Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Lebanon, PA

  • Published 2022/04/28

Lebanon, Pennsylvania, might be one of the state’s less-traveled cities. Still, it has a genuine appeal, especially for nature lovers.

Situated in Lebanon Valley’s central area and part of the eponymous county, the city of Lebanon recorded a population of 25,477 in the 2010 census.

Native Americans lived on the land until European settlers arrived at the creek area in 1720.

They named Steitz Creek after the Steitz clan, and the Light family built a fort called “Light’s Fort” as protection against the Native Americans.

George Steitz officially founded Lebanon in 1740 with its original name Steitztown.

It became a borough in 1821 and formally became a city in 1885.

Before the 1780s, the Pennsylvania Dutch helped develop the signature Lebanon bologna.

In 1914, the San Giorgio pasta came out, and it became an essential ingredient of the dish.

The relaxed city of Lebanon boasts excellent locations to discover, history to learn from, family fun activities, and nature spots to experience.

Want to see the beautiful sights of Lebanon?

Then find out the 15 best things to do in the city.

Discover the 19th Century Cornwall Iron Furnace

Exterior of Cornwall Iron Furnace

Zack Frank /

Located in the hills of Lebanon County, the Cornwall Iron Furnace is a five-acre facility that includes 18th-century and 19th-century structures.

These structures include the Furnace Building, the Wagon Master and Blacksmith Shop buildings, the Abattoir, and the Charcoal Barn, now the Visitor Center.

In the 1730s, Peter Grubb, a stonemason, began mining in the area and later built a furnace in 1742.

He named the furnace Cornwall to honor the England area where his father emigrated.

The furnace operated until 1883, when innovations in furnace operations made the blast furnace process obsolete.

Steps leading to a door at Cornwall Iron Furnace

Jeffrey M. Frank /

Check out the only remaining intact charcoal cold blast furnace and learn about the iron industry that thrived in the state’s south-central district.

Listen to the facts while you admire the iron plantation and the details of the smelting process.

Explore the Gothic Revival designs of the buildings, see the cannons, stoves, and the place casting pig irons.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission manages the historic location.

Today, the Cornwall Iron Furnace belongs to the National Historic Landmark.

Likewise, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers recognizes this site as an important landmark.

A stone furnace on the grounds of Cornwall Iron Furnace

Zack Frank /

View an Antique Model House at Chestnut Street Log House

In 1737 and 1741, George Steitz gained two land warrants and laid out the lots for a village known as Steitztown.

He sold lots measuring two perches wide by six deep, requiring the buyers to construct a house within 18 months of purchase.

Another stipulation mandated that new houses should have a stone or brick chimney.

Remarkably, the log house at Chestnut Street still stands today.

It is the only house left of the dwellings during the 1770s.

See the house that became an illustration of folk architecture and has become distinct from early American designs.

View the rooms that reflect the Pennsylvania German architecture, with the classic cellar, fireplace, kitchen plan, and stübe and Kammer layout specific to the 18th-century style.

The National Register of Historic Places recognized this spot in 1978.

Visit the Historic Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad Station

In 1885, the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad built the Lebanon Railroad Station in the central city. The company extended the railroad in 1912.

George Watson Hewitt designed the two-story Victorian-style building, constructed using bricks, brownstone, and terra cotta materials.

The station opened in 1883; in 1918, the Pennsylvania Railroad bought it.

The National Register of Historic Places recognized the station in 1974.

You can visit this historical attraction during regular office hours.

Check out and appreciate the different architectural influences of Flemish, Chateauesque, and Romanesque styles present in the station.

Enjoy Dairy Treats at Patches Family Creamery

Visit the local Patches Family Creamery, taste some homemade ice cream, and try their locally manufactured dairy products.

Mark and Stephanie Patches founded the creamery in 2009.

They dreamed of setting up a business that delivers quality farm-fresh products.

The creamery draws fresh milk from the cows on their farm.

Meanwhile, they process ice cream in their own processing plant.

Enjoy a serving of ice cream at their store or on the porch area and watch farm animals nearby.

You can also view their processing plant or watch crops being planted and harvested at the farm.

Enjoy Theater Entertainment at Gretna Theater

The historic Gretna Theater is one of the country’s oldest summer theaters, operating since 1927.

It’s also the city’s only professional production theater.

