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Pennsylvania, popularly referred to as the Keystone State, is known for a plethora of attractions and unique cultural elements. This state holds immense historical significance as the birthplace of American independence, with Philadelphia housing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Renowned for its rich history, Pennsylvania also offers significant Civil War sites, including Valley Forge and Gettysburg.
When it comes to culture, the state is recognized for its Amish Country in Lancaster, which gives visitors a glance into a traditionalist way of life. Known for its gorgeous landscapes, the state boasts the breathtaking Pocono Mountains, the stunning Delaware Water Gap, and numerous state parks providing ample opportunities for outdoor adventures.
Residents of PA are often very enthusiastic about sports, supporting teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And food lovers relish the state’s unique culinary offerings from Philadelphia’s cheesesteaks and soft pretzels to scrumptious traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. In essence, Pennsylvania is an amalgamation of historical importance, cultural richness, natural beauty, sports, and acclaimed gastronomy.
Food & Drink Pennsylvania is Known For
The Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich is one of the most famous foods to come out of Pennsylvania. Thinly sliced ribeye steak is sautéed with onions and stuffed into a long roll. Cheese, such as Cheez Whiz, provolone or American cheese, is also added. The cheesesteak was invented in Philadelphia by hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri in the 1930s. Today cheesesteaks remain a popular street food and tourist attraction in Philadelphia.
When you mention Pennsylvania, it’s impossible not to think of Hershey’s, the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America. It was in the heart of Pennsylvania in the early 20th century where Milton S. Hershey built not only a chocolate factory but an entire town named Hershey, fondly referred to as “The Sweetest Place on Earth”. The creation of the Hershey’s company itself is a story melted in gentleness and resilience.
Over time, the company evolved, and its namesake chocolate bar, with its characteristic milk chocolate flavor, became a staple in households across the country. Today, Hershey’s chocolates stand synonymous with the joy and nostalgia of simpler times. Whether they’re used for baking, s’mores, or just an indulgent treat, Hershey’s chocolates, with their humble Pennsylvania roots, have touched the hearts and taste buds of millions across the globe.
One of the top attractions in Pennsylvania is Hershey’s Chocolate World, where visitors can sip on milkshakes and learn all about how this famous chocolate is made.
Shoo-Fly Pie, an iconic dessert hailing from Pennsylvania, is a true testament to the state’s rich culinary tradition. This delicious pie has its roots in the Pennsylvania Dutch community and is a sweet, sticky, molasses-filled treat that is often compared to a coffee cake due to its crumbly texture. It is typically made with a simple pie crust filled with gooey molasses and brown sugar mixture, topped with a crumble that includes flour, butter, and sugar.
Upon baking, the molasses filling bubbles to the top, creating a delightful sticky top layer underneath the crumb topping, seemingly shooing away the flies – a speculation that gives this inimitable pie its name. Variations include the ‘wet-bottom’ version, where the bottom layer remains a syrupy, custard-like consistency, and the ‘dry-bottom’ version cooked longer to set the filling. Served warm or at room temperature, Shoo-Fly Pie is a distinct dessert beloved in Pennsylvania, evoking flavors of history and cultural heritage in every bite.
Herr’s, a name that’s nearly impossible to miss in any American snack aisle, has its origin rooted in the soils of Pennsylvania. The brand’s humble beginnings trace back to 1946 when James S. Herr bought a small potato chip company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for just $1,750.
From this modest start, Herr’s Chips have grown into a snack food empire renowned for their wide variety of flavored chips, boasting everything from classic Regular and Barbecue to distinct flavors like Old Bay and Ketchup. Today, Herr’s is one of the largest family-owned and operated snack food companies in the country, still based in its original home state.
Known for its commitment to quality and innovation, Herr’s regularly introduces new flavors while staying true to its traditional manufacturing processes, a nod to its Pennsylvania heritage. Whether enjoyed during a game, at a party, or as a simple afternoon snack, Herr’s Chips’ hearty crunch echoes the spirit of Pennsylvania in every bite.
Yuengling beer is another historic brand associated with Pennsylvania. D. G. Yuengling & Son is the oldest operating brewing company in America. Founded in 1829 in Pottsville, PA, Yuengling beer remains one of the most popular beers in the state.
Places Pennsylvania is Known For
The Pocono Mountains in northeast PA are a popular vacation destination, especially for outdoor recreation. This area is known for its scenic forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and mountains. Activities like skiing, golfing, boating, fishing, hiking, and camping draw over 20 million visitors per year. The Poconos are also home to many water parks, amusement parks, resorts, and other attractions.
