Did someone say road trip?

 

We know the feeling, you’re itching to get away, just not too far away. You’re looking for a drivable destination with lots of room to spread out. That makes sense; after months of quarantine, you want to feel safe when you travel. Here’s a thought – hop in your car and take a road trip to Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.

Pennsylvania’s Americana Region is the perfect spot for a road trip. Our driveable location is ideal for a quick day trip or an extended getaway. Added bonus, you won’t have to contend with crowded stations and terminals, or transit schedules. Come and go as you please.

To help with your travels, we’ve put together suggested itineraries around some of the outstanding places and open spaces you’ll find in Berks County. Enjoy these opportunities to relax and have fun in our region. It’s time to travel again!

P.S.
Play it safe, pack an overnight bag – just in case!
For your convenience, link to our local lodgings to book your stay.


The Bridges of Berks County

Visiting the covered bridges of Berks County, Pennsylvania Load up the car for a leisurely drive along our beautiful country roads as you follow a self-guided tour of  the five remaining covered bridges in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region. As you enter the bridges, roll-down your windows and listen to the rattle of the boards as you drive through these magical structures. Try to imagine the countless souls that crossed these bridges before you – some over a century ago.

Download our Covered Bridge Trail for directions, tall tales, and facts about the bridges.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

Where to Start?
There’s no right or wrong way to follow the Covered Bridge Trail, but a good starting point is Berks County Heritage Center.  It’s home to Wertz’s Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania, and at one time thought to be haunted!  Take time to see the park’s other attractions like Gruber Wagon Works and the colorful Distelfink. Take a leisurely stroll along the Schuylkill River Trail or Union Canal Trail before you hop back in the car.

  • From the Berks County Heritage Center follow beautiful country roads to the next two bridges, both located north of Kutztown. Keep an eye out for barn stars – aka hex signs and horse-drawn carriages. No, the folks behind the reins aren’t Amish, but rather Mennonite. Like the Amish, they are Anabaptists; but far less conservative or resistant to technology.
  • After visiting the bridges, travel south towards Kutztown, home of Kutztown University. As you approach the college town plan to stop at historic Crystal Cave Park, Pennsylvania’s first show cave. Always a cool 54 degrees, a tour of the cave is especially inviting during the hot summer months. If driving our country roads piqued your interest in PA Dutch customs and traditions, a visit to the PA German Cultural Heritage Center – on the Kutztown University’s campus, is the perfect place to take a closer look at this unique lifestyle. The museum captures the spirit of the region’s rural heritage with a fully-restored one-room schoolhouse, an early stone farm house and summer kitchen, a kitchen garden, a classic bank-barn decorated with barn stars, and two log houses.
  • Getting hungry? The many eateries in Kutztown offer loads of options for a delicious meal. Enjoy outdoor dining at Saucony Creek Craft Brewery & Gastropub​, or one of the many fun restaurants that dot Main Street. Get your meal to go and head to Kutztown Park for a picnic. The park provides a quiet place to stretch your legs, complete with picnic tables and a sculpture by world-famous pop artist (and Kutztown local), Keith Haring.
  • The remaining bridges take you to the beautiful and historic Oley Valley, known for its picturesque landscape. After exploring the bridges (and if time allows), travel to Boyertown, where you’ll find painted bears everywhere. Selfie anyone? Two of our region’s favorite attractions, the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles and the Colebrookdale Railroad, call Boyertown home. Make your way to The Peppermint Stick Candy Store to buy some candy for the ride home.
  • Before you circle back, and head for home, stop and relax at the Bridge Inn Restaurant & Martini Bar lovely outdoor eating area. You won’t regret it.
  • Not ready to go home? You can spend a night in one of our outstanding hotels. Next time, remember to pack an overnight bag, just in case.

 

 

 

Follow the Stars

You’ll be seeing stars – barn stars that is, as you travel our region’s winding country roads in search of these colorful art forms. Commonly called hex signs, barn stars are unique to the PA Dutch, and Berks County has more of the fanciful designs than anywhere! Open the window and breath in the fresh air as you take in the views of the historic and authentic artwork that dot our countryside on our Barn Stars Art Trail.

Download our Barn Star Art Trail for directions and information about the stars and their meanings.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way –

Where to Start?

