Essential RV Pennsylvania:
The Ultimate Guide To Exploring
The Keystone State
by Meggen Taylor
Pennsylvania is steeped in Colonial history. It offers varied landscapes and has some of the most impassioned sports fans you will ever meet. Meanwhile, the state’s many museums house some of the most impressive pieces of art in the United States. Pennsylvania has vibrant cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as well as quaint towns smattered throughout its rural regions. Overall, it offers something for every kind of traveler: spring and fall are especially visually spectacular.
Pennsylvania got its nickname, "The Keystone State", due to its location in the middle of the original thirteen colonies, and because the state was essential to the economic, social, and political development of the United States. Not only is Philadelphia the birthplace of our nation, the state also houses three of the nation’s most important documents: the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
History buffs will have endless options to explore with state battle sites that include the Revolutionary and Civil Wars as well as historic river crossings and Native American history. Or visit where some of the world’s most prolific thinkers gave birth to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Given Pennsylvania’s size (283 miles wide), I rounded up five of the state’s best destinations for travelers to visit—with neighboring RV parks that you can call home while you experience all of the diversity this area has to offer.
Situated in the state’s far northwest corner is Erie, Pennsylvania, the State’s only Great Lakes port city. While Lake Erie is one of the main draws, Erie offers plenty to do during your visit.
Outdoor enthusiasts will want to drive a few miles outside the city to the national landmark of Presque Isle State Park, comprised of over 3,200–acres on a sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. Its name translates to ‘almost an island’ in French. As the state’s only ‘seashore’ in addition to being the most visited park in Pennsylvania, the isle offers visitors year-round recreational opportunities.
If you love sandy coastlines you will be overwhelmed by the thirteen beaches the isle has to offer. Each one provides its own unique experiences and character. In fact, Presque Isle State Park has been ranked the #1 fresh-water beach in North America. During the winter months, visitors can cross-country ski along the park trails, ice skate, and even ice board.
Even if you don’t like the water or water activities, there are still plenty of hiking trails and opportunities to see stunning sunsets and over 300 different avian species that visit the park. The neck of the peninsula is attached to the mainland roughly four miles away from downtown Erie, the primary access point to the Great Lakes. The isle itself is a favorite stop for migrating birds as well as many endangered, threatened, and rare species than any other location of a comparable size.
Land lovers can also visit the Presque Isle Lighthouse that dates back to the 1870s and still serves as a navigational beacon for passing ships. If you are looking for a bit of culture, you can head into Erie and visit the Erie Art Museum, formed in 1898 as a must-visit for those who appreciate both art and history. No visit to Erie is complete without a trip to the downtown area to explore the many local shops, boutiques, restaurants, clubs, bars, and scenery. Not only will you be able to get a flavor of Erie, you will see eye-popping sunset views on Lake Erie. Should you feel like playing your luck, you visit Presque Isle Downs & Casino, one of the most popular gambling spots in Erie.
If you are looking to experience some of the finest camping in the region you can rest your RV at West Haven RV Park & Family Campground for a few days. Located a few miles from Presque Isle State Park, the RV park offers 50-acres of woods and meadows with both shady and sunny sites to choose from during your stay. The park provides guests with sites that have full hookups, a new bath house and showers, picnic tables, a pavilion for gatherings, fire rings, stocked fishing ponds, and hiking and biking trails.
State College, Pennsylvania
A little over three hours away from Erie is State College, home to Pennsylvania State University. So much more than just a college town, this quirky yet quaint main street is home to variety of restaurants, shopping, galleries, coffeehouses and nightlife. It is also home to the famous Penn State Berkey Creamery and what some say is the best ice cream in the world. It is also where the founders of Ben & Jerry’s actually studied their craft.
State College has long been known as Happy Valley. It earned that name during the Great Depression when the region was sheltered from much of the financial hardship and destitution suffered by the rest of the country. When it comes to things to do, Penn State College football is just one attraction. State College also offers some of the most beautiful countryside to explore in all of Pennsylvania and boasts several amusement parks, historic sites and museums —it will honestly be a question of whether or not you can pack it all in.
