Some places you visit will equal your expectations.
Then again, some places you visit surprise and delight you in ways you hadn’t expected. Such was the case with York, Pennsylvania, a south-central town about two hours’ drive from Philadelphia.
Known as “The White Rose City,” after the symbol of the House of York, I was surprised to find that York is an incredible mix of history and trendiness, topped with an undeniable splash of a deep-rooted agricultural backbone.
With so many things to see and do in York, I’ve highlighted seven of the best things that encompass the wide variety of what the city has to offer. Whether you have a day or a weekend to spend in York, you’ll want to put some of these stops on your must-do list.
- The 7 Best Things to Do in York, PA
- Things to Do in York, PA: Wrap Up
The 7 Best Things to Do in York, PA
34 West Philadelphia Street, York // +17178482243
As soon as you step inside this structure that comprises nearly an entire city block, the vibrant sounds and scents of an open-air market are palpable. A community gathering place and a historical anchor for the city, stopping by the Central Market House should be on your York agenda.
Filled with vendors too numerous to count, dining options here are almost endless and sure to please everyone in your party. Not hungry? No problem.
Vendors are showcasing homemade arts, crafts, and wears, too. If you’re a dog parent, don’t miss The Boys’ Barking Bakery, where you can pick up a tasty treat for your favorite pup. It’s one of the best things to do in York, PA.
Humans might have a more challenging time deciding what to eat. Stroll through the numerous isles to find booths serving BBQs, seafood, Italian subs, salads, and soups.
Everything from vegan food to Indian dishes to gourmet hotdogs is available to hungry visitors, with a common dining area in the back where you can pull up a chair, eat, socialize, and stay for a while.
Take a moment to look up while you’re seated. The intricate wood-beamed ceiling that spans the entire length was designed and built by local shipbuilders over 125 years ago. If you like historic architecture, it’s worth the stop to see this massive seventeenth-century Romanesque Revival-style masterpiece.
29 North Beaver Street, York // +17178437627
If you live in the mid-Atlantic region, maybe you’ve heard of Sunrise Soap Company or even seen their products in Whole Foods markets.
But for a fun and eye-opening experience, stop by their shop in downtown York where you can watch the soap creation process, from pouring and fragrancing to cutting to size. Soapmakers here utilize the same methods used since the late 1800s.
If the more creative side of you is seeking an out-of-the-ordinary hands-on experience, let your imagination go wild at the Creation Station.
Pull up a stool and roll up your sleeves; the fun is about to start. Along the wall stands two massive wire racks holding several hundred different molds in various shapes and sizes, from flowers to dog bones, to animals—ready to make your own glycerin soaps. Not only do you get to pick the shape of your soap, but the color and scents as well.
As your inner mixologist creates the perfect shade of sunny yellow and adds just enough rose petal essential oil for the subtle fragrance desired, the warm liquid creation gets poured into your mold of choice. It’s off to the freezer to solidify.
While waiting, care to design your own fizzy bath bomb, too? Or maybe a custom blended, perfectly scented sugar scrub or body lotion? Whatever your inner diva or daredevil desires, you can create to take home with you.
Soapmaking is one of the things to do in York, PA for kids, too, carefully supervised by staff to ensure everyone’s safety.
217 West Princess Street, York // +17178481587
Bring the entire family for an unforgettable, interactive stroll through York’s industrial history that will have you repeatedly asking, “how did I not know that was invented in York?”
These interactive displays are fun and educational, from the original Pullman Coach company to a 1916 trolley car you can climb inside. Discover what it’s like to milk a dairy cow, operate a grist mill, and use a rotary dial telephone while watching the call light up on a switchboard!
History buffs will enjoy the “York Plan” display, York’s industrial contribution to the World War II effort. From early pottery making to the Stauffer Biscuit Company display (animal crackers, anyone?) to the York Barbell Company—it’s all here to discover.
At the end of the tour, don’t forget to step into the Hall of Giants gallery, where you can get up close and personal with a 72-ton ammonia compressor used for producing ice in the early 1900s.
15 North Beaver Street, York // +17173562600
Find your happy place amid downtown York when you step inside the Symmetry Holistic Collective, one the coolest things to do in York, PA.
Symmetry offers an inclusive environment open to the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and all who seek peace, balance and well-being in their daily lives. It is a unique refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Symmetry is a collective of several skilled practitioners under one roof, specializing in alternative health therapies such as herbals, reiki sessions, tinctures, crystal healing sessions, and, yes—tea parties.