Lancaster County and other parts of southeastern PA comprise Amish Country, home to the largest Amish settlement in the US. Visitors come to see the Amish’s simple way of life, shop at farmers markets and roadside stands, take buggy rides, and enjoy comfort foods like pretzels and shoofly pie. Popular spots include the Amish Farm and House, the Strasburg Rail Road, and the Rockvale Outlets.
The town of Gettysburg in southern PA is best known as the site of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Today, Gettysburg National Military Park preserves the battlefield and commemorates the events that took place there. People can take guided tours, see reenactments, visit the Gettysburg Museum, and walk among the monuments and memorials honoring the soldiers who fought.
As Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia offers top attractions like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Reading Terminal Market. Its historic sites celebrate America’s founding, while its modern dining, arts, and culture scenes make Philly a vibrant place to visit. For inspiration on all the fun things you can do here, here’s my suggested itinerary for one day in Philadelphia.
Western PA’s Pittsburgh combines industrial history with a hip, modern vibe. Must-see spots include the Andy Warhol Museum, Phipps Conservatory, Carnegie Museum of Art, and the aviary and zoo. Sports fans can catch the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates in action. Pittsburgh is also known for its ethnic food, bridges, and scenic views.
One of Pennsylvania’s most famous outdoor attractions is hiking the Appalachian Trail. The AT runs for over 500 miles through the state, offering breathtaking vistas as it winds through forested mountains and gentle valleys. Thru-hikers come from all over to take on the challenge of the entire 2,190 mile trail from Georgia to Maine, while day hikers enjoy scenic stretches like the Pinnacle in Hamburg and the scenic views at Lehigh Gap.
Landmarks and Attractions Pennsylvania is Known For
The Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American Independence, resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Commissioned in 1751 and crafted by the London firm of Lester and Pack (now known as Whitechapel Bell Foundry), it initially hung in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House which is now known as Independence Hall.
The Bell’s inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” is a reference from Leviticus in the Bible. The bell garnered its famous crack sometime in the early 19th century, though the exact circumstances are unknown.
While the bell no longer rings, it continues to be a poignant symbol of freedom, liberty, and justice. The Liberty Bell, showcased in the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, is a vital part of American history that attracts millions of visitors each year who wish to view the bell and understand its historical significance.
The Rocky Statue, one of Philadelphia’s most popular tourist attractions, holds a unique place in the city’s cultural landscape. Situated at the base of the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, famously known as the “Rocky Steps”, the statue immortalizes Rocky Balboa, the fictional boxing champ portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the acclaimed “Rocky” film series.
The bronze statue, which stands at nearly 10 feet tall and weighs approximately 800 pounds, was commissioned by Stallone himself for “Rocky III” and was crafted by artist A. Thomas Schomberg in 1980. After the film’s production, the statue was donated to the city of Philadelphia where it stands as a tribute to the underdog spirit embodied by Stalloney’s beloved character.
Today, visitors from around the world flock to snap a picture with the statue, often imitating Rocky’s triumphant pose, and to recreate his iconic run up the museum steps.
Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park, located in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a richly preserved and significant site in American history. Often referred to as the birthplace of American democracy, this 55-acre park houses several national treasures, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both debated and adopted. Adjacent to Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell Center, where a notable symbol of American freedom, the Liberty Bell, is showcased.
The park also encompasses other historical structures, such as the First Bank of the United States, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, and Congress Hall. Visitors to the park gain a deeper understanding of our nation’s founding years and can walk in the footsteps of the founding fathers, witnessing the places where critical decisions shaping the United States were made.
Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is one of the world’s premier horticultural display gardens. Set on more than 1,000 acres of lush landscapes, Longwood is home to 20 indoor gardens, 20 outdoor ones, and nearly 5,000 types of plants. The exquisite garden was created by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont in the early 20th century and combines his passion for gardens, technology, and the arts.
Highlights include an expansive conservatory, filled with exotic and rare specimens from around the globe, an Open Air Theatre featuring beautiful illuminated fountains, and a historic Chimes Tower that houses a 62-bell carillon.
Throughout the year, Longwood offers vibrant seasonal displays, diverse programming, and arts performances. From its well-timed blooming displays, children’s garden, and the enchanting, ever-changing fountain performances, Longwood Gardens provides a unique and breath-taking experience for visitors of all ages.
Fallingwater, a masterwork of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is nestled in the rural highlands of the Laurel Highlands in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. This revolutionary and aesthetically striking house was built between 1936 and 1939 as a private residence and weekend home for the Kaufmann family, notable Pittsburgh department store owners.
Fallingwater is renowned for its design that harmoniously integrates architecture with nature, as it’s built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run. Wright’s design emphasized the harmony between man and nature with its cantilevered levels, floor-to-ceiling windows, and use of local materials.