  • Start your journey at the PA German Cultural Heritage Center. If you are planning in advance, we recommend you call the Center to schedule a tour. Plus, the museum’s Executive Director, Patrick Donmoyer, is an expert on the subject of Barn Stars and recently updated this very tour.
  • The trail takes you north towards Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the first refuge for birds of prey. By all means, park your car and explore the sanctuary. You won’t believe the incredible views of raptors and far-reaching landscapes. (When traveling with children, be sure to ask if the sanctuary has any kids activities planned for the day.) Following Hawk Mountain, point your car south on route 61 towards Reading. If it happens to be Wednesday, Leesport Farmers Market is open for business. More than a farmers market, this is an experience you don’t want to miss. You’ll find vendors selling everything from fresh foods to household goods, to livestock and more.
    Another suggested detour – The Deitsch Eck Restaurant in Lenhartsville is a great place to order takeout. Not only does the restaurant specialize in PA Dutch fare, it was once owned by famed hex sign painter, Johnny Ott. (Open Wed, Thurs, Fri, & Sat, 4 pm – 7:30 pm (last seating is at 7:30), Sunday 11:30 am – 6:30 pm (last seating is at 6:30), Closed Monday & Tuesday)
  • Further down the road, and not far off of RT 61, is Schell’s 27 Hole Minature Golf . How about a round of mini-golf followed by the best hot dogs and bbq you’ll ever have -seriously?  Or, continue  south on Rt 61 to Centre Park, Reading’s premier historic district. Park and walk the lovely neighborhood, featuring stately mansions and colorful Queen Anne homes.  Berks History Center is located in the historic district and offers great insight into the history and people of our area. (Opens Aug 5 by appointment only Wed through Sat from 9 am to 3 pm)
  • Time to call it a day? Before you leave town, stop for dinner at nearby Jimmie Kramer’s The Peanut Bar, a local favorite for decades. Another popular choice – Austin’s Restaurant and Bar, But be sure to call for reservations, otherwise grab takeout.
  • Safe travels as you drive home, recalling all the memorable things you experienced in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.
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Rock and roll 

A lone man scales a large rock mass at the Birdsboro Quarry using ropes
If your road trip merely serves as transportation to outdoor fun and adventure, we’ve got you covered. You’ll find a variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Berks County. Bring your bikes, hiking boots, kayaks and paddles for a day of fun in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.

Recommendations on where to begin and other stops along the way:

  • For the truly adventurous, the Birdsboro Climbing Quarry offers serious thrills. For over 20 years, the abandoned quarry turned sport climbing area has challenged climbers from across the Mid-Atlantic. We recognize rock-climbing isn’t for everyone, but you might enjoy watching these daredevils in action.
  • Not far from the quarry, you can order lunch or ice cream, or both, at Scoupe deVille. The 50s themed ice cream shop has reinvented itself into a 50s drive-through so customers can continue to enjoy their marvelous treats.
  • Next stop, French Creek State Park.The park’s 7,730-acres constitue the largest block of contiguous forest between Washington D.C. and New York City and provides visitors with countless ways to enjoy the setting. While there, hike, mountain bike – you can connect with the Schuylkill River Trail, disc golf, kayak and watch the wildlife. For the ultimate French Creek experience, reserve a campsite or cabin prior to your arrival.. BTW – Kayaks are available to rent.
  • Add some history to your trip with a visit to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The remarkable site sits adjacent to the French Creek, and the two share hiking trails. Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic furnace community. Due to COVID-19, the Visitor Center and Hopewell Village remain closed.  The historic site is working to increase access to the park in a phased approach. Main parking lot and restrooms are open and the park grounds are open Wed – Sun, 9 am to 5 pm.
  • If you enjoyed Hopewell, you might want to squeeze in some time exploring the Daniel Boone Homestead. That’s right; the famous frontiersman was born in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region. While parts of the historic site remain closed, the grounds are open for pedestrian use from sunrise to sunset. This allows you to see the Boone homestead and the outbuildings that served the family before they moved from Berk County.
  • No sense driving home hungry. Drive west on 422 towards Reading and West Reading. While enroute, have your co-pilot check our website for restaurants offering take-out. Place your order and enjoy as you drive home. Or stay the night at one of our hotels so you can spend more time in our region before going home.
 
 
The Reading Pagoda surrounded by a beautiful sunset atop of Mount Penn in Reading, Berks County, PAAre we there yet?