Host your adult tea party inside at The Witchwood Tea house, where you’ll have your choice of over 60 varieties of bulk loose-leaf teas for a relaxing and casual afternoon stop.
Part wellness center, part teahouse, this downtown shop will tick all the boxes for anyone who loves all aspects of wellness.
Step inside the 16-passenger yellow brew bus where your driver takes you around the town, stopping at several local brew pubs and allowing you to taste the best beer and cider brewed in York.
Not only does your driver chauffeur you around, but each team member is thoroughly knowledgeable in beer, especially York brews, so there’s an education component to the tour.
There is some walking on this tour, but nothing too strenuous. The brew crew doesn’t partake in the local suds while on duty, allowing each participant to feel safe and secure in traveling around town from one stop to the next.
Participants are required to follow the rules—no rowdy behavior, no alcoholic beverages on the bus, and the use of seatbelts is mandatory. Otherwise, relax, have fun, and stock up on some of your favorites to take back to the hotel (or home) with you! A great activity amongst the things to do in York, PA.
Up Your Charcuterie Game at Nature’s Platter
64 E. Main Street, Dallastown // +17174875887
Who doesn’t love nibbling from a gorgeous display of meat, cheese, olives, and crackers? A stop here at Nature’s Platter will likely elevate everything you thought you knew about building the best charcuterie board—board included.
Owner Marie Fisher is not only experienced in the craft of designing food to appeal to the eyes as much as the belly, but she also handcrafts live edge slabs of wood into functional pieces of art. It’s one of the best foodie things to do in York, PA.
She does it all, from choosing the perfect slabs of wood, milling it just the right way, scraping the edges to perfection, and then staining and protecting the wood.
From exotic woods rarely found (think African zebra wood) to the classics like hickory and oak, Marie has an eye for an appealing grain that, once stained, becomes a masterpiece! Whether you’re in the market for a one-of-a-kind charcuterie board or interested in learning more about creating the perfect display, stop in and say hello.
Marie also welcomes groups for classes, making it a great bachelorette party spot or girls’ day out.
245 N. Main Street, Spring Grove // +17177391091
What do you get when you cross an Italian-trained cheesemaker with a teacher and advocate for local, sustainable York area farms?
You get all things Caputo Brothers! This unique creamery is revolutionizing mozzarella making in the United States. It’s the tastiest activity amongst the things to do in York, PA.
Having trained with master cheesemakers in Italy, Caputo Brothers founders David and Rynn Caputo use a natural culturing process free from vinegar or citric acid. Since 2011, they have produced the country’s only naturally fermented cheese curds that can be stretched into fresh mozzarella, just as they do in Italy!
Sourcing their milk exclusively from local farm partners who are certified animal welfare approved where cows are pasture-raised allows for much higher quality milk that, in turn, creates a higher quality cheese.
Visit their cheese shop to sample everything from Troegenator Beer Cheese (in collaboration with a local brewer, Troegs) to made-fresh gouda, ricotta and provolone. Not sure what to choose? Take home a Beer Cheese Sampler Box or a Classico Gift Box.
Suppose you’d like to make fresh mozzarella like Caputo’s. You’re in luck! Learn the tricks of the trade by taking a virtual “make your own mozzarella” class where you’ll receive your stretching curd, along with access to a step-by-step video class hosted by expert cheesemaker and co-founder Rynn Caputo.
Before you know it, you’ll make fresh mozzarella with a rich and creamy texture like no other from the comfort of your own kitchen. These virtual classes also make a great gift for the culinary lover in your family.
Things to Do in York, PA: Wrap Up
All in all, York is a diverse town full of history, and unique landscapes, in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch Country in south-central Pennsylvania. Located just two hours north of Washington, D.C. and two hours west of Philadelphia, York is the perfect day trip from both cities. You can find more information on the Explore York website.
Visiting other destinations in Pennsylvania? Check out our other guide:
Colleen O’Neill Mulvihill is a certified health coach and avid travel writer who is always on the lookout for the best places to visit while feeding the mind, body, and soul. And, if she can take her Great Danes with her, bonus! You can follow Colleen on Instagram @holistichealthtraveler or follow her and her husband (who is a travel photographer) on Facebook @Holistic Health Travelers.