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15 Top-Rated Small Towns in Pennsylvania

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15 Top-Rated Small Towns in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a large state with plenty of small towns to explore. If you’re looking for a charming escape, where the pace of life is a little slower, and the locals are friendly, then look no further than this list of the 15 best small towns in Pennsylvania. Each of these towns has its own unique character and plenty of things to do and see. So pack your bags and get ready to explore some of the best that Pennsylvania has to offer.

1. Johnstown

The city of Johnstown not only has the yearly excitement that comes with hosting an Ironman competition, but also was listed as one of the best small towns in Pennsylvania to visit. Those who care about health and fitness can watch top athletes compete in triathlons along the town’s bike trail.

Johnstown was hit hard by an unexpected flood in 1889 after heavy rain pounded down on the town for thirty hours straight without stopping. At least 2,208 people were killed when they could not escape from their houses and businesses during this natural disaster. You can visit Johnstown Flood Museum that commemorates lives lost during this tragedy and exhibits different artifacts. There are also are various museums around Johnstown that teach you about its history during the Industrial Revolution.

Another place I recommend visiting is the Johnstown Inclined Plane, which is the steepest vehicular incline in the world. You can take this fun ride by foot or vehicle to ascend the side of a mountain. It has been running since 1870, and it was once used as an amusement ride when it first opened. And if you love art, you can visit the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, where you can see and buy paintings and photography pieces.

The city of Johnstown has one of the best tourist attractions in Pennsylvania because it has history and events throughout the year that gives tourists a memorable experience. It’s no wonder this town was listed as one of the top towns in America to retire.

2. New Hope

New Hope is another one of the best small towns in Pennsylvania that has more to offer than just its cute, historic appearance. This town is very lively, with lots of shopping opportunities at its various boutique stores, restaurants to eat at while admiring the view, and an abundance of wineries.

The historical appearance is definitely what makes this town attractive to tourists. One of the first things I recommend doing here is Exploring the Delaware Canal, which has become a popular attraction because you can bike, walk, or jog along the canal. Another historical site I recommend visiting is Parry Mansion, where you can see how the town’s founders, Benjamin Parry used to live back in the 18th century.

Lastly, I recommend taking a ride at New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, which is a popular train ride that allows you to relax while riding through the lush scenery.

New Hope is definitely one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania because it has so many attractions that both residents and tourists can enjoy. Not only can you visit historic landmarks, but there are plenty of fun activities for families, friends, couples, or even solo travelers!

3. Lititz

Lititz is well known in Pennsylvania for having a real German feel, and there are even parts of the town that still have this original language. Lititz has been listed as one of the best small towns in Pennsylvania mainly due to its quaint nature and amazing local restaurants.

Lititz has more than 30 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these landmarks are located on Main Street, where you can take tours led by costumed guides. You can explore specialty handmade shops, pick up homegrown produce at farmer’s markets, and try local food specialties at the many cafes and restaurants.

If you have a sweet tooth, Lititz is a must-visit town. In addition to owning one of the oldest pretzel bakeries in the country, it also has a candy shop where you can try fudge that is made right in front of your eyes. 

This is probably one of the small towns in Pennsylvania that makes you feel you’re getting a taste of history when you walk through its streets. It’s not as congested as other bigger towns might be, but there are still plenty of things to do and see around Main Street.

4. Milford

Milford is another great small town in Pennsylvania that has a lot to offer visitors. This town used to be called “The Gateway to the Poconos” because it was situated near major roads and provided easy access to various outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and biking.

There are a lot of exciting things you can do here. One is visiting Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where you can go on a hike or boat ride. You can also visit Shawnee Playhouse, which offers live musical productions from Shakespearean plays to contemporary comedies. Also, don’t forget about Milford Square Shopping Center where you can buy almost anything from clothes and shoes to toys and furniture.

Overall, Milford is one of the most affordable places to visit in Pennsylvania, with plenty of activities that are both fun and entertaining. This makes it such a good place for tourists who plan on spending more than just one day exploring the city.

5. Lancaster

Lancaster is one of the most beautiful small towns you’ll ever come across in Pennsylvania. It looks like a scene out of a historical film because everything still looks so similar to how it did back in the 18th century. The difference now is that there are lots of charming cafes, shops, art galleries, etc., interspersed between all of these historic buildings.

