Adventure Awaits: Discover 5 Thrilling Day Trip Destinations Just a Short Drive from Philadelphia

Photo of walkway at SteelStacks in Bethlehem (Photo: Robin Shreeves)

By Patrick Berkery, Robin Shreeves

August 21, 2023

If you’re in need of a quick getaway from the Philly area, a relatively short drive will lead you to waterfalls, antiques, great wineries, history, and more.

One of the best things about living in the greater Philadelphia area is that there’s no shortage of interesting places for day trips a relatively short drive away.

Seeing as it’s (unofficially) summer, many in the Philly area like to head “down the shore” for the day. Fair enough. It’s a rite of passage for locals. But if sun, sand, and surf aren’t really your thing, you’ll find plenty of other options for day tripping on this side of the Delaware River that won’t take you too far away from home. 

Antiquing in Adamstown

There’s a good reason Adamstown (which spans Berks and Lancaster counties) is referred to as the “Antiques Capital of the US.” Dozens of antique shops with thousands of dealers are located within a seven-mile stretch of Route 272.

Whether you’re in search of vintage housewares and clothing, antique furniture, throwback toys and games, baseball cards, records, and more, you’re bound to find it in Adamstown at antique malls like Renninger’s, Mad Hatter, Angus Antiques, previously, Stoudts Black Angus Antiques Mall, and Time Matters.

Visit Historic Bethlehem

If your idea of Bethlehem is a city with nothing but a steel mill that hasn’t operated in several decades, you haven’t been keeping up with what is happening in this vibrant city, which sits about 75 minutes north of Philadelphia in the Lehigh Valley. These days, the old Bethlehem Steel Plant is known as SteelStacks which hosts concerts, comedy shows, and more. The train tracks that ran alongside the steel plant several stories up are now a walking path with stairs leading to it. While walking the path, you can stop and read about the history of the steel mill. 

Bethlehem is full of historical landmarks, like the Hotel Bethlhem, and its downtown is also full of great restaurants and shops. The oldest bookstore in the country is there, the Moravian Book Shop, which also has a brewery and an Asian fusion restaurant inside. If you visit between the middle of November and the middle of December, don’t miss the Christkindlmarkt that’s considered one of the best holiday markets in the country. If you’re there in summer, you can check out MusikFest which is being held Aug. 3-13 this year and features dozens of concerts at venues across the city.

And, if you’re feeling lucky, there’s always WindCreek Casino.

(Photo credit: Doug Kerr/Creative Commons)

Take a Waterfall Hike at Ricketts Glen State Park

If your goal is to spend the day in the great outdoors, it doesn’t get more beautiful than Ricketts Glen State Park. Get an early start and drive about an hour and a half to the park’s 13,193 acres of nature that run through Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties. Within those acres is Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark. There are 22 named waterfalls on the marked 7.2-mile Falls Trail system.

You don’t have to hike the entire length to glimpse the beautiful falls. Choose the Evergreen Trail, and you’ll hit the 36-foot-tall Adams Falls within a couple of minutes of your hike, a loop of just a little over one mile. In addition to hiking the trail system, Ricketts Glen offers boat rentals, fishing (including ice fishing in the winter) picnic areas, and hunting in season within designated areas. On your way home, stop at Ricketts Glen Hotel for dinner. 

Take in History at Valley Forge 

Grab the family and spend the day in the Valley Forge National Historical Park, which features 3,500 acres of monuments and woodlands commemorating the Revolutionary War generation and their resilience to overcome adversity. It’s a day in nature and a history lesson all in one, all about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia.

On your way there, stop at G Lodge Cafe for breakfast, a local favorite with delicious food that won’t break the bank to feed the whole family. 

The Junior Ranger Program gets kids excited about the day trip. Download and print an activity book before your visit that kids can complete while touring the park. Tour the Encampment — a 10-mile driving loop with nine major tour stops — by car, by bike, or by a 90-minute trolley tour (weekends only). In the fall, join a park ranger on Saturday nights for an interactive evening by a campfire to listen to stories of Valley Forge and the American Revolution. 

3 Budget-Friendly Day Trip Spots in Pennsylvania
Photo of Penns Woods Winery courtesy of Robin Shreeves

Sample the Wines of the Brandywine Valley

Grab a designated driver and journey about an hour southwest to the Brandywine Valley where some of the region’s best wineries welcome guests to their tasting rooms. Start at Va La Vineyards in Avondale, a family farm near Kennett Square with a small but quality selection of lauded estate wines. Then head to Galer Estate Vineyard that’s located behind Longwood Gardens. Bring a picnic and enjoy a tasting of Galer’s award-winning wines or buy a bottle to enjoy while looking out onto the vineyards.

From Galer, head to Chaddsford Winery or Penns Woods Winery (or both if you have the time). If you’re going on the weekend, both wineries accept reservations. If you’re looking for a great place to get dinner before heading back to the city, stop at the farm to fork White Dog Cafe in Glen Mills and keep the day’s eating/drinking local theme going.

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