If you’re looking for the best historical sites in Pennsylvania for 2023, you’re in the right place. Not only do I love history, but I have lived in Pennsylvania most of my life.
Known as the Keystone State, Pennsylvania sits right in the middle of the original 13 colonies, and played a crucial role in our nation’s history from its very beginning.
From colonial settlements, old houses, forts and battlefields—to an actual castle—here is a list of the best historical sites in PA to check off your bucket list.
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Table of Contents
Before we dive into this post, I invite you to grab a copy of my TRAVEL PLANNER. This 16-page PDF guide helps you organize your trip, from what to pack, to preparing a budget and keeping a schedule.
Most Popular Top Historical Sites in Pennsylvania
Let’s start our road trip with some of the historical sites in PA that you may already have on your bucket list. These historical destinations are popular with travelers and are visited by thousands every year.
One of the most popular historical sites in PA is in my hometown of Gettysburg, where a three-day battle was fought in July of 1863. The Gettysburg National Military Park. encompasses 6,000 acres and tells the story of the battle that resulted in more than 50,000 casualties.
The park features the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, which houses artifacts and exhibits on the history of the battle. Visitors can also take a guided bus tour of the Gettysburg National Park battlefield or explore the park on their own.
Spreading across 6,000 acres, the park also features a number of monuments and memorials to the soldiers who fought and died there during the Civil War.
Make sure you add downtown Gettysburg to your itinerary as well. There are shops, boutiques, and one-of-a-kind restaurants, bars and pubs. If you’re not sure when to plan your trip, read about the best time to visit Gettysburg.
I loved visiting historic Philadelphia last year, which is home to several historic sites that played a role in our founding and the American Revolution.
In addition to the iconic Liberty Bell, Independence Hall is a must-see for everyone who is interested in visiting historical sites in PA.
It’s amazing to be able to walk into the building and see the very room where the Founders ironed out the details of our Constitution.
Because there is so much history in Philadelphia, it’s definitely worthwhile to book a walking tour to see everything up close and at a slow pace.
If walking isn’t your thing, no worries. There is also a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.
It’s the actual tent our first president used while leading the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Amazing!
Valley Forge is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia and is the site of the winter encampment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
You can just drive through, but leave plenty of time, because you will probably want to park and explore a little or take some photos.
Visitors can also walk or bike through the beautiful Pennsylvania landmark park, which is a great way to learn about the hardships that the soldiers faced during the winter of 1777-1778.
Valley Forge Park also features a museum and visitors’ center that has exhibits on the history of the Revolutionary War.
It’s a beautiful way to spend the day and makes a perfect day trip from Philadelphia.
Pro Tip: Leave enough time to explore the Visitors’ Center and museum, as well as drive around the park.
Historical Sites In PA Related To Trains & Railroads
If you or someone in your family is into trains, there are a number of historical sites in PA that will make their dreams come true. Here are just a few:
The East Broad Top Historic Train Ride makes this list of historical places in Pennsylvania because it is the oldest narrow-gauge railroad anywhere in the United States, and the only surviving three-foot gauge common carrier railroad east of the Rocky Mountains.
Excursions from the historic Orbisonia Station take passengers on a scenic one-hour roundtrip through rolling hills, farms, and forests to create an unforgettable experience for train lovers and everyone else as well.
Originally constructed in 1872, this is a unique Pennsylvania landmark that offers an educational and nostalgic trip back in time.
421 Meadow Street Rockhill Furnace, PA
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Located in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, this is the site of the first railroad to cross the mountains and connected the Midwest to the Eastern seaboard.
Visitors can take a tour of the site and learn about the history of the Portage Railroad and its impact on transportation in the United States.
An 1834 stone structure called the Lemon House is also featured on this PA historical site. Now owned by the National Park Service, it operated as a tavern serving passengers on the Railroad.
If you want to get some exercise, there are hiking trails that take you to the Staple Bend Tunnel, the first railroad tunnel through a mountain, and the Skew Arch Bridge, a bridge over the railroad tracks that was designed to accommodate the bend in the turnpike road.
