As my husband and I have traveled across our home state of Pennsylvania, we have found that almost every county has a few unique places the mature traveler would enjoy visiting. Previously I wrote about 15 Unique Places In Pennsylvania Perfect For Mature Traveler. We have found quite a few more places we think you will enjoy. Here are 15 more of our favorites.
1. Johnstown Flood Museum, Johnstown
A phenomenal storm and a neglected dam led to a catastrophe on May 31, 1889. It was a tragedy that caused the death of 2,209 people. But it is also a story of triumphant recovery. You can learn about this shocking episode in American history at the Johnstown Flood Museum.
The museum tells the story through exhibits of what the town was like before the flood occurred. A relief map illustrates the path of the flood. Sound and light effects showcase the events from the time it started raining until after the flood.
You may be wondering why this flood was so impressive that it has its own museum. Here is why:
- When the dam broke, 20 million tons of water crashed downstream. That is about the same amount of water that goes over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes.
- There was a distance of 14 miles between the dam that failed and Johnstown.
- The great wave was traveling 40 miles per hour and measured about 40 feet high when it hit Johnstown.
- Several locomotives weighing 170,000 pounds were swept as far as 4,800 feet from the force of the floodwaters.
A 26-minute Academy Award-winning documentary about the flood can also be viewed at the museum. It is played every hour on the second floor.
2. French Azilum, Towanda
Before "losing her head," there were plans to send Marie Antoinette to live in exile in what is now Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Refugees had a choice to flee France or face the guillotine during the French Revolution. The planned settlement along the Susquehanna River built for refugees is known as the French Azilum. The site is available for tours from May through October.
Special events are scheduled, such as reenactments, art classes, blacksmith workshops, and others, so be sure to check out their website to see what is happening as you plan your visit.
3. Buttermilk Falls, New Florence
Once called Aurora Falls, this 48-acre natural area has been set aside to protect the natural beauty and unique and typical animal and plant communities. The highlight of Buttermilk Falls is an impressive 45-foot waterfall surrounded by scenic woodland.
This area was once owned by Fred McFeely, grandfather to Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood children's television show). It was utilized as a private retreat.
Development at Buttermilk Falls is limited in order to preserve the natural setting. There is a small picnic pavilion, a parking area, a restroom, and a falls viewing area overlook. There are also hiking trails available. You can take a steep trail and steps down to the falls and even go behind them, but be aware there is uneven ground on the trail. There is no winter maintenance on the steps or platforms, so visiting during the winter is at your own risk.
Note: There are numerous Buttermilk Falls in Pennsylvania, so make sure you are navigating to 570 Valley Brook Rd, New Florence, Pennsylvania, which is the correct address.
4. The Catacombs Restaurant, Mount Joy
This unique upscale eatery is located several stories below the street surface in Bub's Brewery's aging cellars. When you visit The Catacombs Restaurant, a host provides a tour of the historic brewery on your way to the cellar.
The brewery is a story in itself as it dates back to 1876 when Alis Bube purchased the small Mount Joy brewery. There were hundreds of "Lager era" breweries around the turn of the century, but Bube's is the only one that still stands in almost intact condition in the U.S. today.
On your way to dinner, you will descend 43 feet into the Catacombs' stone-lined vaults. The menu for this unique upscale dining experience includes various gourmet and traditional dishes.
A full wine and cocktail list and a variety of rotating house-brewed and draft beer selections are available. You can also purchase beverages while you wait to dine in the Bottling Works on the street level.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, reservations are recommended at the Catacombs.
5. Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney
Have you heard of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who forecasts the weather? He predicts the upcoming six weeks of weather every year on February 2, Groundhog Day. People from all over the world come to watch the furry weather forecaster in action. Gobbler's Knob is where his handlers allow him to greet the crowd.
When Phil comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep, he hunts for his shadow. If he sees it, that means six more weeks of winter, and he returns to his hole. If he doesn't see his shadow, he stays above ground because spring is on the way.
Thousands attend the Groundhog Day event in Punsy every year for Phil's prognostication. This year (2021), the event will be virtual due to COVID.
It usually is wall to wall people on Groundhog Day, but you can visit the site at other times. It is a fun and interesting visit. You can see where they keep Phil before allowing him to come out into the public. You can also view the podium and where the crowd congregates.
We were there in the summer and enjoyed a picnic lunch.
There are all kinds of things associated with Punxsutawney Phil in the town. During the remainder of the year, Phil stays in a plexiglass burrow connected with the town park, Barclay Square, and the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. Even when the library is closed, you can still see Phil since they have made the clear climate-controlled tunnels for him to roam around in viewable from the outside.
If you enjoy a good bottle of wine, check out the Groundhog Winery, where Phil's cousins grace the bottle labels.
6. Doolittle Station, DuBois
When visiting DuBois in Clearfield County, stop by the Doolittle Station. Situated right off of Interstate I-80, Dolittle Station offers a variety of fun things to do. You will walk back into history when you enter the 1880 B and O replicated Rail Depot turned into Doolittle Station Museum.
There is also an animatronic dinosaur museum as well as a model railroad museum and several restaurants. Railfans will especially enjoy sleeping the railcar bed and breakfast or the unique dining experience in one of two different dining cars at Doolittle Station. While you are there, enjoy a craft beer.
7. Ricketts Glen State Park, Benton
You can find some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Pennsylvania at Ricketts Glen State Park. The Falls Trail showcases a series of 22 free-flowing waterfalls, each cascading through clefts in an ancient hillside. The 94-foot Ganoga Falls is the highest.
The park is comprised of 13,193 acres and offers year-round activities -- everything from swimming in the summer to hunting and snowmobiling in the winter. They offer cabins and campgrounds for those wishing to spend the night.
Hands-on activities, presentations, and guided walks for the general public are provided from March to November.
