Summer during a pandemic might not offer many things to remember fondly, but with a little photo equipment and the right destination, you can still capture some beautiful memories.
If you’re up for a little traveling, or even a day trip, Pennsylvania has no shortage of scenic spots and breathtaking vistas where you can connect with your inner photographer. From wildlife and nature photography to gorgeous landscapes, there are plenty of opportunities to hone your skills — and take your mind off what a mess we’re in right now, at least for a little while.
We’ve rounded up a dozen great Pennsylvania places to go snap some photos, all within 150 miles of Center City. And, heck, you don’t even have to be a photographer to enjoy them — these destinations are a nice day out either way. Check out the list below:
Known as the first urban refuge in America, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge protects nearly 1,000 acres of land and water between Southwest Philly and Delaware County. That makes it a good local destination to snap photos of more than 300 species of birds, plus plenty of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
Don’t miss: When heading to the refuge from the Delco burbs, you don’t have to go all the way into Southwest Philly. Use the area’s western entrance north of I-95 on Route 420 in Norwood instead.
8601 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, 12 miles from Center City, 215-365-3118, fws.gov/refuge/john_heinz
Formerly a winter encampment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, Valley Forge today offers about 3,500 acres of historical monuments, forests, and fields to explore — making it ideal for landscape views. But it’s also a prime spot for birding and wildlife photography, thanks to the 227 species of birds that have been spotted in the park.
1400 N. Outer Line Dr., King of Prussia, 21 miles from Center City, 610-783-1000, nps.gov/vafo
The 2,600-acre Ridley Creek State Park includes everything from historic buildings and formal gardens to quaint creek views and 12 miles of hiking trails. The area, in fact, has so many scenic views that the Friends of Ridley Creek State Park organizes a photography contest every year.
1023 Sycamore Mills Rd., Media, 26 miles from Center City, 610-892-3900, dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks/findapark/ridleycreekstatepark
If you’re looking to photograph some beautiful flora, it’s no secret that Longwood Gardens offers lots of opportunities for a great shot across its 1,077-acre property. But you can also catch some dazzling nighttime water fountain displays at the Main Fountain Garden, which features illuminated shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
Don’t miss: Chaddsford Winery — about 10 minutes from Longwood — is offering outdoor seating (reservations encouraged) with wine by the glass or bottle and meal options from visiting food trucks.
1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, 36 miles from Center City, 610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org
Folks who are into documenting historical structures should head to bucolic Bucks County, which is home to a dozen covered bridges dating to the 19th century. You can see them all on a three-hour, self-guided tour developed by Visit Bucks County, and snap some pics along the way.
Don’t miss: Start your covered-bridge tour at Washington Crossing Historic Park, which — aside from offering an outdoor lesson in American history — leads right to Van Sandt Covered Bridge.
Van Sandt Covered Bridge, New Hope, 40 miles from Center City, 215-639-0300, visitbuckscounty.com
With miles of rolling farmland and country roads, it’s tough to beat the landscapes of Lancaster County along roads like Pa. Routes 340 and 772, and countless back roads that wind through Amish country. But, please, take a tip from Discover Lancaster, and avoid taking photos of Amish people in which their faces can be recognized, as doing otherwise is disrespectful.
Don’t miss: Looking to get around Lancaster the old-fashioned way? Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides is offering private, buggy-based rides through Amish country farms (with an eye toward COVID-19 safety).
Lancaster County, 64 miles from Center City, 800-723-8824, discoverlancaster.com
1880 Park Dr., Drumore, 76 miles from Center City, 717-252-1134, dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks/findapark/susquehannockstatepark
Head to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for eight miles of hiking trails and protected forests (trail fee required for nonmembers). There, you’ll get many chances to take snapshots of local wildflowers and wildlife, plus gorgeous views of the Lehigh Valley landscape.
1700 Hawk Mountain Rd., Kempton, 81 miles from Center City, 610-756-6961, hawkmountain.org
This Carbon County park sprawls across nearly 16,000 acres, where you can get your perfect photo on more than 40 miles of hiking trails and trout streams. But the big draws are the massive Boulder Field (which is exactly what it sounds like), and the beautiful, 25-foot Hawk Falls — both of which beg to be photographed.
Don’t miss: Want something a little more motorized? About 20 minutes away, you can book a scenic Utility Terrain Vehicle tour of the Pocono Raceway property with Pocono Outdoor Adventure Tours.
3613 Pa. State Route 534, White Haven, 90 miles from Center City, 272-808-6189, dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks/findapark/hickoryrunstatepark
Known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls features scenic views of eight waterfalls in the picturesque Pocono Mountains — and thanks to a well-maintained series of bridges and hiking trails, it’s not hard to get a good view (though tickets are required). If you’re looking for size, the Main Falls, which stands 100 feet tall, is your spot.
Don’t miss: About 10 miles away, the Pocono Snake & Animal Farm has everything from rattlesnakes and cobras to snapping turtles and alligators (plus lemurs and sloths, if you’re looking for something cuddly).
138 Bushkill Falls Trail, Bushkill, 115 miles from Center City, 888-287-4545, visitbushkillfalls.com
If Bushkill Falls sounds too structured, head to Ricketts Glen State Park. That 13,193-acre area stretches across Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia Counties, and is home to more than 20 named waterfalls, as well as tons of old-growth forests and bird species that run the gamut from warblers to bald eagles.
Don’t miss: For something completely different, check out Knoebels Amusement Resort — touted as America’s largest free-admission amusement park — about 45 miles south of Ricketts Glen.
695 Pa. Route 487, Benton, 138 miles from Center City, 570-477-5675, dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/rickettsglen
Considered a turning point in the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg today is enshrined at the Gettysburg National Military Park, which features some 1,300 monuments, 400 cannons, and 147 historic buildings. While historic, the battlefield and its surrounding area are also scenic, and offer landscape photographers plenty to work with.