Pennsylvania

Welcome to Pennsylvania! As one of the 13 founding states of the USA, the Keystone State has an exciting history to tell. And its impressive natural parks will amaze you, too!

Pennsylvania facts

Capital Harrisburg
Area about 119,000 km²
Population about 12.8 million
Location in the northeast of the USA
Nickname The Keystone State
State animal white-tailed deer, brook trout, ruffed grouse
Time zone UTC -5/-4

Pennsylvania: location & population

Pennsylvania borders six other states: New York to the north, New Jersey to the east, Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, and Ohio to the west.

Despite a considerable size of 119,000 km², Pennsylvania is one of the few northeastern US states that does not have access to the Atlantic coast. The state's only coastline is not located along the ocean but along Lake Erie. At the so-called Erie Triangle, it has a small coastal strip measuring six km in length.

With a population of around 12.8 million, Pennsylvania ranks fifth among the most populous states in the USA. In terms of population density, the Keystone State ranks ninth.

The largest cities in Pennsylvania

The eastern and western parts of Pennsylvania differ significantly in terms of their mentality and way of life. That is why the two most important cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, respectively, have a legendary rivalry. But the two metropolises are not the only interesting places in Pennsylvania.

The largest cities in Pennsylvania by population are:

City Population
Philadelphia 1,526,000
Pittsburgh 306,000
Allentown 118,000
Erie 102,000
Reading 88,000

At number six on the list comes Scranton, the birthplace of the 46th US President Joe Biden, with a population of 76,000.

Pennsylvania's capital Harrisburg only comes in at number ten among Pennsylvania's largest cities, with a population of 49,500.

Climate and nature

The vegetation of the state is characterized by extensive forest areas and hilly landscapes. Furthermore, three mighty rivers dominate the state of Pennsylvania: the Delaware River, the Susquehanna River, and the Ohio River. All of Pennsylvania's major cities settled along these important waterways over the course of time.

Dividing the Keystone State in a north-south direction stretches the Appalachian mountain range. It also marks a natural boundary between the competing eastern and western regions.

Pennsylvania has several climate zones for you to experience. Most of the state has a humid continental climate, while the south around the city of Philadelphia has a more humid subtropical climate. While summers are generally hot throughout the state, there can be a harsh winter climate in the mountainous inland regions.

Best time to travel to Pennsylvania

Summer or winter? The Keystone State is appealing in any weather, depending on whether you're drawn to the great outdoors or prefer to take a journey through history and explore Pennsylvania's many excellent museums and memorials.

Pennsylvania in summer

Hiking, climbing, biking, kayaking, swimming, and more: Pennsylvania's seemingly endless forest areas are a paradise for outdoor summer activities.

In the Keystone State, you're truly spoiled for choice. There are so many nature parks that you'll have to come back to Pennsylvania several times to make sure you don't miss any of the outdoor highlights.

Pennsylvania in winter

A state as rich in history as Pennsylvania is an El Dorado for historians and people interested in culture. The best place to start is Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park, where the independence of the United States was declared. And when you've finished your tour of the past and landed in the present, make sure to save some time to visit Pennsylvania's excellent art museums.

Travel to Pennsylvania

Serving about 30 million passengers annually, Philadelphia International Airport is by far the largest hub in Pennsylvania. However, the Keystone State has several other important airports.

The most important airports in Pennsylvania at a glance:

  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Harrisburg International Airport (MDT)
  • Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE)
  • University Park Airport (SCE)
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP)

Direct flights from Europe to Pennsylvania's main airport in Philadelphia are rare. A few non-stop connections fly, for example, from London Heathrow with British Airways.

However, a stopover is usually necessary to get to the Keystone State. From Munich, for example, Air Canada flies to Philadelphia with a stopover in Toronto.

If you book your two-way connection between Europe and Pennsylvania well ahead of time (usually a few weeks in advance), you should expect to pay between € 600 and € 700. If you are willing to make two stops on your flight to Philadelphia, you can get a connection for around € 500 with Delta or TAP Portugal.

Travel authorization Pennsylvania

It is not necessary to apply for a US visa to get to Pennsylvania. Citizens of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program (e.g., most European countries, Australia, Japan) can travel to the United States quite easily and rather cheaply with an ESTA travel authorization.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Transfer

Taxi from Philadelphia Airport

Philadelphia's airport is located only about 11 km outside the city center. If you prefer to take a cab, you should expect to pay around $ 35 to get to downtown Philadelphia.

Public transport from Philadelphia Airport

The airport is well connected to the city with public transport: the SEPTA Airport Line trains take you into the city at the cost of $ 4.00 to $ 8.25 (prices vary depending on the zone of the exit stop and the time of day). The trains run approximately every 25 minutes between 5 am and midnight.

