Day Trips From Philadelphia
Day trips from Philadelphia on one tank of gas
Popular day-trip destinations for adventurous types tend to get clogged up on the weekend. No-school summer days afford parents and kids the ability to explore on a quieter weekday. These family-fun hot spots are all within a two- or three-hour drive from Philly.
Bushkill Falls, PA
With eight scenic waterfalls and a picturesque network of hiking trails and bridges, the “Niagara of Pennsylvania” offers families plenty of outdoorsy opportunities. Bushkill Falls Park, deep in the woods of the Poconos Mountains, allows access to all the natural wonders, plus places to mine for gemstones, unpack a picnic lunch, go paddle-boating, play miniature golf, navigate a prize-strewn maze and see animals on the mend at the Pocono Wildlife Rehab Center.
Roughly a 2 hour, 10 minute drive from Center City, Philadelphia. See routes here.
The site of the epic battle that turned the tides of the Civil War is a history buff's haven. The battlefield itself — tourable by foot, bike, horseback, double-decker bus or car — is now anchored by the impressive, 4-year-old National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, featuring film presentations, interactive exhibits and archival relics. Kids can "enlist" in the army daily at 11am and check out displayed items up close in the lobby's museum carts. In town, sign up for one of many haunted-Gettysburg tours by night or pose for a family tintype in period costume.
Roughly a 2 hour, 21 minute drive from Center City, Philadelphia. See routes here.
Pioneer Tunnel, Ashland, PA
Pennsylvania's coal mining history is brought to life at Pioneer Tunnel, a horizontal drift mine that runs 1,800 feet into the side of Mahanoy Mountain. Guests ride in and out in open mine cars powered by a battery-operated motor; once inside the tunnel they walk through the mining operation. (Make sure to pack a jacket and long pants; it's steamy outside but only 52º Fahrenheit in the mine.) After this tour, see another side of mining on the Henry Clay steam locomotive, which chugs around the peak to reveal a vein of anthracite that abuts the Earth's surface.
Roughly a 2 hour, 17 minute drive from Center City, Philadelphia. See routes here.
Historic Penn's Cave & Wildlife Park, Centre Hall, PA
The only cave in Pennsylvania on the National Register of Historic Places is also the only cave that can be explored by boat. A flat-bottomed motorboat, to be exact, which glides through the cavern's passageways, past stalactites and stalagmites that often take familiar shapes (see if you can spot the Statue of Liberty) and were carved by the dripping water responsible for all the pillars, columns, cascades and flowstones in the cave. (You'll need warm clothes here, too; it's 52º in the cave.) When weather permits, the boat exits the cave for a ride on Lake Nitanee, and if time permits, add on the 90-minute bus tour through the wildlife park filled with bears, bobcats and mountain lions.
Roughly a 3 hour drive from Center City, Philadelphia (give or take 10 minutes). See routes here.
Baltimore gets all the press, but Annapolis, the Maryland port town synonymous with seafaring, is worth a trip, too. Landlubbers explore the Annapolis Maritime Museum, the US Naval Academy Museum and the Chesapeake Children's Museum, which features a 10-foot boat and dock play area. Families can charter a crabbing boat or venture on-board Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake's Sea Gypsy, a ship whose 12-and-younger crew learn the ins and outs of piracy.
Roughly a 2 hour, 7 minute drive from Center City, Philadelphia. See routes here.