Did someone say road trip?

 

We know the feeling, you’re itching to get away, just not too far away. You want 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 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 airports or train stations. And, you can 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.
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 Distelfink.  You can even take a nice leisurely stroll along the Schuylkill River Thun Trail or Union Canal Trail before you hop back in the car.

  • From there, follow our beautiful country roads to the next two bridges, both above 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.
  • Has all that driving you left you a bit peckish? Before heading south on the trail, enjoy outdoor dining at Saucony Creek Craft Brewery & Gastropub​, or one of the many fun eateries in the college town of Kutztown University. Get your meal to go and have a picnic at the PA German Cultural Heritage Center, while it remains closed, its beautiful farm setting lends itself to a laid back lunch. Kutztown Park offers another spot to stretch your legs, complete with picnic tables and a sculpture by artist (and local), Keith Haring.
  • The remaining bridges take you to the beautiful and historic Oley Valley, known for its picturesque landscape. After you explore 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 forms. Commonly called hex signs, barn stars are unique to the PA Dutch, and Berks County has more of the fanciful designs than anywhere!  So, hit the road and follow our Barn Stars Art Trail.
Open the window and breath in the fresh air as you take in the views of the historic and authentic artworks that dot our countryside.

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. Following Hawk Mountain, point your car south on route 61 towards Reading. If it happens to be a Wednesday, Leesport Farmers Market is open for business. More than just 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..
    (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. (Due to limited hours, call or check their website for availability.)
  • Further down the road, and not far off of RT 61, make a stop at Schell’s 27 Hole Minature Golf  for a game of mini-golf and the best hot dogs and bbq you’ll ever have – seriously! Or, continue to head 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.
  • Time to call it a day? Before you leave town, stop for outdoor dining 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
Road trips can be as relaxing or adventurous as you want them to be. If you travel with your bike or hiking boots, or  just want to include varying levels of physical activity in your day away, take a look at these trip suggestions.

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.
  • How do you feel about adding 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. Walk the grounds of the pristine iron plantation to learn about Hopewell’s role in our country’s fight for freedom and battle to end slavery. (Hopewell is dog friendly.)
  • If you enjoyed the 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. Even if the historic site is closed, you can 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.
 
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 other destinations. They 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, sitting high above the City of Reading. Follow the twists and turns of Duryea Drive to the top of Mt. Penn for a close-up look at the structure, and sweeping views of Reading and Berks County. 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.
  • Speaking of the 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 Path, but be warned, the Union Canal 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 also report 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.
  • Curious about our PA Dutch roots? Follow surrounding country roads to Kutztown, PA. Be on the look-out for the beautiful hex signs painted on the barns that dot the landscape. Ease of the gas, horse-drawn buggies, and bicycles travel these roads. Take a detour and stop at Deitsch Eck Restaurant in Lenhartsville for authentic PA Dutch fare.
  • Speaking of Lenhartsville, it is the location of another Berks County oddity. Just outside of the town explore a river of rocks, like a landslide frozen in time. The cascading rocks cuts through the forest and descends downhill for more than a mile. There are theories on how the sight was formed, but there is no conclusive answer.If your trip has tuckered you out, check to see if nearby Blue Rock Campgrounds has a cabin available for the night.
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For the Birds
If you enjoy observing wildlife, give bird watching a try in Berks County. 

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Bird watchers gather at the top of the overlook and gaze through binoculars to watch the early migration of Hawks 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.

Blue Marsh Lake

 

Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area 

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.  

Heron stands at water's edge while ducks float in the background at French CreekFrench Creek State Park.
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 offer tips on how to start birding.