We really won't have a lot of time if we're going for a weekend. We'll be driving from central NY so we'll only have a day and a half.
I've heard that the Amish country is really neat, but don't know too much about it. I'm interested in learning more about that...
We're girls so we enjoy shopping! Any touristy things would be good and of course good food!
You have a few great options in the central PA area. I would recommend either Hershey, Lancaster (Amish Country), or Gettysburg.
Hershey - the sweetest place on Earth as its called is of course most well known for being the home of Hershey Chocolate. Hershey has a neat museum, The Hershey Story, that would take 1.5 - 3 hours t go through and also has Chocolate World and Hershey Park Amusement Park. I would highly recommend the Chocolate Tasting located in the same building as the Hershey Story, but not requiring museum admission. You get to taste chocolate from around the world - it is amazing!
Hershey also has some great wineries (think Chocolate Wine) and is home to Troegs Brewery. Hershey also has some great outlet shopping (these are my wife's favorite). Hershey also has a neat theatre that is near their downtown area.
In terms of lodging options there is a FF and SHS in Hershey proper and many other options a 15 - 20 minute ride away. Of course, the Hotel Hershey would be a non-Marriott option, but is amazing. It is at least worth a walk around the hotel and beautifully landscaped grounds. The spa there is also highly talked about and open to non-hotel guests.
In terms of dining suggestions my favorite in Hershey is The Hershey Pantry, great food at an affordable price.
Harrisburg, the state capital is only about a 15 - 20 minute drive away from Hershey. If you are interested in venturing over there let me know and I can provide some suggestions.
Lancaster - neat little downtown only 15 minutes from Amish country. If you are looking for a FS Marriott there is one in downtown Lancaster (Lancaster, PA Hotel: Lancaster Marriott Luxury Hotel in Lancaster, a Premier Hotel in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) that has a historic feel. There is also a FF and CY property a 10 minute drive from downtown. A Saturday morning visit to Lancaster Central Market, the oldest continuously operating farmers' market in the United States, would be a must. It is within walking distance of the Lancaster Marriott. There are some neat little independent shops downtown as well for shopping. If you or your girlfriends are interested in history I would recommend James Buchanan's Wheatland which is a 5 minute drive from downtown.
You mentioned shopping, Lancaster has two great outlets, Tanger and Rockvale, about 15 minutes from downtown. Of course, a visit to Lancaster would not be complete without visiting with the Amish. There are a few ways to do this. One of the more popular ways to do this is to drive about 15 minutes outside of downtown Lancaster to visit Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse. I would recommend the Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market and the Kitchen Kettle Village. While in Intercourse you can see the hardware store where Witness was filmed. There is a great little deli/restaurant in Intercourse called Stoltfuz Meats that I would recommend for lunch. If you get off the main roads around Intercourse it makes for a beautiful drive and you can end up at some authentic Amish furniture shops and roadside stands.
In terms of other restaurants I would recommend, two of my favorites are John J. Jeffries and Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the Amish smorgasboard's that Lancaster is well known for. The most popular are Millers, Bird-in-Hand, and Dienners.
There are also two neat small towns worth considering visiting while in Lancaster County - Strasburg and Lititz. Lititz is home to Wilbur Chocolate which is worth the visit.
Gettysburg - is the most historic of the three areas, but many people love the historic charm of Getysburg. There is only one Marriott property, a CY, about a 5 minute drive from downtown Gettysburg. Gettysburg has a great little downtown area with some neat shops, especially if any in your group are history buffs. Though my wife isn't and she thinks there are plenty of other shops that appeal to all. Additional shopping is available at a smaller (20 or so stores) outlet center 5-10 minutes south of town.
