Family-friendly attractions in Pennsylvania to enjoy

Peter Watson

From crayons to canoes and bumper boats to Big Bird, happy travelers of all ages can kick up the fun in Pennsylvania with endless thrills, activities, and hands-on learning.

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Pennsylvania is a great destination for familiesGeorge Sheldon/Shutterstock

Whether families prefer the energy of the city or the peace of the country, Pennsylvania is the place to unite the young – and young at heart – in the pursuit of happiness.

Amusement Parks

1. Hersheypark, Dutch Country Roads

Where: Hershey

More information: www.hersheypark.com

Since its opening in 1907 in Pennsylvania, Hersheypark transitioned over the years from a relaxing park with baseball, picnics, and canoeing to the thrilling amusement park it is today, with 14 coasters and more than 65 other rides and attractions.

From the sooperdooperLooper, the first looping roller coaster on the East Coast, to the Cocoa Cruiser for the kids, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Hersheypark. In the summer of 2019, the park opened Reese’s Cupfusion – a dark ride gaming experience, and in 2020, Hershey’s Chocolatetown will open with a new park entrance, fountain, coaster, and additional dining and shopping options.

2. Sesame Place, Philadelphia and the Countryside

Where: Langhorne

More information: www.sesameplace.com

It’s a perfect time – and they’re a perfect age – for Sesame Place. Before little children become big kids, bring the entire family to whirl on rides, splash down slides and hug everyone’s favorite furry friends.

Pennsylvania's Sesame Place is proud to be designated the first theme park in the world to be a Certified Autism Center. The staff receives special training in addition to providing sensory guides, noise-cancelling headphones, and quiet rooms, ensuring the park is a place for all. Get ready to sing, dance and clap along at daily character shows, and go before they grow to the nation’s only theme park based entirely on Sesame Street!

3. Knoebels Amusement Park, Valleys of the Susquehanna

Where: Elysburg

More information: www.knoebels.com

Nestled among the trees of central Pennsylvania, Knoebels is a family favorite amusement park, boasting more than 90 summers of thrill under their belt, more than 60 rides, and 35 unique food stands!

Enthusiasts have touted the rides at Knoebels, including The Haunted Mansion, named in several publications as one of the best dark rides anywhere; The Grand Carousel, was voted “Best of the Best,” in the amusement industry by the Golden Ticket Awards in 2018; and The Phoenix, which has been ranked among the top 10 wooden roller coasters by the Los Angeles Times. To top it off, admission to Knoebels is always free!

4. Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Lehigh Valley

Where: Allentown

More information: www.dorneypark.com

Pennsylvania's Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom offers a myriad of possibilities for family fun.

Guests can enjoy eight thrill rides, seven roller coasters and more than three dozen slides, pools, and water play areas in Wildwater Kingdom. Kids can have fun in Planet Snoopy, the PEANUTS-themed park just for kids, and even try their driving skills on Dodgem, the midway classic bumper cars highly favored by park guests.

5. Dutch Wonderland, Dutch Country Roads

Where: Lancaster

More information: www.dutchwonderland.com

Designed for families with young children, Dutch Wonderland features live entertainment, more than 30 rides, and Duke’s Lagoon water play area. Guests can enjoy Exploration Island, a rediscovered island full of lifelike dinosaurs.

Young explorers can learn about the history of more than 15 dinos while digging up fossils at the interactive Dino Dig, walking along the Prehistoric Path, or embark on the Gondola Cruise. In 2018, Dutch Wonderland opened its tallest ride and its first suspended family roller coaster, Merlin’s Mayhem. Dutch Wonderland has consistently been recognized as a premier family amusement park and was voted one of the Top 5 Best Kid’s Parks in the World by Amusement Today magazine.

6. Kennywood, Pittsburgh and its Countryside

Where: West Mifflin

More information: www.kennywood.com

Home to more than 40 thrill rides for all ages, Kennywood’s Thomas Town is sure to bring out the kid in everyone with five family rides and a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine.

Also arriving in 2019, was Steelers Country that features skill game challenges, dining options, and the tallest coaster in PA, The Steel Curtain, which climbs 220 feet and whips riders through nine inversions all while traveling at 76 mph. Pennsylvania's Kennywood has been an amazing place for family fun since 1898 and these new attractions will be sure to entertain for years to come.

Museums

1. The Crayola Experience, Lehigh Valley

Where: Easton

More information: www.crayola.com/Factory

Ever wondered how Crayola makes its crayons? See it right before your own eyes at Pennsylvania's Crayola Experience, a hands-on discovery center for children and adults.

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The Crayola Experience in PennsylvaniaCrayola Experience

Explore the magic of color and experiment with innovative art techniques at this playful museum. With younger visitors in mind, Crayola added Toddler Town, a section of the factory for preschoolers, which includes a multi-colored peg board and a giant ball maze, where your young one controls the outcome.

2. The Houdini Tour & Magic Show, Upstate PA

Where: Scranton

More information: www.houdini.org

The Houdini Tour & Magic Show is a nonstop spectacle held in the world's only building devoted to Harry Houdini, one of the most famous magicians of all time.

