15 Most Popular Historic Sites to Visit in Pennsylvania (2021)
The State of American Independence, Pennsylvania, is no less than a storyteller when it comes to ‘History.’ From the unforgettable Civil War to World War II, Dutch settlement, founding fathers of the United States, and the declaration of Independence, the Keystone State has been through a lot since 17th century, and the History is still in the making here till the 21st. History buffs and historian from all over the United States make sure to cover Pennsylvania ones in their life, and if one fails to, he/she is definitely missing on something extraordinary.
If knowing about the past excites you, there are several stops for you in the State of Pennsylvania, including the National Military Park of Gettysburg, Washington Crossing Historic Park and the World-known Independence National Park, and the Liberty Bell. Where most of the stops could be easily found in Philadelphia and Gettysburg, the rest of the State of Pennsylvania also has tons of sights and stories.
15 Most Popular Historic Sites To Visit In Pennsylvania
For getting into more depth, go through our Pennsylvania’s historic compilation below.
1. Allegheny County Courthouse
One of the most significant architectural landmarks in Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Courthouse, is noted as a National Historic Landmark and the great achievement of designer and architect H.H. Richardson. It is in no way a small wonder but a largely intact building that will leave you spellbound with its characteristics. This masterpiece is still functional as a courthouse; thus, visitors cannot access the processional front door and stairs. However, one can access via ground-level service door and navigate up the side stairways that leads towards the wonderful entry floor. While here, make sure you catch a glimpse of Bridge of Sighs, Interior courtyard, fountain, and the former Allegheny County Jail.
TIP: The customary courthouse security check is extremely strict; thus, make sure you do not take anything controversial along.
Address: 436 Grant St, Pittsburgh
2. Augustus Lutheran Church
The oldest Lutheran church in the world, Augustus Lutheran Church, dates back to its origination in the mid-1700s. Also known as The Shrine of American Lutheranism, the church building is a prominent work of Rev. Henry Melchior Meulenberg. The Augustus Lutheran Church is both historic and active today, and there’s a ton of spiritual History to learn about. Right beside the church, one can walk through the cemetery and also pay respect to the Grave of Henry M. Meulenberg. If you want to attend the traditional ceremony, consider being here on Sunday (10:30 in the morning). However, if you want to spend some time in extreme peace, you can visit here any day (preferably weekdays) during the afternoon hours.
Address: 717 W Main St, Trappe
3. Landis Valley Museum
Landis Valley Museum is the largest Museum of early Pennsylvania German life in the United States and one of the magnificent examples of living history. This historic landmark isn’t alone a museum, but it also comprises 100 acres of farmland and about 40 prominent historic buildings. Set amidst the green grounds, the museum building might feel small at first sight, but once you begin approaching the display, everything here will start making sense. There’s a lot to learn about German Pennsylvania during early and mid-American times. Apart from the museum building, here you can also explore Log Farm and learn about life between 1760 to 1780, visit the Blacksmith Shop, Textile Processes & Garden, along with the Landis House & Stable.
Address: 2451 Kissel Hill Rd, Lancaster
4. Independence National Historic Park
When we talk about History and historic in Pennsylvania, one site that can never be excluded from the list definitely has to be the Independence National Historic Park. It is a federally protected historic district and notably the UNESCO world heritage site where the Independence and constitution of the United States were debated and adopted. The historic Park plays a great role in shaping the USA as a country altogether and thus is one of the highly prominent sites in the entire Nation. Within a minute’s walk away is the iconic symbol of American Independence, the Liberty bell. The entire area via various sites narrates centuries of American History, for example, Ben Franklin Museum, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Independence Mall, etc. Considering there’s a crowd and lines every day, make sure you visit a little early in the morning.
5. Old Economy Village
Old Economy Village is certainly a unique site but surely a gemstone of Pennsylvania, and you cannot admire it rightly until and unless you have explored it in person. It is a National Historic landmark that narrates about the 19th century’s oldest and most successful religious communal group, the Harmony Society. Here visitors can hire a guide and learn about stories of 1750 to 1850, specifically how the religious sectors flourished. There’s also a beautiful garden and small farmland outside that altogether feels extremely peaceful. The Old Economy Village is also one great venue for weddings and receptions, though not a really great site for kids to take along.
Address: 270 Sixteenth Street, Ambridge
6. Beth Sholom Congregation
The only synagogue designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Beth Sholom Congregation, is known for its architectural values. The site is designated as a National Historic Landmark, and here you can admire the treasure trove of modern architecture, a joint architectural collaboration by Louis Kahn, Robert A.M. Stern, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The arching wire-glass structure topped in fiberglass is one of the most prominent features of the site, and Wright once himself denoted it as luminous Mount Sinai. To capture the most extraordinary views, consider visiting the site during evening or night hours when it is all lit up.
Address: 8231 Old York Rd, Elkins Park
7. Gettysburg National Military Park
A site that proved a turning point for the historic Civil War, Gettysburg National Military Park is something you cannot miss to explore while in Pennsylvania. Gettysburg has seen the deadliest and bloodiest battles of the Civil War and also proved successful for the birth of New Freedom. The Military Park is largely open, with the town on its northern end and woods on both east and west. Every next stop here in the Park has a monument that tells one or the other battle stories. One can either choose from self-driving tours to guided tours; any of them will fairly take 2 to 3 hours. Everything about the Park is great and extraordinary, and hence it welcomes over 2 million visitors every year.
Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg
8. Amish Farm and House
A living history you definitely should see, the Amish Farm and House offers family-packed fun for both adults and kids alike. These 15 acres of farmland and building holds 3 centuries of knowledge and History. The property in itself is a wonder as it belongs to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. Amish Farm tours are operational all throughout the day and typically lasting 45 minutes to 1 hour. During the tours, visitors go through several rooms and houses and learn how each of them used to function back in the day. From Church services to the old Amish kitchens and simply decorated bedrooms, Amish dress, and whatnot, there’s an abundance of learning opportunities here. The Amish community still wears dresses that were finalized 300 years before, and it is no less than a fascinating fact seeing them follow the same age-old norms until today.
Address: 2395 Covered Bridge Dr, Lancaster
9. Fort Pitt Block House
Fort Pitt Block House is the oldest authenticated structure west of the Allegheny Mountains and the oldest extant structure in Western Pennsylvania that dates back its origin to the year 1764. It is basically a historic defensive building that played a key role in British fortification during the French and Indian War. Even though the house is quite small, it holds high significance to Pittsburgh, and from inside it is absolutely astonishing. Exploring the block is absolutely free, and if you are passing by the route anyway, you can stop here for a quick 30 minutes experience of learning. Fort Pitt is within the boundaries of Point State Park, and in case you happen to be in the park, it is one of the primary stops to explore.
Address: 601 Commonwealth Pl Building C, Pittsburgh
10. Reading Heritage Museum
The Reading Heritage Museum preserves and presents the rich history of the pioneering railroad and how it helped in shaping the Americana region of Pennsylvania. The Museum is operated by Reading Company Technical & Historical Society and is home to several Budd Rail Diesel Cars, pieces of retired rolling stock, Blueliners cars, several model train layouts, kids train, all of which are thematically decorated. It not only presents written but also audio and interactive information, which is quite wonderful to experience. Kids can ride almost any train they want, and for adults, there’s a lot to learn and photograph around. The Museum is operational throughout the year, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. In the neighborhood, you can also explore the Electric City Trolley Station and Museum though it is only open when it is warm outside.
Address: 500 S 3rd St, Hamburg
11. Fort Ligonier
Fort Ligonier is not just a Historic site but also one of the prominent landmarks from the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763. Earlier in the days when the fort was still under construction Battle of Fort Ligonier begun and resulted in a four-hour assault and eventually defeat of Frenchmen. Today the site is known for the little piece of History through a hub of knowledge that can be experienced in the form of a Fort and a Museum nearby. Despite being in the mid of a busy highway and a tightly packed residential neighborhood, once you are inside the premises of the fort region, it is altogether a different experience. Amidst the rush, you can actually feel about the lives and how those individuals fought during the mid of 1700s. Apart from the French and Indian History, here you can also learn about the Seven Years War in Europe. The Museum is operational all throughout the year and is a worth visit site when you are in Ligonier.
Address: 200 S Market St, Ligonier
12. Joseph Priestley House
Joseph Priestley House is a 1733 building and former home to Joseph Priestley, commonly known as “The discoverer of Oxygen.” The house was designed by his wife and is known for its Georgian and Federalist architecture. Today one can visit this 5000 sq ft house and closely admire science and its wonder all in the original founding of Priestley. Here you can find costumed docents presenting facts and details about oxygen discovery (while Priestley was in England) and Carbon Monoxide discovery while he was in Pennsylvania. Apart from that, Mr. Bletchley, a science expert here, recreates Priestley’s chemical experiment showing the presence of oxygen and other gases/ chemical, which is definitely one of the most interesting things to watch. If you are into science and history, make sure you spend some time at this apt historical site.
Address: 472 Priestley Ave, Northumberland
13. Washington Crossing Historic Park
The Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania is where you can explore about 500 acres of American History in one of the most natural and exciting ways. From school tours to history buffs and travelers coming here from around the world, the park hosts lakhs of visitors every year. The Park is so open and extensive that visitors can take a tour around, catch a pretty glimpse of the Delaware River, learn about the battle of Trento, explore 18th-century buildings, and learn a lot from this site of historic treasure. Consider being here during the Christmas days when the event of re-enactment of Washington Crossing takes place. From here, you can also capture some great views of New Jersey.
Address: 1112 River Rd, Washington Crossing
14. Asa Packer Mansion
Asa Packer Mansion is a Victorian wonder and one of the prominent historic museums in the State. It once served as home to Asa Packer, the one who pioneered railroad construction and was an active politician of Pennsylvania. Packer was best known for his major contribution to the Lehigh Valley Railroad system, and his home today is noted as one of the best-preserved Italian architecture with original furnishing and finishes in the United States. Tour to the Mansion/ museum last no longer than 1 hour and learning about the past is surely one delightful experience. The mansion is open seven days a week from Memorial Day to October 31 on weekends of April, May, and November, along with the first three weekends of December.
Address: Packer Hill Ave, Jim Thorpe
15. Somerset Historical Center
The Somerset Historical Center is a rural historic museum spread over 150 acres 4 miles north of Somerset. It isn’t like the regular museums, which are filled with artifacts but here, you can find a fair share of History, peace, and tranquillity amongst one of the most natural settings. Here you can learn about 18th-century mountain life and enjoy several seasonal events, from a magic show to musical performances, dance evenings, and whatnot. Apart from the Museum, there’s a lot more to explore, including the forests, streams, hiking trails, and scenic beauty. If you happen to be in Somerset, it is a nice and worthy place to be at.
Address: 10649 Somerset Pike, Somerset