This article of the American Landmarks series analyzes the most famous landmarks in Pennsylvania. From the well-known Independence Hall in Philadelphia to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Pennsylvania has many impressive landmarks and architectural wonders. As usual in these posts, we invited a few fellow bloggers to share some of their favorite Pennsylvania landmarks.
The Gettysburg battle, the liberty bell, and many historical facts and incidents are some of the things Pennsylvania is famous for. Yet, the landmarks in Pennsylvania are majestic and significant, making it one of the best historical and cultural travel destinations in America.
So, without further ados, let’s reveal the most famous landmarks in Pennsylvania.
Famous landmarks in Pennsylvania – Philadelphia
By Debbie Fettback from WorldAdventurists.com.
Rich in history, there is plenty to learn during a visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were debated and signed, making it one of the most important sites in US history.
Independence Hall was designed in a Georgian style. Today the exterior still retains much of its 18th-century appearance. Inside, the rooms are set up close to how they are believed to have been. Construction started in 1732 on the building that was formerly the Pennsylvania State House.
Independence Hall is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as part of the National Park Service and an Independence National Historic Park. It is an interesting experience to be able to walk in the footsteps of founders such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Your tour starts with an introduction from the National Park Ranger. The tour takes you into the Supreme Court Chamber and the Assembly Room, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both signed. The Great Essentials Exhibit is also interesting to see as it showcases copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.
You must reserve your tickets ahead of time. Tickets are free, but tickets have timed entry. Admission to Independence Hall is available by tour only.
Independence Hall is located on Chestnut Street, between 5th and 6th Streets. You must first go through security, before lining up for your timed tour.
Philadelphia’s Italian Food Street Market
By Terri at FemaleSoloTrek.com
You don’t need to buy a ticket to Rome to sample Italian cuisine. When in Philadelphia, run (don’t walk) to the Italian food street market. Officially known at The South 9th Street Italian Market, it boasts its own Visitor’s Center as well as website. This market runs down 20 city blocks.
The vendor’s stalls are parked on 8th, 9th, and 10th Street. It spans the Bella Vista and Passyunk Square neighborhoods. This is where you go to buy your fresh daily fruits and vegetables, homemade bread and pastries, fresh-made pasta, flowers, and more. Smell the fresh grown basil and anise that perfume the air. These are “generations-old family businesses” which work the market as well as new ethnic businesses.
Arrive at 9 am before the street is clogged with cars and pedestrians. Buy café latte and sfogliatella for breakfast. Chefs regularly shop in the market. The best way to learn about this neighborhood is to take a walking tour.
The Free Tours by Foot doesn’t charge a fee; attendees tip what they think the tour is worth. The guide provides the historical and cultural context for why this 100-year-old market is a famous Philadelphia as well as Pennsylvania landmark!
Reading Terminal Market
By Denise of Chef Denise
Between the boarders of Arch, 12th, Filbert, and 11th streets stands the Philadelphia landmark building for the Reading Terminal Market which originally opened in 1893 under the elevated train tracks. Although it has had a tumultuous past, it has survived as one of the longest-running covered markets in the U.S., and has earned a reputation as a must-see for anyone visiting Philadelphia.
Since the Reading Terminal is no longer in operation, Jefferson Station station is the closest if you want to take the regional train or 11th Street station for the subway. If driving, park in either the Hilton or Parkway garage and enter on 12th or Arch streets.
Long rows of vendor stalls offer ingredients like fresh produce, meats, seafood, and cheeses for the locals to prepare their daily meals. Artisans sell handmade arts and crafts to visitors looking for unique souvenirs from Pennsylvania. And those who come hungry to Reading Terminal Market can enjoy international specialties of every kind.
However, you’re in Pennsylvania and this historic market is a great place to cross off some of your food bucket list items. So, try some of the specialties of the area. Snack on some venison jerky, apple dumplings, or the Amish invention, Whoopie Pie—a chocolate cake sandwich with white frosting in the center. Looking for lunch or dinner? Go with the city’s most famous dish: the Philly Cheese Steak, of course.