110 Federal Park Road
Gallitzin, PA 16641 (GPS Warning: Some visitors say it is better to put the town as “Cresson” instead of “Gallitzin”)
Old-timers will love hearing the chug-chug of the old steam trains at this historical site in Scranton. It is located on about 40 acres of a railroad yard from one of the earliest rail lines in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The park features a large collection of standard-gauge steam locomotives and freight and passenger cars.
You can even hop on board for their seasonal short train rides or longer train excursions!
150 South Washington Avenue Scranton , PA
Colonial Historic Sites In PA Are Hidden Gems
You many not have heard of these historical sites in PA, but they are no less important. Put these hidden gems on your bucket list.
Located in Fayette County, the Fort Necessity National Battlefield is a Pennsylvania landmark that features a reconstructed fort, as well as a museum and visitor center with exhibits about the French and Indian War.
There is also a walking trail with interpretive signs that takes visitors through the battlefield and offers a better understanding of what happened during that era in our nation’s history.
The Fort Necessity National Battlefield is a great place for history buffs, military enthusiasts, and anyone interested in learning about the French and Indian War.
The exhibits provide a great learning experience.
1 Washington Parkway Farmington , PA
This Pennsylvania landmark historical site is on my bucket list. It’s a 500-acre park located along the banks of the Delaware River, marking the area where Washington famously crossed his troops during the American Revolution.
In addition to commemorating that historic event, the Park features restored Colonial buildings like the Thompson-Neely House and McConkey Ferry Inn.
Visitors can also see the home of a prosperous merchant, a village general store, and homes for skilled artisans.
This historical site in Pennsylvania also contains Bowman’s Hill Tower, Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves, stone memorials, picnic pavilions and historic collections.
1112 River Rd, Washington Crossing, PA
The Fort Pitt Block House is located in Pittsburgh’s Point State Park, and is truly one of the most amazing historical sites in PA that is still standing.
It is all that remains of Fort Pitt, the largest and most elaborate British in North America during the French and Indian War.
Constructed in 1764, the building was first used as a defense from Native American Indian attacks during the mid-18th century. When the British abandoned Fort Pitt in 1772, the Block House became a trading post.
During the American Revolution Fort Pitt became the western headquarters for the Continental Army, but after the war, the United States Army dismantled the fort and replaced it with a smaller garrison.
The Block House survived the demolition of Fort Pitt because it was converted into a single-family dwelling in 1785. Over the next one hundred years, different families of various sizes, classes and backgrounds lived in the Block House.
In 1902, the structure against faced possible demolition to make way for the construction of warehouses and railway terminals. The Fort Pitt Society, an all-female and all volunteer group, stood up to the Pennsylvania Railroad and powerful industrialists.
The Block House has remained free and open to the public as a PA historical site and museum for almost 120 years. It receives no state or federal funding.
What an amazing monument to the past. It’s one of those historical Pennsylvania landmarks that has stood witness to events since before this country was even born.
601 Commonwealth Pl, Building C, Pittsburgh, PA.
Industrial-Related Historical Sites In PA
The Carrie Furnaces are a former blast furnace complex located in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania.
Built in 1907 and operated by the Carnegie Steel Company and later by the U.S. Steel Corporation, the Carrie Furnaces produced iron for over 90 years and were an important part of the region’s industrial heritage.
The two blast furnaces at the site, known as Carrie Furnaces 6 and 7, were among the largest and most modern in the world at the time of their construction.
Fueled coal and coke, they were used to produce molten iron which was then transformed into steel. The furnaces were in continuous operation until 1978, when they were decommissioned due to the declining demand for steel.
Today, the Carrie Furnaces are a popular tourist destination and a symbol of the region’s industrial heritage. They have been preserved as a National Historic Landmark and are open to the public for tours and events.
