8 free or low-cost fun places to take your family this summer in Pennsylvania - TAI News
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The Allegheny Reservoir as seen from the namesake overlook at the end of the Jake’s Rocks Overlook Trail in Allegheny National Forest, Mead Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania, August 2020. (Wikimedia Commons)

Looking for fun things to do with your family this summer and fall that won’t break the bank? Here are some ideas for entertaining activities across the commonwealth that are either free or under $25. 

Tour a cave

If you’re looking to beat the heat and see ancient geological wonders, there are underground caverns throughout the state that are worth a visit. 

The Lost River Caverns are located in Hellertown, about 20 minutes east of Allentown. Reservations are required for 30- to 45-minute guided tours of an underground limestone quarry, where temperatures hover at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Tickets are $16 for adults and $11 for children ages 3 to 12. https://lostcave.com/ 

About an hour-and-a-half south of Pittsburgh is Laurel Caverns, billed as Pennsylvania’s largest cave. The caverns provide a number of activities, including guided tours, self-guided tours, cave exploring for children ages 4-9, and panning for gemstones. Guided tours cost $17 for adults, $13 for kids ages 12-17, $11 for kids ages 5-11, and $3 for kids ages 4 and under. https://laurelcaverns.com/ 

Indian Echo Caverns, another limestone cave, is located 20 minutes east of Harrisburg. Guided tours cost $24.50 for ages 12 and over and $14.50 for children ages 2-11. There are also free activities on the property, including a petting zoo with goats, alpacas, chickens, turkeys and a peacock, as well as a picnic area and playground. https://indianechocaverns.com/ 

Meet the animals

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and check out zoos, where you can learn about animal habitats and efforts to preserve them. 

ZooAmerica in Hershey offers glimpses of North American animals such as otters, bald eagles, and gray wolves. Tickets are $16.50 for ages 9 and up, and $14.50 for ages 3-8. Kids under 2 get in free. https://www.zooamerica.com/ 

Horse lovers will delight in the Land of Little Horses, located in Gettysburg. The park is home to 50 horses, including ponies, full-size horses, and miniature horses. Aside from horses, there are also a zebra, a camel, tortoises, and farm favorites such as pigs, goats, and donkeys. Tickets are $11 each. You can also take an hourlong horseback ride for $40. https://landoflittlehorses.com/ 

Fans of reptiles and amphibians can head to Reptiland in Allenwood, home to exotic snakes such as cobras, mambas, vipers, and anacondas, as well as crocodiles, turtles, frogs, and iguanas. Live shows take place daily at which visitors can see and touch the animals up close. Tickets are $20 for ages 12 and older, and $16 for ages 3-11. https://reptiland.com/

Ride to the top of Pittsburgh

Get picturesque views of Pittsburgh on the Duquesne Incline, a 100-year-old cable car that has a museum of the history of the city at its upper station. Tickets are $5 round trip, or $1.25 for kids ages 6-11. Tickets must be purchased with cash. http://www.duquesneincline.org/ 

Take a guided tour of the State Capitol

Dedicated in 1906, the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg is a designated National Historic Landmark. Free tours of the beautiful building are offered daily, though advanced booking is recommended. http://pacapitol.com/ 

Learn about the Civil War

The National Civil War Museum is located in Harrisburg and features audio and video stories, photos, and artifacts from the American Civil War. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students age 6 and up, and free for kids 5 and under. Families of two adults and up to three students can get a pass for $60. https://www.nationalcivilwarmuseum.org/

Hike or boat in a state park

Pennsylvania is home to 124 state parks, many perfect for hiking, boating, camping, or fishing. While some activities require a fee, entrance to all parks is free. The breathtaking 35-mile Jakes Rocks Trail in northwestern Pennsylvania’s Warren County has been designated the commonwealth’s 2024 Trail of the Year. https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/ 

Ride a steam train

The Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton offers more than just a chance to learn about the history of trains. Visitors can also book a 30-minute ride on a train pulled by an old-fashioned steam locomotive on Fridays, Saturday, and Sundays. Admission is free; rides cost $6 ($1 for kids age 5 and under). https://www.nps.gov/stea/ 

Experience thrills in an amusement park

While Pennsylvania is home to dozens of family amusement parks, admission to some can be pricey. While an all-day ride and waterslide pass to DelGrosso’s Park & Laguna Splash in Tipton typically costs $37 a person, if you go most weekdays after 4 p.m., admission is just $18, and all September tickets will be $25 each. https://www.mydelgrossopark.com 

Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg bills itself as “America’s Largest Free Admission Amusement Park,” with individual rides priced at $2-$5 each. Free parking and entertainment. https://www.knoebels.com/

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