If you crave freedom, try traveling alone. See what you want to see without consulting with anyone! Traveling should serve a dual purpose: recreation and education. Where else to start but in the United States, a young but vast country with abundant resources, plenty of culture and rich history. And what better place in the U.S. than where the young nation declared its freedom, and later a group of its citizens won their freedom from slavery. Following I-76 West from Philadelphia, PA, to U.S. 15 South to Gettysburg (approximately 140 miles) ties in many important places in U.S. history as well as offering interesting attractions and plenty of rolling hills.
Valley Forge National Historical Park. The 3,500-acre Valley Forge National Historical Park is 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia (itself a principal meeting place of America’s first leaders, the site of the signings of both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution in the late 1700s). The park combines hiking trails with guided tours highlighting American Revolution sites, including George Washington’s first headquarters.
Lancaster County. One of the most-visited areas in Pennsylvania is Lancaster County, popularly known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country. South of I-76 on U.S.-222, 80 miles west of Philadelphia, Lancaster is home to America’s second largest Amish population. Enjoy a guided tour through Amish Village in Ronks (Strasburg), then a 90-minute bus tour through the surrounding countryside, the land of horse-drawn buggies, covered bridges, one-room schoolhouses. While shopping at the many antique, arts and crafts shops (a haven for quilt-lovers!) in the city of Lancaster, take time to appreciate the hand-painted murals. Lancaster Central Market is America’s oldest farmer’s market, operating since the early 1700s. Theater-lovers will find a few exceptional choices, including Fulton Theater (the country’s oldest) and dinner theaters such as the Dutch Apple. Bird-in-Hand is a popular destination for those who can’t get enough Amish. The Plain and Fancy Farm Restaurant offers the Amish Farm Feast, accommodations, tours.
Hershey! Chocolate lovers won’t want to miss HersheyPark in Hershey, “the town built on chocolate”.
Gettysburg. Take U.S. 15 South to Gettysburg, site of the pivotal Civil War battle. The Dobbin House Tavern offers fine dining and a crawlspace hideaway designed for escaped slaves enroute to the underground railroad and freedom. Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. A few miles south sits the Mason-Dixon Line, the dividing mark between the Northeastern and Southern United States.
National Park Service, Valley Forge National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm)
Lancaster County, PA Dutch Country (www.padutchcountry.com)
Hershey: The Sweetest Place on Earth (www.hersheypa.com)