round.

Other things to do in the Lehigh Valley include touring the Crayola Factory in Easton, which offers plenty of colorful fun, or catch a minor league baseball game at Coca Cola Park, home of the Iron Pigs.

Located about an hour from the Pocono Mountains, a Lehigh Valley getaway at Christmas time could easily be combined with a ski weekend in the Poconos.

See Lehigh Valley Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem


Filled with history, museums, and lots of good food, Philadelphia is an ideal location for your weekend getaway in Pennsylvania. It"s home to the Philadelphia Zoo, America"s first zoo; the Betsy Ross House; the Liberty Bell; and the Franklin Institute, where you can climb inside replicas of a heart and brain!

A trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is also a must -- if for nothing else than to climb the Rocky stairs! The Please Touch Museum is another great stop, especially for families with young children. Kids can “drive” a real bus, sip tea with the Mad Hatter or pump gas at the gas station at this hands-on museum.

Hungry teens and foodies will enjoy American"s oldest continuously running farmer"s market at Reading Terminal Market, where they"ll find delicious Philly foods like cheesesteaks, roast pork sandwiches and Amish baked goods.

Don"t forget to stop at Philly"s tallest (and newest) attraction, One Liberty Observation Deck, where you can view the entire city from 883 feet high in the sky.

See Philadelphia Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Loews Philadelphia

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