15 Best Things to Do in Chester County, PA

Chester County, PA
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Chester County is situated in the Delaware Valley Region of Pennsylvania.

Known to locals as “Chesco,” it’s one of the three original counties established by William Penn in 1682.

It was named after the cathedral city of Chester in England.

The county sits between Philadelphia County and the Susquehanna River, serving as an important corridor to the west.

The first transcontinental highway in the US, Lincoln Highway, passes through the central part of the county, following the Great Valley to the west.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was built following the same route and bringing economic development to the county.

Here are the best things to do in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

See Thousands of Rare Flowers at the Longwood Gardens

Water fountains at Longwood Gardens
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Located on Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Longwood Gardens is a 1,077-acre botanical garden boasting thousands of rare flower species.

Sitting in the Brandywine Creek Valley, its natural landscape provides the perfect environment for growing native and exotic plants indoors and outdoors.

The complex comprises gardens, woodlands, and meadows divided into districts with different attractions.

Close view of pretty flowers at Longwood Gardens
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The Conservatory District is the centerpiece of Longwood Gardens, featuring a 19th-century style Conservatory that houses more than 4,000 species of plants and trees.

The Main Historic Conservatory features neo-classical architecture as a backdrop for a world-class indoor plant collection.

The Lakes District houses the Italian Water Garden with well-manicured lawns, romantic water fountains, 600 water jets, six pools, and 12 pedestal basins.

Sculpted shrubs at Longwood Gardens
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Appreciate Realism at the Brandywine Museum of Art

Located on Hoffmans Mill Road, Chadds Ford, is the Brandywine Museum of Art.

The art museum sits on the banks of Brandywine Creek, providing a beautiful backdrop for the steel and glass building.

It’s home to the most extensive collection of the Wyeth family of artists, showcasing the works of realist painter Andrew Wyeth and his father, N.C.

Wyeth is one of the most prolific illustrators of American children’s classics.

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century landscape and still-life paintings compose most of the collection.

There’s also a notable archive of portraits and O Scale model trains at the Brandywine Museum of Art.

Some artists featured in the museum include notable landscape artists and illustrators Jasper Francis Cropsey, Maxfield Parrish, and Jessie Willcox Smith.

Catch Fish at Marsh Creek State Park

The waters of Marsh Creek State Park
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Located on Park Road, Downingtown, is the 1,705-acre Marsh Creek State Park.

The state park encompasses the townships of Upper Uwchlan and Wallace and hosts the 535-acre artificial Marsh Creek Lake.

The lake addresses the region's water shortages and flooding issues while providing residents with recreational activities.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gradually acquired the land surrounding the lake in the 1970s and turned it into a park, including the farming village of Milford Mills.

A pool at Marsh Creek State Park
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Today, Marsh Creek State Park is a popular destination for fishing and kayaking.

The lake has largemouth bass, black crappie, and channel catfish.

Note that it’s a designated big bass lake, and anything smaller than 15 inches must be released back into the water.

Large, motorized boats are prohibited, but kayaks, canoes, and sailboats are available for rent on-site.

A playground at Marsh Creek State Park
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Learn about the Region’s History at the Chester County History Center

The Chester County History Center is on North High Street, West Chester.

Founded in 1893, the nonprofit historical society aims to preserve and present the history and culture of Chester County and its surrounding areas.

The 56,000-square-foot complex houses a museum and a library, containing over 80,000 artifacts and 500,000 manuscripts relating to the county’s heritage.

The library has one of the most extensive collections of newspaper clippings, some dating back to 300 years ago.

The museum features a comprehensive collection of artifacts from within the county and the Delaware Valley, including plates, tea sets, chairs, and other furniture depicting everyday life in 17th and 18th-century Pennsylvania.

The Chester County History Center also has a photo archive containing over 100,000 photographs documenting landscapes, people, businesses, and important events from the 1840s through the early 1900s.

