The best winter getaways in PA to visit now

When planning a winter getaway Pennsylvania may not be the first place that comes to mind. But the state’s sylvan landscapes, ridiculously charming small towns, ski resorts, and more make it the perfect destination for your winter escape.

Whether you are a history buff, city sightseer, outdoor enthusiast, skier, or just want someplace to cozy up beside a fire and relax, there is someplace in Pennsylvania you will find to be perfect for your winter getaway.

Also, Pennsylvania is convenient to those who live in or are visiting any of the major cities in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC and NYC.

Centre County Courthouse

Bellefonte

After a snowfall, the quaint Victorian town of Bellefonte feels like stepping into a living Currier and Ives scene. The Bellefonte Historical District appears on the National Register of Historic Places and is a perfect introduction to the various styles and construction of Victorian architecture.

A few key sites to visit downtown include the Bellefonte Art Museum, housed in the historic federalist-style Linn Home. This small gallery features works of Pennsylvania artists. But perhaps most fascinating is its history as a stop on the Underground Railroad.  The third floor of the museum is dedicated to that past.

A visit to Talleyrand Park and the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society is a must. Situated beside Spring Creek, a snow-covered Talleyrand Park with its gazebo and historic train station will conjure images of days gone by.

After a stroll through the park, warm up with a cocktail at either Big Spring Spirits located in the old Match Factory or head to the Gamble Mill.

At the end of the day, head to the Overlook Grille to take in a sunset. You won’t find a better view of the valley and its farmlands. And if there is freshly fallen snow or ice, at this elevation it clings to the trees in a heavy coat that is simply magical and hauntingly beautiful.

Outdoor adventurers should venture to nearby Bald Eagle State Park. With over 14 miles of trails ideal for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing you will find plenty of adventure. Beginners to these outdoor winter activities will find several miles of easy trails surrounding the Nature Lodge at Bald Eagle. And the lodge has snowshoeing and cross country ski equipment available for guests. The trails in this area are ideal for spotting wildlife, especially winter birds and deer.

Those who don’t mind the cold and are up for a real adventure, pack your fishing gear and pop-up shelter, then head to Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir at Bald Eagle. This engineered lake provides over 630 frozen acres suitable for ice fishing.

Not keen on quite that much time on the ice? Lace up your skates because this massive reservoir is perfect for ice skating.

Check out my articles 7 Happy Valley, PA facts that will make you want to visit now and 12 awesome things to do in Bellefonte PA for all the amazing activities this area offers.

Bald Eagle State Forest

Gettysburg

Gettysburg might not be top of mind for a winter getaway. After all, there’s a reason the northernmost battle in the American Civil War was fought in the height of summer! But visiting Gettysburg in the chilly winter months has its perks. It’s not reenacting high season and that means you get the battlefield to yourself.

Obviously, the 9 square mile battlefield that surrounds the small town of approximately 7500 is this Pennsylvania town’s main attraction. Book one of Gettysburg’s many B&Bs, such as the Brickhouse Inn, for a rejuvenating couples’ getaway. While this winter getaway will appeal most to history buffs, the small town’s historic charms will appease any individuals in your group with just a passing interest in American military history. The town hosts independent shops, a wide variety of restaurants and taverns, as well as many historic house museums connected with the 1863 battle.

Given the vastness of the battlefield, you’ll want to explore both by car and on foot. First, caffeinate at Eighty-Two Café, then head over to the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum to orient yourself. If you just have a minimal understanding of the Gettysburg Battle, the self-guided audio tour provides an excellent overview. Those looking to stretch their legs will enjoy hiking around both Big and Little Round Tops and up Hancock Avenue to take in the various battle monuments. 

After exploring the battlefield, you can grab a libation at Reid’s Winery Tasting Room and Cider House or Appalachian Brewing Company. For dinner, Garryowen Irish Pub located right downtown offers an authentic Irish pub experience with more than 120 Irish whiskies and a cozy dining room.

Submitted by Ada of Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

Hershey

Many people think of Hershey, PA for the theme park in the summer, but there are so many fun things to do at Hershey in the winter as well. Christmas Candyland is one of the highlights of Hershey at Christmas for both kids and kids at heart. This seasonal event includes Christmas lights and music throughout the parks as well as several rides available for all ages.

Just outside of Hersheypark is the beautiful Hershey Gardens, which is open all year round. If you’re visiting Hershey Gardens during the winter, it’s beautifully decorated with poinsettia displays and a Christmas tree showcase. On the weekends in the winter, Hershey Gardens also has live music playing outdoors.

If you’re looking to relax indoors, the Hershey Spa at Hershey Hotel is a beautiful oasis that’s perfect for a couple’s weekend or girlfriends’ getaway. (The chocolate facial at Hershey Spa can’t be missed!) You can also brush up on your chocolate history at Hershey Story or do a chocolate tasting with warm chocolate drinks from around the world.

