When you think of Pennsylvania, you probably think of a few things: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Hershey, Penn State, and the Amish to name a few things. But Pennsylvania is such a large a diverse state – not only in terms of landscape and population but also in the types of activities available.
Now consider the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania. I had my first trek there last summer when I ventured on a solo camping trip with my son. We wanted a picturesque camping destination that was close to an attraction that was on our summer bucket list, Fallingwater, the epically designed house by Frank Lloyd Wright. As we wandered through the area, we were struck not only by the natural beauty but by how many activities there are in this one particular region.
From remarkable historic sites, amazing views and unique things to do, Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands is an ideal place to get away, enjoy the great outdoors and find an adventure. Here are 7 reasons to visit the expansive region of southwestern Pennsylvania, including new places to stay, incredible attractions and unique events. If you think you’ve seen all there is to see in the region, think again!
1. The Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial
It was in the Laurel Highlands that Flight 93 made its final descent on 9/11. And it’s here that the passengers and crew have been memorialized.
The final piece of the Flight 93 National Memorial, the Tower of Voices, will be unveiled in September 2018. At 93-feet tall, the tower will act as a living memorial, representing the eternal voices of the 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93. The tower will be made of 40 uniquely-pitched wind chimes that will vary in sizes of 10, 8 and 6 feet. Visitors to the memorial will be able to see the Tower of Voices from Route 30 upon arrival.
2. Fourth Frank Lloyd Wright Creation Opening
Although Fallingwater is the most well known Frank Lloyd Wright building in the area, there are actually several to visit including Kentuck Knob and The Duncan House.
The Laurel Highlands is now home to yet another Frank Lloyd Wright creation, the Lindholm House. Built in Cloquet, MN, in 1952, the Lindholm House was carefully taken apart and shipped 1000 miles to Polymath Park in the Laurel Highlands, where it is currently being rebuilt. The entire house will be available for guests to reserve for overnight lodging beginning this summer.
3. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’s 50th Anniversary
Mister Rogers was an important part of my childhood and now I have a way to bring it to life for my son!
Children’s television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is celebrating 50 years in 2018! Fred Rogers’ show aired on PBS for the first time in 1968 and ended in 2001 with a total of 895 episodes. Did you know that Mister Rogers’ real neighborhood is in the Laurel Highlands? Explore his hometown of Latrobe, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood at Idlewild & SoakZone and the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College.
4. Great Allegheny Passage’s 40th Anniversary
Looking for a biking adventure? Old railroad lines make excellent biking paths – wide, relatively smooth, and flat! I took my son on a similar biking trail in Maryland a few summers ago and we’re ready for our next biking adventure.
The Great Allegheny Passage is celebrating 40 years in 2018! This rail-trail winds through the Laurel Highlands and joins the C&O Canal Towpath trail to create 334 miles of nearly-level biking, connecting Washington, D.C. to downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Gear up for a long-haul adventure or pick a section and bike between train towns for shorter family-friendly trips. Don’t forget your camera, a trip on the GAP doesn’t come without a view!
5. Fort Ligonier Renovations
Just when I’m helping my son learn about the beginnings of the U.S., I’ve learned that the Laurel Highlands houses Fort Ligonier, a reconstructed and restored French and Indian War fort.
Fort Ligonier’s museum, featuring new and improved exhibits, is now open seven days a week! Fort Ligonier will also stay open on Thursday and Friday evenings until 7 p.m. during the summer months, offering guided lantern-lit sunset tours. The beautifully-renovated exhibits, which include George Washington’s saddle pistols and memoirs, start you off at present day, and with each step you will go back in time learning about major moments in U.S. military and social history before arriving at the era of Fort Ligonier (1758-1766).
6. Whitewater Rafting at Ohiopyle State Park
My first and only whitewater rafting trip was in West Virginia. Not only did I survive but I thrived!
Here’s your chance to find the adventure you have been looking for and go whitewater rafting at Ohiopyle State Park! Get your adrenaline rushing with a trip on the Youghiogheny River’s mild to wild rapids that will thrill adventurers of all ages. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, seasoned guides and equipment rentals will make sure you have an adventure you will never forget.
7. Glamping at Campbell Farm
I like camping but I love glamping. In fact, I’ve stayed at fancy glamping resorts in California and modest glamping on the coast of New Jersey.
If you want to go camping, but still want to feel the comforts of home, you must try glamping! Glamping, aka glamorous camping, at Campbell Farm is an amazing escape for a romantic retreat in the great outdoors. Guests rave about the equipped kitchen, outdoor claw foot tub, running water and Wi-Fi.
About Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands
A magnificent mountainous region, the Laurel Highlands spans 3,000 square miles in southwestern Pennsylvania. Located an hour east of Pittsburgh, the beautiful four-season destination offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery, outstanding outdoor recreation, historic sites and attractions, family activities and world-class resorts. Notable destinations within the region include three architectural masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright – Fallingwater®, Kentuck Knob and Duncan House – Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Flight 93 National Memorial, Idlewild and Soak Zone, whitewater rafting at Ohiopyle State Park and more.
Located within 200 miles of the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and Washington D.C., the Laurel Highlands can be easily accessed from exits 67, 75, 91 and 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.