Pennsylvania, nicknamed the “Keystone State”, is one of the 13 original colonies in the United States. It’s rich in history with well-known landmarks like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but those compose only a fraction of Pennsylvania’s charm. There are scores of hidden gems that will make you fall in love with this state. If you’re staying in Philadephia to see the major sites, you’re in luck because three out of the 10 hidden gems on this list are located in the “City of Brotherly Love!” Staying somewhere else? Don’t worry, there are plenty of Pennsylvania vacation rentals to book and hidden gems to explore!
1. The Rose Gardens, Allentown
These old-fashioned gardens are known for their All American Rose Selections. It’s also a perfect place for outdoor recreational activities like walking and biking all year round. Walk or take your bike on the scenic 1.3 mile loop through the gardens while you enjoy the beautiful flowers and chirping birds. Most of the flowers are in full bloom during the summer, but you can appreciate a relaxing afternoon here any time of year.
2. Mütter Museum, Philadelphia
Not for the faint of heart, this famous museum of medical oddities is home to the remains of Einstein’s Brain. It’s located inside the headquarters of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and also has other curious medical displays like the skeleton of the tallest man in North America. Unfortunately, Einstein’s brain is not on display as his family has only allowed the brain to be used for scientific study, but there are plenty of other odd and quirky things to behold.
3. Columcille Megalith Park, Bangor
Originally established in 1978, the Columcille Park is a land full of folklore and myth in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania. Inspired by the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland, this park remains connected to Celtic spirituality. Perfect for relaxing or meditating, this place soothes each visitor with its open space created to welcome people of all faiths and traditions.
4. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Philadelphia
These Magic Gardens are a folk art environment, gallery space, and nonprofit organization that showcases the work of mosaicist Isaiah Zagar. The artist and his wife devoted themselves to beautifying the South Street neighborhood when they moved to the area in the late 1960s. They helped spur the revitalization of the area by purchasing and renovating derelict buildings, often adding colorful mosaics. Zagar started working on the Magic Gardens in 1994 and spent the next fourteen years excavating tunnels and grottos, sculpting multi-layered walls, and tiling and grouting the 3,000 square foot space. Take a guided tour, attend a mosaic workshop, or come for the other public events like live concerts and dance performances.
5. Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh
What was once a a warehouse shared by artists and intellectuals who lived together and hosted art exhibits is now a contemporary art museum known for its artist residency program and unique exhibitions. There are a few different gallery locations, so make sure you visit them all before you go. There are also educational programs sponsored through the Mattress Factory, such as community workshops and artists talks that are open to the public.
6. The Sonorous Stones of Ringing Rocks Park, Upper Black Eddy
Here’s something you’ll have to see to believe. These mysterious rocks actually ring musically when struck. The rock field occupies 7 acres of an otherwise wooded area, and is over 10 feet deep with boulders. Only about a third of the rocks ring, and it wasn’t until 1965 that a group of scientists discovered why. After performing numerous tests, they found that all the rocks do in fact ring, but some of them do so at tones lower than the human ear can perceive. However, no one knows exactly how the rocks ring. Scientists believe it may have to do with the freeze-thaw cycle that helped created the boulder field in the first place.
7. Martin Guitar Factory and Museum, Nazareth
Located in Nazareth, the Martin Guitar Factory and Museum is a music haven that brings music history, culture and craftsmanship together under one roof. If you’re a guitarist or music lover, there’s plenty here to fascinate you. There are over 200 vintage instruments on display at the center, some from artists like Johnny Cash and Elvis! Take a guided tour to see the 300 separate steps required to make just one Martin guitar! For more vacation rental choices, stay in nearby Allentown. You’ll also be close to the Rose Gardens!
8. The Seven Gates of Hell, Hellam
Hellam Township was a pleasant little backwater in a corner of York, Pennsylvania, founded in 1739. It boasts beautiful forestry, lakes, wildlife, and waterfalls, and yes, an alleged hellgate. The Seven Gates of Hell is, according to urban folklore, a series of portals in the Hellam Township which open an entrance to the fiery pit below. It is said that only the first “gate” is visible by daylight, and by night, the other gates become visible. Passing through all seven will take the visitor straight to hell, and it’s reported that nobody has passed five and returned to tell the tale.
9. Lehigh Valley Zoo, Schnecksville
Encompassing 29 acres inside the Trexler Nature Preserve, the Lehigh Valley Zoo was founded in 1974 and includes petting exhibits with exotic animals from Africa and Asia. It also participates in the Species Survival Plans for African penguins, mongoose lemur and the scimitar-horned oryx. Stop by to contribute towards animal conservation and learn more about exotic species like the dwarf crocodile or Mexican wolf.
10. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Philadelphia
Did you know that Philadelphia boasts one of the best traditional Japanese gardens in North America? Shofuso Japanese House and Garden actually stands on a portion of land adjacent to the first Japanese garden built in America which housed a 14th century Japanese Buddhist temple gate. The gate was devastatingly destroyed in a fire in 1955, but it did clear the way for a unique Japanese garden house looking for a home. Shofuso was part of a Museum of Modern Art exhibition called “House in the Garden.” This gift to the U.S. by the people of Japan to celebrate post-war relations stood in New York’s MoMa courtyard for two years before landing in Philadelphia.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Pennsylvania vacation rentals on Tripping.com.