Building Connections in the Keystone State: 12 Places to Meet Like-Minded People in Pennsylvania

Building Connections in the Keystone State: 12 Places to Meet Like-Minded People in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of N. Santos by Visit Philadelphia

By Kalena Thomhave

June 30, 2023

From learning a new language to playing board games in a bar, Pennsylvania is full of places and activities where you can have fun while expanding your social circle.

It’s hard to make friends as an adult. We’re no longer in grade school, surrounded by dozens of peers each day, and more and more of us are working from home, alone. This means you need to take a bit of initiative and pursue cool activities to expand your social circle; before you know it, you’ll be meeting other cool people doing those activities too. 

Luckily, Pennsylvania is full of places — “third places,” if you will — social sites outside home and work where you can have some fun while meeting new people. We’ve put together a list of 12 ideas of things you can do in Pennsylvania to meet like-minded people and make new friends.

Try Rock Climbing

While Pennsylvania has its share of outdoor rock climbing opportunities, try starting with indoor rock climbing. The climbing community in any city is typically welcoming and friendly. You’ll usually start with an introductory class to learn the basics before you take to the wall, which means you’ll be set up to talk to other newbies right away. Otherwise, plenty of solo climbers need a belay buddy to hold their ropes. There are more than a dozen climbing gyms across the state, like ASCEND in Pittsburgh or Reading Rocks in Reading, and there’s likely one near you.

Take a (Group) Hike

Spend some time in nature while meeting new people by joining a group hike or a hiking club. If you live near the forest, you’re bound to have a hiking group exploring somewhere near you. If you live in an urban area, there’s probably still a local hiking group taking treks nearby. Check out the numerous hiking clubs in Pennsylvania that are members of the Keystone Trails Association, like the Pocono Outdoor Club or the Lancaster Hiking Club.

Visit a Board Game Bar

It’s tough to play a favorite game that requires multiple players when you don’t have a bevy of roommates. Enter board game bars, where people can drink, hang out, and play board games. Board game bars usually have a wide library of board games for you to “check out” at a low price. Bring a couple friends along and search for some new ones so you can finally have enough players for a satisfying game of Werewolf

Queen and Rook in Philadelphia has a full restaurant and bar. And OooWee Art & Gaming Cafe isn’t a bar, but it’s a great place for Harrisburg-area gamers to mix and mingle. No board game bar near you? Search for a local board game group on Meetup.

Learn a Language

Did you ever make up a language with your best friend as a child, a language that only you two would know? Meeting new friends while taking a language class allows you to replicate the experience, and your new language skills could be used all over the world to meet new people and explore new countries.

Community centers, libraries, and language schools regularly offer classes in common languages like Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, French, American Sign Language, Korean, and more. You may decide on the language you’d like to learn based on what languages people speak in your community, thus opening up more opportunities to expand your social network.

Some places you could pursue language classes include Allentown’s Spanish Immersion Learning Center, the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Languages and Learning Center, and Pittsburgh’s La Scuola d’Italia Galileo Galilei, an Italian language school.

Volunteer in Your Community

There are so many ways to give back to your community, which you’ll discover if you explore volunteer opportunities in your area. Think about your skills and interests and where you’d like to help. Do you want to volunteer by helping out with whatever is needed at an animal shelter or nursing home? Or would you rather volunteer your skills, like shooting video for free for a nonprofit’s commercial? Check out VolunteerMatch and search your city to see what your community needs.

Join an Amateur Sports League

Many communities offer sports leagues for people who call themselves athletes, but they also offer sports leagues for those who are just playing for fun and perhaps haven’t played sports since high school. See if your community offers leagues for sports like softball, ultimate frisbee, soccer, bowling, disc golf, or even kickball. Your local YMCA is a great place to start this search. For example, the Y in Hanover offers basketball, field hockey, pickleball, and more.

Join a Running Club

If you’re a runner, grab your running shoes and find a running club in your area, where you can race around the woods or the city surrounded by a bunch of potential new friends. Whether you’re a serious runner or just a casual jogger, there’s bound to be a nearby club for you. Consider the Lehigh Valley Road Runners, Philly Runners (one of many Philadelphia-area clubs), or the Erie Runners Club.

Join a Book Club

If you’re a reader, joining a book club is a great opportunity for you to meet like-minded people and discuss your most recent read. To find a book club near you, start by checking your local library. These community institutions often host book clubs — whether in-person or virtual — on a variety of subjects. Depending on your literary tastes, perhaps you’ll find a book club focused on historical romance, nonfiction bestsellers, or science fiction. The Carnegie Libraries in Pittsburgh host several book clubs and even offer digital book club kits with discussion questions, author biographies, and more.

Protect the Environment

It’s likely that your community hosts volunteer opportunities focused specifically on the environment, like litter pickups at a local creek. If you’re interested in learning more about the natural world around you and meeting new people while spending time outside, joining an environmental group may be a great option for you. Perhaps your community has a Trout Unlimited chapter for fishers that prioritizes protecting rivers and streams. Or maybe your town has groups that look after watersheds, like Ligonier’s Loyalhanna Watershed Association. By getting involved in environmental groups, you’ll meet like-minded people interested in protecting the earth.

Take a Cooking Class

Everyone has to eat, so taking a cooking class should be helpful for most anyone. Local restaurants may host cooking classes, like the monthly classes at Bethlehem’s McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub. You may also find classes taught by chefs at schools dedicated to fun cooking classes, like Rookie Cooks Academy in Wellsboro. If there’s a certain cuisine you’d like to learn to cook, taking a class is a great way to finally master it—perhaps you can learn to make your own pad thai that’s just as good as takeout. 

Take Your Pup to the Dog Park

If you have a dog, you can meet other dog owners at a nearby dog park. If you take your dog often, you’ll soon find that dog parks have “regulars,” so it’s a great way to meet people in your community who love dogs. In Philadelphia, the dog park at the Schuylkill River Park is one of the best, with turf to keep your pup clean and even dog-sized water fountains. Plus, when you and your dog are done socializing, you can explore the rest of the beautiful Schuylkill River Park.

Take a Hobby Class

If you already have a hobby, you’re that much closer to finding a cool activity to share with new friends. And if you’re in search of a new hobby, pursue one. Depending on your interests, you may find hobby classes in your area like cross stitching, beer brewing, or container gardening. The possibilities are truly vast. Some great resources to seek out classes include the community education branch of your local community college or university (like the Community College of Allegheny County), your local library (the Hershey Public Library teaches how to fuse glass), or your local makerspace (like the Chester County Library’s space). 

Seek Out Additional Activities Through Meetup or Bumble BFF

Interested in one of these activities, but there’s not something similar near you? Find people with similar interests on Meetup or Bumble BFF to see if you can get something started in your area!

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