Eastern State Penitentiary
By Anne Betts from Packing light travel
When it first opened in 1829, Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary attracted international interest. The prison’s revolutionary approach to incarceration earned it the reputation of being the world’s first ‘penitentiary’ based on the premise that isolation and solitude would inspire reflection and penitence, or genuine regret, in the hearts and minds of inmates.
At the time, the facility was regarded as an architectural marvel. Cell blocks radiated from a central rotunda, and each cell had a skylight and private exercise area. Inmates had their own private bucket-flush toilets and central heating. This was when the White House had no running water and was heated by coal-burning stoves.
Prisoners ate alone, exercised alone, and had no contact with other inmates. Eventually, the costs of maintaining such an expensive system and the harmful effects of isolation took their toll. By the time the prison closed in 1971, the penitence model had long since been abandoned.
Standing stoically on the outskirts of central Philadelphia, Eastern State Penitentiary is a ‘preserved ruin.’ Parts of it remain in a crumbling state of decay, and other sections have been preserved to help inform visitors of the prison’s remarkable history. A fascinating audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi, art displays, educational presentations by guides, and various exhibits make Eastern State the closest thing there is to a national prison museum.
By from 9 to 5 Voyager
Philadelphia is known for its incredible, walkable neighborhoods. But there is one street you may not have heard of that you absolutely need to walk down on your next trip to Philadelphia: Elfreth’s Alley. What’s the big deal with this 400-foot stretch of homes? Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in the US!
Dating back to 1703, you can find the oldest street in America in the northeast corner of Center City, between North 2nd and North Front Street. Being in Center City, it’s easily accessible from all over the City of Brotherly Love, either by subway or by bus. The alley is a National Historic Landmark.
The street is named after Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith who owned a home on the street back in the early-1700s. He would have been at home amongst the glassblowers, carpenters, and other metalworkers who inhabited the street. The newest of the 32 houses date to 1836 and were built in the Georgian and Federal styles.
The incredible thing about Elfreth’s Alley is that people are still living there. To be fair, their homes are really museums that they are tasked with upkeeping more so than actually living in. Even so, it’s still incredible to see such history living and breathing. Be sure to check out the Elfreth’s Alley Museum for more information
Famous Pennsylvania Landmarks – Outside Philadelphia
Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh
By Eileen Gunn from FamiliesGo!
When you call a building the Cathedral of Learning, you’re setting pretty high expectations, but the 42-story “cathedral” at the University of Pittsburgh lives up to its name. It’s been towering over the university and its Oakland neighborhood since 1937 and is very much worth a visit when you’re in Pittsburgh.
Start with the 4-story gothic common room on the first floor. It rivals the cathedrals of Europe with its towering arches and vaulted ceilings and it will conjure up Hogwarts for anyone who’s a Harry Potter fan.
After taking it in from the ground floor and an upper rotunda, head to some of the 31 nationality rooms, all representing cultures and ethnic groups that have put their thumbprint on the city. There are rooms that look like an Indian temple, Irish and Italian monasteries, a room at the Korean royal academy, and the hallways of a Chinese palace. There’s an African village, an elegant Austrian dining room, and a room that evokes the British House of Commons. The details are incredible – some of the rooms were built in the countries they represent and shipped over. It’s amazing that they look the public wander into these working classrooms and look around.
A button next to each room’s doorway will tell you about it. When you’ve absorbed as much as you can of these rooms, you can explore the U. Pitt and adjacent Carnegie Mellon University campuses or take advantage of the neighborhood’s inexpensive ethnic restaurants and college bars. The Porch at Schenley is my favorite; you can’t go wrong there with breakfast, lunch, or dinner dishes made with local and seasonal ingredients.
Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark
By Bernadette of Live a Relaxed Life
Pittsburgh is called “Steel City” not just because of the many bridges that crisscross the area but also because it once was the leader in steel manufacturing. One of the fun things to do in Pittsburgh is to tour the Carrie Blast Furnace. It started operating in 1884 and processed millions of tons of metal until it shut down in 1982. It is one of the few pre-World War II blast furnaces still standing today. Furnace six and seven are a National Historic Landmark.
There are official tours of the site where former steelworkers talk about how iron was made in the furnace and the history of the industry – how at one point Pittsburgh’s factories produced more than 50 percent of steel in the US and the eventual demise of the industry and its effect on the surrounding community. There is a lot of interesting street graffiti that covers the buildings in the compound. Watch out for the 45-foot tall Carrie Deer made up of materials found on the site in the late ‘90s.
The site is 40 minutes away by car from the Pittsburgh International Airport and 20 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh.
By Susan Decoteau-Ferrier from GenXtraveler
Architecture enthusiasts and nature-lovers alike will thoroughly enjoy a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.
Frank Lloyd Wright is arguably the most famous and revered of American architects. And the Kaufmann House, better known as Fallingwater is certainly one of Wright’s premier works.
Built in 1939, this UNESCO designated site typifies Wright’s organic style of incorporating art and nature. It is the only Wright property to come into the public domain fully intact including the original artwork and Wright-designed furnishings. It is perhaps the best-preserved of all his designs.
Located approximately 70-miles from Pittsburgh in what is known as Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, this architectural marvel is surrounded by more than 450 acres of wooded property. The trails onsite are well maintained and make for an enjoyable trail walk in any season.
I highly recommend you plan a weekend in the Laurel Highlands as there is so much to see and do including Ohiopyle State Park and the charming town by the same name. Visit the Flight 93 Memorial, the National Park remembering the September 11th crash and its victims. Explore some of the cute small towns including Latrobe, the home of Mister Rogers as well as the delightful Rockwell-esque town of Ligonier.
Plan a stay at Oak Lodge, located in Stahlstown. This family-owned and operated resort on 800+ acres has both luxury suites and individual cabins. But the resort’s most unique feature is its full-scale 18th-century village.
Cherry Springs State Park
By Pamela Drager from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
One beautiful hidden gem in Pennsylvania is Cherry Springs State Park. It’s the darkest sky park east of the Mississippi and boasts incredible views of the Milky Way throughout most of the year.
Located in the north-central part of Pennsylvania, this area is full of natural beauty. Cherry Springs State Park has a variety of hiking paths to enjoy nature, but the magic happens at night. After sunset, it’s time to look to the skies and take in the stars.
There are two stargazing fields in the park. The first one is for the general public and allows visitors to come and go at any time. Please use a red light for navigating, so you don’t disturb others. The other field is for people who have astrophotography equipment, and they must stay overnight at the park. There aren’t any reservations for this field, it is on a first come, first serve basis.
You don’t need a telescope to see the beauty of the stars. It’s dark enough to see the Milky Way, planets, and even shooting stars with just your naked eye. The later you stay up, the darker the sky and the more stars you can see. Before visiting, check the weather for a clear night and the moon schedule – you don’t want to visit during a full moon.
Lancaster’s Central Market
By Vicky from Buddy The Traveling Monkey
A famous Pennsylvania landmark worth visiting is Lancaster’s Central Market. This historical market is located in Penn Square in downtown Lancaster. It is the country’s oldest continuously operated public farmer’s market and one of the best things to do in Lancaster County.
The market was established in 1730 on a 120-square-foot plot of land. This helped solidify Lancaster as a “market town.” Over the years, stalls were built, and eventually, a simple building was erected. However, in 1889 the current Market House was built by English architect James Warner. Completed within five months, it features a red brick façade, two terracotta-topped towers, and a slate roof.
