Statue of Benjamin Franklin housed at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (© AP Images)

Visiting the United States? There are 50 states to see. Pennsylvania is a place that blends historical charm and modern culture.

Often called the birthplace of U.S. democracy, Pennsylvania is where the Declaration of Independence was signed, where the Liberty Bell was rung, and where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863. The state is also home to the Pennsylvania Amish in Lancaster County, the seat of America’s oldest Amish settlement.

But Pennsylvania isn’t only focused on the long ago; it’s got plenty of 21st-century attractions, too. Its largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are sophisticated hubs of cultural innovation and commerce, where you can visit world-class museums, enjoy shopping and fine dining, and plan your evening around a wide range of live theater, dance and music offerings.

Read more about Pennsylvania and the other 49 states. If you need a visa to visit, here’s how to get one

Map of United States highlighting Pennsylvania (State Dept.)
(State Dept.)

Step back in time

Valley Forge National Historical Park hosts American Revolutionary War battle re-enactments and offers tours and other activities. And with 41.8 kilometers of trails, there’s plenty of space to hike or bike.

About 160 kilometers west, you’ll find Gettysburg National Military Park, where the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the American Civil War, and where President Lincoln delivered one of his greatest speeches. Tour the battlefield, watch battle re-enactments and examine American Civil War artifacts at the museum and visitors center.

Revolutionary War actors holding rifles (State Dept.)
Valley Forge re-enactments show what it was like to be in General Washington’s Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. (State Dept.)

The simple life

The Amish of Lancaster County (who are sometimes called Pennsylvania Dutch, which is actually a reference to Deutsch, or German) are descendants of mostly German immigrants who settled in the region during the 1700s. Today’s Amish still adhere to a “plain” lifestyle, rejecting electricity, cars and telephones. Here, you’ll find farms and windmills dotting the landscape, and a decidedly slower, more relaxed pace.

Tour the area Amish-style, with a horse and buggy, and shop for handmade Amish quilts in local crafts stores. You can also enjoy authentic Amish cooking at local restaurants.

A couple riding in a horse-drawn cart (Shutterstock)
An Amish couple goes for a drive in a horse-drawn buggy in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. (Shutterstock)

Urban excitement

A trip to Independence Hall, where both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted, is essential if you’re visiting Philadelphia. But the city has more than just history going for it. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest art museums in the country, has major holdings of European and American paintings, prints, drawings and decorative arts.

Not far away, you’ll find the Rodin Museum, which has the largest collection of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s works outside Paris. And don’t forget to sample the fare at Philadelphia’s many ethnic restaurants. The city also offers a diverse mix of shopping districts, ranging from large retail centers to high-end shops.

In Pittsburgh, the renowned Carnegie Museums and the Andy Warhol Museum are sure to impress. Take a stroll through Market Square, a European-style plaza with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and bars. And check out downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, an area that features theaters, art galleries and the acclaimed Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Museum and waterworks alongside a river (Shutterstock)
A nighttime view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with the Fairmont Water Works in the foreground (Shutterstock)

Taste this

Cheesesteaks come from Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia (nicknamed Philly). These sandwiches are made of thinly sliced browned beef or chicken topped with fried peppers, onions and cheese on a submarine (or “hoagie”) roll. It’s a local favorite that’s become popular in other U.S. cities, too, but Philadelphians will tell you that the best ones are still made in their hometown.

Philly cheesesteak with peppers and onions (Thinkstock)
A Philly cheesesteak is traditionally made with shaved beef, peppers, onions and cheese. (Thinkstock)

America’s sweetest town

Got a weakness for chocolate? Then don’t miss Hershey, Pennsylvania, headquarters of the world-famous Hershey Chocolate Company. Hershey — a town built on chocolate — is also home to Hershey Park, an award-winning amusement park featuring 70 rides and attractions. Right next door is Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can try your hand at creating your own candy bar, jump aboard an old-fashioned trolley to explore the town, and enjoy a guided chocolate-tasting experience.

Two children hugging a mascot at Hershey Park amusement area (Courtesy of Hershey Park/Facebook)
Hershey Park, a chocolate-themed amusement park, welcomes over 300,000 visitors a year. (Courtesy of Hershey Park/Facebook)

As seen on Instagram …

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is the most Instagrammed place in Pennsylvania. It’s home to thousands of animals, representing more than 400 species, including 22 threatened or endangered species. Experts at the zoo and aquarium work with partners at international organizations to protect animals and revitalize species all over the world.