Not quite coastal, almost mid-western. It may seem Pennsylvania is still searching for its identity. Confusion is not the operative word here, however; diversity is. And when it comes to selecting the perfect bed and breakfast for a weekend getaway in Pennsylvania, there is no shortage of first-rate options from which to choose.
With the exception of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metropolitan areas and a few other moderate-sized cities such as Harrisburg (the state capital) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scattered across its interior portion, Pennsylvania is predominantly a rural state. This is good news for the B&B enthusiast who is looking for quiet, rural settings to take a break from life and relax in the lap of luxury.
Many of these excellent inns are conveniently located within a few hour's drive of the large cities. From small-town sanctuaries in the peaceful regions of Lancaster County to the secluded inns of Amish Country, one can explore state and national history while taking a step back in time. Learn more about life as it was lived over two hundred years ago and how the Pennsylvania Dutch still cling to many of their traditions today. You may even be treated to a horse and buggy drive-by! But fear not, the B&B pampering is decidedly up to date.
Perhaps best known as America's birthplace, Philadelphia is where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. With the requisite signatures, a new nation was born, and world history changed forever.
Pennsylvania is well-known by its nickname, the “Keystone State,” a keystone being the all-important piece of an arch that holds the other components together. A most necessary element in the strength and integrity of the structure.
What is not as clear is the source of the moniker. Two interesting theories have been debated since about 1800. One tells of the state’s vital geographical location in the central part of the original thirteen colonies. With eight delegates evenly divided on remaining loyal to England’s Crown or choosing independence, another theory references the deciding, or “keystone” vote cast by the last delegate in favor of independence.
While Philadelphia was the seat of the young nation’s capital and the central location for much of the day’s politics, great natural resources were waiting to be discovered that would drive much of the nation’s early commerce.
Timber from unending stretches of forests, plentiful rivers coursing across the state, and vast farmland regions with rich soil and abundant wildlife to harvest led the way as our nation rapidly grew. The raw materials of oil, coal, and steel lay patiently underground waiting to be unearthed and refined. As rough and tumble speculators with grand visions of growth built these industries in fits and starts, products that would soon shape and supply global markets were being created.
With so much of Pennsylvania’s early history located in the state's southeastern region, it’s rather easy to find just the right location for your visit. There are a seemingly unlimited number of B&Bs within a short drive of Amish Country and the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. For history buffs, Bucks County, just north of Philadelphia, is where General George Washington crossed the Delaware River to engage the British in a pivotal Revolutionary War battle.
Carlisle is another area with great appeal for auto and motorcycle enthusiasts. Considered the “auto capital” of the state, there are no less than ten major shows each year with everything on two, three, and four wheels on display.
Not many people associate Pennsylvania with mountains, but the Poconos are a wonderful location for a respite. North of Philadelphia and west of New York City, the Poconos draw skiers and snowboarders to their beautiful slopes. Walkers, joggers, and bikers can take advantage of the hiking trails during the summer months.
Further west, Pittsburgh dominates the landscape as the center for big-city attractions. A few hours north, Lake Erie provides all the summer sports one could want as well as ice-fishing and snowmobiling in the winter.
Another element of Pennsylvania’s diversity is its natural features. Did you know there is a “Grand Canyon” in Pennsylvania? Sure is. Located in the north-central region, it may not compare to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it has plenty of sightseeing chops with its many vistas and two state parks nearby.
On the shores of Lake Erie, Presque Isle is the state’s most visited state park and has some unique geological features. It also possesses seven ecological zones and is home to more endangered species than any comparable region in the state. Perhaps owing to its conservation policies, it is also one of the most popular bird-watching sites in the area.
Caves and caverns are also popular attractions across the state. Stretching 16,000 feet in length and up to forty-six stories deep, Laurel Cavern in southwestern Pennsylvania is the state’s largest. Guided tours are an excellent way to learn more about the unique geology of the area. Self-guided tours are also available, as is repelling and other spelunking activities.
Waterfalls are always enchanting and Glens Natural Area at Ricketts Glen State Park is full of them. Varying heights from twelve to ninety-four feet high, visitors are held in rapt admiration as they try to decide whether to watch or take pictures. But for the outbreak of World War II resulting in reduced funding, this beautiful region would have been designated a national park.
As noted earlier, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are major urban centers that provide all the big-city attractions a visitor could want. In between these cities that bookend the state there is a whole lot of playground waiting for the outdoor enthusiast.