Learn about Rotary-Wing Aviation at the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center

Exterior of American Helicopter Museum & Education Center
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Located on American Boulevard, West Chester, is the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center.

The museum highlights the history and technology of rotary-wing aviation, with more than 40 helicopters on display.

The collection includes civilian and military helicopters spread out over eight different sections.

The Model Room houses more than 400 models of helicopters and VTOL aircraft depicting Delaware-made helicopters and aircraft models used by the US Coast Guard from the past to the present.

Aircrafts at American Helicopter Museum & Education Center
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The Cradle of Rotary Wing Aviation exhibit highlights the history of the rotary wing development in Philadelphia, including the first flight in America.

The Whirly-Girls exhibit features the legacy of an unofficial group of women helicopter pilots called the Whirly-Girls.

The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center exhibits include the Torque Exhibit, Pioneers of Helicopter Aviation, and the Aerovelo Atlas.

The grounds of American Helicopter Museum & Education Center
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Pick Your Apples at the Highland Orchards, Inc.

Located on Marshallton Thorndale Road, West Chester, is Highland Orchards, Inc.

The family-owned and operated farm started as a 100-acre property in the 1940s and has since doubled in land area and expanded to include a bakery.

The farm market offers fresh produce, including strawberries, blueberries, cherries, rhubarb, and apples.

At the bakery are freshly baked goods made from locally grown and sourced produce, including fruit pies and apple cider donuts.

Highland Orchards, Inc has a Pick Your Own Fruit activity from mid-May through late October.

Wander the farm grounds and fill your basket with apples, strawberries, or cherries.

The farm also hosts several events throughout the harvest season, such as the Corn Maze and Apple Cannon.

Ride behind a tractor for a scenic tour of the cornfields and Hayrides during the fall harvest season.

Climb the Hills of Natural Lands' Stroud Preserve

Landscape of Natural Lands' Stroud Preserve
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Natural Lands' Stroud Preserve is a former pasture grassland on North Creek Road.

The nonprofit organization Natural Lands manages the 571-acre working farmlands and woodlands.

It aims to preserve open spaces and connect people to the outdoors by providing recreational areas.

The land was part of the massive Laird cattle farm stretching west from West Chester City to Wawaset Road.

Birds at Natural Lands' Stroud Preserve
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Stroud Preserve is a mix of cultivated and “wild” areas where visitors can explore and do different activities.

The nature preserve is a popular birdwatching spot, and its paved trails are great for biking and horseback riding.

Its rolling hills have endless fields of wildflowers, turning into a colorful palette of yellows, greens, and lavenders in the summer.

Waters at Natural Lands' Stroud Preserve
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Hop on the West Chester Railroad Co.

The West Chester Railroad Co. is a tourist railroad on East Market Street, West Chester.

It runs between East Market Street and the village of Glen Mills for a 7.7-mile scenic ride aboard a historic train.

West Chester Railroad Co has ten train models in its fleet, including the ALCO C424, EMD GP38, and Pennsylvania Railroad’s B60b Baggage car #9275, built in the 1920s.

The tourist railroad opened in 1997.

It uses the former Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, which stopped operations in 1986 after more than 130 years in service.

A roundtrip lasts about 90 minutes, passing by historic stations.

The stops include Westtown station, now an art gallery, the 19th-century village and station of Cheyney, and the beautifully restored Victorian station at Glen Mills.

Attend a Seed Propagation Workshop at Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens

Trail lined with flowers at Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens
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Located on Berwyn Baptist Road, Devon, is the Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens.

H. Lawrence Jenkins founded the 48-acre nonprofit botanical garden as a tribute to his wife, Elisabeth.

After Elisabeth's death, H. Lawrence wanted to preserve their 20-acre property, eventually turning it into a public park, arboretum, and wildlife sanctuary.

A bench at Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens
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The gardens opened to the public in 1976.