One of the most popular attractions here is Amish Country, which offers various stores selling handmade goods and delicious foods made according to Amish tradition. Amish buggies are very common within this area, as well as several horse-drawn plows that you can see while driving through their farmland. 

If you prefer a more urban experience, there’s also plenty of things for you. For example, check out some local art at City Hall Gallery or head over to Lancaster Central Market for some yummy lunch options. You can also take a walk around town while checking out all the cute buildings that convey the feel of the old-fashioned architecture. This is why I recommend coming here if you’re looking for one of the best small towns to visit in Pennsylvania.

6. Strasburg

This small town is home to one of the most famous attractions in Pennsylvania. A railroad was known as Strasburg Rail Road was popular during the 1700s and the 1800s. The train is still running today, and you can get a ride through the scenic countryside of the town.

Visit the Historic Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania if you really want to know about this fascinating train and how it became what it is today. You will learn things like what made it famous and popular, its significance during World War II, and even how new technology has improved the locomotive’s abilities over time.

Other attractions worth mentioning include Levee Loop Trail, which is a scenic place for hiking and biking. There’s also the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, where you can interact with farm animals and see how people lived here during the 1800s. And, of course, there are several ski resorts for winter sports enthusiasts. And with all that this town has to offer, it should definitely be considered as one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania.

7. Ohiopyle

If you love outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking/rafting, fishing, or zip-lining, then Ohiopyle is definitely for you. There are many trails located here where people can experience the breathtaking views that surround these parts.

I recommend visiting Ohiopyle State Park, which is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Pennsylvania. The trails are filled with lots of natural beauty on the meandering Youghiogheny River Gorge.

Other than that, you can also check out one of the most popular places in Pennsylvania like Cucumber Falls, located right next to Ohiopyle State Park. This waterfall definitely is worth checking out, especially when wandering around the trails in Ohiopyle. Another thing I recommend doing when visiting Ohiopyle is taking a ride on Great Allegheny Passage. This is a 150-mile biking/hiking trail that runs through the town. You can also head over to Falling-water, which is a house designed by Frank Lloyd above a fall.

All in all, Ohiopyle is a great destination in Pennsylvania if you’re looking to go on an outdoor adventure because it has a lot to offer.

8. Gettysburg

Gettysburg is one of the most historically significant cities in Pennsylvania because it is where the Battle of Gettysburg took place during the American Civil War. This town has a ton to offer when you are trying to learn about the battle, but also if you want to experience what life was like back then.

One place you can’t miss while on your tour here is the Gettysburg National Military Park. This is where you will find a memorial dedicated to the soldiers who fought here in 1863, along with a museum and a cyclorama depicting what happened during the battle in detail. This place is great for visitors of all ages to learn more about how it changed history forever.

In addition to historical attractions, there are plenty of other things to do in Gettysburg, such as enjoying a picnic at its various parks or going on a hike. Overall, I recommend visiting Gettysburg if you choose Pennsylvania as your vacation destination because it has many attractions that are great for both tourists and locals.

9. Yardley

Yardley is one of the best small towns in Pennsylvania, filled with charm and history. In fact, some people think this town has a lot more history than any other town in Pennsylvania because it used to be an important part of the Underground Railroad. People still visit this place for its historical landmarks, such as The Friends Meetinghouse, which was a meeting spot for many abolitionists during the time of the Underground Railroad.

Another thing I recommend doing while you are here at Yardley is visiting its various antique shops and art galleries. This way, you can admire some beautiful works of art or even bring them home. Aside from visiting art galleries and antique shops, I also recommend checking out Washington Crossing Historic Park and Bowman’s Hill Tower.

So if you are planning on coming here anytime soon, check out some of these attractions to enjoy all there is to do in this town.

10. Bethlehem

Bethlehem is among the best small towns in Pennsylvania that have become more than just a historical landmark for this state. Unlike other towns, Bethlehem is more focused on Christmas and holiday vibes all year round, with its annual Christmas tree lighting at the Bethlehem town square.

