Philadelphia is our hometown. Even though we moved halfway across the world, we’ve always loved how much there is to do in Philadelphia’s back yard. In fact, one of the best things about Philly is just how easy it is to use the city as a jumping off point for other destinations. That’s why we decided to come up with a list of the best day trips from Philadelphia.
There are great places to see and visit in every directions from Philadelphia. It’s a great place to base your vacation and travel around the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. From other big cities to natural sites and unique American cultural destinations – Philadelphia can be your gateway to it all..
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Explore The Major Cities Near Philadelphia
Philadelphia is located in America’s northeast corridor and is a day trip from some of the country’s best cities. This means that you can use the city as a launchpad to three other great American cities that are within a three hour drive of Philadelphia.
Each of these destinations have their own identities, but their histories are tied into Philadelphia’s. Adding these cities as day trips from Philadelphia can build on the American history you learn about in Philly.
1. New York City
You can travel from Philadelphia to New York City in about 90 minutes. This of course depends on your mode of transportation, but it’s an easy trip by train, bus or car.
If you want to travel by train, the Acela Express train travels from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station to New York City’s Penn Station. The trip is around an hour and 15 minutes depending on the time of day you book. Ticket prices vary depending on time of day and how far ahead you book. Check AMTRAK for information on booking.
There are several bus companies that run trips from Philadelphia to New York City as well. Megabus and Greyhound are the best bus companies transporting tourists for day trips from Philadelphia to New York City every day.
It goes without saying, but there are a lot of things to do in New York City. It’s one of our favorite American cities and when we lived in Philadelphia we made frequent city breaks to NYC. Even when we travel “home” these days, we often fly into Newark and spend a night in New York City before traveling back to Copenhagen.
From the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island and Broadway, there are plenty of ways to spend your day in New York City.
2. Washington D.C.
Washington DC is a fantastic day trip from Philadelphia and it’s only about a two hour train ride away. Reaching Washington by car is about two hours and twenty minutes. There are also buses through Megabus and Greyhound to transport you from Philadelphia to Washington DC in around two and a half hours.
Once you make it to Washington, there is no shortage of things to do. Among them are the natural starting points: the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and National Park with Washington Monument. You’ll also love touring the Smithsonian Museums, National Gallery of Art and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Fun fact: We almost got kicked out of the White House in 2015 because Mike kept singing “Michelle Obama” to the tune of the Fifth Harmony song BO$$.
You can easily make the trip from Philadelphia to Baltimore in about 90 minutes and that makes it a perfect day trip from Philly. The city is an underrated gem in the Northeastern United States and it boasts great attractions that you can tour in a day trip.
Once in Baltimore, you have a lot of options. The Inner Harbor is one of the most popular areas of the city for visitors. There you’ll find great restaurants, boutiques and attractions like the USS Constellation. It’s a United States battle ship from the American Civil War.
Baltimore also played a role in the history of the American Revolution. You can visit Fort McHenry at the mouth of the Inner Harbor. If you’re familiar with The Star Spangled Banner, America’s National Anthem, a visit to Fort McHenry will be especially meaningful. It’s where the author, Frances Scott Key, penned the song during a battle of the War of 1812.
Book a Bus or Train For Your Day Trip From Philadelphia
Use these links for more information on booking tickets to any of these cities:
Amusement Parks That Make Perfect Day Trips From Philadelphia
Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, I was spoiled with amusement parks in every direction. Any visitor to the city will have the same experience with amazing options for thrill rides and family fun under three hours drive from Philly. Mike and I love roller coasters and theme parks, so we spent many summer days visiting these places on our own day trips from Philadelphia. Here are the best amusement parks near Philadelphia for you to visit yourself.
4. Dorney Park and Wild Water Kingdom
Allentown, Pennsylvania is home to a great double adventure – an amusement park with combination water park. You can spend the warmest part of the day splashing around at Wild Water Kingdom and then dry off with the amazing rides of Dorney Park. It boasts amazing roller coasters and classic amusement park rides with children’s area, games, entertainment and more. Tickets are around $40 without parking.
After the park you can explore the Lehigh Valley. If you’re traveling with your family, take the kids to the Crayola Factory in nearby Easton, PA.
5. Hershey Park
Hershey Park is a brilliant destination for family fun. It was created when Milton S. Herhey, founder of Hershey’s Chocolate, decided to create a leisure park for his employees. It’s located about two hours west of Philadelphia and it makes a perfect day trip or even an overnight destination. There are nearby campground, hotels and spa resorts if you decide to extend your trip.
