Rich in chocolate and coal and iron mines, this state has a lot to offer. Pennsylvania is home to many firsts. The first American flag, the first baseball stadium, the first computer and the first daily newspaper—but that’s not all it has brought to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Independence Hall in Philadelphia housed the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. So let freedom ring and let’s visit one of the 13 original colonies, Pennsylvania.

Steal the Show

American Music Theatre in Lancaster provides two experiences for its student visitors. The AMT Student Experience gives students a backstage tour with the cast, band and crew, and demonstrations of technical aspects of theater. This tour can be tailored for each groups preferences. The second option is for chorus groups. They have the opportunity to perform a 25-minute set in the lobby as guests are arriving for AMT’s Christmas Show in November and December.

Outside the American Music Theatre. Credit: American Music Theatre

Outside the American Music Theatre. Credit: American Music Theatre

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offers programs for student performers to practice and master their performance skills. ArtsMASTERS is an educational program that offers classes taught by this season’s group of touring performers. Topics can include dance, music, technical theater, musical theater, puppetry, expressive movement, audition techniques, character workshops… the list goes on and on. They also provide a Theater Arts Workshop, where student participants work with professionals in playwriting, set design, directing and costumes.

Sight & Sound Theatres in Strasburg puts on live theatrical performances of Biblical stories with a Broadway-style spin. This location specializes in the production of Joseph and Samson. In a behind-the-scenes tour students learn what goes into a Broadway production, like training animals for a show, and have the opportunity to perform.

Experience Civil War and Revolutionary History

The Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tour Experience takes you on a ride through the historic landscape where this epic battle took place. A tour guide presents the story of the Battle of Gettysburg on a double-decker bus.

A group getting ready to board the double-decker bus. Credit: Gettysburg Double Decker Bus

A group getting ready to board the double-decker bus. Credit: Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tour Experience

Jennie Wade, a Gettysburg resident, was shot through her own front door during the Battle of Gettysburg. The Jennie Wade House, authentically furnished from cellar to attic, serves as a shrine to young Jennie and offers a glimpse into life during the American Civil War. Guides dressed in 1800s attire knead their way through the history of the home like Jennie once did with fresh dough.

Independence National Historical Park reveals important stories about the birth of our country. Tour the Philadelphia building where our founding fathers walked and see monuments like the Liberty Bell, our symbol of freedom, or Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Check out the Benjamin Franklin Museum to learn about the man who heavily influenced political and scientific history.

The Liberty Bell. Credit: Independence National Historical Park

The Liberty Bell. Credit: Tony the Misfit at en.wikipedia

Learn the Ins and Outs of Your Surroundings

Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, a specialized zoo for reptiles and amphibians in Gregg Township, awaits student discovery. Giant alligators, gentle tortoises, curious lizards, colorful frogs and rare snakes are among the species to view. Interactive exhibits, live shows and hands-on animal encounters are all available.

An Emerald Tree Boa at Clyde Peeling's Reptiland. Credit: Mrweatherbee at en.wikipedia

An Emerald Tree Boa at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. Credit: Mrweatherbee at en.wikipedia

Waldameer Park and Water World, built in Erie 118 years ago, makes a splash with over 75 rides and slides. But that’s not all this water park has to offer—the Waldameer Classroom gives a physics lesson on the mechanics of the rides. Band and choir groups are also welcomed and encouraged to perform a special two-and-a-half hour performance.

The Susquehanna River travels 444 miles, starting in upstate New York and flowing into Chesapeake Bay. Students observe animal species in, under, above and around the longest river on the East Coast. The health of this river is vital to the Chesapeake Bay’s survival since over half of its fresh water flows into it. A program called the Susquehanna River School in Harrisburg teaches students lessons on the lives of the Native American tribes that depend on this river, how the local environment affects the bay and the natural wonders of the river.

Add These Attractions to Your Itinerary

The month of May is filled with educational activities at Hersheypark. For several days, the 110-acre theme park in Hershey becomes what some would call an “active laboratory.” Each day’s program is different, with subjects like math, physics, science, entertaining arts, business and marketing, or health and wellness. The park has more than 65 rides and attractions to keep visitors entertained.

Magic Lantern Shows at Plain and Fancy Theater in the Amish town Bird in Hand is the only permanent magic lantern theater in the country in the last 130 years. Before movies, lantern shows were the most popular form of entertainment. Plain and Fancy Theater’s show includes blended music, comedy and hand-drawn pictures to enhance the experience. A showman controls the slides to captivate the audience’s imagination, interacting with the crowd all the while.

Army Heritage Center Foundation in Carlisle possesses documents and artifacts that span the entire history of the American army. With the largest Civil War era photo collection, this foundation has immense amounts of history to share. It provides educational programs to enhance students’ experience, such as interacting with nationally known historians or strolling down Army Heritage Trail.

Army memorabilia at the Army Heritage Center. Credit: Army Heritage Center Foundation

Army memorabilia at the Army Heritage Center. Credit: Army Heritage Center Foundation

The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh has thousands of artworks by the famous artist. He became well-known for being the leading figure in the pop art movement, which is still pretty “pop”ular today. Tours delve into Warhol’s early life, his influence on art and related social and cultural issues. Pop Portrait Workshop lets students get hands-on experience with silkscreen printing, painting and digital photography.

Mining for iron and coal is a big component of Pennsylvania’s history. One of its football teams was named the Pittsburgh Steelers, after all. Tour Ed Mine and Museum in Tarentum gives a chance to go 160 feet underground to see what it was like to work in a coal mine in the 1850s. Ride on the authentic Pittsburgh and Shawmut Railroad Caboose with a tour guide by your side. Observe genuine mining tools, learn about steel making at Carrie Blast Furnaces and enter a recreated home of a typical coal miner.

Pennsylvania is a must-see state for all student groups due to its key role in our nation’s development. Civil War memorabilia, the rise of the newspaper industry and the largest coal mining region in the country leaves Pennsylvania far from ordinary. Comment on your past (or future) destinations below.