623 E. Eighth Avenue, Homestead, PA
It’s amazing how far this country progressed during the Industrial Revolution, and this historical site in PA really lets you see the innovation that took place during this era.
The park’s 848 acres contains historic structures that illustrate the business, technology and lifestyle of the growing nation from 1771 to 1883.
Hopewell and other “iron plantations” like it, laid the foundation for the transformation of the United States into an industrial giant.
Visitors can take a tour of the site and learn about the history of iron production in the United States. Great learning experience for kids.
2 Mark Bird Lane Elverson, PA
It’s always fun when you can combine history with eating and shopping, and that’s what you can do at the Reading Terminal Market.
This public market was established in 1893 and has been in continuous operation since then, making it one of the oldest continuously operating public markets in the country.
Over the years, the Reading Terminal Market has served as a hub of commerce and a gathering place for the city’s residents, and it has remained a staple of Philadelphia’s food culture.
The market is home to more than 80 local and regional vendors, offering a diverse selection of fresh produce, meats, dairy products, baked goods, and specialty foods.
12th and Arch streets in Philadelphia, PA
The Drake Well Museum and Park chronicles the birth and development of the petroleum industry in Pennsylvania on its 240-acre site.
It features a board-for-board replica of Edwin L. Drake’s engine house built around the National Historic Landmark well, operating oil field machinery, 12,000 square feet of interior exhibits, and the largest artifact and archival collection focused on the birth of the modern petroleum industry.
This is one of those historic sites in PA where you can spend the day, not only learning about an important facet of history, but enjoying nature as well.
This park features paved bike trails, delayed harvest fly fishing in Oil Creek, modern picnic facilities, hiking trails, and a neighboring 9,000-acre state park.
202 Museum Ln, Titusville, PA (northwestern Pennsylvania)
Historical Sites In PA Related To Tragic Events
We can learn from tragedies, so even if it makes us uncomfortable, it’s important to visit historical sites that honor those affected by these events of natural disasters and man-made tragedies.
14. Johnstown Flood National Memorial
This historical site is located in western Pennsylvania and is the site of the devastating Johnstown Flood of 1889. Visitors can take a tour of the site and learn about the history of the flood and its impact on the community.
This flood was one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history, killing more than 2,200 people and causing widespread destruction.
The memorial was established in 1964 to commemorate the lives lost and to preserve the memory of the event for future generations.
It is situated on the site of the South Fork Dam, which failed during a massive rainstorm on May 31, 1889. A wall of water rushed down the Little Conemaugh River, causing widespread destruction in the city of Johnstown.
Today’s memorial features a visitors center, which houses exhibits on the history of the disaster and its aftermath, as well as a museum store and restrooms.
The memorial is a must-visit for anyone interested in American history and the lessons that can be learned from natural disasters.
The Shanksville Memorial site is one of the most important historical sites in PA that memorializes the brave actions of ordinary citizens.
It’s a hard place to visit, but it is a place that everyone should see. (I mean really, bring tissues. It hits you hard).
The site is dedicated to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, who bravely sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2001.
On that fateful day, the flight was hijacked by terrorists as part of the 9/11 attacks, and instead of reaching its intended target, it crashed into a field in Shanksville. The site serves as a symbol of heroism and remembrance for the 40 individuals who lost their lives that day.
The memorial site is spread over more than 2,200 acres, and includes a memorial plaza, a wall of names, and a nearby Visitor Center .
Visitors to the Shanksville Memorial site can take a self-guided tour, attend ranger-led programs, or walk the 1,600-foot trail that circles the crash site.
Early Pennsylvania Landmarks
16. Ephrata Cloister
The Historic Ephrata Cloister marks one of America’s oldest religious communities. Founded in 1732 by German settlers, the Cloister is a monument to those who were seeking spiritual goals rather than earthly rewards.
The community consisted of celibate Brothers and Sisters, and a married congregation of families at gathered in European style buildings. In the 1740s and 1750s, the community had about 300 members who worked and worshiped at the Cloister.
