Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Reading, PA

  • Published 2022/12/03

The town of Reading was founded in 1748 and grew prosperously due to the neighboring iron and steel industries.

These same industries also led to the development of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, which played a significant role in powering the Industrial Revolution.

By 1870, this railroad had become the largest enterprise in existence.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Locals and tourists can enjoy attractions like the Pagoda, GoggleWorks Center, and many more.

Mount Penn, high above the cityscape, is a popular spot for people to relax and enjoy the incredible views.

Here are some free things to do in Reading, Pennsylvania:

Visit the Amazing Reading Pagoda

Daytime view of the Reading Pagoda

Jon Bilous /

A Reading vacation would not be complete without a visit to the Reading Pagoda!

The Pagoda is a local landmark in Reading that you won’t want to miss.

The Pagoda, which overlooks the bustling city below Mount Penn, is a seven-story structure built in 1908 by William Abbott Witman.

Exterior of the Reading Pagoda

Rosemarie Mosteller /

Now a favorite tourist destination, the pagoda stands an impressive 72 feet tall and 50 feet wide with a Japanese Bell at its peak, making it an excellent spot for your next photo session.

Visitors can take a 30-mile panoramic city view from the top of the pagoda or explore the surrounding gardens and hiking trails.

Whether you’re visiting Reading for business or pleasure, you should check out the Reading Pagoda.

Scenic view from the Reading Pagoda


Check Out the Exhibits at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts

GoggleWorks Center for the Arts is more than just a place to view works of art.

It’s also a place where everyone can come to create.

The center aims to shape lives by giving people a unique and incredible experience with the arts.

The center offers a variety of classes taught by professional artists, as well as studio space for those who want to practice their craft.

GoggleWorks also hosts many events throughout the year, including exhibitions, concerts, and workshops.

No matter your interest in art, there’s something for you at GoggleWorks.

The next time you want something to do in Reading, visit GoggleWorks Center for the Arts!

Learn about Nature at Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center

A dock on the waters of Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center

brian kelly, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the environment.

The Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center has more than 725 acres of stunning forests where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

The center offers a variety of programs and activities for all ages, including hikes, educational workshops, and picnicking.

The center is also surrounded by beautiful woodland, so it’s perfect for a peaceful nature walk.

You can also see the historic sawmill located here and have the opportunity to take pictures with it.

Schedule your visit and spend your Sunday at Nolde Forest!

The Friends of NoldeForest offer free open houses on the first Sunday of each month.

The green land this center has will give you a wonderful experience with nature, so don’t forget to visit this beautiful place.

Take a Picture with the Der Distelfink Sculpture

This sculpture in Reading is a must-see for anyone who wants a fun and lucky vacation!

The iconic and vibrant Der Distelfink sculpture, a landmark since 1985, is among the first attractions to meet you at the Heritage Center’s parking lot.

This statue, sculpted by Ramon Lago, was said to be inspired by the thistle-eating goldfinch, a bird that attracts good luck and joy to the family.

Der Distelfink symbolizes faith, hope, and charity in many folk art patterns.

It is often shown with Trinity tulips and a fringed border, representing safe and pleasant travel.

Don’t forget to drop by and take a picture with the sculpture!

Travel Down the Pagoda Skyline Drive

View of Reading from Pagoda Skyline Drive

Jon Bilous /

Nestled in the heart of Reading is a historic city with a beautiful skyline from the Pagoda.

Visitors can get a panoramic view of the city by driving down Pagoda Skyline Drive.

The road winds through the hills and valleys of Berks County, offering stunning views of the cityscape.

You will notice the three-foot-high walls on the side of the road, which make the streets here unique from all the roads in Reading.

Along the way, visitors can also enjoy the scenery of rural Pennsylvania, including farmland, forests, and small towns.

Pagoda Skyline Drive is a famous destination drive for locals and tourists, and it’s easy to see why.

The drive provides a unique perspective on the city of Reading and is an excellent way to experience all the area has to offer!

Relax with Nature at Berks Nature Place

If you want a place to relax with nature, you must visit Berks Nature Place in Angelica Creek Park.

Berks Nature Place is great for taking the family for a day of outdoor fun.

The park has over 100 acres and offers a variety of activities for all ages.

Kids can explore the nature center, have fun on the playground, try gardening, and many more at the Nature Play Zone.

This place is perfect for kids who love to explore and play in nature.

You can also take your pets for a stroll on the trails.

With so much to do, Berks Nature Place is the perfect place to spend a day in nature with your kids and pets too!

Cross Wertz’s “Red” Bridge

Exterior of Wertz’s “Red” Bridge

Dan Gutierrez /

If you’re ever in Reading, check out Wertz’s “Red” Bridge.

Stretching 200 feet end-to-end, this historic bridge built with a Burr Arch Trus structure is an impressive sight.

Its steel trusses are reddish-brown, earning the bridge its nickname.

Built in 1867, the bridge is a remarkable engineering piece, making it a hotspot for pedestrians and cyclists.

Entrance to Wertz’s “Red” Bridge

Lo McHugh /

Moreover, the views from the bridge are stunning!

You’ll see the river flowing below and catch glimpses of the nearby parkland and nature.

Whether you’re an architecture buff or enjoy spending time outdoors, the “Red” Bridge is worth visiting.

Interior of Wertz’s “Red” Bridge

Lo McHugh /

Go Fishing at Carsonia Park

Carsonia Park is a beautiful oasis in the heart of Reading.