Though modest by comparison to the Appalachians and Rockies, the Pocono Mountains provide plenty of action in the form of mountain biking and hiking trails, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Lake Erie is the center for summer and winter activities for the whole family with swimming, fishing, boating, at Presque Isle State Park. Snowmobiling, skating, and ice-fishing keep visitors busy until spring.
Harrisburg is the state capital and a short drive away from all the chocolate you can imagine in Hershey. Famous for its slow and peaceful Amish culture, Lancaster County is home to sprawling farmland, country fairs, and some of the best home cooking imaginable. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is home to a world-class collection of vintage trains. A bit farther north, sports fans will want to check out Jim Thorpe, PA. Yes, the town named after the famous Native American Olympic star and football hero.
The natural beauty and endless forests, the mountains, caverns, waterfalls, and historical attractions scattered across a landscape with small towns and foreign cultures combine to form a fascinating menagerie worthy of an extended stay.
Pennsylvania’s weather is a well-balanced mix of the four seasons. Without too much in the way of extremes, summer highs will approach the 90s with significant humidity and frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Winter temperatures will dip into the twenties or occasional teens, and significant snow accumulations can roll in from the Great Lakes region.
For the western part of the state, Lake Eire generates most of this phenomenon known as “lake-effect” snow. Strong winter winds sweeping down from Canada pick up moisture from the lakes and deposit it in massive storms that can impact the Pittsburgh area as well as points farther east.
Spring is lovely with vibrant colors bursting from the frozen landscape as it thaws. Late winter chill can last into early April, but May is wonderful. Autumn is brilliant with the forested landscapes unveiling a statewide magic carpet of color that can make the drive to see them very worthwhile. Many count the scenery in the Poconos as rivaling anything in New England, but without the crowds.
Contemporary cuisine is a hallmark of the big, bright cities. But being a largely rural, agricultural state, Pennsylvania offers a more basic American fare. Think meat and potatoes. With such a large contingent of German stock in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, old habits die hard. Of course, this is a good thing because a great deal of the meal preparation originates on the farm. Fresh produce, eggs, meat, and dairy products are readily available at B&Bs, or the local restaurant in many small towns that dot the state. If the old favorite cheesesteak is required in Philly, then in Pittsburgh, you gotta try a Pierogi. It’s a sort of Polish dumpling and they’re savoy in all sorts of flavors, from sweet to spicy.
As one might guess with a significant German/Dutch/Polish/Irish heritage across the state, there’s going to be a lot of beer served up with all this great food. Indeed, there seems to be a brewery or winery in every small town, so you’re bound to find something tasty to wash down that hardy plate. There are over 200 wineries (and growing) prevalent throughout the state with a greater concentration in the southeast.
Pennsylvania is a down-home kind of place. Of course, there are the contemporary boutique hotels and B&Bs in the big cities. But much of what the state has to offer in terms of natural attractions is rustic in nature. The bed and breakfasts are comparable in the way they welcome and serve their guests. And you won’t find any more conscientious innkeepers anywhere when it comes to cleanliness and Covid-19 precautions.
The charm of many of the state’s best bed and breakfast inns are prime examples. When people visit Pennsylvania, they count on host-friendliness to be a big part of their experience, starting right at check-in. Innkeepers take great pride in ushering their guests into a world of comfort and delight.
Couples from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, and the Mid-Atlantic region come to Pennsylvania for the ultimate romantic getaway. Upscale amenities such as spacious guest rooms and a Jacuzzi by a fireplace, perhaps even on a veranda overlooking the rolling landscape enhance the experience.
An exciting aspect of staying at any down-home B&B is discovering the unforeseen surprises. Innkeepers love to show off their amenities such as private baths and rain-style showers. Perhaps even a whirlpool bath or private hot tub snugged up by the outdoor fireplace. A private entrance to a guest house or carriage house further enhances the sense of privacy and specialized treatment. Air conditioning is a must to sponge up that summertime humidity. Many of these extras may be listed on the inn website but ask for the ones not listed; you might be surprised by the secrets the innkeeper has in store for you.
Offering a gourmet breakfast is, by definition, almost a necessity for a B&B. Often a source of innkeeper pride, specialty-trained chefs are highly sought after as a drawing card for guests with a distinguished palette. Other amenities such as free wifi, high-quality linens, towels, and bathrobes, as well as organic and hypo-allergenic bath supplies, are considered standard across this friendly state.
