20 Things Pennsylvania is Known and Famous For

If you’re talking about American history, then Pennsylvania will always be a part of the conversation. This East Coast state was home to some of the most important moments in the founding of our country. 

Pennsylvania is famous for being one of the 13 original colonies. Pennsylvania is home to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were adopted. It’s also known for its diverse geography, including the Appalachian mountains and Susquehanna river. 

Let’s take a look at the 20 things Pennsylvania is known for.

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1. Original colony

Old American flag designed during the American Revolutionary War features 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies

Before we talk about modern-day Pennsylvania, let’s start at the beginning. Pennsylvania was founded in 1681 as one of the 13 original British colonies. 

The land was given to William Penn by Charles II of England and the Province of Pennsylvania was known as one of the Middle Colonies. After the Continental Congress, it was the second state to ratify the Constitution, just five days after Delaware.   

2. William Penn

statue william penn philadelphia city hall

Pennsylvania is known as “The Keystone State,” but the name literally translates from Latin to “Penn’s Woods.” The English writer William Penn named it after his father Admiral William Penn. 

The younger William Penn established government in Pennsylvania and was an early supporter of unification. He was a devout Quaker who believed in peace, especially with the local Native tribes. 

3. Native tribes

Bark-covered wigwams at a reconstructed Native American village

Pennsylvania went through different periods of colonization by the Dutch, the English, and the Swedish. But before those settlers arrived, the land was populated by several different Native tribes.

The Algonquin Lenape, the Iroquoian Susquehannock, and Petun all inhabited the land that we now call Pennsylvania. 

4. Philadelphia

Philadelphia skyline at night with the Schuylkill river

Pennsylvania’s most populated and most well-known city, Philadelphia, deserves its own list of things to be famous for. This major metropolis is a must-visit for local and international visitors alike. 

From its food to its history to its sports teams, Philly has something for everyone. Known as “The City of Brotherly Love” not just for its welcoming atmosphere, but for the Greek origins of its name. Philadelphia comes from the Greek “philos” meaning “love” and “adelphos” meaning “brother.”

5. Independence Hall

Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Of all the buildings in Philadelphia, Independence Hall is the most iconic. This famous civic building is where the Founding Fathers debated and adopted both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Today, the National Park Service is in charge of preserving and maintaining this important piece of history. Visitors can still step inside and tour the hall, imagining what it would have been like to shape the country we know today. 

6. Gettysburg

Gettysburg, PA, USA August 12 Cannons and memorials denote the "high water mark," the furthest advance of the Confederate Army in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Editorial credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

While much of the state’s history is concentrated in Philadelphia, there are other notable historical places around the state. One of the most famous would have to be Gettysburg.

In 1863, this was the site of a pivotal Civil War battle. It was known for being especially deadly, but it also marked an important turning point for the Union army. The victory from Union Major General George Meade halted the Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s march north. 

7. The Mason-Dixon line

Marker at the Mason Dixon line separating North from South during Civil War at Pennsylvania and Maryland

This line, originally surveyed in the 18th century, marks the southern border of Pennsylvania and the northern border of Maryland. It became a very important demarcation line during the Civil War, when the boundaries of free and slave territory were being debated.

In modern times, the Mason-Dixon line is generally known as the line that separates the Northeast and the South regions of the East Coast. 

8. Flight 93 National Memorial

The Flight 93 National Memorial.
Editorial credit: Erwin Widmer / Shutterstock.com

Pennsylvania holds a special place in early American history, but it’s also the site of more recent historical events as well. One notable event is the hijacking and subsequent crash of Flight 93 during the September 11th attacks.

Of the four planes that were hijacked, Flight 93 is the only one that did not reach its intended target, thanks to the bravery of the crew and passengers on board. The flight crashed in Somerset County, where there is now a memorial that pays tribute to their sacrifice. 

9. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh skyline river

A list about Pennsylvania would not be complete without a mention of its gem of the west: Pittsburgh. This second largest city is known for its steel production and hundreds of bridges.

Beyond its industrial and manufacturing background, Pittsburgh is home to numerous museums and cultural centers, including the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts.

10. Coal

Coal mining : coal miner in the man hands of coal background

Besides steel, Pennsylvania is also known for its coal production. Coal mining has been a popular industry in the state for over 200 years.

Pennsylvania is home to the largest known deposit of anthracite coal, which is known as hard coal. The state is also rich in bituminous coal, which is mainly mined in the southwest region of the state. 

11. Centralia mine fire

Black and white image of the cracked and buckled highway of a ghost town in Centralia, Pennsylvania. The result of an underground mine fire that has been burning since 1962.

