People shopping in Lititz, Pennsylvania

7 of the Most Welcoming Towns in Pennsylvania

What does the Keystone State bring to mind? If you are into history, you have probably heard about the Gettysburg Battle and the Liberty Bell in the capital. Hershey, PA, and Philly Cheesesteaks strike a chord with foodies. It is the Amish way of life and Pennsylvania Dutch for many, but did you know that PA is a state full of vibrant arts and Victorianas eye feast? One of these towns is home to seven former state governors, while "Marley & Me" is based on a family from another town!

Read to discover which one of these friendly towns welcomes vacationers and businessmen alike, and what town with a beach state park and two lighthouses caters to over four million annual tourists! These historic towns are the most welcoming in the state for every group to bond and unwind over rewarding experiences that create lasting memories.


Street view in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
Street view in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, via benedek /

This friendly town with a charming name, some 10 miles from Penn State University, was named after a natural spring right at its heart! Bubbly like the mineral waters, it is also "Central Pennsylvania's Victorian Secret," home to the state's former seven governors and beautiful Victorianas along the streets, some dating to the establishment in 1795! Bellefonte welcomes antique lovers, photographers, and families to bond and unwind over rewarding experiences with a treasure trove of antique stores and gift shops. A heaven for vintage lovers, the charming bed and breakfasts cater to businessmen alike looking for something different but close to home.

The riverfront walkway alongside Talleyrand Park is a popular backdrop for memorable events, warm-weather strolls, and stark fall foliage against the water. From Tussey Mountain Outfitters to the popular State Burger Co. and Axemann Brewery, Fisherman's Paradise, a loaded fishing area, is just south! Bellefonte comes alive during the annual Big Spring Festival on the third weekend in May with family fun like crafts, trout stocking, food, and music. From the annual Bellefonte Arts & Crafts Fair to Victorian Christmas, you can visit anytime for the American Philatelic Society and the historic Match Factory turned Big Spring Spirits distillery.


View north along Pennsylvania State Route 29 in Emmaus, Pennsylvania
View north along Pennsylvania State Route 29 in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, By Famartin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Some 60 miles north of Philadelphia, just outside PA's third largest city of Allentown, this fun and social borough ranked 7th best place to live in the state in 2015 and 5th “most heartwarmingly beautiful small town in Pennsylvania!" Settled in the 1740s, Emmaus keeps up with the times, offering a shopping scene alongside music and art in the park at the base of South Mountain in Lehigh Valley!

Former headquarters of Rodale, Inc., J.I. Rodale, a pioneer of organic lifestyles and publisher of popular health books and magazines, bought a 63-acre farm in 1940, the site of his first experiments with organic agriculture. Pronounced Ee-May-Us, the quaint town, home to the real-life family that "Marley and Me" was based on, continues to prioritize wellness through its fine restaurants and farmer’s market downtown.


A large three story brick building in Franklin, Pennsylvania
A large three story brick building in Franklin, Pennsylvania, via woodsnorthphoto /

Primed for adventures at the confluence of French Creek and the Allegheny River, Franklin, the county seat of Venango County, flourished as a trading post in the 1740s! The small town saw everything from the French and Indian War to its economic oil boom, with the country's first successful drilling by Colonel Edwin Drake’s in the nearby town of Titusville. The first stage at Barrow-Civic Theatre was a cement slab from an oil refinery, while the American Planning Association named the downtown thoroughfare "one of the 10 great streets in America!"

The charming Victorian architecture is a testament to the town's literally rich history, like St. John’s Episcopal Church with its 30 Tiffany windows and one of the largest Tiffany-made rose windows of Favrile glass! Fun and artsy, Applefest is the largest craft festival in western PA over a three-day autumn extravaganza, while the Franklin Silver Cornet Band is one of the US's oldest town bands! The town is also home to the groovy DeBence Antique Music World, a museum with over 100 antique mechanical musical instruments from the mid-1800s to the 1940s!


