Many people attribute New York City or Boston as important historical cities. However, I have just now recalled the locations of 10 famous historical landmarks in Pennsylvania you shouldn’t ignore.
If you’re interested in studying early American (U.S.) history, you probably won’t want to skip Pennsylvania. By the way, Washington D.C. is only about two hours’ driving distance away from Philadelphia, PA. You could go to both locations in one day.
You could also drive to Hershey in only about two hours. What’s more, Flight 93 in Stoystown, PA Memorial is only a little less than three hours from Washington D.C. Important Revolutionary War and Civil War battle sites are in PA that you don’t want to miss either.
The 10 Pennsylvanian landmarks below will provide some of the missing pieces of American history you may not know. These historical sites also present you with information from at least as early as the 1700s to the start of the third decade of the 21st century in an efficient manner.
You can shorten the amount of time it takes you to learn about hundreds of years of American events this way.
Famous Landmarks in Pennsylvania
1. Liberty Bell
Both John Pass and John Stow had fashioned the Liberty Bell hung in the Pennsylvania State House after 1753. It’s the second one displayed in the State House after the first one cracked upon the initial attempt to ring it.
The Pennsylvania State House is now called the Independence Hall. By the way, the original name of the bell was the State House Bell.
Replicas of the original Liberty Bell are now hanging up all over the nation. It has long become a symbol of freedom for the United States, especially after the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
No one knows when the second bell to remain hung in the Independence Hall first cracked. Researchers speculate that it happened after about 90 years of wear and tear.
In 1935, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Fallingwater home. It’s built over a waterfall that flows down the Laurel Highlands in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Sandstone for building Fallingwater came right from the property the home sits on. The waterfall dwelling included main and guest houses and a service wing to be completed by 1939.
The Kaufmann family, who owned a large Pittsburg department store, often used the Fallingwater residence as a vacation home. Eventually, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. turned over the home and the 469 acres of land to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Fallingwater now invites the public to tour it. The area surrounding it has expanded to 5,100 acres of trails, streams and other natural areas. As of 2019, the property has made the World Heritage list of significance.
3. Gettysburg National Military Park
The Gettysburg National Military Park commemorates the bloodiest battle taking place during the Civil War. It’s what disrupted General Robert E. Lee’s second northern invasion, making it a win for the Union army in the fight for freedom from slavery.
The horrific Gettysburg battle had inspired the Gettysburg Address that President Abraham Lincoln became famous for.
Hundreds of years would have to pass before descendants of slaves could begin to experience a fraction of the privileges that white families had.
Gettysburg’s national park commemorates an important milestone in American history, however. It’s part of a long chain of events that have shaped the future of human rights.
4. Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary used to house prisoners and was once the most famous prison in the world. It used to run on a high budget but now has disintegrated into ruins.
Some of the most infamous inmates spent time here. These include Victor “Babe” Andreoli, Morris “The Rabbi” Bolber, Freda Frost and Leo Callahan.
The Eastern State Penitentiary first opened in 1829. It confined people and put them to work, and it instilled strict discipline to maintain order in hopes of criminal reform.
5. Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has more than 200,000 pieces of creative works. It first hosted the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, which led to the opening of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art started out collecting industrial pieces. It later grew to include jewelry, metalwork, pottery and porcelain, books and antique furniture. Textiles and paintings also became a part of the Philadelphia Museum displays.
From the museum’s opening in the late 1800s to after 2020, you’ll find hundreds of years’ worth of objects representing different design periods. Pieces include artwork from different continents with concentrations in East and South Asia, America and Europe. This gallery also has 200 years of African art onsite.
The latest contemporary exhibits displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art include creations from 1950 to the present (2022). Works by Cy Twombly, Zoe Leanard and Ellsworth Kelly name a few of the artists.
Famous artwork collections include pieces owned by Daniel W. Dietrich. Kieth L. and Katherine Sachs also have some of the objects they owned displayed at the Philadelphia Museum. Get a glimpse of this gallery’s history to prepare you for any upcoming tours you may take.
It only takes about 10 minutes to walk from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Schuylkill River. Paine’s Park is also only a short walk from the museum. You can access it from across the water near Drexel Park via the Spring Garden Bridge.
6. Independence National Historical Park
The Independence National Historical Park has made the UNESCO World Heritage site’s list of significant places. It includes the Independence Hall, where the debate and signing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. The Constitution took place.
Construction of Independence Hall, originally named the Pennsylvania State House, began in 1732. All the branches of the United States Government (Executive, Judicial and legislative) first conducted business here.
7. Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania provides outdoor recreation just about every day of the year. You can find overnight accommodations nearby. Then, come to this park and enjoy boating, hiking, swimming, bicycling and skating during the day.
The Presque Park extends to 3,200 acres. It’s on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Erie to the north and east and the Presque Isle Bay to the south. Beaches, lagoons and a lighthouse are some attractions you can also visit here.
There’s a long pier you can walk down too. Additionally, it has a concert hall and environmental center. You could probably spend at least one whole day if not more here.
8. Valley Forge National Historical Park
Valley Forge National Historical Park documents a tragic but necessary time in American history. It’s a Revolutionary War site that includes miles of trails. Washington’s Headquarters is also onsite just west of the park.
Valley Forge Park allows dogs, and it’s recommended as good for children. It’s a popular picnicking site in Prussia, PA.
The Continental Army camped at Valley Forge during the winter from 1777 to 1778. Its green space, meadows and monuments area totals 3,500 acres of area. It made an ideal defense location and place of rest from the conflicts happening throughout the year during the war.
Hershey Park is described as the largest park in Pennsylvania. It consists of several sections, such as the chocolate tours and both roller coasters and water rides.
You’ll find family rides appropriate for people of most ages. Games, shopping, dining and live shows also happen here. You’ll have fun while learning the history of one of the most famous chocolate brands in the world if you come to Hershey Park.
Your time in Hershey, PA could last for days, especially if you’re a chocolate lover. Nearby accommodations include the Hershey Lodge, The Hotel Hershey and the Hersheypark Camping Resort.
10. Flight 93 National Memorial
The Flight 93 National Memorial honors the near-3,000 people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Flight 93 crashed in the Stoystown, Somerset County area after an attempt to hit the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. earlier in the day.
Flight 93 typically traveled a route from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California every morning. All the passengers on that plane and its hijackers lost their lives, for a total of 44 people.
The Flight 93 Memorial offers detailed timeline information about the September 11, 2001 attacks. You can also listen to or view transcripts of telephone calls from passengers and the crew aboard the plane. Recordings from the cockpit are also provided.
Sources of information provided about the history of 9/11 include the Department of Justice and the FBI. There’s even a seating chart you can look at to understand the positioning of the terrorists and passengers aboard Flight 93 when the tragic crash happened.
The Flight 93 Memorial also explains the intended targets of all four planes operating during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Unlike the other three planes, 93 did not hit its intended target. You’d want to visit this historical museum if you never learned all the details of this tragic day in U.S. history.