See featured plays and musicals, catch the kids’ series every Saturday morning, or join the community’s educational art programs.

You can watch the productions from June to August at the 700-seater Playhouse.

Spend quality time with Broadway classic plays and musicals that every family member can enjoy.

The theater commits to bringing a variety of programs to promote and make the arts available to the Lebanon community.

Travel through Time at the Union Canal Tunnel Park

Entryway of Union Canal Tunnel Park

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the 1690s, William Penn wanted to tap the Commonwealth agriculture to access the Susquehanna settlement.

He began building the Union Canal for this purpose in 1792.

In 1827, the tunnel finished construction.

Today, it’s one of the country’s National Historic Landmarks.

Today, the 110-acre open space offers a piece of history featuring the Union Canal Tunnel, the oldest transportation tunnel in the country.

You can also tour several trails on the grounds.

Autumn trees surrounding Union Canal Tunnel Park's water

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Walk the trails where mules used to travel, climb the marked paths along the wooden hills, and enjoy a relaxing picnic at the side of this historic tunnel.

You can join the Narrated Canal Tours through the tunnel on Sundays, available from June to October.

The park also offers guided kayak tour sessions where you can either rent or use your own kayak.

You might even have the chance to catch the Annual Union Canal Days, where festive events like food, music, vendors, and activities await you.

Buy Local Quality Goods at Lebanon Farmers Market

You haven’t made the most of your Lebanon trip unless you drop by Lebanon’s Farmers Market.

The original 1892 Farm Market Building will amaze you with its preservation.

At the same time, the farmers’ market will delight you with a fantastic shopping experience.

The historically refurbished facility spans 30,000 square feet.

It hosts many shops and vendors that offer quality products, from farm produce to handmade items.

Check out items from African Paradise, try the specialties from Buddy’s Breakfast & Lunch, or grab some sweets at Candyrama and Foltz’s Pretzels.

Then, purchase first-grade meats and cheese at S. Clyde Weaver Meats & Cheeses and King’s Butcher Block.

You can catch the Farmers Market every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Learn Fascinating History at Lebanon County Historical Society

In 1898, citizens and local historians helped establish the Lebanon County Historical Society.

The Society began with exhibits of significant artifacts.

The group offered its first public exhibits in 1935.

Today, they continue to provide residents and visitors an experience of Lebanon’s rich history and access to historical research materials.

You can join a guided tour at the Stoy Museum, named after Dr. W.H. Stoy, who first owned the building.

Visit the Reese Memorial Hall or go through the Hauck Research Archives.

Learn more about Lebanon and exciting facts about the city.

You’ll also get to find gifts and souvenirs to remind you of the city’s unique character.

Enjoy Park Sceneries at Coleman Memorial Park

George Dawson built his first mansion, or the “Homestead,” in 1853 on park grounds.

This grand estate included farms, stables, and shacks.

After the mansion’s demolition in 1961, the city transformed the area into the Memorial Park.

For decades, the park has provided relaxation and recreation for Lebanon’s community and visitors.

You can still find historical markers like the Homestead’s carriage house, a garage, and two gatehouses.

Explore the park to find traces of the Coleman family’s history through remnants of the restored gardens, pieces of evidence where the mansions stood, and the ruins of the Lebanon North Furnace.

Play sports and run around the playgrounds at this park with the whole family.

Explore nature on the walking and hiking trails and set aside time to relax in the shaded picnic areas.

Hike to the Countryside at Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails

This marked trail follows the route of the Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad, which Robert Coleman built in the 1880s.

From the 1800s to the early 1900s, special trains carried visitors to Mt. Gretna’s summer resort location and trainees to the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Operations eventually ceased until Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails acquired the passage in 1999 and developed the multi-use trail.

You can discover the beauty of Mt. Gretna and the surrounding areas as you trek from downtown Lebanon to the scenic farmlands and forests.

Take the Ice Cream spur trail that leads to the former location of Mt. Gretna Amusement Park and other attractions in the area.

You can also walk the 14-mile corridor ending at the Conewago Trail at the Lancaster County line.

This corridor passes through the Lawn, Colebrook, Mt. Gretna, Cornwall areas, and South Lebanon and Lebanon city neighborhoods.

The trail is best for nature trekking, bicycle rides, horseback riding, nature studies, and cross country skiing during winter.