The park features a picturesque lake, scenic walking trails, and plenty of green space for picnicking and play.

If you enjoy fishing, the lake in the park is open to fishing activities, so get your fishing rods and invite your family and kids to fish in the lake.

Visitors can also take advantage of the park’s amenities, which include a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a playground.

This park has a lot of amenities waiting for you, so you drop by this park whenever you visit Reading!

See the Graffiti at Berks Graffiti Bridge

The Berks Graffiti Bridge is an iconic Reading landmark.

The bridge is covered in colorful graffiti, which local artists have added over the years.

The Berks Graffiti Bridge has become one of Reading’s most popular tourist attractions due to all of the incredible artwork that adorns it.

Visitors can admire the artwork on the bridge, take photos, and enjoy the scenic views of the river.

Bring your cameras when you visit this bridge and take many photos of the graffiti here.

Spend a Peaceful Time at Charles Evans Cemetery

Headstones at Charles Evans Cemetery

Concord, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Charles Evans Cemetery is a beautiful final resting place for many people from Reading.

The cemetery’s tranquil, park-like ambiance is because of its wide variety of native and exotic trees that thrive across the grounds.

Taking a leisurely drive or walk across the grounds reveals trees as young as a few years old thriving beneath giants planted more than a century ago.

While it might seem odd to most, cemeteries can be lovely places to visit.

Memorial at Charles Evans Cemetery

Concord, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This one has a vast green field that would make for the perfect spot to read a book or take in the scenery.

You could also go bird-watching or wander around while admiring some of the cemetery’s architectural wonders.

Either way, you will appreciate this place’s peaceful surroundings and beauty.

A unique gravestone at Charles Evans Cemetery

Concord, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See the Witches Hat via the Upper Glen Trail

There’s a place in Reading that spooks some visitors.

Taking the Upper Glen Trail will lead you to the spooky place of an abandoned hotel in the mountain where the Witches Hat, a stone pavilion, is located.

The infrastructure of the old hotel still exists and is visible to those who explore the area.

The Witches Hat is the most popular attraction among the remains.

The view inside the pavilion is remarkable for visitors, with Mount Penn and Reading Pagoda in clear sight on the right side.

The vistas it offers are breathtaking, especially during the fall season.

You can grab a snack, unwind, and gaze at the pavilion’s magnificent scenery.

Visit the Witches Hat via the Upper Glen Trail!

Other Things to Do Nearby

There are also other places nearby Reading that you can also visit.

These places will also give beautiful experiences if you want to take a little drive.

Visit Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Entrance to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Zack Frank /

If you’re looking for a unique experience, plan to visit Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Elverson, Pennsylvania.

Located 25 minutes from Reading, this historical site offers an opportunity to learn about the area’s past.

The site is a well-preserved example of an early American iron plantation.

You can explore the iron furnace ruins, the Ironmaster’s Mansion, and various outbuildings and houses.

Furnace at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Zack Frank /

The Hopewell Furnace was built in 1771 and operated until 1883.

It was one most successful iron plantations in early America, producing high-quality iron used in various industries.

Today, visitors can tour the Hopewell Furnace, learn about its history, and see how early Americans lived and worked.

The Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is an excellent example of America’s industrial heritage and is worth visiting.

A house at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Walt Bilous /

Spend Time Outdoors at Blue Marsh Lake National Recreation Area

Just a 16-minute drive from Reading, you will find the scenic Blue Marsh Lake National Recreation Area.

Blue Marsh Lake is an artificial lake in Leesport created in 1974 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from the Philadelphia District for flood control and recreation.

Today, the lake is a well-known location for fishing, swimming, and boating.

With 1,148 acres of water and 6,200 acres of land also housing different wildlife, it’s no wonder why so many people visit here.

The lake is perfect for swimming, fishing, and kayaking or canoeing.

If you also want to explore more of the area, there are plenty of trails nearby for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.

Spending time outdoors at the Blue Marsh Lake National Recreation Area will give you a wonderful experience.

Wander the Labyrinth Garden

Spring Township, Pennsylvania, is only eight minutes from Reading and offers a one-of-a-kind garden you won’t want to miss.

The Labyrinth Garden is a beautiful and serene place to enjoy nature.

The garden features a variety of flowers and plants, as well as a labyrinth that visitors can walk through.

The labyrinth is based on the classic eleven-circuit design and is made of stone pavers.

Walking through the labyrinth can be a relaxing and meditative experience, and it’s said to represent the journey of life.

The trees, plants, and wildlife surrounding the garden add to the tranquil atmosphere of the place.

The Labyrinth Garden is open to the public and is a beautiful place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Explore the Stunning French Creek State Park

Stacked canoes at French Creek State Park

George Sheldon /

French Creek State Park is a 7,730-acre park in Elverson, just 25 minutes from Reading.

It’s the largest block of public land in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The park is home to diverse forests with tall trees and wildlife, including white-tailed deer, raccoons, turkeys, squirrels, and bobcats.

The creek is stocked with trout each year and is a popular destination for fishing.

Lake at French Creek State Park

John Delacy, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some other activities you can do here are hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

You can also picnic with your family or friends in a park’s shelters.

Free guided tours are conducted periodically so visitors can learn more about the park.

Visit the French Creek State Park and spend time with your loved ones!

Final Thoughts

Reading, Pennsylvania, is often overlooked as a vacation destination, but it offers a lot.

This city has something for everyone, from nature relaxation to American history education.

Remember these free things to do in Reading, Pennsylvania, for an unforgettable budget-friendly vacation!

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