Expansive Nature, Essential History
Mountains that inspired poets and an atmosphere that feels like home
By Sara Robertson
Eastern Pennsylvania is known as one of the central sites of the American Revolution. For the history buffs, it’s full of historic battlegrounds and home to the site of the first and second Continental Congresses.
But that’s not all—this region is lush with nature, from scenic mountain ranges to surreal waterfalls. And if you’re inclined towards the lively city experience, know that you still won’t miss out on any of the state’s incredible nature in Philadelphia. The “city of homes” is known for its quiet pace of life and its many trees and parks.
Local Expert Tip
“The Philadelphia region stands as an unparalleled destination for meetings and events, blending rich history with modern vibrancy. Its walkable layout, marked with iconic landmarks like Independence Hall and Philadelphia Museum of Art, makes navigating and exploring approachable for visitors.
“Situated strategically on the East Coast, the region serves as a convenient hub for attendees, enhancing accessibility and ensuring a diverse audience. What truly sets Philadelphia apart is its unique event venues, each with its own character and story to tell. Philadelphia offers an eclectic backdrop that elevates events into unforgettable experiences, making it an ideal choice for those seeking both history and innovation in their gatherings.”
– Marcia Grasso, Senior Vice President, Convention Division, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau
5 Reasons Meeting Profs Love Eastern Pennsylvania
The scenic Pocono Mountains is home to over 150 lakes and a variety of historic towns. The entire mountain range spans six counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania, all of which offer exciting, adventurous activities year-round.
As the home of the famous Philly Cheesesteak, it’s almost a given that visitors have “Try one!” on their Philadelphia bucket list. These sandwiches, with variations, follow the same classic formula: a baked long roll stuffed with chopped or sliced griddle-fried beef, covered in melted cheese and fried onions. Is your mouth watering yet?
Read More: Pennsylvania: A City of Tolerance
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be pleased to know that Pennsylvania is home to Hershey Chocolate Factory. Treat your group to a tour of the factory, or even a create-your-own-candy-bar activity. They even offer rooms for private events and meetings with (literally) sweet customizable add-ons.
Gettysburg National Military Park, about a two-hour drive from Philadelphia, was once the site of one of the most violent battles of the Civil War. It’s now preserved and managed by the National Park Service and offers guided tours, exhibits, ranger programs and numerous must-visit landmarks.
Just an hour outside of Pennsylvania is one of the world’s premier horticultural display gardens, Longwood Gardens. Over 9,000 species and varieties of plants cover over 1,000 acres of gardens and displays. It holds a variety of events throughout the year and offers tours led by expert guides.
5 Places to Meet and Stay
Upon entering Lancaster’s historic Penn Square, you’ll see Lancaster County Convention Center, which incorporates the iconic 19th-century Beaux-Arts facade of the former Watt & Shand department store.
90,000 total sq. ft. of convention, event, and meeting space, including a 46,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall and 8,700 sq. ft. ballroom
Wyndham Lancaster Resort & Convention Center stands on 200 acres of serene countryside in the heart of beautiful Pennsylvania Amish Country, with an 18-hole championship golf course, and is only a short distance from local attractions.
Over 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting, banquet and theater-style space; 28 meeting rooms for groups ranging from 10-1,500 attendees
Pennsylvania Convention Center is a LEED Gold-certified venue uniquely woven into the city’s landscape, with over 14,000 hotel rooms and numerous restaurants, shops, historic attractions and cultural institutions within walking distance.
Two million sq. ft. of meeting, event, exhibit and convention space; 82 meeting rooms
Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing is the city’s only waterfront hotel. Within walking distance from the Historic District and Independence Square National Park, it offers unmatched views from guest rooms, meeting spaces and public spaces alike.
15,994 sq. ft. of meeting and event space; 350 guest rooms
Mount Airy Casino is an adult boutique mountain resort located in the Pocono Mountains and is Pennsylvania’s first AAA Four Diamond casino resort. A full casino, full-service spa and pristine destination are just a few of the things that make the space extraordinary.
Over 25,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space; 188 guest rooms
Lancaster County is home to Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country and one of the oldest Amish communities in the U.S. The city of Lancaster is technically older than the country itself, having been founded in 1729. Did you know that Lancaster hosted the second Continental Congress on Sept. 27, 1777? The city was even the U.S. capital for one day.
