7 Loveliest Small Towns to Visit in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State since it held a central physical location among the original colonies. It also later played key roles in the development of the nation as it grew into the wide and sprawling country it is today. From pre-Revolutionary War to the Civil War, Pennsylvania is chock full of popular historical sites and lore.

But this is just one reason Pennsylvania is so popular with visitors planning their summer vacations. Aside from touring battlefields, forts, and museums, there is an almost endless array of fun things to do all over the state.

And while cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg have their fair share of attractions, the small towns in between are not to be overlooked.

From cave exploring to high speed short track racing, from challenging hikes to fishing and kayaking, whatever kind of adventure calls to you this summer, there is a lovely little small town in Pennsylvania where you can find it.

State College

Person skating in Downtown State College taken on Calder way near Allen st. facing Southwest,
Person skating in Downtown State College taken on Calder way near Allen st. facing Southwest, By Goonsnick – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

State College, nestled among the rolling hills and wide fields of central Pennsylvania, is an eclectic mix of vibes. Part college town, part art hub, with plenty of outdoor attractions as well.

Penn State University is well known for its football team, the Nittany Lions, and even if you do not attend a game on game day chances are good you will hear the chant “We Are…Penn State!” echoing from the stadium.

Aside from its popular sports teams, State College also has a diverse arts scene. The Palmer Museum of Art, located on the Penn State Campus, is free, open to the public, and filled with fine art from all over the world.

State College also hosts the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, a yearly event that features a massive sidewalk sale and exhibition, as well as numerous musical performances all over town.

If you are looking for a truly one of a kind experience, nearby Penns Cave will give you just that. It is filled with water large enough to let you tour this massive cavern by boat. While there are many different kinds of caves to explore throughout Pennsylvania, Penns Cave is definitely outside the ordinary.


Worlds End State Park Visitor Center and Park Office in Forksville, PA.
Worlds End State Park Visitor Center and Park Office in Forksville, PA. Editorial credit: Rosemarie Mosteller /

Nothing says summer quite like the charm and nostalgia of an old time general store. And when you come to the little town of Forksville, that is exactly what you will get. The Forksville General Store has been in operation for nearly 175 years. Now also known as Big Mike’s Steaks & Hoagies, the general store is still the place to go on a lazy summer afternoon for a hoagie and some air conditioning.

But there is more to Forksville than good eats at the general store. Covered bridge lovers often make a point to stop by and check out the Forksville Covered Bridge. This structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places over 40 years ago, and there is nothing quite like experiencing a slice of history you can literally drive right through.

The Annual Forksville PowWow is a must-see yearly event that has been happening every summer for more than 30 years. It is a weekend-long festival that features many talented dancers and singers, and includes social dances where all attendees can join in. There are also plenty of vendors selling handmade goods and delicious food.

Another major attraction in the Forksville area is World’s End State Park. This state park is nestled inside Loyalsock State Forest, giving you access to an almost endless array of beautiful woodlands, secluded creeks and waterfalls, miles of hiking, and a jaw-dropping overlook that makes you feel like you are at the very edge of the world.

Tucked into the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania, Forksville is quiet, beautiful, and the perfect place for an idyllic summer vacation.


Downtown Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Image credit: Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States
Downtown Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Image credit: Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States via Wikimedia Commons.

Snuggled into the Poconos Mountains, a region well known for beautiful vistas and charming small towns, Stroudsburg is a fun, vibrant place to visit on your next summer road trip.

Stroudsburg has a reputation as being a great place to come relax and get away from things for a while. Proof of its popularity can be found in the large number of grand hotels and spas in the area that are dedicated to helping their visitors unwind. From woodland lodges to casino resorts, from chateaus to luxury spas, the Stroudsburg area has some of the most top rated retreats you can find.

Downtown Stroudsburg is a great place to spend a long afternoon shopping, exploring, and grabbing a bite to eat. If you want an activity that is more hands-on, check out Main Street Makery, where you can take an art class or book a studio space for private events. Or take in a show at Sherman Theater. For even more music and fun, you can find live music every Thursday evening throughout the summer at the Concerts in the Square series.

There is something to see, and do, everywhere you go in this bright and lovely small town.


The Mystic Rock golf course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
The Mystic Rock golf course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, By daveynin from United States – Drop zone, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Just over an hour away from Pittsburgh you will find Farmington, a quiet and charming small town that is a gateway to the past.

Nearby Fort Necessity National Battlefield marks the site of one of the very first battles of the French and Indian War.