Now visitors of all ages can be stunned by the noted professional magician, explore the fascinating world of Houdini with a fun guided tour and witness the rarest film footage of Houdini’s escapes.

3. The Hershey Story, Dutch Country Roads

Where: Hershey

More information: www.hersheystory.org

The Hershey Story allows visitors to take a journey through the legacy of Milton S. Hershey, as well as the town, school, and history he created.

Highlighting this American entrepreneur’s rags to riches story, the museum tells the tale of how he revolutionized the process of chocolate making and allows visitors to explore the unique qualities of chocolate through playful, hands-on experiences and interactive demonstrations. Guaranteed to bring out the kid in everyone, the museum’s Chocolate Lab offers participatory classes such as tempering, molding, dipping, and even making chocolate from scratch.

4. Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia and the Countryside

Where: Philadelphia

More information: www.pleasetouchmuseum.org

The ideal children's museum in Philadelphia, the Please Touch Museum is the perfect venue for families with young children.

Exhibits are all interactive and encourage learning through play, so children can feel free to touch, explore, and lead their parents through the process. In addition to enjoying the 12 exhibits offered, including Healthy Me and Imagination Playground, families can also take pleasure in live theater performances.

5. Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh and its Countryside

Where: Pittsburgh

More information: www.carnegiesciencecenter.org

Pennsylvania's Carnegie Science Center brings the world of science alive for visitors of all ages. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the science center features four floors of hands-on exhibits, three live demonstration theaters, a four-story IMAX dome theater, an interactive planetarium, laser shows, an authentic Cold War submarine moored on Pittsburgh’s Ohio River, and a world-renowned model railroad display.

Take a peek into the human body at BodyWorks, an interactive exhibit featuring live shows and demonstrations allowing children to explore how the body works inside and out.

6. Elk Country Visitor Center, Pennsylvania Wilds

Where: Benezette

More information: www.elkcountryvisitorcenter.com

Situated on 245 acres within the heart of Pennsylvania's elk range and within the Elk State Forest, the Elk Country Visitor Center is the premier conservation education facility in the entire eastern United States.

Families visiting the center can learn about Pennsylvania’s elk population through interpretive exhibits, interactive 4-D theater presentations, and exciting tours of the region to catch a glimpse of the largest elk herd in the northeastern United States.

7. The Turkey Hill Experience, Dutch Country Roads

Where: Columbia

More information: www.turkeyhillexperience.com/

The Turkey Hill Experience allows visitors to learn everything there is to know about dairy culture and the history of Turkey Hill itself.

Through interactive exhibits, visitors can discover the intricate details of creating Turkey Hill ice cream and tea. Children and adults alike can even take a shot at the process themselves by milking mechanical cows or concocting their own ice cream flavor in Turkey Hill’s Taste Lab.

8. The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia and the Countryside

Where: Philadelphia

More information: www.fi.edu

With a mission to “inspire a passion for learning about science and technology,” the Franklin Institute designs innovative, interactive exhibits to enlighten and educate each visitor.

The dynamic institute is recognized internationally for its educational programs, lectures, and exhibits and emphasizes curiosity and enjoyment. Highlights include SportsZone, which uses virtual-reality technology to illustrate the physics of sports, The Train Factory’s climb-aboard steam engine, Space Command’s simulated earth-orbit research station, and exhibits on electricity.

9. Hands-on House, Children’s Museum, Dutch Country Roads

Where: Lancaster

More information: www.handsonhouse.org

Hands-on House is designed for children ages 2 to 10 to learn, explore, and play. The exhibits, classes, and programs are short on lectures and long on interactive and participatory activities.

Connect your dinner foods to local farms, steer tractors, and feed animals at the Hands-on-House exhibit, Little Valley Farm. While the exhibits change regularly, the experiences are always hands-on and self-guided.

Awesome Adventures

1. Woodloch Pines Resort, Upstate PA

Where: Hawley

More information: www.woodloch.com

The Woodloch Pines Resort in Pennsylvania is a family-oriented, year-round resort that lies in the Pocono Mountains. Parents magazine acclaimed Woodloch as "one of America's favorite vacation resorts."

Various family-friendly activities at this resort include a Pre-K activity center, boat rides, bocce ball, bumper boats and cars, canoeing, children's arts/crafts, scavenger hunts, mini-golf, nature trails, Woodloch family olympics, and fitness classes. After a day of intense family fun, parents can relax in Woodloch’s spa, rated the No. 3 Destination Spa in the World by Travel + Leisure and the No. 1 Family Resort in America in 2015 by TripAdvisor.

2. Strasburg Rail Road, Dutch Country Roads

Where: Ronks

More information: www.strasburgrailroad.com/

Since the 1850s, Pennsylvania's Strasburg Rail Road was used for various purposes, including passenger and freight transportation and interchange. Now it serves as a tourist attraction, where visitors can experience fun attractions while simultaneously learning about steam railroading.

Not only can guests take a trip in the authentically restored coal-burning steam train, but they can also operate the hand-powered Pump Car. Your little one can hit the rails with Thomas the Tank Engine and his pal Percy as the Strasburg Rail Road presents a special Day Out With Thomas.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

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