Things to do around Philadelphia with a car
September 3, 2014 7:29 AM   Subscribe

We live in Philadelphia and just bought a car. Help us think of things to do and places to go outside of the city!

For the first time in a decade of living in Philadelphia, my wife and I have a car. We have the basics down: getting groceries is way faster now. But, we haven't really explored outside of the city since we've lived here, so we're looking for recommendations for things to do and places to go that get us out of William Penn's Greene Country Towne. Anything from short jaunts to day trips to weekend getaways would be appreciated! We enjoy outdoorsy and artsy things, and we have a dog, but really we're looking for any and every idea for stuff that having a car will allow us to do or see.
posted by The Michael The to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Brandywine Valley is a nice day trip (Longwood Gardens, Winterthur). Doylestown, too (Michener Museum is good)--really just driving around Bucks County is nice, particularly if you get some fall foliage.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:38 AM on September 3, 2014

Well, aside from things like suburbanite Mecca, have you considered going down to DC for a day trip? I never ended up moving to Philly, but part of its attraction was its relative proximity to DC and NYC. The Appalachians are also within short driving distance and much of it is beautiful. You have a lot of state parks within 2–3 hours of driving.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:45 AM on September 3, 2014

Take your dog to Wissahickon Park! Drive down the shore and take your dog to the beach during the off season. Drive up 611 into the Poconos and wander. Go to the Pine Barrens (in Jersey) and go canoeing, see the pygmy pines, or take a swamp tour to see all the carnivorous plants.

If you want to go further afield, the Hudson Valley in NY is great, especially for art (Dia Beacon, Storm King).

Ha, I was going to mention King of Prussia, glad someone else beat me to it.
posted by snaw at 7:47 AM on September 3, 2014

Check out Longwood Gardens.
posted by ferret branca at 7:56 AM on September 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding Doylestown! (I grew up there)

Some places I used to like to go for a day/half day:
New Hope PA/Lambertville, NJ
Lancaster, PA and Ephrata, PA
Jim Thorpe PA
pick a random town down the shore to check out
posted by medeine at 8:00 AM on September 3, 2014

The Appalachians are also within short driving distance and much of it is beautiful. You have a lot of state parks within 2–3 hours of driving.

I'd love specific state park recommendations, too!
posted by The Michael The at 8:06 AM on September 3, 2014

Valley Forge is a national park, and aside from the historical interest, there's a lot to do outside. It's especially nice on a crisp fall day.

Hawk Mountain is a nice daytrip -- light hiking and plenty of birdwatching.

Steel Stacks in Bethlehem is a great performing arts center in a beautiful building -- same nonprofit who runs Musikfest. Actually, a weekend in Bethlehem would be nice.

I second Longwood/Winterthur, especially around the holidays.

On preview: Rickett's Glen is a good drive away, and probably best as an overnight or weekend, but it's a beautiful state park.
posted by gladly at 8:09 AM on September 3, 2014

Roadside America is a little over an hour away.

Cape May makes for a nice weekend getaway, especially in the early fall.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:21 AM on September 3, 2014

This previously -- Help Me Plan A Vacation In Pennsylvania -- has good suggestions as well as several previouslies. I hear that Lititz is a good day trip -- the town and surrounding area have become interesting.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:23 AM on September 3, 2014

These are all terrific, folks—keep 'em coming.
posted by The Michael The at 8:33 AM on September 3, 2014

The Fairmount Park System in Philadelphia offers a variety of locales for hiking and enjoying the sometimes hidden beauty of our fair city. Take for instance Valley Green or Forbidden Drive. Both are accessible by car and offer simple hikes in a lovely surrounding.

The Mercer Museum is in Doylestown and is fun for an afternoon trip.
posted by royals at 10:16 AM on September 3, 2014

Take a day trip to New Hope, PA. It's an artsy type of place with fun little shops and a trip there is a rite of passage for Philly drivers.

