If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. We also love finding the road less traveled and taking it. But, we certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off the beaten path stories with us. Each series will include our favorite free and paid RV camping areas in each state.
When Justin retired from the military in 2010, we moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania. We bought a home, settled in a beautiful area, and started our path to what everyone perceives as “normal”. The rest of the story can be found on our About Us page. We lived in Lehigh Valley, and if you haven’t been in that area, there is so much to see and do just in Lehigh County.
The history in PA is stunning! But It’s hard not to stop, giggle and take a picture with some town signs in Pennsylvania, with names like Intercourse, Blue Ball, Provocative, and Virginville popping up across the countryside. Another favorite is “Bird in Hand” located near Lancaster, PA. Not to mention just the crazy, hard to pronounce, city names. Very dutch, that’s for sure!
Fun Fact: Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the banana split.
If you haven’t been to Gettysburg it’s full of history and beauty. Highly recommend it!! It’s not really an unpopular or unknown place, so I won’t go into too much detail but it’s a beautiful place to walk around and for the kids to learn the history. Did you know you can download a driving tour app on your phone for $10? Totally worth it! It’s the best interactive historical information I’ve seen in a long time.
Coplay (Lehigh Valley). The main attraction at this 2.6-acre site is the vertical cement kilns. The 90-foot kilns were a marked improvement over prior methods and helped make Lehigh County the center of the Portland Cement Industry at the time. Portland cement enabled the construction of bridges, subways, and buildings that transformed America in the late 19th and early 20th century. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places. The open-air museum is operated as a partnership between Lehigh County and the Lehigh County Historical Society. It is open year-round.
If you like the history of the old Bethlehem Steel company, you’ll love walking around this area. Many photographers come to take wedding pictures, engagement photos, senior pictures, or family pictures here. Makes for an amazing backdrop.
Like most people in and around Pennsylvania, most are not aware of the beach just outside of Erie called Presque Isle. Presque Isle is a peninsula that stretches along the shore. While you may generally think of driving south to head to a beach, you may never consider driving ‘north’. Well, now you can, especially considering that Presque Isle has everything to offer that any other popular beach would have, such as boating, fishing, and swimming.
When you can’t get away for too long, you can drive a short distance and spend the day at Presque Isle. Relax on the beach or enjoy yourself by immersing yourself in all that is offered to you at Presque Isle. Imagine just going a short distance for the day only to return home refreshed and rejuvenated.
Columcille Megalith Park
This place was so amazing we did a whole new blog post about it. A land of myth and mystery located in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. A park rooted in Celtic spirituality and inspired by the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland …. Click here to read more
Located in Philadelphia if you aren’t into odd and strange you might want to skip this. We happen to have a daughter who is double majoring in Forensic Science and this is really right out her ally. The museum consists of thousands of medical tools, along with, pathological and anatomical specimens, which have been preserved.
Some might find it too gross to stomach, and others (like us) find it absolutely fascinating and informational. The human body is remarkable. Many of the tools and specimens once belonged to influential people in the medical and science fields. Even though you may not have a particular interest in medicine or science, one thing is clear, you will not be able to say this museum was dull.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Thrust into the middle of urban Philadelphia is what looks like a great castle, a massive and haunting building. However, these walls weren’t built to keep Crusaders and robbers out, but to keep them in. This castle is a prison. I would highly recommend the self-guided tour. They give you some headphones and you are thrown into the story of the penitentiary. We also took the regular guide-led tour but preferred the self-guided, pre-recorded tour. Really fascinating. This is also where Al Capone’s cell was. This place was one of my favorite places to photograph.
