The famous Bucks County Playhouse theater in New Hope, Pennsylvania, via EQRoy /

9 Most Charming River Towns in Pennsylvania to Visit in 2024

Pennsylvania's beautiful landscapes include several major rivers that cut through the state. Along the picturesque banks of these rivers lie some of the state’s most historic and charming small towns, waiting to be explored. Major rivers like the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Allegheny rivers carved out valleys, creating perfect settings for historic river towns to develop. These towns maintain much of their architectural character and charm from when they played important roles in Pennsylvania's economic and cultural growth.

In 2024, plan a visit to discover the allure of Pennsylvania's river towns, with their well-preserved architecture, outdoor recreational activities, and small-town vibe. The natural and rural settings present the ideal off-the-beaten-path adventure to escape the hustle and bustle of the city while promising an unforgettable experience. So, set the stage for some fun on the calm waters of these adorable river towns in Pennsylvania. 


View of Northumberland on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania
View of Northumberland on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania

This historic borough sits at the meeting point of the West and North banks of the Susquehanna River. It traces its history to the 18th century, a legacy that comes alive through one of the town’s most iconic landmarks, Joseph Priestley House. This wooden Georgian-style mansion from 1798 offers a window into the bygone eras while shedding light on the legacy of Joseph Priestley’s role in American History. Many travelers visit Northumberland to experience the 132-acre Shikellamy State Park, with the highlight being the overlook section. 

Rising 360 feet above the water, guests get to soak in unparalleled vistas of the confluence of the two branches of the Susquehanna River. Northumberland also features a respectable bar and restaurant scene. After working up an appetite from the exploration, you can stop by El Rancho Restaurant & Lounge to sample Mexican cuisine from a fantastic menu. 

Jim Thorpe

The charming town of Jim Thorpe in the Poconos
The charming town of Jim Thorpe in the Poconos

Jim Thorpe's rich heritage saw it flourishing as a railroad and coal mining hub in the 19th century. Today, it has evolved to be a bustling tourist hub but still remains true to its roots. Beautifully preserved Victorian structures lend a picture of old-world Jim Thorpe, with notable venues like the Asa Packer Mansion offering a window into the region during the Victorian era. But if you want a deeper dive into the history of the town, you can tour the Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center for an insightful journey back in time and lessons about past generations that inhabited the town.

Beyond its colorful history and culture, the town is an excellent spot for the outdoorsy type, boasting scenic natural surroundings punctuated with the Pocono Mountains. Hopping aboard the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway presents a fun way of witnessing the magical wilderness that encircles the town. Alternatively, you can get up close with nature on a thrilling kayaking or rafting excursion along the chill waters of the Lehigh River. 


Old Town Hall in Marietta, Pennsylvania
Old Town Hall in Marietta, Pennsylvania

Marietta lies idyllically along the banks of the Susquehanna River and is easily one of the most charming river towns in Pennsylvania. Surrounded by lush forests and parks, nature lovers can hike scenic routes like the scenic Northwest River Trail to explore dense woodlands and enjoy stunning views of the flowing waterway. Riverfront Park is a beautiful spot to spend the day outside. With an expansive lawn, picnic facilities, and river vistas, it provides the perfect setting to revel in nature’s splendor. History buffs will find much to discover in Marietta's well-preserved Historic District, listed on the National Register for its fine examples of colonial architecture. 

The Old Town Hall Museum offers a fascinating window into the community's past through artifacts from the pioneer era. For overnight stays, travelers can experience Marietta's history firsthand at the historic Railroad House Inn, tucked in the heart of town. 

New Hope

Historic New Hope, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River from Lambertville, New Jersey
Historic New Hope, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River from Lambertville, New Jersey, via EQRoy /

New Hope is considered by many as the best of the Delaware River towns. It is easy to see why this is so when you consider its pedestrian-friendly downtown and the eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, museums, and galleries it hosts. Set along the west bank of the Delaware River, New Hope delights with scenic water views and multiple family-friendly pursuits. Among its top attractions, the Bucks County Children’s Museum charms the young generation with interactive exhibits and fun, hands-on activities to spark their thirst for knowledge. The arts and culture scene is abuzz in New Hope, treating visitors to awesome visual and performance art at venues like the historic Bucks County Playhouse and New Hope Arts Center. But if you are yearning to explore the open spaces, Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve presents a laid back nature spot with serene trails perfect for a stress-free stroll. 


The Restaurant District in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
The Restaurant District in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Image credit: Doug Kerr via Wikimedia Commons.

Often referred to as the “Heart of the Poconos,” Stroudsburg is the ideal jump-off base for adventurers planning to explore the picturesque Pocono Mountains region. The town enjoys lovely natural scenery with opportunities to explore its lush surroundings along the Brodhead Creek Heritage Trail. Meanwhile, one of the best spots for outdoor enthusiasts is the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This breathtaking natural gem delights with stunning waterfalls and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and biking. 