The fantastic amusement park is close to the original Hershey Chocolate Factory. A tour of Hershey Chocolate World is a sweet ending to a day at Hershey Park and it even has a ride with a free sample.
6. Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure is a tremendous theme park located in Jackson, New Jersey. The park has some of the best roller coasters in America’s northeast and many rides are DC Comic themed.
It also includes a 350 acre animal safari. The Safari Off Road adventure is features 350 animals from 6 different continents and will be better than anything you watch on Tiger King.
Also included with a visit to Six Flags Great Adventure is Hurricane Harbor. It’s the Six Flags answer to Dorney Park’s Wild Water Kingdom. They have a great water park just outside of the amusement park grounds.
7. Dutch Wonderland
Dutch Wonderland is known as a “Kingdom for Kids” and you’ll find it about two hours west of Philadelphia in Lancaster, PA. Most people know of Lancaster as home to the large group of Amish people living in Pennsylvania. They’re also known as Pennsylvania Dutch, which is where the name of the park comes from.
Everything inside the 48-acre park is modern and far from Amish. It caters primarily to families and those with smaller children. The rides are very tame compared to Six Flags, a heavily roller coaster themed amusement park. Dutch Wonderland is definitely the place to visit if you have small children, but probably not worth the trip for couples or groups who want a more thrill rides.
Day Trips From Philadelphia in The Poconos
The Pocono Mountains are beautiful escape from the city life of Philadelphia. I spent summers working at an overnight camp there during my college years, so it’s a special place to me. We have celebrated Mike’s birthday with weekends in the Poconos and it’s a place worth visiting whenever you’re in Philadelphia. Here are some great day trips to the Poconos that you can make from Philadelphia.
8. Rickett's Glen State Park
Rickett’s Glen State Park is about two hours north of Philadelphia and is a stunning piece of nature. The park straddles two Pennsylvania counties and covers over 13,000 acres. It’s a perfect escape to go hiking and enjoy the natural landscape of the regions.
Along the ribbons of well-marked trails you’ll find 21 waterfalls (depending on the season). In the springtime you’ll find the most water flowing through Rickett’s Glen State Park. That’s due to snow melt and a higher water table, so take advantage of the scenery then. No matter when you visit the park, wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots and enjoy the Pennsylvania forests.
9. The Ghost Town of Centralia
Not far from Rickett’s Glen is the (almost) ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. If you like obscure places to visit and off-beat destinations, you have to stop here on your way to or from Rickett’s.
This region of Pennsylvania has historically been home to coal mining. In 1962 an underground fire began burning in a mine beneath the city of Centralia. To this day the fire has not been put out and it’s been resolved to just let it continue burning beneath the ground.
The township was never large with only about 1,000 residents at the time of the fire’s discovery. Today it has dwindled to 5 people remaining and it’s a creepy, but interesting place to see. The roads have buckled and cracked in many places and smoke seeps from the ground in others. There’s definitely nowhere like it that I’ve ever been.
10. Bushkill Falls
In my opinion it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Bushkill Falls has been referred to as The Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania. It may not be as extreme as Niagara, but it’s a great spot to visit and perfect for a Poconos day trip from Philadelphia.
Bushkill is a perfect destination for hiking and exploring the series of waterfalls. The tallest waterfall is over 100 feet (30m) tall and flows down the mountains into the Delaware River. There are eight waterfalls of significance and several hiking trails to view them. They all vary in difficulty and length, so it’s a place where you could spend all day, or select a short hike and check out our other Poconos suggestions.
American History Day Trips From Philadelphia
Pennsylvania has always played an important role in American history, politics and the nation’s economy. It’s called the Keystone State because it has historically been the key state (or colony) in holding the rest together. Perhaps that’s why so many battles have been fought on the soil of Pennsylvania, and they were all in destinations that you can visit as day trips from Philadelphia.
11. Valley Forge
During America’s Revolutionary War Philadelphia spent time under British occupation. That’s part of the reason why General George Washington built the winter encampment of the Continental Army in Valley Forge. The troops that fought for America’s independence (including blood relatives of mine) lived in these meager cabins and trained to meet a far superior British army on the battlefield.
Valley Forge State Park is a great place to visit and even book a tour, but it will hardly be a full-day trip. If you need more to do after exploring the encampment’s reconstruction and General Washington’s Headquarters you can swing by the King of Prussia Mall. It’s a perfect place for shopping and the second largest shopping mall in the United States. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, it’s got great eateries and even a fancy Cheesecake Factory.
