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Pennsylvania

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Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States Pennsylvania

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Introduction

Day_73_-_Pennsylvania Farm Country

Day_73_-_Pennsylvania Farm Country

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Pennsylvania is a state in the northeast of the USA. It is part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

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Geography

The state borders Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and Ontario, Canada to the northwest, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east. Pennsylvania is the 33rd most extensive, the 6th most populous, and the 9th most densely populated of the 50 United States.

The bounds of the state are the Mason-Dixon Line (39° 43' N) to the south, the Twelve-Mile Circle on the Pennsylvania-Delaware border, the Delaware River to the east, 80° 31' W to the west and the 42° N to the north, with the exception of a short segment on the western end, where a triangle extends north to Lake Erie. There are 5 regions. They are the Allegheny Plateau, Ridge and Valley, Atlantic Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and the Erie Plain.

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Regions

  • Alleghenies and Susquehanna Valley
  • Erie Region
  • Pennsylvania Dutch Country
  • Pennsylvania Wilds
  • Philadelphia Region
  • Pittsburgh Region
  • Poconos and Endless Mountains

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Cities

  • Allentown - largest city of the Lehigh Valley, third largest city in state
  • Erie - home to Pennsylvania's slice of Lake Erie, great for boating and beaches
  • Harrisburg - the state capital
  • Lancaster - a relatively large city right at the heart of Amish country; the birthplace of the battery-powered watch, and a good shopping destination for Amish goods
  • Philadelphia - the state's largest city, "The City of Brotherly Love," with lots of history and cheesesteaks
  • Pittsburgh - "The Steel City," a scenic, multicultural, major city

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Sights and Activities

  • Yuengling Brewery is the oldest brewery in the United States and located in Pottsville. It is possible to go on tours and visit the tasting room.
  • Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
  • Gettysburg National Military Park - the site of the most famous battlefield on U.S. soil, which saw the bloodiest battle and the turning point of the Civil War
  • Johnstown Flood National Memorial
  • Lehigh Valley
  • Poconos and Endless Mountains
  • Raccoon Creek State Park
  • Steamtown National Historic Site

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Weather

Pennsylvania's diverse topography also produces a variety of climates, though the entire state experiences cold winters and humid summers.
Straddling two major zones, the majority of the state, with the exception of the southeastern corner, has a humid continental climate. Greater Philadelphia has some characteristics of the humid subtropical climate while moving toward the mountainous interior of the state, the winter climate becomes markedly colder, the number of cloudy days increases, and snowfall amounts are greater. Western areas of the state, particularly locations near Lake Erie, can receive over 250 centimetres of snowfall annually, and the entire state receives plentiful precipitation throughout the year. The state may be subject to severe weather from spring through summer into fall, as an average of 10 tornadoes touch down each year in the state.

Summers last from June to September and are nice and warm, between 25 °C and 30 °C during the day and between 15 and 20 °C at night. Winters last from December to March with average daytime temperatures mostly around zero or slightly above. Nights are well below zero during this time. Precipitation is quite evenly distributed throughout the year, with sometimes very heavy snowfall in winter. During summer, heavy showers can occur, especially after periods of hot weather.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are three major International Airports in Pennsylvania:
1. Philadelphia International Airport (IATA: PHL, ICAO: KPHL) receives many domestic as well as international flights and is one of the busiest airports in the world regarding aircraft movements.

To/from the airport

  • Rail: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has regional rail services between the airport and Center City Philadelphia via the R1 Commuter Rail line with convenient stops at University City, Amtrak’s 30th Street, Suburban, and Market East Stations. The fare is US$6.
  • Bus: SEPTA also operates various bus routes to the Airport: Route 37 (South Philadelphia to Eastwick and Chester Transportation Ctr via Philadelphia International Airport), Route 108 (69th Street Terminal to Philadelphia International Airport or UPS), and Route 115 (Ardmore/Darby Transportation Center to Philadelphia International Airport).
  • Car: rental cars, shuttles and taxis are all widely available at the airport.

