12 Day Trips From Philadelphia For All History Buffs

If you’re vacationing in Philadelphia, there’s a good chance you’re already there for the history. Philadelphia was the epicenter of many important events in American history, so there’s no shortage of interesting historical landmarks to visit when you’re there.

Of course, if history isn’t your thing, we’ll have great day trips for you too.

One of the great things about being on the East Coast is that everything is so close together. You can drive an hour or two and be in a completely different state, whereas if you drive two hours in Texas, you’ll just be two hours away from where you started.

There’s so much to see in the area surrounding Philadelphia, whether you love American history or not, you should take advantage.

Cape May

Cape May

If you need to get away from the city, take the two-hour drive to Cape May, New Jersey. This cute seaside town will let you relax on the beach, grab some fresh seafood, or take a hike if you need to get some exercise in.

The seafood is always fresher the closer you get to the ocean, but you’ll get nothing but the best when you visit a coastal town. At 410 Bank Street, you can get the same kind of creole food you’d find in the French Quarter.

If it’s lobster you’re looking for, go to The Lobster House on Fisherman’s Wharf. If the weather’s nice, you can sit outside on the deck and enjoy the seafood and views of the cape. And even better, The Lobster House has a fresh market so you can buy some of the freshest catch to take home with you.

Amish Country, Lancaster County

Amish Country

If you want a day trip that is the exact opposite of the city, visit Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The slow pace of Amish Country will give you the relaxation that other cities can’t.

The rolling hills and endless agricultural fields will give you some peace if you’ve lacked greenery in your life. You’ll also be able to enjoy a horse and buggy go by and feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.

While you’re visiting, you can choose from a variety of different tours to learn about the Amish culture. You’ll also be able to visit Amish-owned bakeries, farmer’s markets, and homemade goods shops.

After spending a day taking it slow, stop at one of the many Dutch restaurants surrounding the area for some great homestyle cooking.

Lambertville

Lambertville

Lambertville is another cute little town in New Jersey that will let you take a step back from the city. This town has well-preserved Victorian-era houses, art, history, and great food, so there’s something for everyone.

The Golden Nugget Flea Market is a great place to do some shopping, but you’ll probably end up leaving with something that you weren’t looking for. Lambertville also has a lot of other unique shops if you’re in the mood to do some browsing.

And if you’re in town in time for brunch, make sure you stop at the Riverside Buffet Brunch on Delaware. Here you can get every kind of breakfast food imaginable for $30 a plate.

Brandywine Valley Wine Tour

Brandywine

The Brandywine Valley is home to six family-owned wineries, so you can spend the day tasting wine, snacking at some of the local restaurants, and learning some history.

The Chaddsford Winery is Pennsylvania’s largest and best-known winery. This winery is open year-round for tours, tastings, and sales. Another popular winery you should stop during your tour of the Brandywine Valley is Kreutz Creek Vineyards, one of the legacy wineries in the area.

After you’re done tasting, you can check out the mansions, museums, and castles that you find along your way. One of the oldest castles in Olde New Castle, which was established in 1651.

Rickett’s Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen

If the purpose of your day trip is to get your nature fix, Rickett’s Glen State Park is just what you need. Even if you don’t like hiking, there’s something for you to do at this beautiful state park.

This state park is one of the most scenic places in Pennsylvania and spans 13,193 acres, so you know that there’s plenty to see. And if you feel like extending your trip past a day, you can stay the night at one of the campsites, cabins, or deluxe cottages.

Rickett’s Glen has over two dozen hiking trails, waterfalls, and a lake with a 600-foot beach. The trail to Adams Falls rewards you with an awesome waterfall, but that’s just one of many that you can see. You can also boat, fish, or picnic in this huge state park.

New York City

New York City

Maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a slow-moving day trip. If you want to pick up the tempo, New York City is just a short drive away from Philadelphia. Of course, you won’t be able to see everything in a day, but there’s no shortage of things to do in New York City.

While you’re taking in the sights and sounds of New York, you don’t have to eat somewhere fancy. If you want to feel like a real New Yorker, grab a dirty water hot dog and a knish from one of the many hot dogs stands on the sidewalk.

If it’s nice out and you need a break, head over to Central Park and lay down on the grass for a while. It sounds touristy, but especially if you’re visiting New York for the first time, it’s somewhere you have to make a stop.

Before you leave, stop at Forlini’s for dinner. This old-fashioned Italian restaurant sits at the intersection of Little Italy and Chinatown on Baxter Street. The food here is incredible, and if you’re lucky enough to be there on a night where there’s live music, you’ll feel like you’re family and find yourself singing along to every song.