Have a Day of Fishing at Stoever’s Dam Park

Stoever’s Dam Park is a 153-acre city-owned park located at Lebanon’s northeast boundary.

It has entrances on Third Avenue, Stoever Street, and Miller Street.

You can trace its history to 1821 when its namesake John Stoever bought the farm.

This nature park is an excellent location for camping, hiking, and picnicking, with a 23.5-acre lake perfect for a day of canoeing and fishing and ice-fishing during the winter months.

Stoever’s Dam Park is a top location for trout season during the early spring.

You can also spot other wildlife throughout the year like rabbits and deer and bird species like ospreys, herons, and grey-horned owls.

One highlight of this park is the 125-year-old “Nature Barn” located on Miller Street, offering a picturesque view of the fields and small meeting rooms.

The Memorial Arboretum features varieties of trees and plants.

Other great park amenities include softball fields, a 1.5-mile nature trail, a covered pavilion, and boat ramps.

Trek the Outdoors at Swatara State Park

A log cabin at Swatara State Park

Raun Kercher /

The Swatara State Park covers 3,520-acres of delightful natural setting that would satisfy anyone who loves the outdoor.

The park offers an 18.2-mile hiking path that will suit hikers of all skill levels.

Trek the Swatara Trail, Appalachian Trail, or the famous route of local hikers, the Bear Hole Trail.

A bridge at Swatara State Park

Raun Kercher /

You can find the park’s real gems along the Bear Hole Trail.

For example, see the Bordner Cabin, with its own story, and the picturesque Aycrigg’s Waterfall.

Because of the park’s extensive trail network, it has become one of the popular spots for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and bikers.

You can also access several points to the Swatara Creek for activities like kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.

Trail lined with trees at Swatara State Park

Brian Yarvin /

Find Creative Pieces at Lebanon Picture Frame and Art Gallery

Support local artists at the Lebanon Picture Frame and Art Gallery.

The gallery opened in 1999, featuring different monthly exhibits from local artisans and regional artists.

Exhibits present artistic pieces like paintings, jewelry, pottery, sculptures, ceramics, etc.

They also have custom-quality archival framing available at the gallery.

Check out decorative art like glasswork, woodwork, photographs, paintings on paper, canvass, and works in oil and watercolor from local artisans.

These artists include Dave Adams, Ralph Ashburn, Karen Beall, and Eva Bender.

Likewise, you’ll find works from Joanne Cassaro, Bob Chaundy, and Luis Christensen-Howell.

See featured functional and ornamental ceramic and glass pieces from plates to bowls, vases, and jewelry boxes.

You can also view and buy hand-crafted and uniquely designed jewelry and textile items made of ceramic, copper, silver, and glass materials.

Eat Great Food and Grab a Beer at Franklin House

This restaurant and tavern in Market Street, Schaefferstown, is not just a food stop but a historic one, too.

The story of Franklin House started with a German emigrant named Alexander Schaeffer, who purchased land in the area and built the large limestone building in 1746.

This building became the King George tavern.

The tavern gained popularity as drivers, herdsmen and freighters patronized its hospitality, distilled and fermented drinks, and farm-fresh produce and meat.

The tavern changed its name to “George Washington during the Revolutionary War.”

Eventually, it became “Franklin House.”

After several renovations, the Franklin House has maintained its traditional ambiance and classic recipes.

Try their house specialties like Traditional Boneless Wings, Crab Cakes, Tavern Burger, and Pop’s Dutchie Burger.

Then, pair these meals with local beers on draft or house-infused liquors and mixed drinks.

Discover Military Highlights at Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum

The Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum is on Service Road at Fort Indiantown Gap.

The museum is inside the 1941 two-story barracks, featuring various items and weapons from the Civil War up to the Gulf War.

Find items and artifacts that represent the history of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Discover the events that established the Fort Indiantown Gap.

You can also visit the Our Lady of Victory Chapel, more commonly known as the 109th Infantry Regimental Chapel.

The chapel was once a single school room and was later converted to a Catholic chapel back in the 1940s.

Final Thoughts

Lebanon has a rich history and many fantastic natural attractions.

The city’s highlights include historical sites and family parks, perfect for a family trip.

You’ll see various interesting local spots that uniquely reflect the city’s culture.

Pack your bags and check out the city sights of Lebanon.

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