The house is now open to the public for tours, revealing its thoughtful interior design, impressive collection of fine art and custom-made furniture. Fallingwater, considered one of Wright’s most beautiful and ingenious creations, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019, affirming its significance in the world of architecture.
History and Culture & Traditions Pennsylvania is Known For
Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence holds a particular significance to the state of Pennsylvania as it was in Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, where this seminal document was debated, drafted, and adopted. In the historic building known as the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, the Second Continental Congress gathered in the hot summer of 1776 to sever ties with Great Britain.
Key figures, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, worked in this Pennsylvania landmark to form the words that would shape a nation. The iconic phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” was penned here, and on July 4, Congress officially adopted the Declaration, leading the way for the Thirteen Colonies to become the United States of America.
Today, Independence Hall is part of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, giving visitors a chance to walk in the footsteps of the founding fathers.
Pennsylvania, one of the original 13 American colonies, has a layered and significant historical narrative. Founded by English Quaker William Penn in 1681, the colony was granted to him by King Charles II of England as repayment of a debt owed to Penn’s father. Penn sought to create a refuge for members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, a religious group that faced persecution in England.
His vision for Pennsylvania was a “holy experiment” in democratic rule and religious freedom. The state’s name translates to “Penn’s Woods,” acknowledging its vast forests. Under Penn’s governance, the colony served as a notable model for religious freedom, political experimentation, and cultural diversity.
Its capital, Philadelphia, was a major center for political, economic, and cultural life – a status the city still maintains today. Pennsylvania’s legacy of tolerance and liberty made it an instrumental player in the foundation and philosophies of America, significantly influencing the democratic ideals the nation values today.
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, was a pivotal and one of the deadliest confrontations in the American Civil War. Taking place in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war’s turning point.
It was here that Union Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac successfully repelled the second invasion of the North by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The Union victory halted the Confederacy’s advance northward and marked a decline in Confederate fortunes.
A few months after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to deliver his famous Gettysburg Address, recasting the war as not just for the Union, but also as a struggle for human equality.
Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, hold a significant place in Pennsylvania’s history. The colony was founded by William Penn, a Quaker, in 1681 as a sanctuary for those of his faith facing persecution in England.
Quakers, known for their belief in the inner light, equality, conscientious objection to war, and simplicity, greatly influenced the culture and governance of Pennsylvania. Penn established Pennsylvania as a ‘Holy Experiment’, promoting religious freedom, fair treatment of Native peoples, and democratic governance, principles rooted in Quaker practices.
Quakers established the city of Philadelphia, which became a thriving center for trade and culture, as well as the site of many notable events in American history. Their influence can still be seen today in the state’s institutions and the enduring value placed on peace, liberty, and equality.
The Pennsylvania Dutch
The Pennsylvania Dutch, also known as the Pennsylvania Germans, are a cultural group primarily residing in Pennsylvania and parts of the Midwest. Despite the name, they are not from the Netherlands but are of German, Swiss, and French Huguenot descent.
Starting in the late 17th century and throughout the 18th century, they migrated to America in search of religious freedom and better economic prospects. The Pennsylvania Dutch are known for their distinct dialect, religious diversity (many being members of Anabaptist groups like the Amish and Mennonites), distinctive arts, heirloom cooking, and farming traditions. The Pennsylvania Dutch culture continues to flourish and impact the region’s daily life, architecture, food, and broader cultural practices.
Pennsylvania is home to passionate sports fans. The state has several professional sports teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL), Philadelphia Phillies (MLB), Philadelphia 76ers (NBA), and Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL). Tailgating outside the stadiums is a popular tradition, and attending a live game is an experience that many Pennsylvanians cherish.
The iconic motorcycle brand, Harley-Davidson, has a significant production facility located in York, Pennsylvania. Known as the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations in York, this sprawling facility encompasses over 230 acres and employs hundreds of skilled workers.
Established in 1973, York’s plant is responsible for the production of several key Harley-Davidson models, including the Softail, Touring, CVO, and Trike. The facility allows for a full tour where enthusiasts can witness the assembly of these legendary bikes from start to finish.
The unmistakable roar of a Harley-Davidson bike has its origins in the craftsmanship and dedication of the Pennsylvania-based workforce, making it an integral part of the brand’s identity.
The Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Orchestra, founded in 1900, is one of the “Big Five” American orchestras and holds an esteemed position in the realm of classical music. Known for its distinctive sound and storied history, the orchestra has a strong connection to Philadelphia’s vibrant cultural landscape.