When staying in Hershey, the Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge are both great options for families and couples alike. For budget travelers, there are also several options including the Fairfield Inn on Chocolate Avenue.

Submitted by Amanda of Toddling Traveler

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Tucked away in the Pocono Mountains is the town of Jim Thorpe. Originally known as Mauch Chunk, the town was renamed in honor of Olympian Jim Thorpe. Thorpe is a Native American Olympic Gold Medalist who is buried and memorialized in the town. The main artery of the town is Broadway and it is full of quaint shops, cafes, and historic guest houses.

For Harry Potter fans, they will line up outside Muggles Mug. The coffee shop is decorated to look like Hogwarts, so visitors feel like they stepped into a scene of the popular book. All the drinks are movie-themed, and one can enjoy it while watching one of the many Harry Potter films. For a sweet treat, Donerds, sells fresh donuts with unique flavors. And Molly Maguire’s Pub & Steakhouse serves a good burger that can be washed down with a cold beer.

Aside from the great shopping from one of its many shops, visitors can also hop on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway’s vintage 1900’s train coaches for a short ride along the Lehigh River and views of the Lehigh Gorge State Park. A ride during the Fall will reveal wonderful leaf colors, while Christmas and Easter time will have Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny on board with passengers.

Nature lovers can take on one of the many hiking trails in the surrounding mountains. The Maunch Chunk Lake Park has water activities, and the nearby Lentz Trail leads straight to downtown Jim Thorpe. Bikers can also take the train up to the mountain and then ride back to town.

Jim Thorpe is perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway for friends and couples. The Harry Packer Mansion sits on a hill overlooking the town and the bed and breakfast is a good home base while in town. The Victorian mansion is also known for its murder mystery weekends.

Submitted by Bernadette of Live a Relaxed Life

Laurel Highlands

Located only an hour from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands is the perfect destination for a winter escape.

Perhaps the biggest wintertime draw to the Laurel Highlands are the ski resorts. Seven Springs Mountain Resort offers both downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snowboarding and tubing. If you are seeking a bit of an adventure snowmobiling is available as is winter hiking or snowshoeing.

As you might expect, the resort has multiple lounges in addition to its ski lodge, fine and casual dining, and a full-service spa. Kids can hang out at the arcade or play indoor miniature golf. And of course, there is an indoor pool.  

As an alternative to the ski resorts and for a more laid-back experience, consider a stay at the uber charming Oak Lodge. The luxury cabins at this family vowed and operated resort are the perfect place for a low-key romantic getaway.

Without ever leaving Oak Lodge, you will find miles of wide-open, snow-blanketed (if Mother Nature cooperates) rural farmland and wooded trails. Hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski where the only sounds you’ll hear is the snow crushing beneath your feet.

But Oak Lodge’s most unique feature must be its full-scale 18th-century village, complete with a mercantile building, a tavern, a chapel, and even a sugar shack. Each morning breakfast is served in the Mercantile building where you will have an opportunity to sample the maple syrup produced from trees on the property and finished at the sugar shack. 

If all this isn’t charming enough for you, head to downtown Ligonier. This picturesque town’s “Diamond” with its bandstand, boutique shops and more will make you feel like you’ve just stepped onto the set of a Hallmark movie. And each January, the Ligonier Chamber of Commerce hosts Ice Fest, a winter festival featuring over 40 ice sculptures, carriage rides, kettle corn, and even a fireman’s spaghetti dinner.

For more to do during your winter escape to the Laurel Highlands, take a look at my article 7 wonderful reasons to visit Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands in winter

Winter in Laurel Highlands

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a fun city to visit during any time of the year, but in the winter there are plenty of inside activities and things to do in Pittsburgh. So if you’re looking to avoid the Pennsylvania winter weather, Pittsburgh is the winter weekend getaway spot for you!

If you’re interested in museums, there are plenty to pick from in Pittsburgh. The Carnegie Science Center is an awesome interactive science museum that’s fun for both children and adults. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in Pittsburgh and offers displays on human history, animals, geology, and dinosaurs!

If you’re looking to see animals and plants without going outside, consider the National Aviary or Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. During the holiday season, Phipps Conservatory becomes a magical space with its Christmas display. The National Aviary is home to birds from around the globe and offers an immersive experience where you walk through the habitats.

There are also several activities available in Pittsburgh. If you’re a fan of microbreweries, the Lawrenceville neighborhood is home to over a dozen breweries! You can also find multiple spots for getting artsy with pottery classes, candle making, and painting classes. There are also bowling alleys, local movie theaters, and axe throwing spots. During the winter, you can also watch some professional football or hockey by seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pittsburgh Penguins play!

