The Best Attractions to Visit With Kids in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania produces over 400 million pounds of mushrooms annually and is a timeless industrial hotspot for coal and railroads. But, if you find yourself traveling to Pennsylvania for a family excursion and you don’t feel like forcing the kids to try mushrooms or explore railroad museums, the 33rd largest state in the US hosts plenty of options for family fun.

Here are some favorites in the coal capital of the United States.

Pittsburg Zoo

The Pittsburg Zoo aims to create positive relationships between patrons and animals that dwell within the 77 acres of the park. The Pittsburg Zoo first cut its ribbons to the public on June 14, 1898, introducing citizens of Pittsburg to wildlife not depicted anywhere else. Throughout the park’s evolution, zookeepers opted to grow as more of a conservation territory than a tourist attraction.

Today, the Pittsburg Zoo dedicates countless hours and millions of dollars to conserving ocelots, elephants, armadillos, alligator lizards, and coral. Workers devote their days to providing safe rehabilitation centers for injured animals like manatees and sea turtles. They strive to save and foster a healthier future for wildlife, while also implementing educational programs and exhibits for guests. Visitors learn how to minimize household waste and recycle used items.

One of the unique programs the Pittsburg Zoo contributes to the eco-friendly community was last year's Ugly Sweaters From Waste program. Just as it sounds, workers gathered waste to create ugly holiday sweaters.

In addition to contributing to a cleaner and healthier society, the Pittsburg Zoo exhibits include red pandas, ostriches, hippopotamuses, flamingos, tortoises, and beavers. The wildlife sanctuary hosts over 8,000 animals and grows annually.

Petting Farm Critter Country Animal Farm

Critter Country sits in the unassuming middle of Smithton, Pennsylvania. The petting zoo and farm was established over 20 years ago when Laurie and Rob Salvio wanted to promote animal health and safety.

This petting farm differs from other petting farms. It houses typical farm animals like horses, cows, and goats, but they also take in animals found on other continents, much like a zoo. So, if you have your heart set on seeing a tiger or a monkey on an independently owned animal farm, Critter Country is the perfect destination for you.

The park opens each day at noon, accepts the final guests at 5 pm, and shutters its doors at 6 pm. Tickets cost between $12 and $10. Plus, for a few dollars more, you can feed the animals.

Knoebels Amusement Park

Heard stories of an amusement park deep in the heart of the Elysburg, Pennsylvania mountains?

Knoebel’s Amusement Park possesses the world’s top-rated wooden roller coaster. As its name suggests, the Phoenix was resurrected from its original ashes. The coaster, originally named the Rocket Roller, lived at Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas, til it closed in 1984.

Dick Knoebel bought the coaster scraps, transported the Rocket Roller, and rebuilt it as The Phoenix, a high-speed thrill ride.

Today, the ride costs $4 per person and shoots riders through the picturesque scenery of the Pennsylvania mountains. Additionally, Knoebel’s boasts four water slides, a pool complete with diving boards, and a kiddie pool for the little tots.

Check out their lodging choices if you can’t get enough of Knoebel’s. Pick between two campsites, cottages, or a bed and breakfast for a more homey vacation.

The best part about Knoebel’s – admission is free! Free parking, free facilities, and free amusement. You just have to pay for the rides and food.

Kalahari Water Park

Kalahari welcomes visitors to explore 220,000 square feet of water slides, pools, surf simulations, lazy rivers, and spas. Victoria Falls and The Lazy River aim toward guests that prefer mellow water rides. The Screaming Hyena and Kenya Kork send guests barreling down steep drops and flying through terse terrain.

On top of that, Kalahari offers a ropes course to test your strength, an arcade to challenge your high scores, and a bowling alley. Also, invite your friends and family to a game of mini golf or some virtual reality games to give yourself a reprieve from pruned fingers and waterlogged ears.

While the kids are adventuring, adults can book an appointment in the halotherapy spa and revitalize their breathing. Halotherapy uses Himalayan salt to open up a more transparent channel in your lungs, allowing you to breathe deeper and fuller. If salt therapy is not for you, dive into hydrotherapy. Kalahari’s steam rooms, saunas, and jacuzzis provide guests with access to rejuvenating and refreshing water.

Hershey’s Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World

Milton S. Hershey, otherwise known for inventing Hershey’s chocolate, founded Hershey’s Park in 1906. Initially, the park doubled as a hangout spot for Hershey’s workers with a zoo and a carousel to enjoy. Today, the amusement park hosts 15 thrilling roller coasters, chocolate-themed attractions, original shows, a water park, and world-renowned ZooAmerica.

Hershey’s World is adjacent to the park and does not require admission. Arguably the best attraction Hershey’s World offers is the Make Your Own Chocolate Bar station. Perfect for all ages, this candy invention stop allows visitors to pick their base: milk, white, or dark chocolate. Once you select the base, choose the kind of consistency you’d like: chocolate chips, crisped rice, chocolate cookie pieces, butterscotch chips, butter toffee pieces, pretzels, and, if you want, sprinkles. The final step is designing your wrapper. Make it plain or add extra pizazz.

Don’t want to create a chocolate bar? That’s okay; make your own Reese’s instead! Add pretzels, marshmallows, cookies, Reese’s Pieces, sprinkles, or fudge into your one-pound chocolatey peanut butter creation.

Start Planning Your Trip to PA Today!

Pennsylvania is a perfect pick if you’re planning your next family vacation but don’t know where to take the kids. The heavily populated state is a popular travel destination with revered zoos, infamous theme parks, popular waterpark resorts, and historical landmarks.

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Gabrielle Reeder is a freelance journalist from St. Petersburg, Florida. She enjoys horror movies, indie music, and all things Rubik’s cubes.

When she’s not writing she can be found at a concert or on the beach.

LinkedIn: Gabrielle Reeder