Many legendary conductors have graced the podium as its music director, including dynamic names such as Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti, and, currently, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. With a robust and diverse repertoire, the ensemble has earned a reputation for innovation, having been the first ever to perform on a radio broadcast and the first to appear in a Hollywood film. T
he famed “Philadelphia Sound” is characterized by the rich, lush tones produced by its highly skilled musicians and a velvety string section. As the Philadelphia Orchestra continues to impress audiences from across the globe, it remains a vital cultural touchstone for both the city it calls home and the international music community.
What is Pennsylvania Known for Producing?
Steel production and manufacturing remain important to Pennsylvania’s economy. The state is one of the top steel producers in the U.S., behind Indiana and Ohio. Major manufacturers like U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal, Nucor and RTI International Metals have a strong presence. Other key manufacturing industries include industrial machinery, food processing, chemicals, transportation equipment and electronics.
Famous People from Pennsylvania
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., famously known as Joe Biden, is the 46th president of the United States. He was born on November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Before his presidency, he served as vice president under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. Biden’s long and storied career in public service spans nearly a half-century, including service as a senator before his vice presidency.
Taylor Swift, an internationally renowned singer-songwriter, hails from Reading, Pennsylvania. Born on December 13, 1989, her decade-spanning career has seen her become one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Pennsylvania played a key role in her early journey, with Swift developing a love for music and performance early in life.
Her experiences and surroundings in the state heavily inspired her initial foray into country music. Swift moved to Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 14 to pursue her music career more seriously, but she often references her simple, rural Pennsylvania upbringing in her lyrics and storytelling.
Bradley Cooper, a widely recognized and talented actor, was born on January 5, 1975, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His childhood and formative years spent in Pennsylvania played a crucial role in shaping his down-to-earth persona despite his Hollywood fame.
Cooper attended Germantown Academy, a preparatory school in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and later moved to New York City to attend the Actors Studio Drama School. His breakout role came with “The Hangover” in 2009, but he’s well-respected for his Oscar-nominated performances in films like “Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Sniper,” and “A Star Is Born,” the latter of which he also directed.
Andy Warhol, the iconic figure who led the pop-art movement, hails from Pennsylvania. He was born on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, the son of working-class immigrants from present-day Slovakia. Warhol’s modest upbringing in Pennsylvania’s industrial landscapes significantly influenced his work.
He studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh before moving to New York City to pursue his career. Despite his global fame, he always maintained connections to his hometown. Warhol is best known for his exploration of consumer culture and his striking, colorful portraits of cultural and political icons.
His legacy carries on in Pennsylvania; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, one of the largest museums dedicated to a single artist in the U.S., houses thousands of his works, ranging from paintings to archival materials, attesting to his transformative effect on the art world.
Will Smith, an acclaimed Hollywood actor, producer, and rapper, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born on September 25, 1968, in the neighborhood of West Philadelphia, Smith frequently mentions his Pennsylvania roots in his music and interviews, often showcasing his love for his hometown.
His breakout role as a fictionalized version of himself on the NBC television series, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” drew heavily on his experiences growing up in Philadelphia. His connection to Pennsylvania is not just through his acting but also as a musician.
As a part of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, his hit single “Summertime” has become a classic anthem for Philadelphia natives. Smith’s rise to prominence in the entertainment world showcases the trajectory of a Philadelphia boy becoming an international superstar while always maintaining strong ties to his roots.
Grace Kelly, the Hollywood icon and future Princess of Monaco, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born into a prominent family on November 12, 1929, her upbringing set the stage for her rise to stardom and eventual royal status. As the daughter of a successful businessman and an accomplished model, Grace was no stranger to the worlds of wealth and glamour from a young age.
Her dedication to the performing arts took root during her time studying at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. After achieving Hollywood fame with memorable roles in films like “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief”, she made a life-altering decision in 1956 that took her from the world of show business to the realm of royalty.
Marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Grace Kelly became Princess Grace, capturing the hearts and imaginations of audiences worldwide as she navigated her remarkable journey from Pennsylvania to the palace.
Pennsylvania is known for many things that highlight the diversity and richness of experiences the state has to offer. From its world-renowned sports teams like the Steelers, Eagles, and Penguins, to iconic foods like the Philly cheesesteak, Pennsylvania provides something for everyone.
The state has a long and storied history, being one of the original 13 colonies and playing a pivotal role in the American Revolution. This history comes to life in the many historical sites and monuments found across Pennsylvania. The state is also home to world-class art museums, theaters, and music venues, showing its dedication to arts and culture.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, top-notch education institutions, or business opportunities in major cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, you’re sure to find it in Pennsylvania. The state offers a perfect blend of sports, food, tourism, history, arts, education, business, and nature for residents and visitors alike. Pennsylvania’s diversity is what makes it such a unique and iconic state.
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