The big downside of the PA turnpike (I76) is it is a toll road and the tolls can get expensive depending how far you travel on the turnpike. It is also a limited access highway so you have to rely on the services at the travel plazas or exit the turnpike and get back on for services. I haven't traveled I76 recently so checked the website and see there is a good bit of construction ongoing. Closer to your trip time, you might want to check it for updates.
It's also been a while since I traveled I80 but at the time, it was a decent drive. There are services available off the exits - these will vary depending on the area, less available in rural areas.
If you aren't in a super hurry & want to enjoy some scenery in Central PA, I would opt for the following route: I76 west to Harrisburg, I283 N to I83 N to US 322 W to I80 W. Just my opinion, not necessarily the absolute best route. Hopefully you will get other responses and be able to evaluate the best route for you.
Hands down route 80. The turnpike can be very pretty but also a difficult drive in bad weather. I remember a number of late night drives back home from Annapolis in the driving rain after a long day's sail out on the bay. Add in the occasional construction with narrowed down lanes and it did not make for a pleasant experience.
Because of the tolls, I would also recommend 80... but because of the tolls it is also a well used truck route.... (and in many ways so is the turnpike)
The Turnpike (I-76) is more scenic and historic — America’s first highway — and you know you will have good amenities (i.e. large travel plazas with food courts and gas) every 30 to 45 minutes. And it has four mountain tunnels, which always makes for a unique drive. The only good thing to say about I-80 is it doesn’t have tolls. I drove it recently under the impression it would be a scenic alternative to the Turnpike and it wasn’t even close. Seeing that your from Alaska, if this is a one-time trip you won’t take again, I’d go for the route that will be more memorable, which is the Turnpike.
Thank you :)
Thank you! 😊
Jumping in late here to add my two cents (or more $$ if you go the Turnpike route) ...
I was originally going to recommend I-80 for the sole fact that it doesn't have tolls, BUT then recalled a trip via that route about 4-5 years ago (headed to Scranton, PA and back). Luckily, I wasn't behind the wheel, because I fell asleep several times ... it was THAT boring of a drive. Exits are VERY far between in certain areas (I wondered what would happen if our rental car decided to break down) - and the majority of the drive to/from Cleveland was basically just open fields/wilderness.
So the Turnpike would be my best recommendation - yes, you're going to spend some $$, but you're safe in knowing that there are numerous on/off exits, and the view is spectacular. Also, as you get closer to Pittsburgh (a couple of hours out), there's the Shanksville 9/11 Memorial that's a short drive off the Turnpike - not to be missed - www.nps.gov/flni/index.html
I'd recommend going to the Turnpike's website - www.paturnpike.com - just to get an idea of it before embarking on your trip.
I am still actually checking around for that part of my trip, so thank you for your input :)