Ligonier, Pennsylvania: the gazebo in the town diamond with the Heritage United Methodist church behind it
Ligonier, Pennsylvania: the gazebo in the town diamond with the Heritage United Methodist church behind it, via woodsnorthphoto /

Tucked away in Westmoreland County between Laurel Mountain and Chestnut Ridge, at the gateway to Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, Ligonier is primed for adventures! According to Country Living magazine, it is one of the most charming small towns in America to discover cuisine, history, and unique shopping. Scenic Pittsburgh rewarded Ligonier with a Regional Scenic Beauty Award for its illustrious heritage and gorgeous views. The director of public relations for GO Laurel Highlands, headquartered right here, called it "a very cozy little hallmark town that’s very walkable” and an international destination.

The quaint town is home to one of the US's oldest amusement parks, Idlewild Park, while Ligonier Country Market is region-renowned for only what is fresh and local. You can mingle among the local shoppers for farm-fresh ingredients and stock up before departing to delight the family with meals that really taste home-made upon return! Ligonier welcomes snow bunnies back to Laurel Mountain Ski Resort in winter, when you can revisit favorite art at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and get together with old friends for dinner and drinks at The Wicked Googly!


People waking around in Lilitz, Pennsylvania
People waking around in Lititz, Pennsylvania

The small town big on charm, Lititz, takes the stage with a grand personality and a deep pocket-full of history dating back to the early 1700s! First home to the Pennsylvanian Germans, the Moravians, the fighters for religious freedom, established the town in 1746, rooting "friendliness to all" into the atmosphere. The illustrious past dots Lititz streets like Moravian stars to hunt throughout, while foodies embrace the town for its unique cafes, tearooms, retro ice cream shops, and delicious restaurants.

There's the unmissable Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, where you can make your own iconic twist, while die-hard sweet fans flock to Lititz’s Wilbur Chocolate Company’s Candy Americana museum! Lilitz keeps you on your toes with priceless history and attractive art galleries, as well as chic boutiques and quirky antique shops. You can unwind, bond, and return feeling rejuvenated, perhaps with a trunk full of memories and sweets from Wilbur Chocolate Retail Store to share with friends and family!


Buildings on the western side of Main Street
Buildings on the western side of Main Street in Mill Creek, Pennsylvania, via Wikipedia

This friendly port town along the clean, freshwater beaches is a unique section of Pennsylvania to discover on the Great Lakes. With flourishing botanical gardens, waterfront restaurants, and two picturesque lighthouses, Millford is unmissable for the beach scene at Presque Isle State Park alone, which sees over four million annual visitors! From the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to water parks, it is summer vacation-ready with swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, and parks around to cool off in the refreshing nature!

There is the incredibly popular Big Cottonwood Regional Park with mountain views, Murray Park's beautiful open greenspace, and golfing throughout! The lively town caters to families with sports arenas and live performances, among other cultural events. You can start in town at Parley's Historic Park and venture north to Parley's Canyon Overlook Trail Head or west to Tanner Park. Just across the highway, the vast Country Club golf course connects to the all-season trails at Sugar House Park!


Creamery Ice Crea shop in Strasburg, Pennsylvania
Creamery Ice Crea shop in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, via Wikipedia

This historically significant town, with a myriad of family-friendly attractions, is a place for locals and tourists to create memories that last a lifetime. Strasburg has a deep pocket full of peaceful history, translating into the present day with many train exhibitions and the Amish village with heritage sights, theaters, and a miniature horse farm! You can learn all about train history at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, while the National Toy Train Museum is a must-visit for young and old steam engine fans for train toys and memorabilia.

From explorative buggy rides to a ride along a real-life Thomas the Tank train, families love the 45-minute scenic train journey along the Strasburg Railroad through the Amish countryside and farm fields to Groff’s Grove and Leaman Place Grove recreational sites. The younger kids adore Choo Choo Barn, while The Li'l Country Store and Miniature Horse Farm depict life on the farm with experiences and cute animals.

Are you now craving the sweets at Lititz’s Wilbur Chocolate Company, with its own Candy Americana museum? The Keystone State is a land of contrasts, from modest Amish sights in Strasburg to America's first oil boom spark in Franklin.

Ligonier is primed for adventures, an idyllic base for wintertime skiing at Laurel Mountain Ski Resort in winter, while Millcreek is summer vacation ready with clean beaches and a waterfront for photoshoots and strolls! Visit Franklin, and you will long remain googly-eyed at one of the largest Tiffany-made rose windows of Favrile glass on St. John’s Episcopal Church!

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