Sometimes, you have to think outside of the box when it comes to family fun, especially during a pandemic. A road trip to Pennsylvania’s Americana Region is just the ticket for spending cherished time with your loved ones. Ditch the crowds and pack the car for a day trip to Berks County. You’ll be surprised at the variety of things to do, and the ease of traveling to and in our region. No guarantees, but our drivable location might spare you the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?”

Suggestion: Car travel can be hard on kids. Have them look for signs that you’ve arrived in Berks County. Who will be the first to see hex signs painted on a barn, cows in fields, or a Mennonite family traveling by horse-drawn buggy? Look for mountains in the distance, hawks flying overhead, and best of all, look for our beloved Pagoda sitting high above the City of Reading, welcoming you to our region.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

The Pagoda

Speaking of the Pagoda, why not begin your visit with a stop at our iconic Pagoda? Follow the twists and turns of Duryea Drive to the top of Mt. Penn for a close-up look of the beloved landmark. On weekends, the Pagoda’s volunteer staff welcomes you to explore the inside of the building – all 7 stories and 87 steps to the top floor. This knowledgeable group is ready to answer all of your questions about the Pagoda and help with purchases from the gift shop and snack bar. (The Pagoda is currently closed due to the pandemic, but its still worth the ride to see the building in person and see the views)

  • If the Pagoda is open, enjoy a quick lunch in the snack bar. Try local favorites, a Berks hot dog followed by a yummy, malted Cho-Cho ice cream treat.
  • Duryea Drive is the site of two annual hill climbs sponsored by the Blue Mountain Region of the Sports Car Clubs of America. Be on the look-out for deer, foxes, bald eagles, and turkeys. All have been spotted in the vicinity of the Pagoda.
  • When leaving the Pagoda, follow Skyline Drive for more great views of the area from various lookouts. From the road, look for trail heads to our world- famous mountain biking trails. The trails are also great to stretch your legs after too much time in the car.
  • Are you traveling with a little princess? Not far from the Pagoda is Stokesay Castle. Built in 1931 and inspired by a 13th century English castle by the same name, Stokesay Castle was once a vacation home. Today the castle is a popular restaurant and wedding venue.

Before traveling any further, grab lunch at The Peanut Bar, a Berks County institution. In addition to great food, you’ll find peanuts on every table, and peanut shells on the floor! Why peanuts? You’ll have to dine there to find out.

Following lunch, travel east towards Boyertown, where you’ll find painted bears everywhere – perfect for a picture or two. This small town has some big fun in store for you. Two of our region’s favorite attractions, Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles and the Colebrookdale Railroad, make their home here.
You won’t believe some of the cars and displays at the museum like the 1938 Diner Car and the old-fashioned gas station.

As for the Colebrookdale Railroad, a ride on the beautifully restored train transports you to another time, when only your Sunday best would do for travel. Themed excursions, a dining car, and stops along the way make for a totally memorable experience. Stop at the Peppermint Stick Candy Store for truly delicious candies and ice cream befor you head for home.

If you prefer to spend time in the great outdoors, then journey north to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the first refuge for birds of prey. The refuge is considered to be one of the best places in North America to view the fall raptor migration. Hike to one of the sanctuary’s lookouts for outstanding views of the birds of prey, with the colorfual fall landscape as a backdrop. (Be sure to ask if the sanctuary has any kids activities planned for the day.)

If time allows, follow picturesque country roads to historic Crystal Cave Park. Always a cool 54 degrees, a tour of the cave is especially inviting during on a warm day. As the day winds down, take a break at Saucony Creek Brewing & Gastro Pub before you journey home. 

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Odd, Curious, and Unusual

The Reading Pagoda sits against a blue sky dotted with clouds.

Discover the places and experiences that distinguish Pennsylvania’s Americana Region from all other destinations. These locations and attractions may seem odd, curious, or unusual to you, but they are part and parcel of who we are.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