Take a day trip to Lahaska, PA and see Peddler's Village for some quaint shopping and dining.

It's almost a requirement that a Philly person visit Camden-By-The-Sea Atlantic City, NJ! Just a straight one hour shot down the AC expressway.

Enjoy an oasis away from the city in lovely Nockamixon State Park in historic Quakertown, PA.

Honor those who served with a visit to the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum in Horsham, PA. Make sure to see the YF-2Y SEA DART, one of only four examples of the this jet-powered sea plane fighter in existence today.
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:08 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Island Beach State Park is all ocean, beach and dunes with minimal buildup.

Grounds for Sculpture is the former NJ state fairgrounds now outdoor sculpture museum.

I once roadtripped to Trenton for the tomato pie- one of the places moved to Hamilton though, DeLorenzo's.

Also you can now get to the pick-your-own fruit places, it is transitioning into apple season.
posted by tangaroo at 2:24 PM on September 3, 2014


Also Hershey, PA is pretty close and a fun day trip
posted by Mchelly at 2:43 PM on September 3, 2014

Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill
posted by scalespace at 3:27 PM on September 3, 2014

If you like gardens or relaxing and sitting in gardens, Chanticleer is in Wayne, PA. I think that it is one of the best gardens I've ever seen. And, while this may sound silly, they have a lot of nice chairs to sit in and enjoy the gardens. Head out there with a book or two, or the Sunday paper and spend some time. Or just take a walk around.

I've always wanted to go to the Mercer Museum or Fonthill, but never quite managed to get there.

If either of you are runners, Valley Forge has a really nice five mile trail through the park that is a lot of fun to run - I haven't run there in years, so it may be more crowded now, so YMMV (well, no, your mileage would still be five miles but ...).
posted by sciencegeek at 4:26 PM on September 3, 2014

Definitely Brandywine and the country around West Chester - it's Wyeth country. Go to the Brandywine River Museum and then everything you see will look like paintings.

The Tyler Arboretum and Ridley Creek State Park are also beautiful and have many walking trails etc. Tyler has a Butterfly House too.

I will also add my vote to Longwood Gardens, Winterthur and Valley Forge, and enthusiastically recommend Fonthill/Mercer Museum. That place haunts my dreams sometimes, in a good way. It's unbelievably atmospheric and I remember they used to do special events in the evenings as the autumn/holiday season wore on. Go in the day definitely, but it has its own special magic at night. Just look at it!

And thank you, I am now thoroughly nostalgic for PA. Sigh.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:49 PM on September 3, 2014

Wouldn't want to forget the First State. For example, tours at the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Delaware. Nearby you can explore Lewes, or camp at Cape Henlopen State Park near the beach (except for the rain one time, I had a great time camping there).

Otherwise, yet more votes for Wissahickon Park, Longwood Gardens, Doylestown, and New Hope.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 8:54 PM on September 3, 2014

I would definitely head to Doylestown. It's an easy drive (also an easy train ride). The downtown area is lovely, and there's the Mercer Museum (as well as the Fonthill) and the Michener Art Museum across the street. Continue just a little further towards New Jersey to New Hope. Another nice little town and a good arts scene. Maybe see what the show is at the Bucks County Playhouse. Then cross the river into Lambertville, NJ for more arts, antiques shops, and beautiful views. Weekends are good (while it's still warm) because there are a lot of outdoor markets and flea markets like the Golden Nugget.
posted by Mael Oui at 12:57 AM on September 4, 2014

Try lovely Phoenixville, PA, the revived steel town with a cool downtown. Check out the amazing handmade objects at the Diving Cat, grab a bite at the Black Lab, then catch some music at the Steel City Coffee House or at the Colonial Theater where the movie The Blob was filmed. Special fun this December for the Firebird Festival where they build a 30-ft wooden Phoenix then set it on fire.
posted by lpsguy at 2:02 PM on September 4, 2014

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