The county features some of the most sought-after hiking and biking trails in the state. There’s also a wide selection of museums, such as the National Watch & Clock Museum and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
Step back in time with a visit to Stoudtburg Village, an Adamstown neighborhood that emulates a modern-day European village complete with steep-pitched red roofs, wrought iron balconies and red-topped and pebbled walking-only streets. It was designed by Edward Stoudt, the founder of Stoudt’s Country Kitchen, and his wife, Carol, in 1996 to look like Edward’s ancestral village of Rothenburg Germany. They sought to create a community where homeowners could be both residents and merchants. It’s the perfect place to find antiques, handcrafted goods and collectibles
In the heart of Lancaster City, you can visit America’s oldest farmers market at Lancaster Central Market, where farmers have been selling their goods since the 1730s. Indulge in fresh bread and desserts, artisan cheeses and a selection of handmade crafts. It’s open year-round on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It was even recently listed as one of the world’s 10 Best Fresh Markets by CNN Go.
Looking for more unique ways to explore Lancaster County? Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides is an Amish-owned and -operated company that offers a selection of tours, each of which travels through non-commercial, working Amish farms and communities.
Groups looking to book a buggy ride can choose from a selection of tours, including their regular four-mile ride that takes visitors through a classic covered tunnel and includes a visit to a farm where guests can get off the buggy and explore the barn, learn about the farming equipment and meet the cows, chickens, goats and horses. Other tours include the Country & Cookie Tour along country roads to see horse-plowed land and purchase cookies and other snacks from local vendors, served directly in the carriage.
Tours can even be tailored to your group with special themes if you request one. If you’re planning a meeting for health-care providers, they offer a tour centered on Amish health-care practices. They have a variety of buggy sizes to fit groups of different sizes; if you’re planning for more than 15 guests, the company will make sure to accommodate all the space you’ll need for a private tour.
Lancaster County is perfect for a peaceful getaway from day-to-day life, but it’s certainly not dull. The area is full of a variety of activities for every interest, whether attendees are adamant about learning the history of their meeting destination or hoping to spend downtime going shopping or taking a leisurely bike ride to explore the area. Along with a rich Amish culture and scenic farmland, the area has its own balance of energizing cities, outstanding dining experiences and contemporary art. Lancaster County is a vibrant community with many locally owned businesses that are thrilled to offer visitors welcoming warmth and an enriching experience in their unique destination.
History All Around
What’s a Pennsylvania meeting without taking some time to acknowledge the state’s integral role in the country’s beginnings? There’s history everywhere, from the heart of the city of Philadelphia to numerous small towns and preserved historic sites.
Valley Forge, less than a one-hour drive outside Philadelphia, served as one of eight winter encampments for the main body of the continental army headed by George Washington during the winter of 1777-1778. It was here that the continental army evolved from a ragtag group of disparate colonial militias into a cohesive fighting force. Thousands of these soldiers built their own huts to offer respite from the cold weather, and by June 1778, it was one of the largest cities in the colonies at that time—the population consisted of free and enslaved African American soldiers and civilians, Indigenous people, officers, enlisted soldiers, European immigrants and families.
The site is now preserved as a national historic park, with 3,500 acres of meadows, woodlands and monuments. Visitors can enjoy adventure activities such as hiking and horseback riding. For those interested in learning more about the area’s history, the Encampment Tour route is a 10-mile driving loop with nine major stops where they can explore some of the site’s major monuments, statues and locations of historical importance. Audio tour kits and a cell phone guide make this tour easy to do without a tour guide. Trolley tours are also available.
Philadelphia is a historic hub in itself. Independence Hall, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the location where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the United States Constitution was debated and eventually adopted. It is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Visitors can take 15-20-minute tours, ticketed March through December. In January and February, tours operate every 20-30 minutes on a first-come, first-served basis, excluding holiday weekends, when tickets are required.
The Liberty Bell is right across the courtyard from Independence Hall. Its inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” has inspired abolitionists, women’s suffrage advocates and others throughout the country’s history. Its distinctive crack is a sought-after photo-op, and, free to visit year-round, it’s perfect for a quick visit during meeting downtime.