Gettysburg has a very popular Ghost Tour along with guided tours of the Gettysburg battlefield. Gettysburg also has two of our favorite local wineries. Adams County Winery offers free wine tasting in an old restored barn 10 minutes outside of town and also has a wine shop in Downtown Gettysburg. They have a good mix of wines and almost all are historically themed. Hauser Estate Winery is in a newer building that sits up on a hill overlooking vast Apple Orchards (Adams County, PA is known as Apple Capital USA) and has a beautiful patio to enjoy some wine. You are welcome to bring your own food or they have a small selection of food for purchase. Hauser Estate also has a tasting room in downtown Gettysburg. Both wineries often have live music on the weekends so it would be worth checking.
In terms of restaurants, I would recommend Appalcahian Brewing Company and Sidney Willoughby Run. ABC has great beers and great food. Sidney is a pricier option, but the chef earned his chops at some great NYC and DC restaurants.
Overall - you can not go wrong with any of these locations. It all depends on what you and your girlfriends are looking to do. Reply and let me know more specifically what you all like and I can offer up other suggestions. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have.
Not to give you more to think about, but the counties surrounding Philadelphia are great as well and keep you out of the actual city. Chester County, PA is known for its wineries and Longwood Gardens, while Bucks County, PA also has some nice wineries, a really nice walkable town in New Hope, and Fonthill Castle in Doylestown. If you decide to look at the counties outside Philadelphia let me know and I would be happy to provide guidance.
Jakeal, well done! If I were to add anything, it would be to Gettysburg. My wife and I went for the weekend in September last year. We walked the entire battle lines - about 9 miles. It was hot as heck and, unfortunately, it is not walker friendly. There were no places to sit and really no water to be had. We brought a few water bottles each, but they were quickly depleted. So, unless you are a hearty walker, take a bus or driving tour. Either way, it is a moving site and something well worth the visit. We stayed at the Courtyard and found it to be a nice, comfortable hotel. Between the Courtyard and the center of town, there was a small (BYOB) family owned Italian restaurant. We had reservations for Sidney Willoughby that night but were so shot from the walk, we decided to go more casual and glad we did. We took a bottle of wine in with us and were treated to a great meal. Just Italian comfort food but friendly and fresh, with two nice dining rooms. http://www.labellaitalia.org/ In the center of town (Lincoln Square), out front of Gettysburg Hotel, is a beautiful place for breakfast. The buildings are blocking the sun and the food was great. They have tables and umbrellas set up. very pleasant. Finally, if you are visiting Gettysburg, you should also tour the Eisenhower (President Dwight D.'s) estate. It is just off the battleground area. You buy your ticket and take a bus from the Gettysburg Battlefield Visitors Center.
Hi. Consider going to see Frank Lloyd's Wright, Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA (if you haven't seen it). There is another of his houses (Kentuck Knob) in the same area that you could also visit (but of the 2, see Fallingwaer). And, by all means, consider going over to see the Flight 93 Memorial (about an hour from Fallingwater). See the national park website for it: Flight 93 National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service). I went to this memorial when it was just a makeshift area (before the NPS took it over). It is really a touching place to visit.
As for Fallingwater, it will take your breath away. The other house is different, but equally Frank Lloyd Wright.
Also, I found Erie PA a very charming town. Loved it, actually.
Not sure this is what you were looking for for a girls' weekend, but I enjoyed all the above places. Hershey PA is fun, but wasn't really my thing. If you are into theme parks, and a lot of interactive type stuff, then you might enjoy it. There's an AWESOME Fairfield Inn in Hershey that's within walking distance of all the Hershey Land stuff.
Not sure why you want to avoid Philly & Pittsburgh; both are awesome towns!!
Oh, I forgot to mention Amish Country. Definitely go there. Go to Intercourse. The town is SO charming and friendly with lots of shops, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. You can also drive around off the main street and see all the Amish farms. They are wonderful and very spread out. Lancaster is bigger with more shops and shopping and very close to Intercourse. If you want to see the Amish people, riding in their buggys, definitely Intercourse. Like I said, Lancaster is bigger with much more to do and walk around. We didn't stay in Lancaster, but nearby in York. But, you should try and find a place in Lancaster if that's where you decide to go. I HIGHLY recommend it!