While State College offers plenty of things to do, some of the surrounding towns are must-visit destinations as well. Located 10 miles from State College is Bellefonte, named after the spring in the center of town. Established in 1795, Bellafonte was home to seven Pennsylvania Governors and is known for stunning examples of Victorian architecture and antique stores. Taking a stroll along the waterfront walkway at Talleyrand Park offers the perfect backdrop for romance or leaf peeping in the fall.
If you ever wanted to know the origins of Memorial Day you should consider a visit to Boalsburg, thought to be the earliest site to observe Decoration Day. The quintessential small town and its Victorian architecture offer the feel of the early 19th Century, yet remain just minutes away from Penn State University. Visitors can explore the unique stores, dine at both fine and casual restaurants, and soak up the pristine scenery. Another neighboring town, worth visiting for its history and architecture, is Phillipsburg—only a half an hour away from State College.
After so much exploring, you can park your RV at Woodland Campground, located in…Woodland. Guests can relax by the lake, fish, or rent paddle boats or kayaks. Hiking and biking the park’s woodland trails are also a draw to the area. Kids (young and old) can enjoy the game room, packed with arcade games as well as a pool table and jukebox. Woodland Campground offers visitors full hook-up drive-through sites with both shaded and open options—fully equipped with water, electric, sewage, and Wi-Fi. The campground is also dog-friendly. If you want to explore the area immediately nearby, there is plenty to do: travelers can indulge in wine tastings at some of the state’s local wineries, get happily lost in the adjacent antique stores, or become fully immersed in nature by visiting Bilgers Rocks, the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, the Pennsylvania Elk Viewing and Visitors Center, or Snow Shoe ATV Trails.
A little less than three hours away from Woodland, Pennsylvania is Gettysburg, where United States history runs deep. The Gettysburg National Military Park is the location of the bloodiest battle and major turning point in the American Civil War. The site was also the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s, “Gettysburg Address.” Former President Dwight Eisenhower actually had a retirement home here.
You can also explore the downtown’s many shops, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques that line the streets leading right up to the historic Lincoln Square. Visitors will find fine art, home décor, antiques and collectables. You can even take a presidential “selfie” with a statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the David Wills House.
If you’re looking for something truly experiential, Gettysburg has become somewhat of a foodie destination, offering even Civil War era dishes at places like the Dobbin House and the Farnsworth House. If you prefer more modern dining there are several farm-to-table options, casual, and upscale choices you can pick from. Or you could opt for a Gettysburg food tour that will provide all the flavor of the local palette.
The craft beverage industry is also growing in both Gettsyburg and Adams County with a number of breweries, wineries, and distilleries to choose from. If alcohol isn’t on the agenda, you can explore the paranormal—something many people think is synonymous to Gettysburg. The curious-minded can walk many of the ghost tours offered nightly in Gettysburg. Some of the tours even cater to the dedicated paranormal seekers where the night is spent with various energy reading technologies.
While you are exploring the area by car, a stop at one of the many farmers markets is a must. You can’t get produce any fresher from the farm than directly from the farmers themselves. Right on the outskirts of Gettysburg, you will see acres of farmlands, orchards, vineyards, and rolling countryside. If you have a fascination with covered bridges, there are several in the county. But, the one you should make sure you see is Sachs Bridge, which is believed to be haunted due to its wartime past: during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate Armies utilized the bridge in the Battle of Gettysburg; as a result, the bridge is still touted to be highly active with paranormal activity.
If you are looking for the perfect place to call home for a few days (or longer) about an hour northwest of Gettysburg, you can stay at Twin Grove RV Resort and Cottages. Situated on 100 private acres in the rolling Blue Mountains of Central Pennsylvania, the resort is close to both Hershey, the home to Hershey Park and Harrisburg, the state’s capital.
