As the birthplace of American democracy — where the Founding Fathers debated and signed the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution — Philadelphia is best known for its rich history. Well, that and cheesesteaks, and that movie about that boxer.
You can and should spend weeks soaking up the City of Brotherly Love and its countless treasures, including museums, murals, restaurants and gardens. But you should also make time to get out of town. Philly is a prime jumping-off point to explore beaches, farms, wineries and one delicious ice cream trail.
1. Go antiquing in New Hope, Pennsylvania
Travel time: 50 minutes
About 30 miles north of Philadelphia, on the Delaware River, the charming town of New Hope is home to a notable antique shopping scene, a robust LGBTQ+ community, riverfront dining (including Stella and Odette’s at the River House) and the legendary Bucks County Playhouse. (Robert Redford and Grace Kelly performed here, among other Hollywood royalty).
History buffs shouldn’t miss Washington Crossing Historic Park, a few miles downriver, where America’s first president sailed with his Continental Army in 1776. And in sunny weather, spend time outdoors at the 134-acre Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve and botanical garden or hiking around Ringing Rocks Park. Don’t forget to bring a hammer: when you strike the boulders, they ring like a bell. There’s also a lovely riverside walking path through town.
How to get to New Hope from Philadelphia:
From Center City, Philadelphia, take I-95 north to I-295 east. Public transportation is not available.
2. Sample beaches and beers in Cape May, New Jersey
Travel time: 45 minutes
A day in Cape May, known as America’s original seaside resort, could be spent soaking up the sun from your patch of sand or exploring the quaint beach town. (Or stay a little longer and do both.)
Tour Cape May Brewing Co. and sample a flight of freshly brewed beers in their newly expanded outdoor beer garden, then climb the 199 steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859 and perched on the southern tip of New Jersey, for sweeping views of the area.
After working up an appetite, head to the charming Beach Plum Farm, home to a handful of luxe private cottages for overnight guests. Even those not staying on the property can tour the 62-acre working farm, feed the chickens and dine at Beach Plum Farm Kitchen. This casual outpost tucked inside an Amish barn has a menu that changes daily to highlight what’s fresh on the farm.
Don’t leave the shore without strolling through town and be sure to stop at the Original Fudge Kitchen for made-from-scratch confections and boxes of saltwater taffy.
How to get to Cape May from Philadelphia:
By car, take the Atlantic City Expressway to the Garden State Parkway. Trains are available from 30th Street Station to Atlantic City, where it’s easy to take an Uber or bus down to Cape May.
3. Delve into history in Wilmington, Delaware
Travel time: 35 minutes
Just a short drive south of Center City, Delaware’s biggest city and its surrounding areas are filled with history, culture and an up-and-coming dining scene. Explore the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway at your own pace using the self-guided driving tour that highlights important places in Tubman’s life. Wilmington is also home to exquisite mansions and historic sites built by the Du Pont family, who founded their eponymous gunpowder manufacturing company on the nearby banks of the Brandywine River at the turn of the 19th century. Tour Hagley, site of the company’s original mills, and stroll the wooded walking trails. In the summer, check the events schedule for pop-up beer gardens, concerts and other family-friendly programming.
Just a few miles down the road the Du Pont family’s former home, Winterthur (pronounced winter-tour), is now open to the public. Housed inside the sprawling 175-room mansion is a 90,000-piece collection of American decorative arts that you could easily spend hours exploring. Leave time to walk the gardens too; kids especially love the Enchanted Woods, with their stone fairy cottage and tulip treehouse. The Du Pont home is set on the 3000-acre Nemours Estate, with gardens and fountains inspired by Versailles. Make a dinner reservation at Le Cavalier, the brasserie in the historic Hotel Du Pont in downtown Wilmington.
How to get from Philadelphia to Wilmington:
By car, take I-95 south. Amtrak operates regular train services between 30th Street Station and downtown Wilmington.
