Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Lebanon, PA

  • Published 2023/02/13

Are you looking for ways to enjoy Lebanon, Pennsylvania, without breaking the bank?

Lebanon is the seat of Lebanon County, lying in the middle of Lebanon Valley.

George Steitz established Lebanon in 1740, formerly known as Steitztown.

The residents’ religious devotion has reflected the naming of many cities and villages after locations in the Bible, where the term “Lebanon” originates.

Lebanon is undoubtedly off the beaten path, yet it’s packed with opportunities to get outside and explore the countryside, mountains, rivers, and animals.

Learn to appreciate Lebanon’s unique charm by exploring the calm countryside with farms and gently undulating hills.

For a budget-friendly trip, here’s a list of the free things to do in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Have a Picnic at Union Canal Tunnel Park

Daytime view of Union Canal Tunnel Park

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Union Canal Tunnel Park is a 110-acre recreational open space with many pathways winding through grassland, forested areas, the canal, farmlands, and three historic locks from the Union Canal.

In 1690, William Penn advocated building a canal so that people might more easily reach the agricultural riches of the Commonwealth and establish a second town along the Susquehanna River.

The waters of Union Canal Tunnel Park

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

After its completion in 1827, the tunnel quickly became a popular tourist attraction.

Walk the mule-worn towpath, enjoy a picnic near the tunnel’s opening, or hike the canal-side woods on one of the clearly defined paths.

The Union Canal Tunnel Park is accessible from early morning to late afternoon.

Learn Local History from the Stoy Museum

The Stoy Museum is a local museum dedicated to the history of the Lebanon Valley, thanks to the efforts of the Lebanon County Historical Society.

In 1898, a bunch of local history buffs formed this club.

It was essentially the county’s attic until 1935 when the society held its first public displays.

The historic Stoy Museum features displays including Gollam’s Ice Cream, a Victorian Parlor, and The Toy Shop, making it an excellent choice for a rainy or chilly day indoor activity.

Investigate all the exciting displays to gain insight into the area’s history and inhabitants.

This museum also features the fascinating sights in Lebanon.

You may also find one-of-a-kind things in the collections ranging from antique toys to Civil War artifacts.

Visit the Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick

As a popular destination in Lebanon, Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick spans 1,105 acres and is home to a 60-foot tower and winding paths.

Reach the top of the Governor Dick Tower in Clarence Schock Memorial Park to see Lebanon County and the neighboring counties of Lancaster, Dauphin, Berks, and York from every angle.

Go hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding on several different paths.

Stroll the 315-foot boardwalk with the kids.

One of the best ways to unwind in Lebanon is to take a stroll through the woods with your kids or pet.

Stay Active at South Hills Park

South Hills Park is great for taking a load off, having fun, spending time with loved ones, exercising, or playing ball.

South Hills Park is a local favorite all-seasons park.

The pathways are popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists.

In the summertime, local families with kids flock to the park because of its fantastic playground, sandbox, sand volleyball court, and other sports facilities.

Beautifully maintained grass with a canopy of tall trees offers shade.

During winter, you can sled down South Hills.

Follow the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail

Lebanon Valley Rail Trail is an excellent path that travels through beautiful natural scenery in the Lebanon Valley.

It’s a 14-mile path from where the current Conewago Trail ends at the Lancaster County boundary to where it begins in Lebanon, to the northeast.

The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail connects the towns of Lawn, Colebrook, Mount Gretna, Cornwall, South Lebanon, and the city of Lebanon.

Recreational activities, including walking, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and studying nature, benefit significantly from the trail’s accessibility.

Everyone may use this greenway to learn about the region’s cultural and economic development regardless of age or physical ability.

Explore Mt. Gretna and the surrounding area as you walk through Downtown Lebanon or the gorgeous, undulating countryside.

Join Free Events at Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds

Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds is the go-to venue for conferences and events in Lebanon County.

It boasts 75,000 square feet of indoor display space over eight connected buildings, 70+ acres of scenic fairgrounds, and cutting-edge livestock and equestrian facilities.

A dirt track, complete with spectator bleachers, a closed-in announcer’s booth, and a little restaurant, are also available.

There is a lit outdoor pavilion, kitchen, flexible seating, and power outlets for merchants and campers at the fairgrounds.

The Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds organizes many free events throughout the year.

One is the Lebanon Expo Craft Show, with six events scheduled throughout the year.

Hundreds of artisans and merchants display their wares on the show; entry and parking are free.

Treat Your Inner Train Lover at Draude’s Derailment

Draude’s Derailment is far from being a derailment in local hobby stores.

John Draude started a business catering to those who shared his interest in his pastime.

Indulging in his hobby of model trains turned into an exciting journey of its own.

More than 45 years have passed since he first started that journey.

Word-of-mouth, excellent service, and trustworthy deals have all contributed to establishing a particular reputation through the years, making it a gold standard.

You won’t find much that resembles a classic 1950s hobby shop, but Draude’s Derailment comes quite close with over 10,000 products in-store and five working layouts.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, check out the model train exhibits.

See the Displays at Lebanon Farmers Market

Since 1892, locals have shopped at the Lebanon Farmers Market in the city’s heart.

Those concerned about the environment and those who like handmade goods will have a great time browsing the market’s selection.

It encourages customers to use their bags whenever possible.