The resort itself offers 212 RV sites with both back-in and pull-through options up to 100 feet long. Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi and cable. All sites come with full hook-ups with 50-amp service. Sites on the east side offer unobstructed satellite connections while the central portion of the resort offers more woodsy sites with a little more privacy. Every option has a picnic table and fire ring with firewood available at the camp store. If you want to explore the local attractions around the resort the area is known for its wineries and famous for its antique shopping.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
About two and a half hours away from Gettysburg (and about an hour north of Philadelphia) is the scenic Delaware River town of New Hope—home to eclectic shopping, cultural attractions, and riverside dining. New Hope’s history reaches back 200 years, which makes it ideal for Main Street strolling. The canal that traverses the heart of downtown still retains its original locks and the recently restored Locktender's House.
While New Hope may feel somewhat off the beaten path, the town has gotten a lot of attention as a must-visit destination for it artsy vibe and unique location. New Hope was even named one of "America's Favorite Towns" by Travel + Leisure. If you enjoy food, you will love searching out some of the country’s most prolific chefs’ restaurants, delivering flavors from around the world.
One of the many great reasons to visit New Hope is that you get two towns for the price of one. New Hope’s sister city is Lambertville, New Jersey, which is split down the middle by the Delaware River—and, as history buffs know, only about eight miles from where George Washington made his famous crossing in 1776. Despite being less than a half of a mile away from one another, the towns have completely distinct personalities. New Hope has something of a hip vibe with a vibrant nightlife, whereas Lambertville imbues a more stately residential feel with impressive Victorian homes and quiet streets.
The Delaware Canal State Park, which stretches 60 miles from Easton to Bristol, is definitely worth a visit. It was originally created in the early 1800s to transport coal from the northern portion of the state to Philadelphia—making it the longest running canal in the country. Now listed as a National Historic Landmark, it has some of the most beautiful paths for walking, biking and running near downtown New Hope.
Given that Philadelphia is the birthplace of our great nation, it’s absolutely worth the hour-long trip south to visit historic sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. In addition to destinations important to the American Revolution, Philadelphia’s vast offerings include world-renowned museums and critically acclaimed restaurants. And, let us not forget, the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art were forever memorialized in pop culture by Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky.”
The idyllic setting to park your RV is Beaver Valley Family Campground, just a few miles away from New Hope in a town known as Ottsville. Situated in the rolling hills and valleys of the beautiful and historic Bucks Country, the campground is the perfect backdrop to relax and enjoy nature. The camp offers guests both secluded wooded sites as well as open and level RV sites. All sites come with water hookups, 30-amp electricity, picnic tables and fire pits as well as a dump station, bathhouses, showers and Wi-Fi.
About two hours away from New Hope, nestled in the state’s Pocono Mountains, is Milford—a resort destination that has existed since the Gilded Age and is known for its Victorian architecture. Located on the upper portion of the Delaware River, Milford is considered to be part of the New York metropolitan area. Frommer’s Travel Guide actually named Milford as one of the “Ten Coolest Small Towns.”
Milford has so much to offer to so many. For nature lovers, all you need to do is walk straight downtown into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to see Pennsylvania’s tallest waterfall, Raymond Falls. The town is also steeped in history: its famous Grey Towers date back to the 1880s, built by the first Chief of the U.S. Forestry Service. Shops, dining and the garden-lined streets are just a few points of interest.
For history buffs, there is the Columns Museum. A tour of the 22-room mansion features the famous flag draped from the Presidential box the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
With 70,000 acres, nature lovers will also have plenty to explore in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Visitors can hike and bike more than 100 miles along rambling streams, ridges and majestic mountaintops, flanked by roaring waterfalls. The area boasts more than 27 miles of Appalachian Trail and over 100 scenic driving miles. En route are farms that have been in operation for over a thousand years with historic villages and structures that show the region’s Colonial past.
You can park your RV at Lake Wanoka Resort, a dog-friendly destination that offers cabins, campsites and RV sites. RV parking comes with full hookups and 50-amp electricity, Direct TV and free Wi-Fi. An abundance of nature is just outside your door, featuring 150 miles of hiking trails. The property also offers guests a pool with splash pad for the kids, a general store, a playground, an arcade, and a restaurant and bar, a swimming pond, and great skiing options in the winter. If you want to go off-campus, there are plenty of area attractions to choose from.