Lancaster’s Central Market is currently home to over 60 local vendors. You can find all kinds of things on the market. There are cheeses, meats, breads, pastries, flowers, crafts, home décor, and even essential oils. There is also a good amount of ethnic food. You should definitely stop at the Isabelle Cuisine stall, which specializes in West African dishes and drinks. They have Bissap, which is a drink made with hibiscus flowers. It is delicious!
Lancaster’s Central Market is open Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
By Ada Igoe from Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Until July 1863, the fields surrounding this small Pennsylvania town of 7500 were simply farmland. That all changed when the Union and Confederate armies faced off on July 1-3, 1863, to fight the most northern battle fought in the American Civil War. The battle completely engulfed the town, and ever since then, Gettysburg’s been defined by that battle. Today the 9-square mile battlefield is open to the public as the Gettysburg National Military Park.
When President Abraham Lincoln gave his famed Gettysburg Address on the Gettysburg battlefield in November 1863, the town became a place for visitors to memorialize the Civil War and pay their respects to the fallen. The battlefield still appears much as it did in the mid-19th century, except now monuments and statues devoted to various leaders and military companies join farm buildings and fences on the agricultural landscape.
Both the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and a self-guided audio tour provide excellent overviews of the battle. The small town embedded in the battlefield also includes many house museums connected to the battle that are independent of the National Military Park. You’ll find Gettysburg in south-central Pennsylvania, a two-hour drive from Washington D.C and 2.5 hours from Philadelphia, PA.
By Amanda Emmerling from Toddling Traveler
Hershey, PA is home to one of the largest chocolate companies in the world, and it offers so much more than just chocolate. If you’re planning a weekend in Hershey, Hersheypark is a Pennsylvania landmark that can’t be missed. Hersheypark was first opened in 1906 by Milton S. Hershey as something fun for the employees of The Hershey Company to do. It originally was more of a park than a true amusement park, and it included just a few rides and swimming pools.
Since the early 1900s, Hersheypark has grown to be one of the best family-friendly amusement parks in the US. One of the highlights of visiting Hersheypark is all of the fun ways that chocolate is incorporated throughout the park. From characters and special treats to chocolate-themed rides and rollercoasters, favorites like Hershey Kisses and Reese’s are found everywhere you look. Thrill-seekers will also love Hersheypark’s 15 roller coasters, including Candymonium, which is part of the new Chocolatetown at Hersheypark.
If you’re looking for more things to do besides Hersheypark, Chocolate World has several experiences, including a free chocolate tour. Hershey Gardens are a great way to explore the outdoors all year round, and the Hershey Story tells the history of Hershey and chocolate in an interactive way.
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
By Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids
One of the most famous Pennsylvania landmarks well worth visiting is Fort Necessity Battlefield in South Western Pennsylvania. This historic site, owned by the US National Park Service, is a must-see on any visit to Pittsburgh with kids, as it is educational and of great historical significance to the United States of America.
Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, in Farmington, Pennsylvania, it was there in the summer of 1754 that began the French and Indian War, which was intended to remove French power from North America. Despite its name, this war was a clash of British, French, and Native American cultures, where the British fought against the partnership of the French and Indian alliance. This was the first world war and set the stage for the American Revolution which followed and led to the formation of the United States of America.
The battle that took place here resulted in the surrender of the British forces under Colonel George Washington (who later became the first president of the United States and this was his only surrender) to the French and Indians. Ultimately, the British won the war, but this battle played a significant role in the war that lasted seven years.
This site shows the battle area, the fort, the Mount Washington Tavern, and the grave of General Braddock. When you visit, Park Service members will give you a guided tour, or you may tour the property on your own. But it is a fascinating Pennsylvania landmark that highlights the importance of this state in much of American history. There are also reenactments of the battle on occasion.
While visiting this area, you can also visit Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s design, which is about 18 minutes. And, you are also not far from (about an hour) to Shanksville, Pennsylvania where you can visit the 9/11 Memorial. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a five-star resort with award-winning restaurants, a golf course, a zoo, and a casino, is five minutes away from Fort Necessity Battlefield.
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