Pennsylvania is a state that covers the Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern, Appalachian, and Great Lakes regions of the United States. Thought of as the "nation’s birthplace" it was originally settled in 1643 and it has strong ties to American history. History buffs will love visiting Pennsylvania for its rich history in relation to founding documents such as the American Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. From large cities to small towns, there is so much to see and do in Pennsylvania. Underrated towns are a great way to soak up some small-town charm and explore somewhere off the beaten path.
Emmaus is a tiny town in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. This charming town lies at the foot of the South Mountain, and its position against the mountain and valley makes it a stunning place to see. The area was originally settled in the 1740s and has a strong sense of history including old architecture and historical buildings including the Emmaus Moravian Church, Kemmerer House built between 1840 and 1850, the Shelter House originally constructed in 1734, or The Jacob Ehrenhardt Jr. House (aka the 1803 House). The Emmaus Historical Society and Museum are also full of information and history for anyone looking to dive a little deeper into the town.
The town also has a number of modern activities to enjoy as well. Get the full small-town feel at the local Emmaus Farmers Market, take in a show at the famous Emmaus theater, or enjoy nature at the Wildlands Conservancy, Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. In addition, there are also lots of options for drinking. Beer lovers will enjoy visiting Shangy’s, one of the biggest beer distributors in the nation, which has some 4,00 domestic and imported beer brands.
Franklin is another beautiful part of Pennsylvania with postcard-like views. Its downtown area boasts the stunning Venango County Courthouse, and streets lined with historical architecture. The area also played a significant role in history and was the site of many forts and battlements during the start of the Seven Years' War. The French built four forts in the area in order to control the Venango Path and the waterways on which Franklin sits (which provided a connection to Quebec and south of the Mississippi). These forts include Fort Presque Isle, Fort Le Boeuf, Fort Machault, and Fort Duquesne, at the Forks of Ohio.
Visitors can still see these sites today, and walking tours will stop by locations, view the placards and tell the stories of old. Franklin also has a vibrant arts and culture scene. One of its most well-known occasions is the Applefest, which is a three-day art festival, the largest craft festival in western Pennsylvania, which takes place in October. Music lovers can enjoy the DeBence Antique Music World, which has the musical history of the area including that of the local Franklin Silver Cornet Band.
Ardmore is a growing town between the Delaware and Montgomery counties. Ardmore is full of small-town charm with big city attractions, making it an excellent place to visit. It also has great shopping, dining, and nightlife opportunities. The region had one of the earliest official shopping centers in the country, and it has kept this status as a prime shopping destination. For more artisanal shopping, visitors can explore the Clover Market, held five times throughout the spring and fall.
Restaurant Week is another popular festival that showcases fine dining in the area throughout July. Similarly, Oktoberfest brings tourism in the fall and highlights the growing beer scene here. The town hosts a Christmas Market in the winter known as the Cricket Cringle.
The town of Phoenixville sits at the joining of the French Creek and Schuylkill River. It has a truly historic feel, with a modern edge. The town received its name from the Phoenix Iron Company which was the biggest employer of the town for many years. The town now boasts casual dining, artistic shops, and wine-tasting venues throughout the vibrant downtown area.
The arts scene has been prominent in the town for many years and is continuing to evolve and change. The Colonial Theatre, built in 1903, is still the main figure in the town, especially when it comes to the arts. The theater is still in use now but screens films rather than hosts live performances. The 1958 film The Blob was filmed here, and the town hosts a Blobfest in honor of the classic Sci-fi hit. Other art destinations include The Art gallery at Franklin Commons and the Diving Cat Studio and Gallery.
The town of Jim Thorpe is often called the "Switzerland of Pennsylvania." This is largely due to its distinct architecture, small-town charm, and stunning mountainous landscape. The town is in the eastern part of the state and is part of the southern Poconos.
Jim Thorpe is the epitome of cute and cozy towns full of historical charm and gorgeous landscapes. It boasts beautiful old architecture, cobblestone streets, and a European-like feel. From town, you can see Penn’s Peak, adding to the "Switzerland" feel of a quaint ski town. Skiing, hiking, and white water rafting are some of the most popular activities in the area, and cabins and Bed and Breakfasts are plentiful.
The town also showcases its coal mining heritage at the No. 9 Mine and Museum as well as The Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center which offers a more broad history of the town. Other historic buildings include the Jim Thorpe Trolley Company and the Asa Packer Mansion.
Titusville is a city on the eastern side of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. It has a population of roughly 5,200 people, a history that stems from oil production, and boasts the first discovery of oil in America. The Drake Well Museum, named after Edwin Drake, who was the first to strike oil, showcases the history of oil production and development in the town. Titusville even hosts an Oil Festival each year.
Other historical buildings in the town include the Tarbell House, South Franklin Street Bridge, the Benson Memorial Library, the Titusville Historical Society & Heritage Center, and the historic Titusville City Hall. The area is also popular for hiking, camping, and outdoor exploration in areas like the nearby Oil City State Park.
The town of Ephrata is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and is part of Amish country. This adorable town has lots of charm, but also a lot of history and gorgeous scenic views. Ephrata has a vibrant street fair that often features Amish-inspired crafts and treats and also has a wider arts culture found throughout the town. The Eicher Arts Center and Ephrata Performing Arts Center show off the local creative spirit.
The town also boasts a Farmer’s Market, The Green Dragon Farmers Market, which is one of the largest in the state. This eclectic array of stalls includes everything from Amish foods to fresh produce, crafts, and furniture.
For history, visitors can explore the impressive Ephrata Cloister. This religious community dates back to early colonial times and was later converted into a State Museum. The building itself dates back to the 1700s and is similar to a monastery. The town also has the Winter’s Leadership Memorial that honors WWII veteran Major Dick Winters who was born in the town.
Ohiopyle is a very small town nestled up against the more well-known Ohiopyle State Park. This gorgeous state park draws many visitors and tourists who come to the area to hike, camp, or hit the mountain biking trails. Pathways along the Great Allegheny Passage offer impressive views and great opportunities to dirt bike or trail run. Another popular activity is white water rafting and kayaking along the Youghiogheny River. The river is one of the best places to white water raft and allows for visitors of all skill sets. The Ohiopyle Falls is a beautiful place to relax and take in the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Architect buffs will also enjoy visiting Ohiopyle as the renowned artist and architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed two buildings located just outside of town. Both Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob are drivable from Ohiopyle.
For those who love to experience something a little different, these small towns of Pennsylvania are great options. Though underrated, each has its own unique style and feel, from European mountain towns to old American charm, nature adventure parks, or oil and coal mansions. Visiting somewhere different, especially somewhere off the beaten path gives travelers the chance to experience the more authentic side of a town or state. Tourist attractions may be fun, but experiencing the history and culture of a place is a powerful way to visit. Considering a small town is a unique way to get a personal experience and build lasting memories.