Travel planners could be forgiven for feeling a bit overwhelmed when trying to plan an itinerary through Pennsylvania. From the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, where the fate of the nation was decided, to the recently expanded Philadelphia Museum of Art and its stunning Impressionist collection, PA (as it has been lovingly dubbed by residents) is chock full of historical and cultural showstoppers. And when the time comes to relax and refuel, groups will find the commonwealth blessed by an abundance of one-of-a-kind hotels and restaurants as winning as the attractions themselves. Here, to help you suss out the best options, are a few of our favorites.
Andy Warhol Museum
From hoofer Gene Kelly to gridiron great Joe Namath, numerous luminaries have called Pittsburgh home, but none have had the enduring impact of Andy Warhol. The continent’s largest single-artist museum explores the life of the pop art icon through engaging exhibits of some of his most famed work, including Campbell’s Soup Cans, portraits of celebs like Marilyn Monroe, and Silver Clouds, a room filled with metallic, pillow-shaped balloons. Special one-hour guided tours and three-hour hands-on “Warhol Workshops” are available to groups.
Pennsylvania State Capitol
Dubbed the “handsomest building” by none other than U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, the Pennsylvania State Capitol debuted in 1906. Today, the Harrisburg building is open for 30-minute tours of the architectural and artistic highlights and has an interactive welcome center and an expansive gift shop. Groups may want to dine at the Capitol Restaurant or reserve tables in the East Wing for catered lunches. The Senate and the House both have public viewing galleries.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Ask any historian to name the turning point battle of the American Civil War, and chances are they’ll answer Gettysburg. The conflict’s largest battle, it marked the end of the Confederate drive to invade the North. Groups might want to begin the day at the excellent Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center before continuing with a tour of the 6,000-acre park. Licensed Battlefield Guides are available for step-on service, so groups get the most out of their visit.
Up and Coming
There are big changes underway at Brandywine Valley’s spectacular horticultural display. Dubbed “Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience,” the $270-million-plus, 17-acre project will expand Longwood’s grounds, adding new buildings as well as indoor and outdoor gardens. Among the new spaces set to debut in 2024 are the 32,000-square-foot West Conservatory, featuring soaring, asymmetrical peaks rising from a glasshouse that will appear to float atop a massive pool. But groups won’t have to wait to see one of Longwood’s enhancements: the transformed Orchid House, with its stunning, gallery-like interior, is now open.
Pittsburgh might seem an unlikely home for a space museum, but technicians recently built the Peregrine Lunar Lander, the first American lander since Apollo, in the city. The Moonshot Museum, which opened in October, celebrates and explores this historic achievement while offering guests the unparalleled opportunity to see new lunar landers and rovers under assembly. Other highlights include the chance to undertake a simulated lunar mission and innovative exhibits exploring the moon’s surface and the space industry.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
It was a long time coming — all told, two decades from planning through construction — but the expansion and renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s historic main building finally debuted in mid-2021. Designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry, the project added or reimagined a whopping 90,000 square feet of museum public space, including two new suites of galleries that grew exhibition areas by 20,000 square feet. Guided tours of the new galleries of Early American art are available to groups.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Tucked away on 2,200 acres within the bucolic beauty of the Laurel Highlands, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort serves up a range of accommodation types. Ideal for many groups is The Lodge, the comfy, Tudor-style property makes a great base camp from which to explore the area’s offerings, which include the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater and the Flight 93 National Memorial. Onsite at Nemacolin, groups will find a wealth of activities like guided art walks, tours of the resort’s zoo and more customized group adventures.
Graduate State College
The Graduate State College may be part of a boutique brand with hotels in college towns across the country, but its interior is all Penn State. The university’s colors, blue and white, are everywhere throughout the property. And the guest rooms feature lion-shaped floor lamps (in honor of the school’s “Nittany Lion” mascot) and throw pillows reading “We Are” (the first part of the rousing call football fans holler at Beaver Stadium, which is invariably answered with “Penn State”). Best of all, the Graduate is within walking distance of attractions like the Penn State All-Sports Museum, located in the stadium.
The Chocolatier Restaurant, Bar and Patio
The new Chocolatier Restaurant is an eatery unlike any other. Located in Hershey outside of Hersheypark’s front gate and open year-round, the Chocolatier offers panoramic views of the neighboring attractions. Decor pays homage to “The Sweetest Place on Earth” with roller-coaster-themed booths and the Carousel Bar. The fare is inspired by the restaurant’s location as well, with goodies like the Chocolatetown burger featuring potato chips drizzled with Hershey’s Chocolate, Heath Bar-crusted salmon and Reese’s Peanut Butter hummus all on the menu.
The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Still going gangbusters after more than 35 years in business, Lancaster’s Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre hosts more than 150,000 guests each year. Meals may be served by waitstaff or offered buffet-style and often feature dishes like prime rib, spaghetti in tomato basil sauce and brown sugar honey ham. Shows range from popular musicals such as “Sister Act” to beloved plays like “Murder on the Orient Express.” Group rates and add-ons, including programs autographed by the cast and after-show question-and-answer sessions, are available.