I took my BSA Troop 32 scouts to the Philly area twice. The first time for a few days and the second for a weeks worth of adventures. There is so much history and so much to see. It was an 8 day trip with the first and last as travel days for us and the 6 in the middle as activity days.
The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is a great camp ground tucked into the back country of West Chester, PA. It’s right along a narrow river and barely used train tracks. The campground is quiet, clean and enjoyable and makes for a great base camp for all activities in the eastern PA area. https://koa.com/campgrounds/philadelphia/
Hikes & Walking Tours
- Valley Forge has a over 30 miles of hiking trails for you. The main one is 10 miles and scouts can earn a patch for completing it. The visitor center offers very interesting information about the park. You can also drive around the park and stop at different areas. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm
- Spend the morning learning and touring historic Lancaster: https://www.discoverlancaster.com/members/historic_lancaster_walking_tour.asp
- Learn about how the Amish live and work on their own farms with a tour of one: https://www.amishfarmandhouse.com/
It’s very easy to spend 2 to 3 days touring downtown Philly. Wear comfy walking shoes. Parking can be a challenge. Bring quarters for meters or cash for parking lots.
- Start with the very interesting Fairmount Water Works and Fishway. It’s fascinating how this old city got fresh water to it’s citizens. http://fairmountwaterworks.org/
- The Mutter Museum at the The College of Physicians. This is an absolutely fascinating museum. Be prepared to be disturbingly informed. www.muttermuseum.org
- Eastern State Penitentiary from the outside looks like a castle in the middle of the city. It’s actually a prison. The tours are amazing as you walk around and learn how prisoners lived their lives. They also offer ghost tours and Terror Behind The Walls if you’re brave enough. It once held “Scarface” Al Capone. The tour is real cool. https://www.easternstate.org/
- Fort Mifflin is one of my favorite places. It was featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters. The sunset haunted tour is awesome. Scouts can do a sleep over and sleep in the under ground bunkers or enlisted men’s quarters. Venture into the underground haunted chamber. It’s a very interesting place to walk around and explore. http://www.fortmifflin.us/
- Little known is Philly’s Mural Mile which covers about 5 km/2.3 miles of walking and viewing. The murals are beautiful and some are amazing. It’s worth every step. http://talesandtours.com/guide/969/the-mural-mile.html
- Philly’s Historic District has:
- The Liberty Bell Center https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/stories-libertybell.htm
- Independence Hall, birthplace of the United States https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehall.htm
- Independence Visitor Center https://www.phlvisitorcenter.com/
- Benjamin Franklin Museum – fascinating place where you will learn things you didn’t know about Mr. Franklin https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/benjaminfranklinmuseum.htm
- Carpenters Hall where the first Continental Congress met https://www.carpentershall.org/
- How is pocket change made? Tour the U.S. Mint https://www.usmint.gov/about/mint-tours-facilities/philadelphia/tour-information
- Firemans Hall with antique fire fighting gear https://www.firemanshallmuseum.org/
- Walk the boardwalk at Spruce Street Harbor Park along the waterfront https://www.delawareriverwaterfront.com/places/spruce-street-harbor-park
- Taste a famous Philly Cheese Steak
- Tour the Betsy Ross House http://historicphiladelphia.org/what-to-see/
- Museum of the American Revolution http://www.amrevmuseum.org/
- National Constitution Center https://constitutioncenter.org/
- National Museum of American Jewish History https://www.nmajh.org/
- Christ Church Burial Ground where Ben Franklin is buried https://www.christchurchphila.org/about-the-burial-grounds/
- and even more, if you can believe it!
- The Grand Masons Lodge in Philadelphia is imply amazing. I consider this a must see stop. The building from the outside doesn’t give you any idea of what is inside. Your must take the tour. It will take your breath away with how amazing it is inside. Pictures do not do it justice at all. https://pamasonictemple.org/temple/
- The Rocky Statue and Steps are located at the front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Try running up the steps. Pose with the statue. Tour the museum. https://www.visitphilly.com/things-to-do/attractions/the-rocky-statue-and-the-rocky-steps/ and https://www.philamuseum.org/
Want More History?
- Visit the Brandywine Battlefield. The Brandywine Battlefield is where the largest land battle of the American revolution took place. http://brandywinebattlefield.org/
- Paioli Battlefield Historic Site http://pbpfinc.org/
I also took my boy scout troop to Gettysburg twice. Ironically both times we arrived in the rain. Both times we stayed at the Artillery Ridge Campground (https://www.artilleryridge.com) which is just down the street from the visitor center and walking distance to the battlefield. Both trips we spent 3 days exploring the area and the battlefields and doing hikes to earn the Gettysburg BSA Patch.
In September of 2021, I took my wife and we stayed for 12 days in the area and got to explore further and more slowly than I could with the scouts.
We stayed at the Gettysburg Battlefield KOA. They have nice sized site for any type of camping you may want to do. We had a water, electric, sewer, cable site which was clean and plenty large enough for our little travel trailer. The whole camp was within walking distance of anywhere. The campground has a nice, saltwater pool which was closing the week we got there in September. The campground was clean and the staff was exceptional. It is a short drive of about 5 miles to get to the battlefield. https://koa.com/campgrounds/gettysburg/
What to See and Do
- Start with the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. It’s free to enter but you want to pay to view the Cyclorama, which is amazing! You also want to pay to go through the museum. We spent a little over 3 hours going though it. Then there is the bookstore. I suggest getting a audio tour for your vehicle as the battlefield is HUGE and you’ll want your vehicle to listen to the tour, stop, tour the sites and then move on.We spent two days listening to the audio tour. We did around half the first day and the last half the second day. This way you can take your time and really explore the memorials. We packed a bag lunch so we could continue where we left off more easily. https://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm
- You also want to spend a day in downtown Gettysburg. There is history there too and it’s also fun to explore the stores in the center of town. Plan on parking and walking around for one to three hours. Make sure to stop at the location where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address.
- Make sure to make time to stop at the Utz Factory Outlet and take a tour (if it’s open). It’s hard to not buy a lot of munchies. https://www.utzsnacks.com/pages/tour
- About 90 minutes south of Gettysburg is Antietam. The Antietam National Battlefield is where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place. In a 24 hour period 23,000 souls lost their lives. This too is a drive and walk tour and is worth the time to do the whole tour. It may take you a few hours. https://www.nps.gov/anti/index.htm
- A few hours south of Gettysburg is Harpers Ferry. This was on our list, but by the time we completed Gettysburg and Antietam, we had enough battlefield touring. But it was on my list and I hope to stop there in the future. https://www.nps.gov/hafe/index.htm
- My wife loves animals. I took her to the Land of Little Horses right around the corner to the KOA where we stayed. They have miniature horses and other animals. It’s great for kids and everyone. https://landoflittlehorses.com/
- There is also the Eisenhower National Historic Site to tour. https://www.nps.gov/eise/index.htm
- Covered bridges are always beautiful to walk through and view the waterways they go over and the construction details of the bridge. The Sachs Covered Bridge in Gettysburg is worth the visit. https://www.visitpa.com/region/dutch-country-roads/sachs-covered-bridge
- Not far from Gettysburg is Hershey, Hanover Snacks, Turkey Hill Ice Cream and more. The time we were there was during Covid-19, so many of these were not open, otherwise we may have visited.
- Also, there is the Susquehanna River near by for boating and kayaking and more. A simple search in google maps for Gettysburg tourism brings up a lot of things to do. Zoom out and re-center the search and there is so much more. Like most of eastern PA, there is so much history and interesting things, you could spend weeks there.