Today, it studies arboriculture, horticulture, and wildlife, offering educational programs that promote nature preservation.

The Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens’ program roster includes seed propagation workshops, nature explorations, bird walks, rhododendron lectures, and even yoga classes.

The waters of Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens
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Scour Five Stories of Books at Baldwin's Book Barn

Located on Lenape Road, West Chester, is Baldwin's Book Barn.

In 1934, William and Lilla Baldwin opened the book and collectible business in Wilmington.

The couple eventually moved the business to a former milking house they converted into a residence.

Baldwin’s Book Barn is housed in a five-story building built in 1882, featuring stone walls, wooden floors, and wood-burning stoves.

It features over 300,000 used and rare books, documents, antique pieces, fine art, and paintings.

There are reading nooks on all five floors of the building, where you can read novels and books about horticulture, farming, and history, among other things.

Join a Herr’s Snack Factory Tour

Exterior of Herr’s Snack Factory
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The Herr's Snack Factory is located on Old Baltimore Pike, Nottingham.

The company produces pretzels, tortilla chips, popcorn, and potato chips.

Herr’s has almost 40 flavors of potato chips, and you can try some of those when you join the Herr’s Snack Factory Tour.

The educational and gastronomical tour will take you around the factory, learning about its history while sampling some snacks.

A personal guide with accompanying video clips will teach you everything about Herr’s, from the machinery to the people involved in making your favorite snacks.

At the end of the Herr’s Snack Factory Tour, you can drop by the gift shop and take home souvenirs to remind you of your visit.

Catch a Show at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center

Located on North High Street, West Chester, is the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center.

The theatre is the city’s premier destination for performing arts, hosting concerts, comedy shows, films, and speaking engagements.

The 327-seat Mainstage Theatre is a popular concert venue for bands and solo music acts of different genres.

From jazz and rock to classical and R&B, the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center is the place for everything music.

The theatre also occasionally screens independent films you won’t see in commercial movie houses.

Walk the Tree-Lined Trails of Everhart Park

A cabin at Everhart Park
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The borough’s second oldest park, Everhart Park, is on South Brandywine Street, West Chester.

The 10.2-acre public park sits on the western side of the borough and borders the township of East Bradford.

Once part of the private property of resident William Everhart, the park was first named Everhart Grove.

It was donated to the borough in 1905 and has since undergone multiple renovations, including constructing a gazebo in 1908, forming wetlands in the 1940s, and planting rare and ancient hardwood trees.

Today, Everhart Park is an escape for people who want a relaxing stroll along its tree-lined trails.

Go Ziplining at Treehouse World

Located on Phoenixville Pike, West Chester, is the Treehouse World amusement park.

The outdoor amusement center boasts treehouses, ziplines, and bungee jumping that visitors of all ages can enjoy.

There are 40-foot trees with rock climbing equipment that will challenge your physical and mental strength.

The Buccaneer Zipline spans 150 meters and moves at ten to 15 mph for a kid-friendly experience.

Treehouse World also has a Euro Bungee Trampoline that will launch you 25 feet up.

See a Classic Film at the Colonial Theatre

Exterior of the Colonial Theatre
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Located on Bridge Street, Phoenixville is the Colonial Theatre.

Built in 1903, the Beaux-arts style theatre was a premier venue for movies, live entertainment, and traveling shows in the 20th century.

American escape artist Harry Houdini performed a stunt at the theatre in 1917, escaping from a locked safe.

The Colonial Theatre became known for its screenings of horror movies, even making a cameo in the sci-fi movie The Blob.

Today, the theatre screens a mix of horror, classic, indie, and newly released films throughout the year.

Marquee of the Colonial Theatre
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Final Thoughts

Chester County has come a long way from its railroad roots.

Despite the rapid modernization of its surrounding areas, the region has maintained its rural vibe, thanks to well-preserved historical sites and vast nature preserves.

If you want to go on a historical adventure, try the best things to do in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

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