Late Summer Pennsylvania Adventures to Squeeze in Before the School Bell Rings

Late Summer Pennsylvania Adventures to Squeeze in Before the School Bell Rings

Photo courtesy of Discover Lancaster

By Kalena Thomhave

July 28, 2023

Just because school is almost back in session doesn’t mean you can’t get in one more family adventure before summer gives way to fall.

Doesn’t it feel like Memorial Day was just yesterday? Summer sure does seem to melt away like a popsicle on a sweltering day, passing by much more quickly than winter.

But even though summer is fading fast, you still have time to soak up the season and make some memories with your family. We’ve put together a list of Pennsylvania adventures you can quickly plan before fall arrives, and with it, the end of summer vacation.

Rent a Lakeside Cabin

Late Summer Pennsylvania Adventures to Squeeze in Before the School Bell Rings

Photo courtesy of Jen Rabulan-Bertram

While Pennsylvania may not have any ocean beach access, we do have plenty of lakes where you can play and relax in the summer. For a perfect Pa. late-summer trip, you can rent a lakeside cabin and indulge in what’s known as Lake Mode: where work doesn’t matter, lazy days are spent sunning and swimming, and nights are filled with good company and conversation.

We love Raystown Lake, near the center of the state, for its remote locale. This beautiful area has not been bombarded with commercial entities, meaning that the natural area still feels, well, natural. You can rent a cabin, whether rustic or luxurious, to lodge at the lake for a weekend.

If you’re looking for a lake experience with a city vibe, check out Presque Isle State Park on the shores of sea-like Lake Erie, where numerous beaches offer plenty of opportunities to relax while the city of Erie has great restaurants and shops to patronize. You can explore available cabin rentals in the area, like those at Presque Isle Passage or Clement’s Lake Erie Cottages.

Camp at a Pennsylvania State Park

Pennsylvania has an extensive spread of state parks with numerous outdoor activities like mountain hikes and lake swimming. Most of these state parks also allow you to camp overnight, for an affordable price, at sites complete with a firepit, grill, and picnic table. There’s nothing quite like eating s’mores and tucking into a sleeping bag under the stars and then waking up into the quiet stillness of a morning in the forest.

And because Pa. has so many state parks with so many campgrounds, there are plenty of sites that are still available to book this summer. You can check the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website for a map of Pa. state parks to find campgrounds near you. If you want to plan a truly last-minute camping trip, you can also check the Camping This Weekend page on the DCNR reservation site to view available state park lodgings for the coming weekend.

If you’re not the tent camping type, check state parks for “camping cabins” which are no-frills accommodations that allow you to sleep in a basic bed (bring your own linens) with a door between you and the natural world. You could also stay in park yurts, more deluxe cabins, or even state park inns.

Take a River Trip

Beat the summer heat by planning a trip on the water. Pennsylvania is home to an array of rivers you can explore by canoe, kayak, raft, or tube.

Pine Creek River, which flows through the Pa. Grand Canyon (also known as the Pine Creek Gorge), is a popular spot. The river cuts the gorge through the Allegheny Plateau, meaning a journey on this north-central Pa. river is paired with majestic views from inside the gorge, which is 1,450 feet at its deepest point. You can bring your own gear to kayak or raft on the Pine Creek River, but a true last-minute trip might benefit from the expert adventure planning of an outdoors outfitter like Pine Creek Outfitters. These folks take groups on kayaking tours of the mild “Upper Pine” as well as 17-mile rafting tours of the Pine Creek River and its rapids.

Those in the Southwestern part of the state may want to plan an outing on the Youghiogheny River, affectionately nicknamed “the Yough.” This river is known to have some of the best white water rafting east of the Mississippi. Near Philly, one might traverse the Brandywine or the Schuylkill Rivers, while in Lancaster it’s popular to kayak the Susquehanna.

A river trip can last just a few hours or a day for an easy day trip, but you could also plan to camp along the river to extend your trip over a weekend.

Seek Out an Amusement Park or Carnival

Late Summer Pennsylvania Adventures to Squeeze in Before the School Bell Rings

Photo courtesy Jin Wu and VisitPittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s Kennywood is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country, and indeed part of its appeal is its old-time charm. The wooden Jack Rabbit roller coaster, a park favorite, is more than 100 years old, though the park also mixes in newer attractions like the recently unveiled Spinvasion.

In Philly, Summerfest is an annual tradition where the waterfront of the Delaware River is transformed by a festival atmosphere, with activities like a famed roller rink and carnival games. At the top of the Ferris wheel, you’ll bask in the glory of summer while gazing out at the Delaware River.

Other amusement parks worth a visit include Hersheypark, known for its chocolatey theme; Lancaster’s Dutch Wonderland, a park geared toward kids; and NEPA’s Knoebels Amusement Park, the country’s largest theme park with free admission, featuring pay-as-you-go attractions like roller coasters and mini golf. For carnivals, check out county fairs near you.

Spend a Night Under the Stars

Late Summer Pennsylvania Adventures to Squeeze in Before the School Bell Rings

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Tonelli

Did you know that Pennsylvania is home to an International Dark Sky Park, one of a limited number of dark sky parks in the eastern US? Cherry Springs State Park, located within the isolated Susquehannock State Forest, is protected from light pollution so that it’s possible to see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

Take an overnight stargazing trip to Cherry Springs so that you can experience the night sky the way people did hundreds of years ago, when we weren’t surrounded by the bright lights of cities. As it’s a Pennsylvania State Park, you can book rustic camping reservations at Cherry Springs through the DCNR.

You could also stay outside the park and drive to the Night Sky Public Viewing Area to gaze at the sky on your own blankets or lawn chairs. Pro tip: bring red light filters for your flashlights to preserve your night vision.


READ MORE: Unforgettable Getaways: 8 Unique Vacation Rentals in Pennsylvania You Have to See to Believe


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