This National Historic Landmark is open for self-guided and guided tours with limited hours. You can also take a virtual tour online.
632 West Main Street, Ephrata PA
The Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is an amazing grouping of buildings that showcases some of the oldest industrial buildings in the United States.
I have to say I enjoyed visiting Bethlehem more than any other town I’ve been to. So much history, including the oldest bookstore in the country, and possibly the world!
The area was originally settled by Moravian missionaries in the 18th century, who established a self-sufficient community focused on agriculture, crafts, and industry.
The oldest building in the Colonial Industrial Quarter is the Waterworks was built in 1762. It is the oldest waterworks system in the country, and still stands!
Three other iconic buildings in the Industrial Quarter are the 1761 Tannery, the 1869 Luckenbach Mill, and the Dye House, built in 1761.
Bethlehem has a number of museums and walking tours that help explain its Moravian beginnings.
If you want to visit one of the most charming and beautiful historical sites in PA, plan a trip to Bethlehem and stay in the historic Hotel Bethlehem.
Historic Houses in Pennsylvania
A tour of President James Buchanan’s Wheatland features costumed tour guides who share facts and stories about Buchanan’s personal and professional life.
In 1856, Wheatland was the hub of Buchanan’s successful campaign to become the 15th President of the United States. During his presidency, the stately house served as his retreat from politics, which is why it makes the list of important historical sites in PA.
Buchanan also represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the Senate, and he served as Minister to Russia, Secretary of State, and Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
The brick house at Wheatland consists of a Federal-style two and one-half story central section flanked by three-story wings. The main block of the building contains a central hall with two matching rooms on either side; there are 17 rooms in all.
A Doric-columned porch dominates the front of the main section of the house, giving the home a stately appearance.
This historic site in Pennsylvania offers a nice way to spend a few hours learning about a president that is not that well known.
1120 Marietta Ave., Lancaster, PA
Historical Sites In PA With Beautiful Architecture
The State Capital building is a work of art with a 271-foot stained glass dome that features a 17-foot bronze statue on top.
Built and furnished at a cost of $13 million in 1906, the Capitol features paintings, stained glass and furnishings by some of the best artisans of the day.
The building remained the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for 80 years
It is truly amazing to see the vaulted dome and grand staircase in person. Murals and painted floors inside make it a must-see Pennsylvania historical site that is an artistic and architectural treasure.
Getting married? Check out these wedding venues in Gettysburg.
20. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
This historical landmark in Pennsylvania is an architectural marvel that is also a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the house is perched high on a rock with a beautiful waterfall seeming to be part of the house.
I love the sound of running water, and this house, built in the 1930s, is ingeniously designed to blend seamlessly with the tranquil woods and nature surrounding it.
This is another one of the historical sites in PA that I’m putting on my bucket list.
Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, you can book a tour with transportation,
21. Fonthill Castle
Who knew there was a castle in Pennsylvania?
Built between 1908-1912, Fonthill Castle was the home of Henry Chapman Mercer, who used it as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints.
These include several thousand European and American prints, and decorative ceramic tiles from Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
There are also tiles produced at Mercer’s own Moravian Pottery and Tile Works that are inset into Fonthill’s walls and ceilings.
The castle features 44 rooms, more than 200 windows, and 18 fireplaces. It is open for guided one-hour tours, but has limited accessibility with steep stairs and narrow, uneven passages throughout.
Located one mile from the Mercer Museum.
525 East Court Street, Doylestown, PA
Wrap-Up Of Historical Sites In Pennsylvania
Visiting historical sites in PA is a great way to help you and your family understand what an important role the state played in our country’s history.
Each one of the historical landmarks on this list offers a unique perspective on the state’s history and the United States as a whole.
By exploring these historical sites in PA, visitors can get a glimpse into the past that showcases the hard work and ingenuity of early Americans.
We’re lucky that we’re able to take advantage of the opportunity to see, touch, experience and explore the places that shaped our history.
It’s so much more interesting than reading about it in a history book!