Try some of the regional specialties sold at the local farmers’ market.

Walk around and take in the live music if you have no money to buy anything.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Aside from its county seat, the rest of Lebanon County also boasts a wealth of history, nature, and fun experiences.

Here are other free things to do near Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Admire the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad Station

You can find the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad in the heart of Lebanon.

The two-story Victorian-style structure was the work of George Watson Hewitt.

It was built out of terra cotta, brownstone, and brick.

In 1974, the National Register of Historic Places added the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad to its record.

Enjoy the station’s Flemish, Romanesque, and Chateauesque architectural touches.

Explore Local History and Architecture with Friends of Old Annville

The non-profit organization, Friends of Old Annville, is a staunch supporter of preserving Annville, Pennsylvania’s historic architecture and an active documentarian of the city’s past.

Its goal is to raise public consciousness about and respect for the town’s historic resources.

The walking tour of ancient Annville is only one of many free events and activities regularly held there.

For nearly 30 years, this group has put on Historic Old Annville Day.

The group has its headquarters at the renovated Annville train station, a 14-minute drive from Lebanon.

Immerse Yourself in Nature at Swatara State Park

The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park has undulating plains and woods in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania.

Swatara Creek, a picturesque waterway, winds its way through the park.

Explore the rich ecosystems by foot or bike through woods and marshes.

This part of Pennsylvania, including Swatara State Park, has a lot of historical significance for the United States.

Native Americans once relied on the area around Swatara Creek as a trade and travel corridor.

The park is accessible 365 days a year from dawn until dusk.

At sunset, day-use zones are closed.

Located 22 minutes from Lebanon, Swatara State Park spans both Lebanon and Schuylkill counties.

See Germanic Architecture at Fort Zeller

Canal creek at Fort Zeller

Happy-J, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the oldest fort in Pennsylvania, Fort Zeller, also known as Zeller’s Fort, is one of the few instances of Germanic architecture still standing in the Western Hemisphere.

Tulpehocken was first constructed in 1723 and reconstructed in 1745 by pioneers from the Schoharie valley.

During the Indian Wars, many hid there.

Located in Newmanstown, Pennsylvania, Fort Zeller is a monument to its lengthy history and a symbol for the many local families who can trace their lineage back to the country’s early settlers.

The Zeller family’s ownership of the property where the fort stands has come and gone throughout the years.

History marker of Fort Zeller

Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sylvia Zeller keeps the house in pristine condition so visitors may admire it.

People from all walks of life and corners of the globe keep coming to see the beautifully kept grounds.

Even though tours of the building are only available by appointment, you may still learn about the building’s history by visiting the premises.

In 1975, the National Park Service included Fort Zeller on the National Register of Historic Places.

You may see the Pennsylvania Historical Marker near the property and the Fort Zeller Memorial, a large boulder with a silver plaque depicting a recreation of the Zellers’ original land deed.

This place is 19 minutes from Lebanon.

Catch Fish at Quittapahilla Creek

Quiiapahilla Creek, also known as the “Quittie,” is a 16.8-mile long stream that begins east of Lebanon City, winds past Lebanon and Annville, and eventually converges with the Swatara Creek north of Palmyra.

Its main trail follows the course of the restored trout stream Quittapahilla Creek, fed by a spring.

At times, the great blue heron fishing alone in the stream is your sole companion as you stroll down the walkway at its side.

Centuries-old oak and sycamore trees line the woodland pathways, which lead to vernal ponds teeming with tadpoles, blue hyacinths, jack-in-the-pulpits, and white bloodroot blossoms, as well as a steep serpentine stairway built from railroad ties.

Trout love these spots because they have deep holes and lots of submerged logs to hide in, making it difficult for fishermen to catch them.

The Quitty, once dead, is now a thriving trout stream in the middle of Lebanon County because of the efforts of many different organizations.

This creek is in North Annville Township, Pennsylvania, 24 minutes from Lebanon.

Honor the Fallen Heroes at Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum

You may find Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum inside a two-story 1941 barracks in Annville, 24 minutes from Lebanon.

It honors those who have died defending freedom, the state, and the nation since the Civil War.

There is a ramp that leads to the first level of the museum.

There is a research room on the second level of the library; however, it is only accessible via the stairs.

Items and weaponry from the Civil War through the Gulf War are on display, together with artifacts from the Pennsylvania National Guard and Fort Indiantown Gap’s history.

The museum does not charge for entry.

But you can help keep the state’s military history alive by contributing to the museum.

Spot Birds at Swatara Gap

Bridge at Swatara Gap

Zeete, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Swatara Creek cuts a narrow passage through Blue Mountain, creating the gap known as Swatara Gap in Swatara Township, Pennsylvania, a 24-minute drive from Lebanon.

During the French and Indian War, hostile Indians used the area around Swatara Creek to launch raids on border towns, hence the name.

Many fossils were found in this location, making it a significant piece of natural history.

The typical time required to finish this route, rated moderately challenging, is nine hours and 14 minutes.

Even though the Swatara Gap is a popular route for campers, hikers, and birdwatchers, you may still find peace if you visit at the right time.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, Lebanon is the path less traveled.

Those searching for excitement can’t go wrong with this option all year round!

Visit a beautiful natural area and learn about the best secret spots recommended by the locals.

Explore the splendor of this city without spending a dime by taking advantage of our list of free things to do in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

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