2. Pittsburgh International Airport (IATA: PIT, ICAO: KPIT) receives many domestic flights and is located about 20 miles (32 kilometres) from downtown Pittsburgh. It has a few international connections, including flights to, Paris and Toronto and seasonal flights to Cancun and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

To/from the airport:

  • Car: PIT is located at Exit 53 of Interstate 376 and the Western Terminus Pennsylvania Route 576 (future I-576), and within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of Interstate 79 and 15 miles (24 kilometres) of Interstate 76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
  • Bus: Buses go from downtown Pittsburgh and the city's University District (Oakland) via the Port Authority of Allegheny County's 28X Route as well as from the suburban BCTA Transit to locations north and westbound. Mountain Line Transit's Grey Line also has service to areas south of Pittsburgh including Waynesburg, Pennsylvania; Morgantown, Fairmont, and Clarksburg, West Virginia.

3. Harrisburg International Airport (IATA: MDT, ICAO: KMDT)

Other airports servicing the state include:

By Train

Amtrak services Pennsylvania with rail service connecting to states in the Northeast, Midwest and South regions.

  • Acela Express (Boston – New York – Philadelphia – Washington, D.C.)
  • Capitol Limited (Washington, D.C. – Pittsburgh – Cleveland – Chicago)
  • Cardinal / Hoosier State (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Chicago)
  • Carolinian / Piedmont (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Rocky Mount – Raleigh – Charlotte)
  • Crescent (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Greensboro – Atlanta – New Orleans)
  • Keystone (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg)
  • Northeast Regional (Boston – Springfield/Providence – New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Newport News)
  • Pennsylvanian (New York – Pittsburgh)
  • Silver Service / Palmetto (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Charleston – Savannah – Jacksonville – Orlando – Tampa/Miami)
  • Vermonter (St. Albans – Burlington – Springfield – New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC)

By Car

Pennsylvania is a densely populous state in a densely populous part of the country, with many roads in and out. Interstate highways lead most traffic into the state. Major national interstate highways leading to Pennsylvania include I-95 S from New England, I-95 N from the American South, and I-70 E, I-80 E & I-90 E from the American West and Midwest. Specifically, clockwise from north of Harrisburg:

  • from Montreal & Ottawa to Scranton & Harrisburg: I-81 S.
  • from Boston to Scranton: I-90 W to I-84 W.
  • from Boston to the Lehigh Valley & Harrisburg: I-84 W to I-91 S to I-95 S to I-287 W to I-78 W.
  • from Boston to Philadelphia: I-84 W to I-91 S to I-95 S.
  • from New York City to Scranton: I-80 W.
  • from New York City to the Lehigh Valley & Harrisburg: I-78 W.
  • from New York City to Philadelphia: I-95 S.
  • from Baltimore to Philadelphia: I-95 N.
  • from Baltimore to Harrisburg: I-83 N.
  • from Baltimore to Pittsburgh: I-70 W.
  • from Washington, DC to Philadelphia: I-95 N.
  • from Washington, DC to Harrisburg: I-95 N to I-83 N.
  • from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh: I-270 W to I-70 W.
  • from West Virginia to Pittsburgh: I-79 N.
  • from Columbus & Indianapolis to Pittsburgh & Harrisburg: I-70 E.
  • from Cleveland to Pittsburgh: It's close, but complicated.
  • from Cleveland & Chicago to Erie: I-90 E.
  • from Toronto & Buffalo to Erie: I- 90 W.

Also, U.S. Routes 219, 15, and 220 (soon to be I-99) all enter the state at alternative points from both the north and south.

