Pennsylvania is known for small towns and many rural settings. Think of towns you would see in a Hallmark movie, and those are the type of towns you will find in the Keystone State. All are unique and have their own charm. Let’s look at a few favorites from the eastern part of the state selected for the town’s various activities for the mature traveler to enjoy.
Note: The Visit Bucks Co. hosted my stay and activities in New Hope, Encore Rides provided our bike tour, and Strasburg Rail Road provided free tickets for our train ride. All opinions remain my own.
1. New Hope
Forty miles north of Philadelphia, New Hope lies along the Delaware River and New Jersey.
It is a small riverside town where you will find a plethora of bed and breakfast inns with comfy porches and lots of activities to keep travelers busy.
In the middle of town is a trail that takes you along the Delaware Canal Towpath Trail and across the Delaware River. Bike rentals are available as you enter the town. The path is flat and smooth — great for walking or biking. It is narrow in a few places, but for the most part, it is relatively wide and the scenery is picturesque. We found the path great for social distancing. If you feel more comfortable with a bike guide, Rick at Encore Rides provides a fantastic tour that includes tidbits about the town, some history, and guidance regarding crossing bridges and state lines by bike. Allot three or four hours if planning to make one loop.
If you desire something a bit more relaxing, the New Hope Railroad in the middle of town takes you on an open-air excursion. There is also a gift shop. This stop would require an hour or so.
Head out of town for a short drive to Fonthill Castle in neighboring Doylestown. The entire castle is made of concrete. Be aware there are steps at various times throughout the castle tour. They only permit guided tours, so call and find out when they are scheduled. To participate in the interior guided tour and then walk the grounds, allow three hours.
You might also enjoy Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, which showcases native floral species to the area. They also have a unique gift shop and sell plants for you to take home. The time you need will depend on what trails you take and how much time you want to spend there.
In New Hope, other things include eclectic shops, tarot card readers, several ice cream stands, and the Bucks County Playhouse. You can grab a souvenir to take home at Peddler’s Village, an outdoor shopping village.
When it comes to dining in New Hope, we loved Karla’s — they have world-famous blood orange martinis — and Havana’s. Try their sesame onion rings. Next time I visit, I’m going to check out The Deck. We heard lots of good things about it, but they were closed when we visited.
After your evening meal, stroll down along the river and enjoy the view. There is plenty of lighting and lots of people will be walking downtown. If you walk the pedestrian bridge across the Delaware, you can look back at New Hope and all the lights. It makes a great photo.
New Hope has tons of bed and breakfast inns. We stayed at the Wedgwood Inn. Our room was lovely, and the private deck overlooked the backyard area. Other bed and breakfasts recommended are The Aaron Burr House and, if luxury is your thing, The Inn at Bowman’s Hill.
Pro Tip: New Hope is an old town with narrow streets. Parking is at a premium, and you have to pay to park in most places. You pay by kiosk, which was new for us. If staying at a bed and breakfast, you can probably walk to most downtown restaurants and shops.
Near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there is much Amish influence in the town of Lititz.
A park area with a pond, a beautiful fountain, and dozens of ducks swimming around is located in the middle of town. If you don’t have time for anything else in Lititz, go enjoy this area. Spend as much time as you desire enjoying the peace and tranquility.
The streets of Lititz are lined with quaint shops, bakeries, and unusual stores. The most unusual one we visited was The Savory Gourmet, which specializes in gourmet meat and advertises an “Adventure for your Tastebuds!” Alligator and camel jerky, wild boar chops, emu steaks, and ground ostrich were just a few of their tasty delights. It is a fun visit, even if you aren’t in the mood for unique meats. They also sell cheese from around the world. A half-hour checking out their unusual offerings is probably enough.
You won’t want to miss the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. They provide a tour and sell fresh, hand-twisted soft pretzels right from the oven. There is a small pretzel shop on one side of the building where you can buy bagged Sturgis pretzels and snacks. When we were there, we stocked up on pretzels and enjoyed a soft pretzel fresh from the oven. Plan an hour-long visit.