Major air carriers provided service through Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Regional air service is available to Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre, and other smaller markets. From there, most destinations are within a few hour’s drive.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a high-speed tollway with exits spaced twenty or more miles apart. So make sure you don’t miss your exit! The scenery in the Fall is astounding as the highway makes its way through the Laurel Highlands. Flight times between Pittsburgh and Philly are not much more than an hour, and driving this stretch can take up to six hours with stops. Many of the regional carriers now offer reasonable one-way fares, too, further enhancing your travel options. Rental cars, Uber, Lyft, shuttles, and ride-shares are additional methods of getting around this great state effectively.
Consider treating yourself to a relaxing stay at a Pennsylvania bed and breakfast getaway. Scenery that’s easy on the eye, down-home food prepared fresh from the farm, and a leisurely drive to one of the state’s many natural attractions is an excellent way to unwind from the grind.
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Fabulous inns such as Pheasant Field Bed & Breakfast in Carlisle is central to a host of attractions and universities as well as major car collector shows. It has been rated as a “best bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania” by Harrisburg Magazine. The Smith Steiner, a newly renovated boutique property, re-opened in 2018, will leave you refreshed and restored.
Lititz is home to two exceptional Pennsylvania bed and breakfasts. Speedwell Forge B&B is a two-fer, with the Wolf Sanctuary of PA nearby. Located on a private parcel of 120 acres, it is quintessential solitude. Ask your innkeeper about daytime tours of the Sanctuary as well as the inn's private cottages.
Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast is remote, leafy, and perfect for that romantic retreat. With more than a hint of European grace coursing through its halls, revel in the culture and slower pace the Pennsylvania Dutch have made famous.
Much attention has been paid to the rural aspect of the B&B industry across the state, and with good reason. However, being the sixth-largest city in the US, searching for a top-class bed and breakfast in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a short exercise.
The Gables Bed & Breakfast Inn is located in the heart of a vibrant academic center and close to the Institute of Contemporary Arts and provides a classic inner-city upscale lodging experience. Another retreat in the University City area is Cornerstone Bed & Breakfast, a beautiful Victorian sanctuary within walking distance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Zoo, and 30th Street Station. Prefer something outside the city but close enough to be convenient? Consider Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast in nearby Brandywine Valley, PA for your romantic getaway. A member of the bnbfinder Diamond Collection of Inns, this will be the crown jewel of your trip.
American History enthusiasts will not want to miss a visit to this peaceful enclave that was the location of one of the fiercest and most important battles of the Civil War. Although the distant past is never far away in a place like this, the peaceful rolling hills provide lovely settings for romantic bed and breakfasts in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Still a small town (pop. 7800), it is also home to Gettysburg College.
The Inn at White Oak is just north of town and can handle larger parties of up to 18 guests. The Swope Manor Bed & Breakfast is located in Gettysburg's heart and boasts thirteen guest rooms and four large common areas. Battlefield Bed & Breakfast Inn was built in 1809 and is located on 30 quiet acres with walking trails. History meets hospitality at The Inn at Herr Ridge, another early 19th-century beauty that was the first Confederate hospital during the battle. Peace, quiet, luxury. Small town, unforgettable experience.
A short drive east of the state capital of Harrisburg lies the sweetest little town in America. With a slightly larger population of 12,000, much of Hershey’s commerce is centered around chocolate, confection, and tourism.
Inn at Westwynd Farm is just three miles from town and set on a beautiful 32-acre parcel home to horses, goats, and alpacas. Hershey is just a short drive to historical sites in Harrisburg, Lancaster, and Gettysburg. 1825 Inn is almost two hundred years old with beautiful grounds and walking paths. It also has 5-Star ratings all over it. For those looking for on-site massage services at their Hershey bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania, Berry Patch Bed & Breakfast provides Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, craniosacral fascial therapy, and infrared sauna therapy. After all that healing, you’ll need some pampering!
Where does one start? From big city contemporary inns to the rural settings with rich history, choosing a romantic bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania will have more to do with your preference for the setting. Up for the city action right from your flight? Pittsburgh and Philly will certainly deliver within minutes of getting off your plane. Feel like a scenic drive to a more remote location to unwind, well, there’s a whole lot of Pennsylvania out there from which to choose. Take your time, enjoy “Penn’s Woods,” and treat yourself to some first-rate Keystone State luxury.