PA State Parks, Cook Forest (Courtesy: Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources)
PA State Parks, Cook Forest (Courtesy: Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources)

There’s one more long weekend left of the summer season. Make the most of it before we have to pull out our parkas.

Summer can’t possibly be ending—wasn’t I just digging my car out of the snow? And yet, Labor Day is merely days away. Kids are going back to school and the temperatures will soon drop. At least there’s one more long weekend left of the summer season. Make the most of it before we have to pull out our parkas.

We put together a list of five fun and relaxing Labor Day destinations that can be booked at the last minute. We’ve checked tickets and hotel accommodations, so at the time of publication all of these places had space for you and your family over Labor Day weekend. 

Pennsylvania State Parks, Statewide

If you’re looking to soak up the sun during the last weekend of summer, there’s no better place to start your search than the Pennsylvania State Parks. There are 121 state parks that you can visit across the state, and about half offer lodging like camping, cabins, yurts, or lodges. State parks vary in their attractions depending on where you’d like to go, but you’ll find parks that offer swimming beaches, miles of hiking trails, boat launches, kayak or canoe rentals, wildlife viewing, waterfall trails, and more. 

Because PA State Parks are popular, instead of pointing you to one specific park, we recommend checking the lists—and maps—of parks with campgrounds and parks with overnight lodging (cabins, yurts, lodges, etc.). Once you have an idea of the parks that are within driving distance and that you’d like to visit, check out the extremely helpful Camping This Weekend page. You’ll easily be able to see what state parks have open campground sites or available lodging rentals for the upcoming weekend, which will make last-minute planning a breeze.

Poconos, Bushkill Falls (Photo: Wally Gobetz)

Pocono Mountains, Northeast PA

You may associate the Pocono Mountains with honeymoon resorts and heart-shaped bathtubs, but vacationers have been flocking to the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania for decades, enjoying the picturesque scenery, refreshing rivers and lakes, and charming small towns.

Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities like whitewater rafting or hiking in the Delaware Water Gap, or taking it easy while antiquing or touring a winery or brewery, there’s something for you in the Poconos. Search for hotels, campgrounds, or vacation rentals that have availability for Labor Day weekend. At publication, we found availability at The Penn Stroud hotel in Stroudsburg and for both campsites and cottages at Keen Lake Camping and Cottage Resort in Waymart.

Lake Erie, Erie (Photo: Ken Lund)

Lake Erie Beaches, Erie

Pennsylvania is home to numerous lakes where one can spend a day at a swimming beach, but there’s no lake quite like a Great Lake. If you’d like to stare out at the water and see only the horizon, convinced that you’re on the edge of an ocean, you should head to the town of Erie. Here, you can experience the shores of Lake Erie, the state’s only shoreline. Seven miles of sandy beaches make up Presque Isle State Park, providing opportunities for swimming and sunbathing. A handful of other public beaches, which may be less crowded than those at Presque Isle, also dot the coast around Erie.

So while you may feel landlocked in Pennsylvania, you can still plan a last-minute trip to the beach. We found a number of area hotels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, and vacation rentals that still had availability for Labor Day weekend at the time of publication, like the Lakeview on the Lake hotel or Motel 6.

Gettysburg (Courtesy: Destination Gettysburg)

Gettysburg 

Is a day lounging on the beach or trekking up a mountain not your ideal vacation? Perhaps you’d rather surround yourself in history. Gettysburg is known for being the site of a bloody Civil War battle, and indeed, you can visit the battlefield yourself and tour the 6,000 acres that make up Gettysburg National Military Park. Visitors are often accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, whether by bus, car, foot, segway, or even horseback.

But there is much more to do in Gettysburg beyond the storied battlefield. You can continue to immerse yourself in the past by touring historic homes and museums with living history experiences, joining a ghost tour, or by traveling back to 1863 via Gettysburg’s virtual reality experience.

Once you’ve had your fill of history, you can enjoy other Gettysburg attractions like the Adams County Pour Tour, a scenic trail of area destinations for beer, wine, cider, spirits, and mead.

We found numerous vacancies for Labor Day weekend, including rooms at historic accommodations like the Baladerry Inn Bed and Breakfast and the Gettysburg Hotel.

The Candymonium rollercoaster at Hersheypark in Hershey (Photo: Scott Smith)

Hershey

A trip to Hershey is ideal for anyone who loves chocolate. So, that’s pretty much everyone. The birthplace of Hershey’s chocolate, you and your family can enjoy learning about the history of Milton Hershey and his development of the Hershey Company while also tasting as many sweet treats as possible.

Your first stop will likely be Hershey’s Chocolate World, a large visitor center where you can take a tour of the chocolate factory, begin a trolley tour of the town of Hershey, and also create your own candy bar! You may also want to visit the Hershey Story, a museum about how Milton Hilton built his chocolate empire. Another sweet attraction—if you like roller coasters—is Hersheypark, an amusement park that was originally built by Hershey for his employees, but is now one of the most popular theme parks in the country.

If you would rather not experience anything that isn’t branded with the name Hershey, at the time of publication there were Labor Day availabilities at the five-star Hotel Hershey, home to a spa with treatments using, of course, chocolate. But you could also reserve a more affordable room, like one at the nearby America’s Best Value Inn.