Have you heard of this town even? A toxic ghost town sitting on top of a massive coal fire that has been burning since 1962. As of 2007, Centralia had nine residents. When we were there, we saw no sign or residents who seemed to live there. Also, we didn’t see smoke coming up from the main street now known as Graffiti Highway. We are not ok with any sort of vandalism, but this particular highway is one of those abandoned iconic places where it is truly a work of ever-changing artwork. We would have liked to see the smoke coming up from the big crack in the middle of the road. I hear it’s intermittent and possibly the fire has put itself out after burning for over 50 years. We also read somewhere that this street was featured in the horror movie Silent Hill. 2020 UPDATE – Sadly, we just found out this place was having some major crime events, and therefore has been buried in dirt, and is no longer available to visit. I hope you got there before this happened. It was a great part of our history!
Over the years, I think this has gotten more popular, but I still run across people who haven’t see this or haven’t ever even heard of it. Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic home dangles over a Pennsylvania waterfall.
Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle
This is not your typical boring museum. Take the kids!!!! They will LOVE this place. Hanging from the ceilings are baby buggies, and boats along with about a million other oddities. It’s a very strange, and unique type of “museum”. This Eccentric concrete mansion and museum designed and built by hand from the inside out. This place is nothing shy or sensory overload.
It’s absolutely impossible to see this place in one visit. Or at least to remember seeing everything there is in there. The story on why it was built completely of concrete is kinds of interesting too. It’s a fantastic place to take family or senior pictures, so if you’re interested in photography, it’s definitely an amazing place for portraits. I’ve had both my kids here several times to take photos.
Another place that has definitely gotten a little more popular, but again, still worth a mention if you’ve not heard of it. Boats take visitors through Penn’s Cave, a quarter-mile subterranean waterway with ornate limestone formations and a bat colony, all underneath a working farm. Penn’s Cave is located in Centre Hall, PA.
I believe this place is amazing all year round, but I’ve only ever been at Christmas. If you haven’t ever been here, and you’re going to be around during the Christmas holiday season, make sure you put this place on your list.
Archbald Pothole – Worlds Largest Pothole
So I put this on the list because it’s definitely off the beaten path and strange. I, personally, wasn’t real impressed. In fact I couldn’t find any pictures that I took to share even. Ha! It was just a big hole in the ground, where most people are now throwing trash. But since it’s different, and something interesting to see, if you’re in the area, you can say you saw it. Ha! The pothole is believed to have been formed around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago by whirling glacial waters combined with sand and stones.
Lehigh Valley and all through PA you will find Covered Bridge self guided driving routes. Take one!! You’ll never see so many covered bridges!
The town of Jim Thorpe. Absolutely, 100% my favorite town to visit. I’ve been there numerous times, in every season, and I love it there. We’ve done white water rafting there, a train ride, bike riding, and just exploring the unique, one of a kind shops in the town. You can drive up to the top of the town and look out over it. It’s just a beautiful, old town and an amazing place to spend the day. There is the Old Jail Museum there which I have not visited. But there is a handprint on Cell #17 that they have tried to wash off, paint over and it still keeps coming through. Haunted? You be the judge. If you’re going to Jim Thorpe, take a hike up to Glen Onoko Falls. We have not been up there yet, but it’s definitely on our list. Make sure you drive (or walk) up the trail that overlooks the whole city. Incredible views looking down on the whole town. There is also an amazing bike path, an old steam engine train ride, and of course, white water rafting in the summer.
UPDATE! We hiked Glen Onoko Falls! Beautiful, but dangerous hike. This trail has been closed several times for deaths relating to falling. Please be aware of your footing, and always wear appropriate shoes. I can’t tell you how many people we saw hiking in flip flops, and taking chances here you just should not. There are a few rock scrambles on this trail. Also, there are two trails. We took the harder trail up, and the easier trail down. Do your research to find what is best for your skill level. This steep, tree-covered path for hikers features multiple waterfalls & scenic views. Definitely worth the hike!!
Have you seen our other “Off the Beaten Path” blogs? Please check them out and please share!
- Off the Beaten Path in Maine
- Off the Beaten Path in South Carolina
- How We Spent $48 in Camping Fees for the Whole Year!
Have you seen some unique and wonderful places in PA? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts below, share our content with your friends, and don’t forget to check back often. We are always updating our blog!
RV Camping in Pennsylvania
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