A variety of attractions are within easy driving distance of Philadelphia, and include major Revolution and Civil War sites, two of the nation’s best estate tours, an important industrial history site, and outstanding gardens. A little further afield, you can explore the tranquil countryside and villages where Amish, Mennonite, and other farming families live lives that seem worlds away from the bustling streets of Philadelphia. Along with the collections of fine and decorative art that fill the du Pont Estate in Winterthur, art lovers can visit artist NC Wyeth’s studio and home and admire his works in a dedicated museum.
But if Philadelphia has whetted your appetite for more city life, hop on a train to New York City or the capital city of Washington, DC. You can spend a day in each city, marveling at the skyscrapers of Manhattan or soaking up the history and grandeur of the US Capitol. and the monuments on the National Mall. Plan your adventures with this list of the top-rated day trips from Philadelphia:
Read also: Discovering Philadelphia
1 Gettysburg National Military Park
The three-day battle at Gettysburg in 1863 cost 51,000 lives and changed the course of the Civil War as Confederate troops were forced to retreat to Virginia. Later that year, barely six months after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln came here to speak at the dedication of Gettysburg National Military Park “as the final resting place for those who gave their lives here that that nation might live.” Today, the cemetery commemorates those killed in that and later wars, as well as Lincoln’s Gettysburg address .
Highlighting a visit is a tour of the battlefield, where nearly 1400 monuments and statues mark the positions of various regiments; the museum exhibits the war and its aftermath; and President Dwight Eisenhower’s home , where he entertains foreign heads of state.
Adres: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/gett
2 Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Several day trip options lie west of Philadelphia in Lancaster County, home to the Amish, Mennonites, and other cultures popularly known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. It’s an area of gently rolling farmland, where Amish farms can be recognized by their tall windmills and horse-drawn wagons and carts are a common sight. In villages like Bird-in-Hand , you’ll find shops selling beautiful Amish hand-made quilts, straw hats, baskets and delicious local specialties like shoo-fly pie. At the Amish Villagein Strasburg, you can experience the Amish way of life as you cycle through the 1840s ranch and one-room schoolhouse, and take a 45-minute ride through the countryside dotted with Amish farms, on a century-old steam train from the Strasburg Rail Road .
At the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum in Strasburg, see historic railroad artifacts and more than 100 vintage locomotives and cars. Get a hands-on lesson in pretzel twisting at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, and see beautiful examples of Amish crafts at the Quilt Museum in the town of Conversation. Lancaster Central Market is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market and you can learn all about country life at the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, a living history village and farm. Get a taste of the way of life in this beautiful region on a full-day Lancaster County Amish Country Tour from Philadelphia. At the Amish Experience center, learn about Amish lifestyle and culture during an F/X Theater presentation and take a tour of an Amish Country homestead. During a tour of the agricultural landscape, you will stop at an Amish quilt shop and bakery.
The nation’s premier museum of American decorative arts was built as a home for Henry Francis du Pont and the treasures he and his family collected. Many of the estate’s 175 rooms have period architectural features, and all are furnished with the Du Pont’s outstanding collection of antiques and decorative arts. In addition to the living spaces, galleries display more of the nearly 90,000 objects. These are arranged thematically to demonstrate historical styles and compare artistic techniques, design and materials. Collections include furniture, glassware, ceramics, textile arts, metalwork, paintings and prints, and the displays change regularly.
The gardens span 1,000 acres and are full of plants and trees collected from around the world. Arranged in a natural setting, plants are chosen to create a palette that changes with the seasons. Kids will love the Enchanted Forest, a fairytale garden with a giant bird’s nest to climb into, a fairytale labyrinth, a house carved into a tulip tree and a troll bridge.
Adres: 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, Delaware
Official site: www.winterthur.org
4 Longwood Gardens
At the end of the 19th century, Pierre du Pont created this series of show gardens with more than 1,000 hectares of woodland and meadows, and today it is one of the most beautiful year-round displays in the country. The complex consists of many different gardens, indoors and outdoors: formal gardens, dazzling displays of spring blooming bulbs, children’s gardens, water gardens, an arboretum of rare and exotic trees, a fruit garden, glass houses and pavilions and a fabulous garden. topiary garden. Perhaps the most spectacular is the Italian Water Garden , which was planned and designed in detail by Pierre du Pont to create an atmosphere of serenity and is based on Villa Gamberaia near Florence, Italy. The Topiary Gardenis a wonderland of carefully sculpted yews trained over decades to create the 20 different shapes. In November and December, the gardens are glowing at night in a fairytale spectacle of colored lights. Fountain shows are set to music and half a million lights highlight trees, shrubs and buildings. Because tickets are timed and numbers are limited, it’s a good idea to book in advance.
Adres: 1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.longwoodgardens.org
5 Washington, D.C.
The fastest and most convenient way to visit the nation’s capital is by train, which takes you to the beautiful 1908 Union Station, a short walk from the Capitol building. From the station, you can also board a sightseeing bus that will stop at the main tourist attractions. You can see a signed Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, view historic aircraft and spacecraft at the National Air and Space Museum, or visit one of the other Smithsonian Museums conveniently located along the National Mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. Further down the Mall is the impressive Lincoln Memorial. The hop-on hop-off bus stops at the International Spy Museum; the National Holocaust Museum; Arlington National Cemetery; and Ford’s Theater, where President Lincoln was assassinated. As you travel through the bus, you can see other famous landmarks such as the White House and the Jefferson Memorial.
