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Founded by English Quaker William Penn in the 17th century, Pennsylvania is one of the original 13 European colonies settled in the United States. The founding father gives the state its name, which roughly translates from Latin to mean 'Penn's Woods'.
Indeed, there are many woods and forests in Pennsylvania, particularly in the Allegheny National Forest in the north. But there is a great deal more besides, with the state spanning more than 300 miles (483km) from Delaware Bay to the Great Lakes.
Pennsylvania is perhaps the most historically significant state in the nation, particularly the eastern seaboard city of Pennsylvania. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. The Liberty Bell seldom tolls today but still draws millions of visitors annually to the city's Independence National Historic Park.
The other main metropolis of Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh on the western side of the state, where the smoke-belching steel mills of the early 20th century have given way to urban redevelopment intended to highlight the region's natural beauty.
It receives visitors from all around as it shares borders with six other states, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio. Pennsylvania offers honeymoon retreats, family resorts, ski lodges, an eclectic mix of architecture, historic treasures, panoramic cityscapes, pastoral beauty, artist colonies, and country inns.
Whatever travellers want, they will be able to find. Even chocolate lovers will discover paradise here, as this is the location of Hershey, home of the world-famous Hershey Bar. It offers up its favourite Chocolate World attraction for tasting and tours.
The state capital is the city of Harrisburg in the north, with an exceptionally handsome capitol building, the impressive State Museum covering Pennsylvania's 300-year history, and the National Civil War Museum, which focuses on the human side of the conflict.
On 8 July 1776, the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall summoned citizens to hear the first reading of the Declaration of the Independence. Today, the building stands proudly and is revered as the birthplace of the American nation.
The Independence National Historical Park is an eight-block neighbourhood in the very centre of old Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell itself is on display in a pavilion in Market Street between 5th and 6th Street.
Originally built as the Pennsylvania State House in 1732, Independence Hall on Chestnut Street is now famous for being where the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States were ratified.
Historically significant buildings and museums pack out the rest of the 34 acre park, interpreting the events and lives of main figures involved in Philadelphia's years as the capital of the USA from 1790 and 1800. These include former presidents George Washington and John Adams.
About 20 buildings are open to the public daily, with times varying according to season. Advance tickets are required for Independence Hall, obtainable from the adjacent Visitors Centre or bookable in advance through the National Parks Service.
One of Philadelphia's most frequented museums, the Franklin Institute on Benjamin Franklin Parkway opened in 1934 and fast became recognised for its innovative and imaginative exhibits, demonstrating the influence of science in our lives.
The museum complex divides into various sections. Firstly, the Franklin National Memorial is dedicated to Benjamin Franklin. It features a huge statue of its namesake and a collection of memorabilia associated with the famous statesman.
Another section features hands-on and interactive science and technology exhibits, ranging from a walkthrough model of heart to a lightning gallery. This section also includes the Discovery Theatre, with scientific shows each afternoon and a puzzle area. The basement is the location of the Fels Planetarium.
There are numerous permanent exhibitions in addition to an ever-rotating roster of temporary offerings, such as Amazing Machine, The Franklin Air Show, and The Train Factory. Topics and themes covered include space, the earth, computers, chemistry, health, and electricity.
There is also an IMAX theatre, showing a variety of films. Located on the lawn between the main museum buildings, the CoreStates Science Park is a garden full of high-tech play structures like a stand-on organ, maze and a high-wire bicycle. The museum also features several restaurants and a snack bar.
Established in the 1870s, the elegant Philadelphia Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of more than 225,000 works in 200 galleries. The museum is recognised as being one of the finest art collections in the USA.
Exhibits include not only magnificent paintings, but also sculptures, period furniture, and faithfully restored historic rooms. Built in the style of a Greco-Roman temple, the beautiful building housing the collection stands upon a hilltop off Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The two storeys are designed with L-shaped wings leading off a central court, and exhibits are arranged in period groupings. The museum also has a cafeteria and a formal restaurant, and regularly hosts visiting exhibitions.
The part of the Independence National Historical Park between 3rd and 4th Street is where the home of Benjamin Franklin once stood. While the actual house no longer exists, a 54-foot-high (16m) steel skeleton ghost structure covers the remaining courtyard.
It provides a novel and fascinating tribute to the life of Franklin, allowing great insight into the iconic former statesman. His many vocations included printer, diplomat, inventor, publisher, author, and postmaster, as well as the founder of the University of Pennsylvania.
Visitors can peruse an underground museum filled with paintings, objects, and inventions associated with Franklin. There is a bank of telephones with many testimonies from famous personalities about the achievements of the great man.
