With 90 unique neighborhoods, Pittsburgh has much to delve into. But in small towns and rural areas of the surrounding countryside and neighboring states, and you’ll find a region with lots of history, culture, recreation, and natural beauty to explore.
Cleveland industrialist Earl W. Oglebay gave his summer home in Wheeling, West Virginia, to the city when he died in 1926. Now, almost 85 years later, the property's rolling hills and many gardens offer many recreational options for visitors, including golf, swimming, boating, tennis, horseback riding, and winter sports. There's even a zoo on the property where you can play with rainbow lorikeets. Stay in a cottage or at Wilson Lodge, which has two restaurants and day spa.
Getting There: You can reach Wheeling in about an hour by car, via I-79S and I-70W. Follow Route 88 north to Oglebay.
Travel Tips: Shelters and cottages book early for all seasons. Visit from November to January for the Winter Festival of Lights, but be prepared for a long line of slow traffic on the two-lane road.
Spruce Forest Artisan Village
Artisans demonstrate their crafts in log cabins at this Grantsville, Maryland, property on the Casselman River. Visiting the village is free and all the resident artisans open the doors to their cabin on Fridays and Saturdays. To get to the center of the action though, head to Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop. The building has six dining rooms and is home to biggest craft shop in the area. There’s also a grist mill and a historic stone arch bridge on either side of Penn Alps. In October, tap your feet to bluegrass and gospel music at the nearby Springs Folk Festival.
Getting There: Driving takes about 1 hour, 44 minutes via the PA Turnpike (I-76E), or 1 hour, 52 minutes by the toll PA-43S and historic US 40E. One-way fare on a Greyhound bus starts at $69.
Travel Tips: Don’t miss the daily soup and salad bar and weekend buffet at Penn Alps Restaurant, where the menu of hearty fare has German, Amish, and Mennonite influences.
Presque Isle State Park
The 3,100-acre Presque Isle State Park is a peninsula in Lake Erie with plenty of sandy beaches to enjoy. The beaches are open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and you can surf, swim, picnic, rent a boat, or fish (including bass, walleye, and steelhead) on the lake. Presque Isle is an ideal spot for birding and has 11 miles of hiking trails, though flooding sometimes closes portions. Be sure to visit Dobbins Landing and the Maritime Museum, and climb the Bicentennial Tower for the best views.
Getting There: Erie is a straight shot north on I-79 (about 2 hours by car). Greyhound bus tickets start at $24.
The small town of Smicksburg is home to Old Order Amish families and their simpler way of life. In specialty shops you’ll find bulk foods, baked goods, wood crafts, furniture, and quilts. The Country Junction is a popular family restaurant serving American fare. Some major events in Smicksburg is the spring open house on April 4, the start of strawberry season on June 6, and the annual Fall Festival on Oct. 3 and 4.
Getting There: Located about 64 miles northeast (about 1 hour, 10 minutes by car), Smicksburg is easily accessible via PA 28N.
Travel Tips: Residents are hospitable but ask you to drive slowly, watching out for pedestrians and horse-drawn buggies. Do not photograph the Amish, since it goes against their beliefs.
Moraine State Park
Moraine State Park is a popular destination for boaters, bikers, hikers, and everyone in between, with more than 2 million visitors heading to the park each year. It covers more than 16,000 acres and has 71 miles of trails to explore. However one of the biggest attractions is the manmade Lake Arthur. With 42 miles of coastline, you can stretch out and enjoy a sunset on the water or have a picnic. Boaters will be pleased to know that Lake Arthur is home to a sailing club and hosts a regatta every August. Other possible activities include snowmobiling, horseback riding, windsurfing, and ice skating.
Getting There: Moraine is located at the intersection of I-79 and US 422, roughly an hour’s drive (about 40 miles) north of Pittsburgh via I-279 to I-79.
Travel Tips: Pack your growlers and head to North Country Brewing Company in Slippery Rock (about 14 miles north), where the food menu includes frog legs.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Winter means skiing, tubing, sleigh rides, and snowshoe and snowmobile tours. You can do all that and more at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. The mountain has 33 slopes and trails and 10 lifts. There's a ski patrol that watches for unsafe practices, and can provide first aid if necessary. If you want to spend the night you can stay in the hotel, or rent a cottage, chalet, townhome, or condo. In summer, try out two zip lines, a downhill bike park, climbing wall, and trampoline.
Getting There: About an hour’s drive southeast, you can reach the resort from exits 91 or 110 of the Turnpike (I-76). Or, arrange for pickup from the private Arnold Palmer Regional in Latrobe.