Baltimore

Baltimore

If you’re not tired of city life, but you want to see another one, Baltimore is only a two-hour drive away from Philly. There are lots to see in terms of history in Baltimore, just like a lot of cities on the East Coast, but much more than that as well.

If you do like American history, you can visit Fort McHenry, a landmark in the War of 1812. Baltimore also has a ton of museums that you can visit as well.

If there’s one thing that Baltimore is famous for, it’s crabs. If you make the drive to Baltimore, you have to eat a crab-based meal at some point in the day. Captain James Landing, LP Steamers, and Nick’s Fish House are all local favorites that won’t disappoint.

If you’re not so much a foodie but love a good beer, Baltimore also has a multitude of breweries that you can choose from or hop between. Some of the best are Waverly Brewing Company, Manor Hill Brewing, Hysteria Brewing Company, and Black Flag Brewing Company.

Washington, D.C.

D.C.

Washington, D.C. is a popular city for people from all over the world. If you didn’t get to visit our nation’s capital on a school field trip, there’s still time for you to take a day trip and see some of the awesome things that D.C. has to offer.

If you happen to go on a rainy day, D.C. has plenty of museums that you can take your time walking through. One of the best is the Natural History Museum, and it’s free to visit, which makes it even better.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is another great (and free) museum. But if you do want to make a stop at this museum and you want to make sure you get in, plan ahead and get a timed pass, so you don’t have to stand in line for hours.

Since Washington, D.C. is such a diverse city, you’ll have no problem finding fantastic food wherever you go. Whether it’s American, European, Asian, or fine dining, this guide will help you make the most of your meals in D.C.

Morey’s Piers and Waterparks

Morey's

If you’re looking for a day trip to take the kids to during the summer, Morey’s Piers and Waterparks is a super fun choice. The park has roller coasters, water rides, and amusement park snacks when you’re done for the day.

There are also plenty of full-service restaurants if you need more than a snack. You can enjoy boardwalk classics at most restaurants, get a beer at Wilhelm’s Bier Garten, or have Breakfast in the Sky aboard the Ferris wheel.

During the summer months, there are also a bunch of sports tournaments on the beach, including soccer, flag football, lacrosse, beach hockey, wrestling, and basketball.

Gettysburg

Gettysburg

If you’re an American history buff, you already know that Gettysburg is one of the most significant cities on the East Coast. Gettysburg is full of museums and Civil War landmarks that will quickly fill up a day.

One unique way to learn some American history is to take a Civil War ghost tour. Some tours take place after dark, so you might have to stay a little longer than you expected, but it’s an exciting way to learn more about the Civil War if you enjoy being scared.

If you need a break from the Civil War, you can also check out the shops and restaurants in downtown Gettysburg. Gettysburg also has something to eat for every foodie, whether it’s casual, farm to table, or upscale dining.

There are plenty of pubs and taverns in town, including The Dobbin House Tavern, which operates out of an 18th-century colonial building and serves traditional American cuisine by candlelight.

Valley Forge

Valley Forge

Valley Forge is another famous landmark in American history. In the winter of 1777-1778, the American troops in the Revolutionary War suffered massive casualties, and George Washington showed his patriotism by staying with the soldiers the whole winter.

You can also take a tour of Washington’s headquarters, the Muhlenberg Brigade Huts. A trolley tour, which is 90 minutes and is a great way to see a lot of historical sites in a short amount of time.

Valley Forge is also home to the King of Prussia Mall, the largest retail space in the United States. The mall has over 400 stores, including high-end stores like Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton.

Poconos Whitewater Rafting

Poconos

If you’re looking for an adventurous outdoor day trip not far from Philadelphia, take a trip to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, to go white water rafting. Of course, this is a much better trip during the summer months.

Families with kids of all ages can enjoy a whitewater rafting trip during the day, or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can take a moonlight rafting trip. The moonlight trip includes a bonfire at the end of your journey down the Lehigh River with smores and wine.

At the Broken Paddle Bar and Grill, you can grab some breakfast before your rafting trip or reward yourself with a classic American barbecue-style dinner and a cold beer.

If you’re a nature lover and you’re looking to get out and try something new, whitewater rafting is an excellent choice. It’s also a great way to cool down during a hot East Coast day (bonus).

Final Thoughts

There are so many places within driving distance of Philadelphia; it’s so easy to make day trips to different cities and states. The area surrounding Philadelphia is full of American history landmarks, but your options aren’t limited to museums.

If you’re looking for nature day trips, family-friendly day trips, or those based around food, you can find what you’re looking for a short drive away from Philly.

Whether you’re a local or just visiting Philadelphia, take a day trip, and expand your horizons. You don’t have to go to a new country to learn about different cultures. Sometimes the best way to enjoy another state or country’s culture is to eat their food.

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