There's also a US Postal Service Museum and a nearby home displays an architectural exhibit explaining Franklin's fire-resisting building techniques. Another building houses an 18th-century printing office and bindery with demonstrations. Alongside sits the restored office of the newspaper published by Franklin's grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache.
Philadelphia Zoo opened in 1874, the first of its kind in the USA. Today, it's one of the world's most renowned zoological gardens, replete with animal exhibits, award-winning education and conservation programmes, recreational opportunities, and scientific accomplishments.
More than one million visitors flock to this leading city attraction. Among special features offered are more than 1,600 rare and exotic animals and 42 acres of picturesque Victorian gardens. Highlights include the Peco Primate Reserve, an interactive exhibit featuring around 10 primate species.
The Rare Animal Conservation Center allows intimate views of some of the world's most endangered animals. The Reptile and Amphibian House has an interactive adventure path, showcasing dozens of species like the King Cobra. Additionally, there is an African animal section, and a children's petting zoo.
In 1895, Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie established an institute, which he intended to improve and educate local people. Today, his ideal is realised in the form of a collection of four museums funded by the Carnegie Institute: a Museum of Art, Natural History, a Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum.
The Carnegie Museum of Art on Forbes Avenue has a notable collection of contemporary art that includes film and video works. The adjacent Natural History Museum takes visitors on a trip through time detailing the wonders of planet earth.
The Carnegie Science Centre at Allegheny Avenue offers planetarium and laser shows and a variety of hands-on activities and exhibits for old and young. The final museum in the Carnegie bouquet is the Andy Warhol in Sandusky Street, featuring extensive permanent collections of art and archives relating to one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century.
Situated in historic West Park on Pittsburgh's North Side, the National Aviary is a few minutes from downtown. It's the only independent indoor non-profit bird zoo in the USA and home to more than 600 birds of more than 200 species, many of which are threatened and endangered. There are birds from just about every corner of the world, from hummingbirds to Andean condors. The zoo places emphasis on rainforest and wetland habitats with most birds kept in natural planted exhibits, allowing for close up views. The National Aviary is a great family attraction in Pittsburgh.
Formerly a slum, Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh is now a recreational delight. Declared a National Historic Landmark, it played a key strategic role during the French and Indian War in the middle of the 1700s.
Paved promenades feature along the Ohio riverfront, providing dramatic views of the city with its busy waterways, scenic hillsides, and bridges. The park is naturally landscaped and enhanced by a 150-foot (46m) fountain. There's also a biking trail, outdoor amphitheatre, and an inline skating route.
The Fort Pitt Museum is housed in one of the five original bastions of the ruined fort, devoted to displaying local history. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse is the oldest authentic building in Western Pennsylvania and is also open to the public.
The Please Touch Museum is located in Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park and is a shining example of what must be one of the rarest cultural attractions anywhere in the world: a museum where children are actually encouraged to lay their hands on exhibits.
Mainly aimed at kids aged seven years and younger, the museum seeks to educate and entrance its young visitors in equal measure, offering them a hands-on experience of an assortment of life-size interactive exhibition zones.
Although the exhibits change frequently, highlights have included an Alice in Wonderland area complete with rabbit holes and garden mazes, a miniature supermarket, and a scaled down SEPTA bus display.
Parents and grandparents are undivided in their approval of the museum and its child-friendly approach, describing it as an ideal way to spend a day out with the kids. The museum also offers a delicious selection of wholesome food and drinks.
Since its opening in 2001, PNC Park has awed all those who've entered it. Consistently voted in the top three of all baseball stadia in America, PNC Park is a breath-taking example of how sports stadium architecture can be both artful and spectator-friendly.
With a capacity of just under 40,000, it is a relatively small stadium. But even the cheap seats command perfect views of the playing diamond. Beyond the bleachers, views of the river, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh's skyline, and towering Mount Washington catch the eye.
While daytime tours of the stadium are thoroughly rewarding, visitors to Pittsburgh should do their best to attend a Pirates game. A magical atmosphere bubbles inside PNC Park as evening descends, the city lights starting to sparkle in the distance.
Just 60 miles (about 95km) southeast of Pittsburgh on Interstate 76, Fallingwater is a must-see attraction for visitors to the area. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 for retail giant Edgar J. Kaufman, the house sits among the waterfalls and woods of the beautiful Bear Run Nature Reserve.
It remains arguably the world's best example of organic architecture. A wondrous achievement, Wright managed to design a fully functioning personal residence that blends fluidly and harmoniously with its natural setting.
