4 places in Pennsylvania you can explore for free

The Liberty Bell

Photo courtesy of Independence National Historic Park

By The Keystone Staff

May 10, 2024

Pennsylvania is full of incredible places to explore while wanting to be frugal. From historic sites to beautiful parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Let’s explore some of the best free places in Pennsylvania that you won’t want to miss.

Discover the wonders of space at Lancaster’s North Museum of Nature and Science

The North Museum of Nature and Science in Lancaster is your gateway to the universe, offering a myriad of interactive exhibits that cater to the curious minds of all ages. This unique museum provides an accessible and engaging environment where the wonders of the natural world, from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of space, come alive.

On the first Friday of every month, this captivating museum opens its doors for free, providing a perfect opportunity for families, students, and solo explorers to dive into the realms of science and discovery without the worry of admission fees. It’s an ideal time to plan your visit and uncover the mysteries of our planet and beyond.

As you step into the museum, you’ll be greeted by a wide range of exhibits that are as educational as they are fascinating. Have you ever wondered about the life cycle of a star or the intricate dance of the planets in our solar system? The museum’s space exhibits are designed to answer these questions and more, using interactive displays that encourage hands-on learning and discovery.

One of the highlights for many visitors is the planetarium, where you can journey through the cosmos without leaving your seat. The immersive shows provide a stunning visual experience, allowing you to explore distant galaxies, navigate through constellations, and even witness the spectacular phenomena of supernovas and black holes. It’s a mesmerizing experience that brings the beauty and complexity of the universe into perspective.

Take advantage of the free admission on the first Friday of every month at The North Museum of Nature and Science and celebrate the natural world in all its forms.

Take a scenic hike through the trails of Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park is a sprawling park and network of trails that meander through ancient forests and alongside gushing waterfalls. The park’s most famed attraction, the Falls Trail, offers an unforgettable journey past 22 free-flowing waterfalls, each cascading into crystal-clear pools below. With names like Ganoga Falls, the tallest at 94 feet, and the enchanting Waters Meet, where two streams converge amidst lush greenery, these natural wonders create a spectacular backdrop for your hike. Remember, though, the Falls Trail is a challenging route, so it’s best suited for those with some hiking experience and sturdy footwear.

For those seeking a less strenuous outing, Ricketts Glen State Park doesn’t disappoint. The park features over 26 miles of trails, each offering its unique vistas and experiences. From the gentle ramble along the Highland Trail, which offers stunning overlooks and encounters with the local wildlife, to the Beach Trail that leads you to a perfect picnic spot by the lake, there’s something for every pace and interest.

While immersing yourself in the park’s natural beauty, take a moment to appreciate the diverse ecosystems you’re traversing. The dense canopy of old-growth forests, home to towering hemlocks and oaks, provides habitat for an array of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for deer quietly grazing, birds chirping melodiously from the treetops, and if you’re lucky, a glimpse of a fox or raccoon darting through the underbrush.

As a free-to-visit park, Ricketts Glen State Park exemplifies the incredible outdoor experiences available in Pennsylvania without the need for an admission fee. Whether you’re planning a solo adventure to clear your mind, a romantic getaway immersed in nature, or a family outing filled with discovery, the park’s trails await to impress you with their beauty and serenity.

Step back in time at Gettysburg National Military Park

The Gettysburg National Military Park played host to one of the Civil War’s most significant battles. This hallowed ground, where Union and Confederate forces clashed in July 1863, offers a profound look at the past that is both educational and deeply moving. Exploring this monumental site is completely free. The park is a must-visit for anyone interested in the historical events that have shaped the United States.

As you step onto the battlefield, you can almost hear the echoes of soldiers’ footsteps and the distant thunder of artillery. The park encompasses thousands of acres of meticulously preserved land, dotted with monuments, cannons, and memorials that pay tribute to the individuals who fought and fell during those fateful days.

Gettysburg National Military Park’s Visitor Center can orient you to the extensive museum exhibits and gain context to the battle and its significance in the broader narrative of the Civil War. For a truly immersive experience, consider joining one of the park’s ranger-led programs. These guided tours and talks delve deeper into specific aspects of the battle, offering insights that you might not discover on your own.

Another highlight of your visit will be the Gettysburg National Cemetery, located within the park. This solemn site is the final resting place for over 3,500 Union soldiers, a stark reminder of the human cost of the conflict. The cemetery is also where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his iconic Gettysburg Address, a speech that captured the essence of the war’s meaning and the nation’s enduring ideals. Take a moment to stand in the spot where Lincoln spoke those profound words, and you’ll feel a powerful connection to the historical legacy of Gettysburg.

The rolling hills and tranquil fields, once the scene of intense struggle, are now peaceful spaces for contemplation and discovery. Visiting Gettysburg National Military Park is a journey through a defining chapter in American history.

Stroll through the historic grounds of Independence National Historical Park

Independence National Historical Park is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted, making it the birthplace of American democracy.

As you meander through the park’s well-preserved grounds, you’ll be transported back to the 18th century. The park’s cobblestone streets and historic buildings create an immersive experience that’s both educational and enjoyable. One of the park’s highlights is Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. While tours inside Independence Hall are free, there is the requirement of a $1 timed entry ticket.

Just a stone’s throw away is the Liberty Bell, an enduring symbol of freedom that has captivated people from around the globe. Its famous crack and inscribed message, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” speaks volumes about the spirit of independence that defines America. The Liberty Bell Center is free to enter, and it’s an experience that resonates with visitors of all ages.

Independence National Historical Park also offers a myriad of other historical sites and museums, many of which are free to explore. Wander through the President’s House Site to learn about the complex story of slavery and freedom in the early days of the United States. Or, take a moment to reflect at the Benjamin Franklin Museum (admission fee required), dedicated to the life and legacy of one of Philadelphia’s most famous residents.

Throughout the year, the park hosts a variety of events and reenactments, breathing life into the pages of history. Whether it’s listening to a Declaration of Independence reading on July 4th or watching historical interpreters bring the past to life, there’s always something happening to enhance your visit.

In addition to its historical treasures, the park’s green spaces offer a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Grab a picnic, find a shady spot, and enjoy a quiet moment amidst the backdrop of America’s foundational stories.

Independence National Historical Park is entirely free, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the free places in Pennsylvania. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture enthusiast, or simply looking for a meaningful way to spend an afternoon, Independence National Historical Park promises an enriching experience that won’t cost you a penny.

Read more: 7 indoor amusement parks in Pennsylvania that parents will love too

This story was generated in part by AI and edited by The Keystone staff.

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