Beyond its natural beauty, Stroudsburg also contains a number of historical treasures offering a glimpse into the local heritage. An excellent example is the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, culture vultures will enjoy exploring Stroudsburg's heritage at the Monroe County Historical Association. 


Walnut Street in Milford, Pennsylvania
Walnut Street in Milford, Pennsylvania

Small-town charm doesn't get better than Milford, which lies along the scenic banks of the Delaware River. Surrounded by lush forests that erupt into a spectacle of color each fall, Milford offers excitement both in and out. Outdoor enthusiasts can start their exploration at Greys Towers National Historic Site, the former home to pioneering forestry chief Gifford Pinchot. Wandering the manicured gardens and woodland trails provides the perfect respite amid the serene landscape. You’ll also want to check out the nearby Raymondskill Falls, the state's tallest waterfall and picturesque photo backdrop.

When ready to venture inside, history and culture await. The Columns Museum of the Pike County Historical Society houses unique artifacts, including the iconic flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner." You can also browse quirky local art at the Golden Fish Art Gallery. With scenic natural beauty, historic sites, and small-town charm around every corner, Milford promises the perfect blend of indoor and outdoor exploration for visitors taking in the delights of Delaware River country.


A stone bridge spans the Delaware River near Yardley, Pennsylvania.
A stone bridge spans the Delaware River near Yardley, Pennsylvania.

Along the scenic banks of the Delaware River, you’ll come across the adorable town of Yardley. This tiny borough hosts a modest community of about 3,000, offering a taste of small-town life. Visitors are drawn to Yardley for its natural beauty and historic charm, discovering a reprieve from busy city neighborhoods. Cutting through the town, the Delaware Canal provides the perfect stage for a leisurely bike ride or hike along its landmark towpath. History buffs will want to explore Yardley's heritage at the local historical association. Within its archives are preserved newspapers, photographs, and other memorabilia that paint a portrait of the community's progression over the decades.

A sobering landmark also pays homage to Yardley's connection to a dark moment in American history. The 9/11 memorial at the Garden of Reflection holds significance as a tribute to Bucks County natives who perished at the World Trade Center. A piece of steel salvaged from Ground Zero and names of the fallen etched in stone serve as places of quiet reflection.


Intersection of Northampton Street and 6th Street in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania
Intersection of Northampton Street and 6th Street in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania, USA. Editorial credit: quiggyt4 /

This down-to-earth community sits along the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. Despite a modest population of about 30,000, it harbors a rich mix of attractions, including several historical gems. The Signal Museum and Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society showcase Easton's cultural development through engaging collections of exhibits. Also worthwhile is the National Canal Museum, where guests gain insight into the crucial role of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor in America's story. The museum documents the importance of the iconic waterway in American transport history. Easton also serves as the regional artistic hub thanks to the State Theater Center for the Arts. This 1,500-seat performing arts venue delivers Broadway-caliber productions to theater enthusiasts regularly, inviting locals and tourists alike to catch moving live shows. Those visiting with kids should consider stopping at the entertaining Crayola Experience for a fun, learning experience for all ages. 


Pennsylvania Route 61 and Pennsylvania Route 147 in Sunbury
Pennsylvania Route 61 and Pennsylvania Route 147 in Sunbury

Sunbury sits pretty on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River, spoiling tourists with unprecedented views of the waterway. The small town boasts a storied legacy dating back to the early 18th century, which history buffs can uncover at the Northumberland County Historical Society. Several nature spaces beckon visitors to step outside and enjoy beautiful scenery, including Cameron Park. This urban oasis was dedicated to Colonel James Cameron and features a 19th-century life-size statue depicting the public figure. Tree huggers and birders will fancy the cozy atmosphere of Keithans Bluebird Gardens, perfect for those seeking peace and solitude. 

One of the best ways to interact with locals is to shop at the Sunbury Market House, which promises a rich cultural experience in buying fresh produce and crafts, as well as sampling home-baked goods. Before leaving the town, remember to try the local craft brews at the Eclipse Craft Brewing Company. 

Final Thought

Pennsylvania's charming river towns provide the perfect escape from bustling city life. Their natural beauty, rich history, and small-town appeal continue to attract visitors year after year. Whether looking to immerse in history by visiting museums and landmarks, enjoy recreational activities along the river, support local shops and restaurants, or simply relax in a peaceful atmosphere, these towns offer something for everyone. As you make plans to tour the Keystone State, be sure to add one or more of these charming river towns in Pennsylvania to your 2024 travel itinerary. 

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