The experiences you get from visiting this historic city is probably what makes it one of the top tourist destination in Pennsylvania. For example, you can visit Bethlehem Heritage Sites which include: Lehigh University Art Galleries, Sands Casino Resort & Spa Bethlehem, or Moravian Museum of Bethlehem. And if you are looking for shopping opportunities, then you should definitely check out the Christmas City Village & Shops because there are numerous shops where you can find souvenirs or gifts for your loved ones.

Finally, I recommend checking out Southside Bethlehem. This was once known as the Steel Plant neighborhood but is now an arts district with murals on walls depicting some colorful scenes from Bethlehem’s history.

11. Honesdale

Honesdale is a great small town in Pennsylvania that has impressive natural beauty and plenty of activities for those who want to keep busy.

One of the first things I recommend checking out is the Wayne County Historical Society & Museum, where you can learn about local history and culture. Another great place to visit in Honesdale is Lake Wallenpaupack. It’s a great, accessible lake for fishing, boating, or just admiring its calming scenery. And lastly, if you like golfing, then you should check out Honesdale Golf Club because it’s a fun course that is very affordable as well.

As you can see, Honesdale is definitely one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania because it offers so many attractions that everyone will find something they like.

12. Wellsboro

Tourism has always been a part of Wellsboro since it was first settled in 1806. There are beautiful vistas, miles of trails for hikers and bikers to enjoy, and also an abundance of wildlife that calls this town home.

If you’re up for the adventure, Wellsboro Grand Canyon is worth exploring. People can hike on some of the different trails along gorge walls up to 80 feet tall. The best part about this spot is it has two glens that are designated as official state natural areas where you can see various types of wildlife like foxes, pheasant, turkeys, white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, and more.

Another fun activity to do while visiting this town is enjoying a railroad on the Tioga Central Railroad. You can take a ride to see different sights of the town while enjoying an old-fashioned photo shoot.

13. Lawrenceville

Among the best places to visit in Pennsylvania is Lawrenceville, which is located southwest of Pittsburgh. It is a great little town to visit due to its proximity to both countryside and metropolitan Pittsburgh, as well as its various outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, and kayaking on the Allegheny River.

The river has been designated as one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic waterways by the state department. Local businesses nearby offer equipment rentals for those wanting to get out on the water. You can also take a stroll along Arsenal Park, which is an adorable little park with trails that weave through the woods. There are also playgrounds for children at different points throughout the park. Next, take a visit to the Allegheny Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Lawrenceville.

Lawrenceville has something for everyone, from history buffs to outdoor enthusiasts. There are so many great things about this little town, and it made a wonderful stop on our road trip. You should definitely put it on your list of the best small towns in Pennsylvania to visit if you have the chance.

14. Bloomsburg

Located in Columbia County, Bloomsburg is a small college town with an even smaller population of fewer than 15,000 residents.

The town is famous for cute shops and restaurants with an outdoor setting that has been there for years. There are also museums, shops, and an art gallery within walking distance from downtown. Visit the Artspace Gallery and Museum for a collection of artwork and paintings. There is also Creekside trails if you’d like to walk around and enjoy nature for a while before heading back into town.

The best part about Bloomsburg is that it gives off that small-town vibe, but it’s close enough to other big cities that you get the best of both worlds. I spent one weekend in Bloomsburg and enjoyed hiking, checking out antique shops, and eating at great restaurants. It was the perfect balance of country charm and city attractions.

15. Jim Thorpe Town

Jim Thorpe Town is situated in the Poconos Mountains, which make up a large portion of eastern Pennsylvania. This town has traditional small-town charm with amusements, including several water parks and historical sites.

Although listed as one of the best small towns in Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe can seem pretty sketchy, to be honest. Its beautiful surrounding mountains are nice to look at, but there are not many attractions that are actually worth seeing or visiting here. There are some cool old antique stores here, but it would likely take you hours to find them all scattered throughout several blocks. So I wouldn’t plan your day around any antique shopping excursion.

However, if you are in the mood to do some hiking, scenic driving, or are just looking for a city to relax by the water, Jim Thorpe is actually the perfect place for this. It’s very quiet and peaceful. You can take short day trips out of this town to visit other towns in the area, including Jim Thorpe State Park.

In summary

These are just some of the best small towns in Pennsylvania that have become popular tourist destinations. They all still hold onto their historical backgrounds, which makes them worth visiting. So if you plan on visiting Pennsylvania, these 15 towns should at least be on your list.

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