Travel Tips: Sample craft beers at the Brewski Festival in April; a VIP pass gets you early entry and a buffet dinner. Or you can learn how to homestead during the three-day Mother Earth News Fair in September.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
Nestled in the woods of the Laurel Highlands is architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece waterfall home, Fallingwater. Tours run from March 7 through Dec. 31, except Wednesdays and major holidays. After touring the stunning house and making a visit to the gift shop, head to Kentuck Knob, another Wright home 7 miles south of Fallingwater that has outdoor sculptures and also blends into the landscape. You can stay overnight in Polymath Park, with four Wright homes, in Acme about 23 miles from Fallingwater.
Getting There: A 90-minute drive, Fallingwater is along state Route 381 between Mill Run and Ohiopyle. It is about 19 miles south of turnpike (I-76) Exit 91 (Donegal) or 10 miles north of US 40.
Travel Tips: During peak months (July, August and October), book a tour two weeks in advance. Children under 6 are not permitted on tours. You can take exterior photos but photography isn’t allowed inside.
Ohiopyle State Park
Some of the best kayaking and whitewater rafting in Pennsylvania is on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park, offering both challenging and gentler river trips. If water sports aren't your speed, hike or bike the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail that runs through the park, or wade in the shallow river and play in two natural water slides. There’s also rock climbing and zip lining for some land-based thrills. Whatever you do, don't miss Cucumber Falls. Campsites are available for those interested in staying overnight in the park.
Getting There: From Exit 91 off the turnpike (I-76) at Donegal, turn left onto PA 31E. Travel about 2 miles, turn right onto PA 711 and PA 381S. Travel 10 miles to Normalville, turn left onto PA 381S. Drive for 11 miles to Ohiopyle.
Travel Tips: Overnight areas are open during specific seasons and hours. Make online reservations for facilities, or call toll-free 888-727-2757. Also keep in mind that sections of the river can be dangerous.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village
A prehistoric tool found by a farmer led to the discovery of North America’s oldest site of human habitation. After the tool was found, University of Pittsburgh archaeology and anthropology students uncovered nearly 2 million artifacts while excavating the property in the 1970s. Now the site is open for visitors to explore. There’s a partially exposed Ice Age fire pit in the Rockshelter, and the property has a prehistoric Indian village and frontier trading post.
Getting There: Follow I-79S to Bridgeville (Exit 54) and turn left onto Route 50W. Follow 50W through Hickory and watch carefully for signs to stay on 50W to Avella, where you’ll find blue and white directional signs to Meadowcroft (about 3 miles).
Travel Tips: Admission is $15 for adults (less for children, students, seniors and military). The site is closed November to April.
Lily Dale Assembly
Lily Dale Assembly in Lily Dale, New York, is the world’s largest center for spiritualism and is home to several registered mediums. You can visit anytime during the year, but the summer season (mid-June through Labor Day) has lectures, classes, services, clairvoyance demonstrations, evening “thought exchanges,” and individual readings by spiritual healers (by appointment). Seek out the healing temple for meditation while you're there.
Getting There: The drive is about 2 hours, 45 minutes (172 miles). Take I-79N to NY 76N, then take Exit 6 from I-86E. Take NY 430 E and County Touring Rte 58 to 2nd Street in Pomfret.
Travel Tips: Guest homes, and RV park and tent sites are available. A $15 gate pass to the grounds (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) must be purchased daily.
Tioga State Forest
Tioga State Forest is a massive park covering more than 160,000 acres. One of the must-visit locations is Pine Creek Gorge, also called Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, which stretches 50 miles though the forest with depths of up to 1,500 feet and makes for stunning views. The town of Wellsboro, with its gaslight-lined streets, has a theater, community center, and art and cultural center to keep visitors entertained once they're done exploring the forest. Wellsboro is also where the Tioga State Forest's main offices are located. If you'd like to see the views without having to drive, Tioga Central Railroad offers excursion trains.
Getting There: The drive to Wellsboro is about 3 hours, 55 minutes (227 miles) via US 22E and I-99N.
Travel Tips: Tour the canyon in a covered wagon. Scheduled rides are announced through the season and you can call 570-724-7443 for more information.
Old Economy Village
The 19th century Harmony Society of German Lutheran separatists wanted to create a perfect community in the borough of Economy. Today, visitors can tour most of the remaining buildings of their settlement, where some streets are still cobblestone. These include several homes, some with gardens, a store and post office, cabinet and blacksmith shops, and a granary. Events run through the village’s open season.
Getting There: Follow Route 65N for about 14 miles. Turn right at the light onto Merchant Street; at the second stop sign turn right and the Visitor Center will be on your left.