Pennsylvania has long summers, pleasant springs and falls, and cold snowy winters. The warmer regions are the Ohio Valley in the southwest and the Monongahela River valley in the southeast. Lake Erie keeps its bordering regions mild. The higher elevations have colder winters and cooler summers.January and February temperatures are generally just below zero (C) but colder in the mountains. In summer the southeastern valleys can go into the mid-30s while the rest of the state reaches the high 20s.
When to fly to Pennsylvania
Summer is the peak tourist season and when you'll find most people booking Pennsylvania flights and hotel rooms. If you plan to visit during the summer, keep in mind that Philadelphia goes wild every 4th of July with fireworks and celebrations. Philadelphia is also very busy in spring and fall with the college students (300,000 of them) moving in and out.
The Pennsylvania Dutch Country is more crowded in summer as is Gettysburg. Gettysburg is particularly crowded during Civil War Heritage Days from the end of June through the beginning of July.
The Allegheny National Forest is busy with hiking and fishing in summer, foliage in fall, and snowmobiling in winter.
You can find cheap flights to Pennsylvania and discounted hotel rooms in winter, and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country is very pleasant in winter. The Poconos also has off-season rates.
Getting around Pennsylvania
Flights between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are plentiful and bargain airfares are available. Trains cross Pennsylvania from east to west with several stops, and buses service major cities and some smaller towns. Still, a car is the best way to see the state.
Most of Philadelphia’s sights are within walking distance of each other or a short bus ride. The Phlash trolley runs between Centre City, most downtown hotels, and over 15 tourist destinations. Rental car rates are less than in other cities, but parking downtown is a problem. Taxis are plentiful around tourist destinations.
Pittsburgh neighbourhoods are easy to explore on foot, but getting from one neighbourhood to another requires public transportation or a car. The central business district has buses, trolleys, and a free subway. Cable cars carry passengers from river level to the top of Mt. Washington. Pittsburgh is reasonable for driving and parking garages easy to find. However, many streets are one-way and traffic is slower during rush hour.
Bicycling is the best way to explore the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and driving the back roads is also pleasurable. Gettysburg has the Battlefield Bus Tours, but to get away from the crowds you need a car.
Pennsylvania insider information
- Hershey is the chocolate capital of the U.S. Hersheypark, opened in 1907 as a recreation park for the workers, is on more than 110 acres and has more than 60 rides and attractions including 10 roller coasters (such as the Kissing Tower with windows shaped like, yes, Hershey’s Kisses). Admission to the park also includes entry to ZOOAMERICA, a nearby zoo.
- On February 2, the nation looks to Punxsutawney, where Phil, the 120-year-old groundhog weather forecaster, comes out of his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob to predict the weather for the rest of winter. If Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of cold weather. If he doesn’t see his shadow, there will be an early spring.
- The Poconos are 2,400 square miles of charming forested mountains and valleys and lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Many New Englanders travel to the Poconos during the summer and fall months for vacation.
- The Youghiogheny River Trail is part of the Great Allegheny Passage, the principal line of a trail system that runs from Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River at Pittsburgh and on to Pittsburgh International Airport. It’s popular for hiking, bicycling, walking, fishing and canoeing as well as cross-country skiing.
- Shop the Green Dragon market in Ephrata, Lancaster County, the heart of Amish country in the state. The market has been in operation since 1932 and there are now more than 400 local growers, merchants and craftsmen offering everything from "soup to nuts".
- Located in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County spans 329 acres and has the remains of the 2,053-foot railroad bridge that was once the world’s highest railroad bridge - before a tornado hit.