Because there are so many kinds of activities in Pittsburgh from museums to sports to breweries, families, couples, and friends can easily come up with an itinerary that fits their interests. Pittsburgh is full of affordable hotels and AirBnbs around downtown. The Renaissance Hotel downtown is a unique centrally located stay, while Airbnbs a plentiful along the Southside and Mount Washington.

Submitted by Pam & Kathrine of Everywhere Forward

Pocono Mountains

Considered by many to be the outdoor capital of Pennsylvania, the Poconos has a little something to offer everyone during the winter months.

For the outdoor enthusiast, all kinds of winter sports are available, from skiing and snowboarding to snow tubing and snowmobiling. With six ski resorts, several state parks with miles of snowmobile & cross country skiing trails, and the largest snow tubing park in the country, you’ll never run out of outdoor adventures!

If you like to be outside but prefer more relaxed options, there are several ice skating rinks as well as frozen lakes and rivers where you can strap on your skates and take a couple of laps. Or you can bundle up and take a sleigh ride at Daisy Field Farm.

When you’re ready to head inside and warm up, the options are just as vast. Try your luck at Mohegan Sun Pocono casino, challenge your kids to a water slide race at Kalahari Resort, or taste the local craft brews at Susquehanna Brewing Company.

While in the Poconos, you can’t forget to take some time to just stroll the downtown streets of the quaint, snow-covered towns. Jim Thorpe and Stroudsburg are popular choices, but others such as Milford, Honesdale, and Hawley have a lot to offer as well.

When the day has ended and you’re ready to hit the hay, you’ll find the perfect place to rest and recharge. From cozy lakeside cabins to historic Victorian estates and charming bed-and-breakfasts, there’s an option for every group and budget.

The Poconos is more than just a summer destination! With so many amazing winter activities, everyone will find something to enjoy here.

Submitted by Stephanie of Open Road Odysseys

Poconos
Photo by Laura Corredor on Unsplash

Raystown Lake

Raystown Lake is more typically thought of as a summer resort area, but there is no reason to pass it over when considering your winter escape. While you won’t be boating on the lake you can certainly enjoy the sylvan beauty of the region.

Raystown Lake is the perfect destination to unplug and unwind. Snuggle beside a fireplace while looking out on a frozen Raystown Lake.

Enjoy a winter hike at Trough Creek State Park situated on the lake’s eastern shore. The park offers 12-miles of hiking trails on over 500 acres of forested land. Within the park, there are several waterfalls, overlooks, and even a suspension bridge.   

If you are into mountain biking and have a fat tire bike, you may want to check out the Allegrippis Trails. These trails are among the best mountain bike trails in Pennsylvania.

Plan a family or friends’ trip with a Winter Fireplace Getaway at Lake Raystown Resort. This package is for groups of 8 to 20 people. Groups can choose from several experiences included with their stays such as coffee cupping, painting classes, yoga workshop, or cake decorating.

Make the 20-minute drive from the lake to stroll around charming downtown Huntingdon. Check out some of the small shops and cafes. Enjoy lunch (try Wildflower Café) or dinner (I suggest Muddy Run) and follow it up with a first-run movie at the vintage Clifton 5 Theatre.

Looking for more to do at Raystown Lake? See what my friend Jamie from The Daily Adventures of Me says about Raystown Lake and Huntingdon County.

Strasburg

Strasburg is a great winter getaway.  Strasburg is home to many railroad attractions. The two most popular are the Strasburg Rail Road and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

You can ride the Strasburg Rail Road for a scenic narrated tour through Amish farm country. The round trip is under an hour and is very scenic with snow falling. This is an excellent stop if you have younger children with you. During the holidays, they have Santa Experiences too.  I would plan a minimum of two hours at the railroad. 

The Railroad Museum provides 100 historic locomotives and railroad cars that chronicle American railroad history for your viewing pleasure. Plan to spend a minimum of three hours at this site. 

If you are a true train lover, you can even sleep in a caboose at The Red Caboose Motel. The Red Caboose Motel has turned old caboose cars into motel rooms. They have nearly 40 train cars available for overnight stays. Rooms vary from couples rooms to large family caboose rooms with a full bed and four bunk beds, to a Honeymoon Caboose with a queen-size bed and a whirlpool bath.

But Strasburg isn’t just about trains.  The area is home to several stage venues where you can take in a stellar performance. Sight and Sound, Fulton Theatre, Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, and the American Music Theatre all have amazing shows on par with Broadway. All require reservations.

Another excellent option for a winter overnight stay is the Historic Smithton Inn 1763.  This B&B is beautiful.  The rooms are large, and the beds are comfortable. There is a cozy fireplace in the room, breakfast is delicious, and the owners are friendly.  What better place to stay for a winter weekend away!

Submitted by Robin O’Neal Smith

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Susan Decoteau-Ferrier

Travel writer/blogger, photographer. Avid potter and wanna-be artist. Wife, Mom to 6 fur kids, gardener, coffee snob.

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