By Bus

The entire state can be accessed by Greyhound and other bus services. Bus service from New York to areas in Eastern Pennsylvania, like Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and the Poconos, is very easy, quick, and inexpensive. A convenient way to find bus service to Eastern PA in New York is at Port Authority Bus Terminal in lower Manhattan. To Philadelphia, some options include Chinatown buses, Megabus, and Greyhound. To the Lehigh Valley, some options include Trans-Bridge and Bieber Bus. To the Poconos, some options include USA Coach and Mertz.

By Boat

There are no major waterways connecting the state with transportation. The Delaware River runs along the eastern border of the state, however, this is mainly used for freight.

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Getting Around

Pennsylvania is a very accessible state by plane, train or automobile. South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) services the Philadelphia area. Capital Area Transit (CAT) provides bus service in the Harrisburg area. And Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) services the Pittsburgh area. Amtrak connects the state by rail and several airlines connect major cities throughout the state.

By Train

In Philadelphia, SEPTA has eight regional rail lines leading into the city as well as 11 subway & trolly lines servicing the city itself. Pittsbugh's rail system, commonly known as the "T", provides subway service downtown & light rail service into the suburbs on four lines.

By Car

With the first Turnpike (toll road) in the country, Pennsylvania has an extensive network of major highways running north to south and east to west.

  • The turnpike (RT 76 E/W) is the only toll road in the state connecting Pittsburgh to Philadelphia across the southern part of the state.
  • I-95 N/S runs up from Delaware along the eastern border of the state into New Jersey
  • I-80 E/W runs across the top of the state
  • I-79 N/S comes down from Erie through Pittsburgh into West Virginia.

There are several state highways connecting the more populated areas of the state. Rural areas are also easily accessible through an extensive network of two-lane highways as well.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

Pennsylvania has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.

By Bus

Both the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas have an extensive network of bus lines servicing both the cities & the suburbs. SEPTA provides bus service throughout the Philadelphia metro area as well as into Delaware and New Jersey with almost 300 routes. Pittsburgh's PAT (Port Authority) has 180 routes connecting the city with its surrounding counties. Capital Area Transit (CAT) services the Harrisburg area with 30 routes. Philadelphia can also be reached by the Chinatown bus of which there are several lines connecting the Chinatowns of major northeastern cities, like New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C..

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Eat

  • Hoagie - A sandwich made of a long loaf of bread filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, seasonings, and sauces. Commonly referred to as a "hero" or "submarine sandwich" beyond the Philadelphia Region.
  • Cheesesteak - A famous sandwich famously native to Philadelphia — A hoagie roll filled with chopped steak, melted cheese, and (optionally) onions.
  • "Primanti's" Sandwich - A sandwich of hot meat, french fries and vinegar cole slaw on sliced Italian bread, local to the Pittsburgh Region. A common offshoot is putting french fries on your salad, as well.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine - scrapple, funnel cake, shoofly pie, whoopie pie, apple butter, soft pretzels, etc.
  • Hershey's Chocolate
  • Tastykakes - Prepackaged pastries and cakes, local to the Philadelphia Region.

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Drink

Pennsylvania is home to many other beers. It is birthplace of Rolling Rock - "#33". Serious beer drinkers probably know Pennsylvania for its wide selection craft breweries. Hundreds of fine ales are produced each year. Some great labels that every visitor should try include Yards, Sly Fox, Victory, Lancaster, Troegs, Philadelphia Brewing Company, and Stoudts.

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Sleep

Pennsylvania has many country inns in the Northeast and some grand old hotels in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And naturally, you'll also find branches of national chain hotels and motels at various price points throughout the state. As there are many universities in the state, you may also want to inquire about whether you can stay in a dorm during intersessions or in the summer, as you might be able to save money that way.

Hotel and Motel Chains

There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:

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Contributors

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Pennsylvania Travel Helpers

  • vacationgateway

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    Split Rock resort is great to fun, One of the best place to visit.

    Ask vacationgateway a question about Pennsylvania

This is version 35. Last edited at 8:26 on Apr 26, 16 by Utrecht. 19 articles link to this page.

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