Nature highlights in Pennsylvania

The densely forested state of Pennsylvania is packed with natural wonders and recreation areas – so much so that we had a hard time picking out the best ones. Still, we found them: here come our top 5 nature parks in Pennsylvania.

Allegheny National Forest

The densely forested Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania will impress you with its sheer size of 2,100 km². Spread across four counties, the Allegheny National Forest features more than 360 km of hiking trails, 120 km of biking routes, and 320 km of snowmobiling tracks.

During your adventure ride, you'll pass numerous rivers, streams, and Lake Kinzua Reservoir, where you can go fishing or take a boat ride.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

About 45 km of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area in the Pocono Mountains. It has more than 160 km of hiking trails, thick hemlock forests, steep ridges, and historic colonial villages such as Millbrook Village.

The must-see view is at "Water Gap," a 300-meter deep valley between the mountain ridges. Every now and then, you'll probably catch a glimpse of the abundant wildlife: rabbits, white-tailed deer, and even black bears are at home in the forests of the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area.

Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle State Park's peninsula sits on the shores of Lake Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania. During the warmer months, you can enjoy the park's beaches, take a boat ride, fish, swim, or surf the waves of Lake Erie.

There are also numerous hiking and biking trails through the woods at Presque Isle State Park. The region is very popular among birdwatchers and nature photographers, who come here to observe rare species during bird migration times.

Cherry Springs State Park

Do you want to watch the bright stars on a dark night? A trip to Cherry Springs State Park in northern Pennsylvania is well worth it. The nature park is an astronomer's paradise, known for having the darkest skies on the East Coast!

The Pennsylvania Wilds area, of which the park is a part, is free of light pollution, so you can spot planets here that are invisible from other regions.

Ohiopyle State Park

Water rats are right in their element at Ohiopyle State Park! Located in the Laurel Highlands, it is one of the largest natural parks in Pennsylvania. Ohiopyle State is extremely popular for whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Youghiogheny River. Also, there are countless hiking trails running through the park.

The two main attractions in Ohiopyle are Cucumber Falls, a picturesque waterfall, and the natural water slides at Meadow Run. Ferncliff Peninsula has a unique habitat where you'll see flowers and other plants found nowhere else in the region.

Experience history in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was the 2nd US.state after Delaware to declare its independence from the British Crown. It also played a central role in the American Civil War. Today, you can trace the history of the United States in many exciting places.

Independence National Historical Park

The National Historical Park is one of the top tourist attractions in Philadelphia. More than a dozen buildings house exhibits on the history of the United States.

Walk from central Independence Square to Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.

At the Liberty Bell Center, you can see the famous "Liberty Bell" that was rung on July 8th, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

During the American War of Independence, George Washington and his army spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge camp about 35 km northwest of Philadelphia.

Today, at Valley Forge National Historical Park memorial, you can participate in interactive living-history experiences, head out on the 10-mile Encampment Tour, and explore the Muhlenberg Brigade and Artillery Park cabins. The park also includes more than 32 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park commemorates one of the most gruesome battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg. Guided walking tours take you to the former battlefield.

In addition, other events and activities are held regularly to provide insight into all the events surrounding the battle.

Flight 93 National Memorial Park

On September 11th, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Today, the Flight 93 National Memorial is a reminder of that event. The park features a large visitor center that provides insight into the events of September 11th and describes the heroic actions of the passengers of Flight 93. The Overlook Area offers a sweeping view of the crash site.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a place where the present and the past come together. For the best of both, be sure to put these top Pennsylvania highlights at the top of your travel list:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Liberty Bell
  • Hersheypark
  • Fallingwater
  • Independence National Historical Park
  • Longwood Gardens
  • Philadelphia Zoo
  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Reading Terminal Market
  • Gettysburg National Military Park

City highlights in Pennsylvania

Don't miss Pennsylvania's two major metropolises: Philadelphia in the eastern part and Pittsburgh in the western part of the state. The capital city of Harrisburg and the northernmost town of Erie are also worth a spot on your must-see list.

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City highlights Philadelphia

The fifth-largest urban region in the USA has formed around the city of Philadelphia on the Delaware River. The city's beautiful skyline presents a fascinating mix of modern skyscrapers and nostalgic buildings such as Philadelphia City Hall.

Philadelphia is also a place full of history: the American Declaration of Independence was signed here, and for a time, Pennsylvania's largest metropolis was even the capital of the USA.

These city highlights in Philadelphia are worth a visit:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Liberty Bell
  • Independence National Historical Park
  • Philadelphia Zoo
  • Eastern State Penitentiary

City highlights Pittsburgh

In western Pennsylvania, the city of Pittsburgh is located where the Allegheny River and Monongahela River meet to form the Ohio River.