Lititz also has a chocolate factory: The Wilbur Chocolate Factory and retail store on Broad Street. You walk by the park with the fountain to get to the factory! They have a variety of chocolate delights offered in their showroom. Under normal conditions, they provide a chocolate tour. Check their website for current offerings. You will want to spend at least a half-hour here.
While you are there, you will want to stop in the Candyology shop. This place will transport you back to your childhood and the penny or nickel candy you used to enjoy. They have everything from Kits taffy, Pez, and Sugar Daddies to Mary Janes and boxes of Boston Baked Beans.
You will also find unique flavors of soda. We are talking different — like bacon, pickle, and sweet corn flavors. Plan to spend a half-hour reminiscing.
The Bulls Head Public House is a great place to grab lunch or dinner.
Pro Tip: Bring some food to feed the ducks. If visiting in the summer, bring a cooler for your chocolate! For an extra sweet trip, check out our tips for the perfect weekend in Hershey, PA!
Gettysburg is a town full of historical charm. History buffs and shoppers will delight in this quaint town. You will find pieces of history everywhere you look, from the battlefields to the museums. There are dozens of shops lining the streets, plus outlets for the avid shopper.
Of course, the biggest attractions in Gettysburg are the battlefields and historic Gettysburg National Military Park. A great battle during the Civil War was fought here, and the famous Gettysburg Address was delivered here. There are various tours from self-guided driving to hopping on their bus, sitting back, and relaxing as they explain the different things you are seeing. There are also tours by horseback. Plan to spend at least a half-day touring the battlefields.
While in Gettysburg, visit the home and farm of the 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Eisenhower National Historic Site was a meeting spot for world leaders during his presidency. During your visit, you will see over 40,000 artifacts. Plan a half-day here.
If time is limited, visit the Gettysburg Diorama. An 800-square-foot display recreating the Battle of Gettysburg in impressive detail contains more than 20,000 hand-painted soldiers, weapons, horses, and buildings. There is a narrated soundtrack telling the story of the Battle of Gettysburg. The narration lasts 30 minutes. Plan an hour-long visit.
A fun way to see some of Gettysburg’s high points is with the Segway Tours of Gettysburg. You can get around town without so much walking.
Near Gettysburg is the Sachs or Waterworks Covered Bridge that runs across March Creek. The 100-foot bridge served as a strategic spot for both forces during the Civil War.
There are so many yummy places to eat in Gettysburg; you won’t have to hunt far to find something delicious. Be sure to stop at Gettysburg Baking Company for made-from-scratch pastries and bread. You can also grab a quick lunch there.
Another place I recommend is Gettysburg Eddie’s. It is a fun place to eat that pays tribute to a local baseball player, and their menu has something for everyone. Gettysburg Eddie’s is right across the street from the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
Pro Tip: Bring walking shoes.
Strasburg is a town for train lovers. Also known as Traintown U.S.A., Strasburg is home to many railroad attractions. Here you will find the Choo Choo Barn, an annually updated toy train display, as well as the National Toy Train Museum and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
The Choo Choo Barn would be an hour or so visit depending on how much you enjoy model trains.
The Railroad Museum provides 100 historic locomotives and railroad cars that chronicle American railroad history for your viewing pleasure. Plan to spend a minimum of three hours at this site.
You can ride the Strasburg Rail Road for a scenic narrated tour through Amish farm country. The round trip is under an hour. There are gift shops and interesting things to view on the grounds. I would plan a minimum of two hours at the railroad.
Pro Tip: If you are a true train lover, you can even sleep in a caboose at the nearby Red Caboose Motel.
Whichever small town you select to visit in Eastern Pennsylvania, you will enjoy old-fashioned charm and hospitality. For more adventures in the Keystone State, we recommend these 15 unique places in Pennsylvania perfect for mature travelers.