The bloodiest battle of the American Civil War took place just two and a half hours from Philadelphia. Any history lover will be fascinated by a day trip to Gettysburg from Philadelphia.
The Gettysburg National Military Park protects and maintains the battlefields of July 1-3, 1863. There’s a lot to do and see in Gettysburg including the famous battlefields of Little Round Top, Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge, among others. You can also visit Gettysburg National Cemetery where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address.
If you really want to, you can also visit my great-grandparent’s home. Just message me for the address.
A Philadelphia Day Trip to The Beach
Pennsylvania doesn’t border the Atlantic Ocean, but there are great shore points to visit. For a day trip to the beach, Philadelphia has many options. Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey all offer great beaches, but here are a couple popular ones that are the closest to Philly.
13. Atlantic City
Known for its boardwalk, casinos and beaches, Atlantic City is a great place to visit from Philadelphia. Atlantic City, New Jersey is only about an hour and a half from Philly.
While it’s only recently (and barely) shrugged off it’s bad reputation – A.C. is actually a pretty cool place to visit. Yes, there are casinos inside of Philadelphia, but the boardwalk and beach give you a reason to visit and beach town has a unique energy.
By the way, Atlantic City is also the inspiration for the street names in Monopoly.
14. Cape May
If the bright lights and night life of Atlantic City is too much for you, a more quaint and family-friendly beach option is Cape May. It’s about the same distance from Philadelphia as A.C. and a more docile destination.
Located on the southernmost tip of New Jersey, Cape May is the beach point that separates the Delaware Bay from The Atlantic Ocean. The beaches of Cape May can draw a crowd in the peak summer season, but are still pleasant. Visiting in the shoulder season of May and early June or early September can help you beat the crowds.
Other Towns That Make Perfect Day Trips From Philadelphia
15. New Hope
New Hope, Pennsylvania is a charming riverside town located on the Delaware River across from New Jersey. It’s full of boutique shops, bed and breakfasts, cafes and restaurants. The town is also home to a large and vibrant LGBTQ community.
New Hope is historically the halfway point between Philadelphia and New York City. Anyone traveling between the two cities would have stopped in New Hope overnight before taking the ferry across the Delaware River.
New Hope is very close to the Washington’s Crossing. It’s a township named for a key event in the American Revolution, where George Washington crossed the Delaware River to launch a surprise attack against British forces in Trenton, New Jersey. It took place on Christmas night, so the river was nearly frozen and the victory motivated the American forces through the winter.
Lancaster is a really cool day trip from Philadelphia. It’s one of the oldest inland cities in the States and home to the Amish. For many, visiting the Amish communities in Lancaster is a main draw of such a day trip. The Amish are a religious community that bases life around faith, family and farming. Their lifestyle is virtually unchanged over the centuries and they go without modern conveniences.
Their simple life is on display in Lancaster but there are other attractions as well. You can visit the estate of former president James Buchanan. There are also many Amish farmers markets to visit for a pretzel or ice cream before you head back to Philadelphia.
Fun fact: Lancaster was the capital of the United States for one day. On September 27, 1777 the British captured Philadelphia during the American Revolution. The government quickly moved to Lancaster for one day before being moved slightly farther away to York, Pennsylvania.
17. Long Wood Gardens in Kennett Square
Located in the town of Kennett Square, PA – Longwood Gardens is a massive American horticultural display gardens. The botanical gardens inside cover over 1,000 acres (4.35 km2) and feature native and exotic plants all year round. There are 20 indoor gardens as well and you’ll find over 4,600 types of plants and trees at Longwood Gardens.
Visitors are treated to seasonal displays as well. This means if you visit in the spring you’ll be treated to displays of tulips and other spring plants. In the Christmas season you can expect festive poinsettia and light displays.
The amazing destination is located in the Brandywine Creek Valley, about an hour outside of Philadelphia’s center city.
Now You Know All About Philadelphia Day Trips
Philadelphia is an amazing destination, and you can experience some of the best America has to offer inside the city. Still, we hope that you’ll take some time to explore all that Philly has going on outside of the city limits.
The historical significance of Philadelphia is impossible to deny, but plenty of it leaked outward to nearby towns and battlefields. There are also so many beautiful natural areas to explore including beaches, mountain hikes and waterfalls. Even roller coasters and farmers markets can lure you out of Philly and it lies in the perfect location to keep exploring American cities.
We of course hope you love Philly as much as we do, but don’t forget to check out what lies just beyond the city.