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Gov. Shapiro wants to be your summer travel guide

… so do these TikTokers.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

July 5, 2024

 
Inside this edition: Famous lion, furry convention, Whack's favorites, next contestant, and where to go this summer. Thanks for checking in.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
The iconic roaring lion that appears during MGM movie introductions lived in Philadelphia. True or False?
 
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Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.
» One event worth knowing: The streets of Downtown Pittsburgh will be filled with whimsical and colorful costumes this weekend as one of the world's biggest furry conventions returns to town
 
» One list worth sharing: Philly rapper Tierra Whack lists some of her favorite restaurants in the city in a Q&A with Rolling Stone (paywall). Among the recs: The "crazy red snapper" from Youma.
 
» One show worth watching: A late-night text from a mysterious number landed a Monroe County football coach on a game show competition for $25,000 with Pennsylvania's own Wiz Khalifa. 
 
» One place worth seeing: If you are looking for stunning floral displays this summer, Longwood Gardens in Chester County was named the world's prettiest flower garden by Titan Travel. 

» One vote worth casting: The Pittsburgh Riverhounds need your help naming the city's new professional women’s soccer team. You have until July 19 to vote for your favorite in the final round.


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Gov. Shapiro rides a jet ski.
Gov. Josh Shapiro on his Great American Getaway. (Via @GovernorShapiro on X)
GETAWAY DRIVERS

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way in PA.”

That’s the slogan content creator Cat Janisko, aka @PennsylvaniaJunkie, wants others to know about tourism and travel in the commonwealth.

“People will say there is nothing to do here, but there is so much to do here,” Janisko added. “You have a whole mixed bag of things to do.”

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro shares the sentiment and has rolled out a tourism rebrand for the Keystone State to show people why they should come visit.

Shapiro unveiled a new tourism slogan, “The Great American Getaway,” in May. The rollout coincided with the excitement building as Philadelphia prepares to host a celebration for the United States’ 250th birthday in 2026. The state’s semiquincentennial mascot, “The Keystone Kid,” made its debut to jumpstart the festivities.

"Here in Pennsylvania, we have it all — from top-tier sports and events, award-winning restaurants, incredible hikes and state parks, and the most important historic sites in the country that tell the story of our shared history," Shapiro said in a statement. “More people deserve the chance to come here and experience the magic of Pennsylvania for themselves.”

Shapiro traveled over 1,500 miles across 14 counties in an RV to illustrate his point, visiting a long list of small businesses and recreational attractions along the way. (His office did not respond when asked if he slept in the RV at night.) He frequently shared snippets of the trip on the internet.

Shapiro’s administration has harnessed the power of social media and content creators before (take the I-95 collapse as an example) and his tourism push is no different. The #PAGetaway hashtag is popping up on TikTok and other platforms, and the audience is eager.

Influencers like Janisko have for years racked up followers and views by offering a glimpse into what makes Pennsylvania unique and often travel-worthy.

Janisko has a total of over 414,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram. She tells viewers fun facts about the state, places to visit, and things that may sound unusual to outsiders. 

“As a young girl, we didn’t have much growing up so we drove all over Pennsylvania,” she said. “It has blossomed into something special.”

When she heard about the state’s tourism rebrand, she loved the idea: “He [Shapiro] is so down to get out of the box, and I love his approach to being creative … He loves Pennsylvania to a point where it hits home for him. I just love that it all comes from the heart.”

Danielle Ober (@staysanddos), who lives in Lancaster, is another influencer who wants to show there is more to Pennsylvania than many may realize. She attended college in Philadelphia and said lots of people there didn’t know much outside of the city. Assumptions were made.

“The second I got there, all of them were like, 'Omg, you’re Amish.' It made me realize that people from an hour out don't know what’s going on in Lancaster. It made me wonder what people out of state think,” Ober explained.

Ober got started with her platform by reaching out to local Airbnbs and restaurants to post social media content.

“I have people commenting and saying, ‘I live 10 minutes away and I have never been to these,’” Ober said. 

Ober thought Shapiro’s tourism rebrand was a great way for people to see what places and activities are out there for them.

“His rebrand captures all the diversity we have. There is a little bit of something for everyone,” she said. “We are so close to D.C., New York, and Maryland. They are big hubs around us and I think Pennsylvania is the perfect getaway spot for a week trip or weekend trip.”

Other influencers, like Cass Matthews (@cass_andthecity) and couple Lauren Stephany and Aaron Schlegel (@wanderingpassports_), agreed: depending on your interests and what you like to do, there is somewhere in Pennsylvania to do it. 

PA Local asked all of them what places they would suggest for people visiting Pennsylvania for the first time. Their recommendations included: Amish Country and Lancaster (Fulton Theatre, Gallery Row, the retro barcade Decades, Luca restaurant, Chellas Arepa Kitchen); Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands; Camp Pocono Pines; West Reading Farmers Market; Kennywood or Hersheypark; and the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

If you’re looking for more options, here’s the Shapiro administration’s tool for customized road trips and its detailed Great American Getaway guides to:

 


Tanisha Thomas, newsletter editor

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A quote from a Pennsylvanian that we found interesting this week.
“Things that happen to birds will probably happen to us, so if we can take care of them, we’re taking care of ourselves."
 
—Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, as Swissvale becomes Allegheny County’s first "bird town"
Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
Haying in Tyler State Park in Newtown, Bucks County, via Yoma U. Have a Pennsylvania photo of your own to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
yellow and green grass
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
The answer is "True."

While it's believed there were several versions of MGM's Leo the Lion, at least one moved to Philadelphia to retire, per PhillyVoice.

That Leo relocated to the city zoo in 1931 after years of traveling. The visit was supposed to be temporary but became a permanent residency. 

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.
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