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Pennsylvania Travel Tips


Statehouse, Harrisburg (800) 868-7672
When the State's second Capitol burned down on Ground Hog Day in 1897, the Legislature allocated only $550,000 to construct a new building, hiring Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb who designed a plain brick building to meet the budget constraints. For years Pennsylvanians considered the red brick building an embarrassment, and in 1901 the Legislature hired a new architect from Philadelphia, Joseph Huston, to build a new Capitol "befitting Pennsylvania's importance." Borrowing elements from previous designs for the interior, Huston built a five-story exterior in Classic Renaissance style topped by an enormous dome with 48 illuminated portholes, inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and the U.S. Capitol.The Grand Staircase was based on the design of the Paris Opera House. The new Capitol, completed in 1906 at a cost of $13 million, was dedicated by President Teddy Roosevelt, declaring it "the most beautiful State Capitol in the nation." One of the most impressive features of the Pennsylvania Capitol today is its elegantly designed expansion wing. An entire new wing was added to the East side without compromising the exquisite classical features of the existing Capitol. Huston knew that a statehouse, like a state's Constitution, cannot remain static and had planned for growth by designing a plain facade on the East side to incorporate a new addition as the state and its government grew. The former and newer wings blend together magnificently.

Check it out . . . The artwork filling the Pennsylvania Capitol is awesome, especially the mosaic tiled floor designed by Henry Chapman Mercer; the murals by Edwin Austin Abbey; the paintings by Violet Oakley, and the marble angel sculptures at the foot of the main staircase. Stunning.

Tip: Plan to have lunch at the Capitol. It's one of the best statehouse cafeterias. Good food. Good prices. Great atmosphere.

State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg (717) 787-4978
In addition to changing art exhibits, the State museum covers Pennsylvania's history from prehistoric times to today's trains, planes and automobiles. The exhibits begin with dinosaur dioramas, mammoth mastodons, and a life-sized native American village. A recreated Philadelphia street in Colonial times portrays the different lifestyles within a wealthy townhouse and a subsistent farm house. One of the world's largest paintings, "The Battle of Gettysburg" hangs solemnly as a vivid reminder to the bloody battle and torment of the nation's Civil War.

Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg (717) 334-6274
The battlefield is green now. The cannons are quiet. All that remains are plaques, statues and memorials to the officers and soldiers of the Blue & Gray, and the scars of a nation torn.

Visitors Center: Begin your tour in the Map Room where an epic tale of the 3-day battle is exceptionally well told through the use of a large topographical map and colored lights showing the various strategies and failures of each army. Next, explore the many exhibits, artifacts and videos displayed in the museum. Now you're ready to begin your outdoor tour.

Gettysburg National Cemetery: Contains 3,706 graves-- almost half of these are unidentified people who died in the Battle of Gettysburg. The Soldier's National Monument stands on the spot where Abraham Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address. (Every year on the anniversary of Lincoln's address, November 19th, the Park sponsors reenactments of that famous day.)

30-Mile Driving Tour - Now you're ready to begin the driving tour of the battlefield where you'll find Union leader, General Meade's headquarters and farther north in town, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's headquarters. In between these two points are monuments and plaques describing the battles and the names of the various state regiments and their leaders. There are over 1300 statues and markers and three lookout towers. Be sure to climb at least one lookout tower to get an expansive view of the battlefield. It's worth the climb.

Hershey Chocolate World, Hershey (717) 566-8131
The official Visitors Center of Hershey Foods Corporation introduces chocolate lovers to the world of chocolate, seen through a 12-minute automated train ride that explains the chocolate making process from harvesting the cocoa beans to wrapping your favorite candy bar. Free samples conclude the tour. The remainder of the Visitors Center is a mall-like atmosphere with tropical gardens, food courts and gift shops. For the adventuresome, or for those with children, visit the amusement park next door for carnival fun, games and rides. Adults can take a sentimental journey on a beautifully restored turn-of-the-century carousel. For those who want to know more about the man, Mr. Milton Hershey, visit the Hershey museum and learn how he helped orphans and created the town of Hershey for his employees. Finally, tour the town itself with the famous Hershey Kisses street lights on the corner of Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Street.

Pennsylvania Dutch Country, (717) 299-8901
The rich farmland of this area was settled in the 1700s and 1800s by several religious groups, Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren, primarily from Germany, who, today, retain many of the convictions and customs of their ancestors. The "Plain People," as they are often called, differ among themselves by the degrees to which they are willing to accept certain modern conveniences. Most, however, shun bright clothing, electricity, or any motive power except horses. The land encompasses several small towns: Lancaster, Intercourse, Lititz, Paradise, Strasburg, Elizabethtown, and Bird-in-Hand. The largest collection of historical sites and novelty items is in the town of Lancaster, the de facto capital of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Stop at the Visitors Center in Lancaster for an overview of the area and options available. No matter which town you tour, you'll get a sampling of the beautiful scenery, delightful food, and fascinating lifestyle of this land of dells, hills and valleys and the people who lovingly work the land by hand.

The Nation's First Capital, York (717) 843-6660
York served as the national capital from September 30, 1777 until June 27, 1778 while the British occupied Philadelphia. The town claims to be the first U.S. Capital because the Articles of Confederation, adopted here in the York County Courthouse, was the first time the colonies referred to themselves as "The United States of America."

The restored York County Courthouse in the center of town was also the site where the National Day of Thanksgiving Holiday was proclaimed.

Across the street from the Courthouse is a complex of three colonial buildings: the Bob Logg House, the Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates House, the site where a conspiratorial dinner was held in 1777 for the purpose of overthrowing General Washington and replacing him with the host, General Gates. A simple toast by Lafayette dissolved the scheme instantly, bringing the dinner to an embarrassing end, and keeping Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army until the end of the War.


Harrisburg East Campground, Harrisburg, PA (717) 939-4331
This campground contains the much-sought-after modem hook-ups, as well as ample, pine-shaded sites, clean bathrooms, laundry facilities and easy access to all the sites of the capital city as well as Hershey, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, York, and Gettysburg. The hosts are friendly and helpful.

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