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The Best Day Trips from Philadelphia

by Keith langston

With tons of historical sites, quaint small towns, and the ocean, all a short distance away, there's no shortage of excellent destinations for a wonderful day trip.

Image: Mihai_Andritoiu

Philadelphia is easily one of America’s most historic cities. After all, it was once the nation’s capital. In more recent years, the city has become known for its cheesesteaks, being the location of every M. Night Shyamalan film, and as the home of the Eagles who won the Superbowl in 2018.

While Philadelphians may be proud of their city, they also love to explore the nearby attractions. With tons of historical sites, quaint small towns, and the ocean, all a short distance away, there’s no shortage of excellent destinations for a wonderful day trip. Here are five you need to check out.

 

Lancaster

Amish Country (Photo: George Sheldon)

Lancaster sits at the heart of what’s called Pennsylvania’s Amish country, or sometimes “Dutch Pennsylvania”. The region gave birth to many of America’s culinary traditions, including apple butter, chicken pot pie, whoopie pies, shoofly pie, and more. It’s the perfect destination for farm-to-table dining, exploring gardens, and picking up some handmade Amish crafts. The region is also home to a wealth of culture. The city of Lancaster has lots to explore, with all the comforts of the city, like a gorgeous Marriott, great restaurants, and the stately Fulton Theater.

If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail is a stunning 14-mile journey that runs along the shores of the Susquehanna River and is perfect for walking, running, and biking. Or, for a really exciting journey, check out the Echo Caverns, which were naturally created from the erosion of 440 million-year-old limestone. Be sure to bring a jacket, because the temps underground normally hover around 52 degrees Fahrenheit!

 

Brandywine Valley

Longwood Gardens (Photo: Karen Grigoryan)

Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley is home to some of the state’s most coveted attractions. The Longwood Gardens is an enormous botanical retreat that’s comprised of over 1,077 acres. From lush greenhouses and manicured gardens to woodlands and meadows, Longwood is home to a plethora of ecosystems, all living right next door to each other. On the weekends, the gardens’ fountains even put on a dazzling light show.

The destination has also become a popular wine region, with Va La Vineyard being one of the most notable. A late-afternoon drive through rolling hills of grapevines is a wonderful way to finish off your visit. For the culture buff, you can’t miss out on the numerous museums and estates that are open to the public.

 

Hopewell Furnace

Hopewell Furnace (Photo: Zack Frank)

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is truly a relic from the past. It was founded in 1771 as a small “iron plantation”, which were little communities that sprouted up around an iron smelting facility. As smelting practices changed throughout the years, these small communities were no longer needed. Hopewell was abandoned in 1883 and left behind a perfectly preserved glimpse of what life looked like in the past.

It also makes for a wonderful autumn journey. What could be better than strolling through the historic town, sipping on a hot tea, surrounded by the ember-colored fall foliage? To make a weekend of it, Hopewell sits right next to the massive French Creek State Park. Camp out under the stars, fish in the lake, and enjoy a weekend of nature.

 

New Hope

New Hope, PA (Photo: EQRoy)

Looking for the quaintness of a small town, but with all the excitement of a city? Then New Hope is the place to visit. This small town is loaded with excellent restaurants and art galleries, while also being home to covered bridges and lazy rivers. It’s truly the best of both worlds! If you get hungry, visit the award-winning Stella, located in the historic Ghost Light Inn. They’re famous for their weekend brunch menu which includes hearty favorites like chicken and waffles, stone-ground grits, and lemon ricotta pancakes.

Walk off those calories at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, where you can explore the colors and sounds of nature. If visiting near dusk, keep your eye’s peeled for owls, which are sadly becoming rarer and rarer in America. And you can’t visit without stopping at the Washington Crossing Historic Park, which preserves the famous site where George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River.

 

Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, NJ (Photo: EQRoy)

With Philly bordering New Jersey, it’s easy to head out to some wonderful seaside towns. Cape May is a quiet, community-focused getaway. Walk the beaches, bike the narrow streets lined with Victorian homes, go swimming, explore galleries…the options are endless.

For some adventure, why not try parasailing, or rent jet skis? Want something more relaxing? Why not spend a leisurely afternoon eating seafood and sipping cocktails on SeaSalt‘s outdoor patio? Or, make a weekend of it and stay at one of Cape May’s historic inns.

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