The sound of rushing water is a constant, a whispering presence within the house. A boulder juts out into the living room and doubles as a hearth, while the windows open outward from the corners of the walls and leave no panes to obstruct the natural view.
This triumphant feat of individualistic artistic expression so inspired Ayn Rand that she largely based her novel The Fountainhead on the ingenuous creation. Fallingwater is included in the Smithsonian magazine's list of '28 places to see before you die' and visitors to Pennsylvania shouldn't pass up the opportunity. Make sure to book well in advance.
Like all other states lying in the continental zone, Pennsylvania's climate varies according to area and altitude. The state experiences four seasons, each varying in temperature depending on location.
Summers tend to be long, hot, and humid, particularly in the southeast. The mountainous areas are likely to be cooler. Although humid, they are usually less so. Autumns are generally moderate and pleasant, while winters are cold and snowy, especially in the mountains.
The area around Lake Erie usually experiences cooler temperatures, with the lake regulating the change of seasons. July tends to be the state's warmest month, with temperatures reaching over 90°F (32°C) in the southeast and southwestern areas near Pittsburgh.
Average temperatures are usually about 80°F (27°C). January is the coldest time of year, with temperatures dropping to about 23°F (-5°C). Tornadoes and floods can occur.
About 42 miles (68km) north of Philadelphia, the city of Doylestown sits in the centre of Bucks County. Also serving as the county capital and renowned for its historic district, containing more than 1,0000 structures dating from 1851 and 1910.
This treasure-trove of architectural heritage draws hundreds of visitors to the city, named as one of a 'Dozen Distinctive Destinations' by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The city also offers antique and handcraft shops, numerous restaurants, and vast recreational possibilities in the surrounding Bucks County countryside.
Visitors may discover the 300-year-old Fallsington Village, go fishing and boating on the wide Delaware River, or hike scenic nature trails. Also nearby is the site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River and changed the course of the American Revolution.
Rated as one of the most popular summer drives in America, a tour of Pennsylvania's Dutch Country is a relaxing and rewarding experience enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. Central to the area is Pennsylvania's scenic Lancaster County, just one and a half hour's drive west of Philadelphia.
The main drawcard is the fascinating lifestyle of the local Amish farming communities. They live according to age-old traditions and values without making use of any modern conveniences, even eschewing electricity and telephones.
The area abounds with interesting historic and rural attractions, including 28 picturesque covered bridges on quiet country roads, the oldest Mennonite meeting house in America, and the home of a former US president.
Many visitors opt to tour the area in a horse and buggy or hire a bicycle. A big attraction in the region is food, benefiting from the local agriculture mantra of being 'fresh from the farm'. This home-style cooking makes its way onto the menus of many local restaurants and markets.
Be sure to try the area's famous Shoofly Pie, an open pie made with molasses and sweet crumbs. To wash down the farm fare there are wineries and breweries open for tours and tastings. Shopping for local crafts and antiques is another popular pastime.
The small town of Gettysburg in Adam's County, south central Pennsylvania, was the site of the largest battle in the American Civil War. It was the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln's celebrated Gettysburg Address.
The Battle of Gettysburg started on 1 July 1863, lasting two days and resulting in a Union victory. The Gettysburg National Military Park stands testimony to the battle, incorporating about 6,000 acres of land, 26 miles of park roads, and more than 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials.
One of the most famous military encounters in US history, the Battle of Gettysburg has been immortalised in many books, paintings, poems, and movies. The town is now a pilgrimage of a sort for military history buffs and anybody interested in the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.
No chocolate lover should miss out on the treat of visiting Hershey's Chocolate World in the town where chocolate making has become an art. Billed as 'The Sweetest Place on Earth', it's about 90 miles (145km) from Philadelphia via Lancaster. The official visitors centre of the Hershey Foods Corporation offers free-of-charge factory tours.
The Chocolate Tour begins in a tropical rainforest where the chocolate beans grow, following the journey as the beans make their way to the Hershey's factories. People can attend a 20-minute presentation on how Hershey's Chocolate is made, run every half hour in the 3D Theater Lobby. There are also gift and souvenir shops and a food court.
The cultural and historical hub of Brandywine Valley sits about 35 miles (63km) west of Philadelphia, on US 1, which is accessibly by both bus and train. It has magical landscapes, country inns, fascinating museums, and beautiful gardens, all found in the heart of Chester County. Visitors can enjoy Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum with its unique art collection in a grist mill, the Chaddsford Winery, and shopping in historic Kennett Square.
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