6 New York City
The train from Philadelphia takes you straight to the heart of Manhattan in 75 to 90 minutes, and you can easily tour the city on one of the many hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus routes. This double-decker bus loop tour allows you to view the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the One World Trade Center Observatory, the 9/11 Memorial Pool, and other iconic landmarks, as well as head out for dining and shopping. You can stop to visit well-known museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or lesser-known attractions such as the American Indian Museum and the nearby Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington stayed during the Revolution.
7 Valley Forge National Historical Park
During the winter of 1777 to 1778, American soldiers camped in Valley Forge, enduring incredibly harsh conditions of cold, hunger, and disease. British troops had destroyed an important supply center for Washington’s army and the Continental Congress failed to provide funds for new supplies. Without proper food, shoes, or clothing, the troops suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, but a strong and determined force emerged under Washington’s command. The story of this terrible winter is told through exhibits, tours, and a film, and you can see it at Washington Headquartersand a National Memorial Arch, as well as the trails traversed through the encampment grounds, where Washington’s men built a village of 2,000 cabins protected by miles of trenches and earthen redoubts.
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/vafo
8 Nemours mansion and gardens
Nemours Mansion in Wilmington, Delaware, was a gift from Alfred du Pont to his wife Alicia because of the opulence and grandeur of Newport mansions. Built in the early 1900s, Nemours was their home until 1970, so unlike some over-the-top mansions, this one seems quite habitable, the furnishings and art are fit for use rather than show. This in no way detracts from the spectacular interior and the precious antiques and art treasures. But sometimes you have to look for the latter, often hanging inconspicuously in a bedroom or hallway. Highlights include the conservatory, music room, dining room, and drawing room, but don’t miss exploring the bowling alley, billiard room, and mechanical rooms with their ingenious early refrigeration equipment.
Adres: 850 Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Delaware
Official Site: https://www.nemoursmansion.org/
9 Hagley Museum and Library
The Hagley Museum and Library spreads over 235 acres along the banks of the Brandywine River in Wilmington, Delaware. The river powered the gunpowder works founded by EI du Pont in 1802, which would become the largest American producer of this explosive essential to building railroads and other supplies of an expanding nation. You can tour the river powder works and follow the process with informative signs and live demonstrations of the equipment. Above is a group of workers’ quarters and you can also look around the home of the du Ponts, Eleutherian Mills, furnished with family decorative art and antiques. The barn contains antique cars, wagons, carriages and a cooperage. There is so much to see in this large complex that you should plan at least half a day. Buses provide transport between the different areas, but the riverbanks are beautiful and worth a walk.
Adres: 200 Hagley Road, Wilmington
Official site: www.hagley.org
10 Brandywine River Museum of Art en N.C. Wyeth House & Studio
Artist N.C. Wyeth purchased the land overlooking the Brandywine Valley in 1911, with the proceeds from his illustrations for Treasure Island, and built a home and studio. Here he painted some of his most famous works. Today it is a National Historic Landmark and seasonal tours provide a glimpse into his life and career, as well as other members of this extraordinarily talented family. An extensive collection of works by NC Wyeth; his son, Andrew; grandson, Jamie; and others are on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, which operates the house and studio. An extensive conservation area surrounds the museum property and is planted with native wildflowers, trees and shrubs.
Adres: 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road (uit U.S. Route 1), Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Official site: www.brandywinemuseum.org
11 Brandywine Battlefield State Park
Fought on September 11, 1777, the Battle of Brandywine stretched over ten square miles, or 35,000 acres, of which today’s park covers the 50 acres where the continental army camped before the battle. It was a great commitment of the Revolution, because Brandywine Creek blocked access to Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was in session. However, the British broke through and subsequently captured Philadelphia, a major victory for them, but not one that ended the war as they had hoped.
While visiting this National Historic Landmark, you can see the site of Washington’s headquarters and tour the battlefield, stopping at the Old Kennett Meetinghouse, Birmingham Friends Meetinghouse, Birmingham Hill, Sandy Hollow, and the 1704 Brinton House. The visitor center contains a small museum and a hands-on room where children can try out ancient tools and process artifacts.
Adres: Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Official Site: https://brandywinebattlefield.org/
12 Brandywine Creek State Park
Brandywine Creek State Park covers nearly 1,000 acres that was a dairy farm of the du Pont family in the late 1800s, and includes the Freshwater Marsh and Tulip Tree Woods Nature Reserves. The latter shelters a majestic stand of 190-year-old tulip poplars, and the entire area is an important habitat for wildflowers, songbirds (including bluebirds), deer, and other wildlife. From mid-September to mid-November, you can see a wide variety of migrating hawks. Along with 14 miles of hiking trails, fishing, canoeing and tubing, the park is home to the Brandywine Zoo, specializing in endangered species from the Americas and Asia, including red pandas, monkeys and condors. Visually impaired visitors can enjoy nature on the Sensory Trail.
Adres: 101 North Park Drive, Wilmington, Delaware
Official Site: https://www.destateparks.com/park/brandywine-creek/