The battlefield was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and a life sized model of the fort was rebuilt as close to the original location and plans as archeologists could determine. Visitors can spend the day touring the fort and the battlefield, as well as Mount Washington Tavern.

About half an hour away is the famed Nemacolin Castle, one of the oldest existing castles in the country. This is a National Historical Landmark, and there are guided tours and community events hosted in the castle or on its grounds for much of the year.

Back in Farmington itself you will find Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a large resort sitting on thousands of acres. With luxuries like an on-site spa and personal butler service, the resort turns a summer vacation into a once in a lifetime experience. And it means you can tour the past while enjoying all the treats and amenities the modern day has to offer.


Emmaus Theatre in Emmaus, Pennsylvania
Emmaus Theatre in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Image credit: jonbilous –

Twice listed in the Top 100 “Best Places to Live,” Emmaus is less than 100 miles from New York City, less than 60 miles from Philadelphia, and just a few miles away from the city of Allentown. This proximity to some of the most thriving cities on the East coast makes Emmaus a popular vacation and day trip retreat for many city dwellers looking for a little rest and relaxation.

Emmaus combines the slower pace and old time vibe of a small town with the energy of their urban neighbors. A warm and welcoming downtown hums with activity, including regular street festivals, art fairs, the giant annual Halloween parade, and the ever popular Emmaus Farmers Market. The Emmaus Arts Commission regularly organizes film festivals and other artsy entertainments, and you will find plenty of good eats and unique boutiques all over town.

If you want to head out into the great outdoors, the Dorothy Rider Pool Wildlife Sanctuary and the South Mountain Preserve both include hundreds of acres for you to enjoy wildlife, nature, and challenging yourself on a hike.


Tionesta, Pennsylvania: The Forest County Courthouse sign on Elm Street on a sunny fall day
Tionesta, Pennsylvania: The Forest County Courthouse sign on Elm Street on a sunny fall day, via Althom /

Perched along the Allegheny River, and inside the Allegheny National Forest, Tionesta is a beautiful small town that is a popular getaway for outdoor sporting enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

The Allegheny National Forest covers hundreds of miles of land. Inside you will find the Tionesta Scenic Area and the Tionesta Research Area. The scenic area includes miles of hiking trails and opportunities for spotting wildlife like shy black bears and massive elk. The research area is dedicated to the study of the old growth forest, and includes a trail for visitors to get a glimpse of the untouched splendor.

Both the Allegheny River and Tionesta Creek are hotspots for fishing, kayaking, and other fun water sports. There are also plenty of great camping sites in the area, for a full retreat into the verdant summer wilderness.

And a romp through the natural beauty in and around Tionesta is not complete without a visit to Lighthouse Island, where you will find the Sherman Memorial Lighthouse. It is the state’s last fully functioning inland lighthouse, and the massive structure is open for tours summer through fall, with private tours also available.

St. Peter’s Village

Saint Peters Village, Warwick Township, Pennsylvania.

Saint Peters Village, Warwick Township, Pennsylvania, By Willjay at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The quaint old fashioned charm of St. Peter’s Village is unmistakable. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, this tiny little village is a callback to the slower, easier pace of days gone by.

Located in the beautiful Brandywine region of Pennsylvania, there are plenty of hiking trails for anyone interested in lacing up their boots and heading out into the forest. Easier paths can be found along French Creek, where you will find plenty of cool shady spots to unwind, as well as a few waterfalls.

Take a walk through the village and you will find artisan baked goods, antiques stores, and art galleries and studios featuring amazing artwork from local artists and craftsmen.

History buffs can tour the nearby Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The furnace has been around since before the Revolutionary War, and has a long and fascinating history of industry and production.

Tiny it may be, but there is a lot of fun and adventure to be found at St. Peter’s Village. It is the perfect place to spend some of those lazy, hazy days of summer.

Summer is a time for lazy afternoons spent floating down a river, splashing in a creek, or fishing at a lake. Or maybe you like to hike up and down trails that take you to amazing views and deep forests, where you can spot wildlife and native wildflowers. You might also love to hit the town and do some shopping, tour arts and antiques galleries, take in a museum, and end the trip with a delicious lunch or dinner.

Whatever you choose to do while the sun is out and temperatures are high, chances are there is a small town in Pennsylvania that matches your vibe. From national forests to massive lakes, from downtowns with tons of personality to historic battlefields, there is a little something for everyone.

If you are looking for somewhere fun to spend your vacation this summer, Pennsylvania has plenty of lovely small towns to visit. The state tourism motto is “Pursue Your Happiness,” and there are so many ways to do that in the charming small towns all over the Keystone State.

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