Once a center of the steel industry, Pittsburgh has evolved over the past decades into a vibrant and lively city where you can cross 446 bridges and walk along fascinating buildings like the 42-story Cathedral of Learning (the tallest university in the USA!).

These are the city highlights you should see in Pittsburgh:

  • Andy Warhol Museum
  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Point State Park
  • Kennywood

City highlights Harrisburg

Harrisburg is only the tenth-largest city in Pennsylvania, but it is full of cultural and historical highlights. The city on the east bank of the Susquehanna River is home to the Pennsylvania State Capitol with its distinctive green dome and a variety of interesting museums.

These are the city highlights you need to see in Harrisburg:

  • Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex
  • City Island
  • The State Museum of Pennsylvania
  • The National Civil War Museum
  • Susquehanna Art Museum

City highlights Erie

Erie is the only major city in Pennsylvania that has a coastline, the one of Lake Erie forming the border with Canada.

Erie is a popular destination, especially in the summer, when you can take a boat tour on the lake, relax at Presque Isle State Park and Waldameer Park, or explore the city's variety of museums.

These are the city highlights of Erie that we recommend:

  • Bicentennial Tower
  • Erie Zoo
  • Erie Art
  • Erie Maritime Museum
  • Flagship Niagara League

Instagram hotspots in Pennsylvania

Have you really been there? To inspire your friends and acquaintances with your travel experiences, you need the right scenery for your Instagram posts. We've found the perfect places to take photos that impress!

Our top 5 Instagram hotspots in Pennsylvania:

  • Pittsburgh Duquesne Incline
  • Cherry Springs
  • Pittsburgh Ohio River
  • Rocky steps
  • Rocky statue

Cuisine in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is known as the "snack hotspot" of the United States. Numerous manufacturers of sweet or savory treats have their headquarters here. When in Pennsylvania, make sure to try:

  • Salty pretzels from Sturgis Pretzel
  • Chocolate from Hershey
  • Potato chips from Utz Quality Foods or Wise Foods
  • Marshmallow Peeps

Pittsburgh is also the home of Heinz tomato ketchup.

Popular dishes include pies, such as Chicken Potpie, Ham Potpie or Shoofly Pie.

Fun Facts Pennsylvania

To avoid standing out among the locals during your trip to Pennsylvania, you should definitely know these interesting facts about the 2nd US state:

  • Pennsylvania translates as "Penn's Wood." The term is composed of "Silva," the Latin word for forest, and the name of the politician William Penn, who was one of the state's first prominent figures.
  • Pennsylvania's nickname, Keystone State, refers to the wedge-shaped stone in the middle of an archway. The state received the name because it was located right in the middle of the first colonies on American soil at the time.
  • Pennsylvania is the US state with the most Amish, a population group that maintains a rural lifestyle devoid of cars, electricity, and other "conveniences" of modern life. In 2020, there were about 81,500 Amish in Pennsylvania, representing 23.6% of the Amish population in the US.
  • In the small town of Punxsutawney, Groundhog Day is celebrated every year. A woodchuck named Phil is said to predict the end of winter. The town gained international fame in 1993 through the movie "Groundhog Day."
  • The stairs on which Sylvester Stallone alias Rocky Balboa jogged up 72 steps during his training sessions in the "Rocky" movies belong to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A bronze statue was installed at the foot of the stairs in the 1980s, showing "Rocky" in a victory pose.
  • Kennett Square is considered to be the mushroom capital of the world. A million pounds of mushrooms are harvested here every year.

Immigrate to Pennsylvania

Do you like Pennsylvania so much that you can imagine staying there forever? The following information about work and life in the Keystone State will be useful to you if you consider moving to the USA.

Working in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania used to be a center of the steel industry. Today, however, the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, in particular, have been transformed into vibrant and livable metropolises where you can find all kinds of jobs.

50 of the 500 largest US companies are headquartered in Pennsylvania, including U.S. Steel, PPG Industries, and H.J. Heinz, The Hershey Company, and GE Transportation. Philadelphia is also a center of banking and finance.

Like everywhere else in the US, a higher education degree paves the way to a well-paying job.

Living in Pennsylvania

According to the Cost of Living Index, the general cost of living in Pennsylvania corresponds roughly to the American average. The same applies to Philadelphia, where you only have to expect to pay more for transportation.

Pittsburgh's Cost of Living Index, on the other hand, is about 10% below the US average, thanks to comparatively low rents.

Moving to Pennsylvania with a Green Card

Wouldn't it be wonderful to stay in Pennsylvania? However, since it is generally quite difficult to obtain a work visa for the USA, we recommend the Green Card Lottery. It offers you excellent chances to win one of 55,000 US Green Cards every year.

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