  • Add a little Zen to your day with a visit to our iconic Pagoda. Follow the twists and turns of Duryea Drive* to the top of Mt. Penn for a close-up look at the structure, and the sweeping views of Reading and Berks County it affords. On weekends, the Pagoda’s volunteer staff welcomes visitors to explore the inside of the unusual building. This knowledgeable group is ready to answer questions about the Pagoda, and help with purchases from the gift shop and snack bar.
    *Duryea Drive is the site of two annual hillclimbs sponsored by the Blue Mountain Region of the Sports Car Clubs of America.
  • Speaking of snack bar, before leaving the Pagoda, enlighten your taste buds with some locally-made favorites. Enjoy a Berks Hot Dog followed by a yummy, malted Cho-Cho ice cream treat.
  • Next, stop at the Berks County Heritage Center. If finding an oversized and colorful Distelfink in the parking area doesn’t strike you as odd, there’s more to see. The Heritage Center is home to Wertz’s Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania; C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, the most extensive private collection of 19th century canal memorabilia in America; and Gruber Wagon Works one of the most complete examples of a rural factory in the nation.
  • Walk along the Union Canal Towpath, but be warned, the trail is the site of the shocking 1875 murder/suicide of Louisa Bissinger and her three children. Witnesses describe seeing three children dressed in homemade garb playing by the water, and then, disappear. Visitors have also reported feeling a wet hand on their arm as they walk the tow path.
  • Following the Heritage Center, we direct you north to Centerport (Rt 183 to Rt 222 to Rt 61North) to see a Fork in the Road – literally. Towards the end of Main Street in Centerport, you’ll arrive at an intersection that splits. At this spot, a 9-foot steel fork sits between two road signs –a real live Fork-in-the-road.
    break here
  • A fourteen-mile drive from Centerport to Shartlesville brings you to Roadside America, “the world’s greatest indoor miniature village.” The tiny town is a completed piece of artwork created by Laurence Geisinger over his entire lifetime. Be sure to catch the half-hour show, complete with a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” Now that’s Americana.
  • As you travel our country roads, ease of the gas so you can take in the colorful barn stars (hex signs) painted on the barns that dot the landscape. Be on the look-out for our Mennonite neighbors traveling these roads via horse-drawn buggies. It’s all part of our PA Dutch culture. Speaking of PA Dutch, stop at Deitsch Eck Restaurant in Lenhartsville for a taste of PA Dutch fare. The building was once owned by well-known hex sign painter, Johnny Ott.  Today, hex signs and other touches of PA Dutch art hang on the restaurant’s walls, a complement to the authentic PA Dutch cuisine that keeps locals coming back for more.
  • Before leaving Lenhartsville, take some time to explore another Berks County oddity. Just outside of the town explore Blue Rocks – cascading rocks that form a boulder field almost a mile long. This unusual river of rocks has been studied by geologists, but it’s origin is still unknown. (Need more time to explore the phenomenon; nearby Blue Rock Campgrounds might just have a cabin available for the night.)
  •  Crystal Cave is next on our list of curious places in Berks County. The cave was discovered in 1871 and became the first show cave in Pennsylvania. People flocked to the cave to be wowed by its endless number of crystalline formations on the walls and ceiling of the cave. The cave is always a cool 54 degrees. Crystal Cave is open daily from 9am – 5pm.

 

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For the Birds 

If you enjoy observing wildlife, give bird watching a try in Berks County. Our region offers an array of places to watch birds year-round.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

  • Scenic Hawk Mountain Sanctuary offers outstanding nature experiences with its hiking trails, mountaintop vistas, and bird’s eye view of the fall raptor migration. The sanctuary was founded in 1934 by conservationist Rosalie Edge over concern of raptor hunting on the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Since then, the sanctuary has grown in acreage and reputation as a scientific research center, international conservation training site, learning facility, wildlife sanctuary, and the world’s largest member-supported raptor conservation organization. Hike to one of Hawk Mountain’s lookouts for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and raptors, of course! From August through December, Hawk Mountain is considered one of the best places in North America to watch the annual hawk migration. The sanctuary offers year-round educational programs and family friendly events.
  • Combine birdwatching with other outdoor fun at Blue Marsh Lake. This popular spot for boating, swimming and picnicking during the hot summer months is also a fantastic birdwatching venue. The man-made lake was built and is maintained by the Philadelphia District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, water supply, water quality and recreation. Within Blue Marsh’s 6,200 acres of land, you’ll find 1,148 acres of water, 36 miles of trails, a small beach and boat launches. According to Audubon, the area’s many features provide a high quality habitat for Barn Owls and Field Sparrows, and it is a flyway used by many migratory waterfowl and songbirds.
  • On the other side of Berks County, French Creek State Park offers year-roung birdwatching opportunities. The park’s forests and lakes attract songbirds and waterfowl, as well as raptors including osprey and bald eagles. In fact, many of the 379 bird species that nest, winter or migrate throughout Pennsylvania can be found in the French Creek Watershed. 

    The National Audobon Society offers tips on how to start birding.

 

 

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