8. Tunkhannock Viaduct, Nicholson
Considered an "Engineering Wonder of the World," the historic Tunkhannock Viaduct in the Endless Mountains spans two mountains.
When this bridge was built in 1915, it became the largest concrete bridge in the world. The bridge is almost 300 feet above the valley floor and is 2,375 feet long.
It was constructed over 100 years ago and has stood the test of time as trains still travel across the 11 arches high above Tunkhannock Creek. Every traveler should take time to visit this historic bridge.
9. Benezette, Elk County
Known as the Elk Capital of Pennsylvania, Benezette is located in the heart of the state's wild elk herd. The herd consists of 1,400 majestic animals that roam Elk County. You can view the elk throughout the year. Babies arrive in the spring, elk lounge in the shade in the summer, fall is rutting season, and in winter, they stand out against the white snow, and it is the perfect time for taking photos.
If you are interested in an elk viewing adventure, the best spot to begin is at the Elk Country Visitor Center located on Winslow Hill. Another viewing spot is the Mt. Zion Historical Park near Benezette.
There are other activities in the area throughout the year. Check their website to see what is happening when visiting.
10. Eagles Mere Auto Museum, Eagles Mere
Representing an era when the United States dominated the auto manufacturing industry, the Eagles Mere Auto Museum features a collection of American-made cars and trucks from the 1950s and 1960s.
The Museum showcases over 75 vehicles and many unique pieces of vintage memorabilia. During the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were full of optimism, confidence, and youthful exuberance. In the ’50s, cars were lower, longer, and sleeker, leaving their boxy ancestors in the dust. Cars became flashier with chrome, tail fins, and unique paint colors. The ’60s were all about muscle, speed, and engine power. Visitors will delight in the fast charging Camaros and Chevy Chevelles on display.
Note: The Eagles Mere Auto Museum is currently closed due to COVID. Please check their website for opening information.
11. Wolf Sanctuary Of PA, Lititz
Animal lovers will enjoy visiting the Wolf Sanctuary of PA. Secured on 80 plus acres of woodland in Lititz in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country is the Wolves of Speedwell's home.
The Darlington Family has provided refuge to wolf-dogs and gray wolves for over 40 years. Once a private rescue, the Wolf Sanctuary of PA has grown into much more. It is an education facility devoted to high-quality care and enrichment for wolves.
The sanctuary provides tours that are reservation only. All tours and events are held outside, and the trails are natural rocks, grass, and dirt. There is one hill during the tour that is moderately steep.
The Wolf Sanctuary of PA provides public, private, photography, and Full Moon Fundraiser tours. All require reservations.
12. Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum And Candy Emporium
Once you visit Mister Ed's, you will never forget it. The collection features more than 12,000 elephant figurines, political paraphernalia, toys, circus souvenirs, and more.
Mister Ed received his first elephant as a wedding gift. Then he supposedly purchased a few additional elephants on his honeymoon. His collection continued to grow over the years, and he eventually had more elephants in his “herd” than he had space. So he created a museum to display them for the world to enjoy at no charge.
If the elephant collection is not a big enough reason to stop, the candy from yesteryear may entice you. Revisit your childhood with Mister Ed's old-time candy selection. With over 700 varieties of candy, you will feel like a kid in a candy store as you pick out your favorites. Remember the Wax Bottles, Root Beer Barrels, Mary Janes, Turkish Taffy, and Candy Buttons?
You will also find over 70 flavors of homemade fudge and all kinds of freshly roasted nuts. While you are visiting, enjoy a walk through their seven gardens, each with a different theme.
13. Mercer Museum, Doylestown
This museum is different from most. You will find items everywhere, including baby buggies hanging from the ceilings and a whole bunch of other odd, strange, and unique things.
The eccentric concrete Mercer Museum in Doylestown was designed by Henry Mercer and built from the inside out by hand.
There is so much to see hidden in every possible location, and it is impossible to see everything in a single visit.
From the outside, the six-story museum looks like a European castle. The inside is eccentric and one of those places you have to see to believe.
14. Fonthill Castle, Doylestown
Another one of Henry Chapman Mercer's designs, the Fonthill is a real castle made totally from cement. This castle was Henry's home and showplace for his collection of prints and tiles.
Note: My visit to the Fonthill Castle was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
The 44-room Fonthill castle was completed in 1912 and is one of the first reinforced concrete examples. Not only are all the walls and floors made of concrete, but many of the furnishings are also. Concrete desks, beds, chairs, et cetera, make up this unique castle.
The castle has 18 fireplaces and over 200 windows. Much of the castle's interior is decorated with handcrafted ceramic tiles designed by Mercer at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement.
While the inside was impressive, I also found the grounds to be beautiful and inviting, with flower bushes blooming and a sitting area near the pond.
Fonthill Castle provides guided one-hour tours. This is a historical site, and there is limited accessibility with steep stairs and narrow, uneven passages throughout the castle.
15. Highland Chocolates, Wellsboro
Who doesn't enjoy chocolate? Highland Chocolates has been featured in the national news for their sweet treats and great story. The shop on Route 6 is known for delicious confections and produces chocolate by employing adults with different abilities.
A non-profit chocolate factory and retail store providing vocational training and employment for adults with disabilities shows the power of community and helping others.
All products are made fresh daily. Famous for their pretzel bark, they also offer hundreds of different molded chocolates, sweet snack mixes, fresh fudge, and handcrafted chocolate gifts for every occasion.
Stop in and enjoy some delicious treats. During non-COVID times, take a tour of the Highland Chocolate factory and watch the treats being made in front of you.
There you have it, 15 more unique, one-of-a-kind places to visit in Pennsylvania. Each provides a different experience for you to enjoy. For more of my Pennsylvania recommendations, consider