While coal mining is an important business and source of energy, the mining process in Pennsylvania has led to one unusual occurrence. Underneath the town of Centralia, there’s a coal fire that’s been burning since 1962.

The origins of the fire are still up for debate, but scientists estimate that the fire could continue burning for over 250 years. The site was once a tourist attraction, but has since been blocked off for safety reasons. 

12. Little League World Series

Matt Glenn's sculpture Bases Loaded was unveiled in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the 75th Anniversary of Little League Baseball.
Editorial credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

While the Major League Baseball World Series changes location every year, the Little League World Series is always held in Pennsylvania. Every August, teams of 10- to 12-year-olds flock to Williamsport for their chance at the title. 

The tournament started with just American teams, but has since branched out to include international teams as well. Teams must qualify within their own regions first before traveling to the championship.

13. Appalachian mountains

Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is famous for having a surprisingly diverse geography. Running through the center of the state is the impressive Appalachian mountain range, an East Coast range that stretches for 1,500 miles.

The popular Appalachian Trail follows the mountain range and is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The section that runs through Pennsylvania is known as “Rocksylvania” due to its famously rocky terrain. 

14. Pocono mountains

Aerial of Snow covered Poconos Mountain

While slightly less famous, the Pocono mountains are no less beautiful. This Pennsylvania mountain range is known for being a popular outdoor recreation area complete with relaxing resorts and plenty of activities.

Whether you prefer skiing in the winter or camping in the summer, the Poconos have a lot to offer. Casinos and racetracks are also available for those looking for more of a thrill.

15. Rivers

Sunset at breezyview overlook in Columbia Pennsylvania, overlooking the susquehanna river

In addition to the mountains, Pennsylvania also offers stunning river views. There are beautiful waterways all across the state that range from tiny forest creeks to mighty flowing rivers. 

Whether you’re canoeing on the Delaware, fishing on the Susquehanna, or hiking along Pine Creek, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy on Pennsylvania rivers.

16. Bad roads

Pothole in road

Unfortunately, the unique geography of Pennsylvania does have its downsides. The many peaks and valleys can lead to water collection, which in turn does damage to the local roadways.

Potholes are all too common on streets all around Pennsylvania, so make sure you watch where you’re going when driving around the state. 

17. Pretzels

A large pretzel sign at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, the first commercial pretzel bakery in the US.
Editorial credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

As you hike around Pennsylvania, you’ll need some good trail snacks. There’s one in particular that is deeply Pennsylvanian: the pretzel.

The state is home to 45 different pretzel companies. Whether you prefer the crunchy variety from Snyder’s of Hanover or the soft kind from Philly Pretzel Factory, this is the place for all kinds of pretzel lovers.

18. Cheesesteaks

Making a Philly Cheesesteak

Another savory dish that is near and dear to the hearts of Pennsylvanians is the cheesesteak. The popular sandwich has its origins in Philadelphia, but can be enjoyed all over the state.

The classic cheesesteak consists of browned, thinly-sliced beef and melted cheese on a hoagie roll. The type of cheese varies based on restaurant and personal preference, as do the potential toppings.

But whether you prefer Cheez Whiz and onions or provolone and ketchup, the cheesesteak is sure to be a satisfying meal. 

19. Hershey’s

The Entrance of the Hershey Company Chocolate factory in downtown Hershey.
Editorial credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

Where there’s salty, there’s always sweet. In addition to pretzels and cheesesteaks, Pennsylvania is known for their chocolate.

Hershey’s is king in these parts, since the popular American chocolate brand was started in this very state. The brand has become so popular that Hershey, Pennsylvania is known as the Chocolate Capital of the U.S. 

Beyond the chocolate, Hershey’s is famous in Pennsylvania because of the popular theme park Hersheypark. Opened in 1906, the park welcomes millions of thrill-seekers every year.

20. The Amish

Three young Amish men in open buggy going down country road in rural Pennsylvania.

Many different groups of settlers have come to Pennsylvania over the years. One notable group is the Amish, a specific subgroup of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Pennsylvania has the largest Amish population in the country, with about 80,000 people. 

The Amish are well known because of their unique style and way of life. While the exact practices and beliefs vary by community, many choose not to use technology or electricity. They can often be seen wearing plain, modest clothing and traveling by horse and buggy.

pennsylvania on the map

Pennsylvania is a unique state with lots to offer. Whether you come for the history, the geography, or the cuisine, you’ll find something exciting to explore. What’s your favorite part about Pennsylvania? Share with us in the comments.

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