4. Tour the wineries of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Travel time: 45 minutes
Just 45 minutes from bustling Philadelphia lie the rolling green hills of the Brandywine Valley, home to Revolutionary War history, small wineries and one world-class museum. Join the locals at Hank’s Place for breakfast before spending the morning at the Brandywine Valley River Museum, a gem of a collection featuring hundreds of works by the Wyeth family of artists.
Oenophiles could plan a whole day on the Brandywine Valley wine trail, with stops at the award-winning (and beautiful) Penns Woods or Chaddsford Winery. Treasure-hunters should stop in at the Brandywine River Antiques Market to peruse prints, coins and art from dozens of dealers. On a warm evening, book a table on the verdant patio at Gables at Chadds Ford, where the ingredients are sourced from nearby farms.
How to get from Philadelphia to Chadds Ford:
By car, take I-95 S to US-322 West. Public transportation is not available, but private and group tours are available.
5. Pick-your-own in Princeton, New Jersey
Travel time: 60 minutes
Best known as the home of the Ivy League university, the lovely town of Princeton is well worth the hour-long drive from Philly. Visit the Princeton University Art Museum to see a diverse collection that includes centuries-old African art and works by Picasso. While you’re on campus, check out the Gothic-style buildings and don’t miss the Bent Spoon for scoops of small-batch ice cream in seasonal flavors.
Right outside of town is Terhune Orchards, a 200-acre farm where you can walk the gardens, pick your own fruit and meet the resident animals, including sheep, horses and chickens. Stop by the farm store to pick up provisions like fresh fruit, jams and apple cider donuts for the drive home. Also on the way back to Philly, Hamilton, New Jersey is home to Grounds for Sculpture, a sprawling collection of outdoor art. Purchase timed tickets to stroll through the gardens, which are scattered with some 400 works of larger-than-life contemporary art.
How to get from Philadelphia to Princeton:
By car, take I-95 N and I-295 E. Allow for an extra 20 minutes if you stop at Grounds for Sculpture, too. Amtrak operates regular trains to Princeton Junction, which is about half a mile from downtown Princeton.
6. Shop the US’s oldest farmer’s market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Travel time: 90 minutes
If you loved sampling Pennsylvania Dutch delights like whoopie pies and scrapple inside Philly’s historic Reading Terminal Market, great news: you can also go straight to the source.
On the hour-long drive to Lancaster, you’ll pass rolling farmland and Amish-driven horses and buggies. Stroll around Lancaster Central Market — dating back to 1730, it’s the oldest continuously operating public farmer’s market in the country — and stop at the stalls selling soft pretzels, scratch-made baked goods, farm-fresh meat and produce.
For a true Pennsylvania Dutch experience, dine at Shady Maple Smorgasbord, which offers 200ft of local specialties like country ham and fruit pies, and visit one of the working farms, preferably one that also makes ice cream.
How to get from Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania:
Take I-76 W by car, or take the train from 30th Street Station.
7. Dig for mushrooms in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Travel time: 45 minutes
Known as the mushroom capital of the world for its vast farms that produce hundreds of millions of pounds of the fungi each year, Kennett Square also boasts one of the most famous gardens in the country and restaurants that are alone worth the drive. Come for the Mushroom Festival, the weekend after Labor Day each year, which features a carnival, cooking competitions and lots of creminis, buttons and shiitakes.
Longwood Gardens, with 1,077 acres of greenhouses and impeccable landscaping, dazzles at any time of year, though the annual holiday light show may be its most popular attraction. (It sells out quickly so make sure to buy tickets in advance.) Also make a reservation for Talula’s Table — Aimee Olexy’s 8-seat restaurant featuring true farm-to-table cooking books up to a year in advance. For a more casual meal, stop by Victory Brewing Company’s tap room and try a flight of stouts, sours and session IPAs.
How to get from Philadelphia to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania:
The 35-mile drive usually takes about 45 minutes from Philadelphia on I-95 S.