day trips from Pittsburgh

8 top-notch day trips from Pittsburgh

Western Pennsylvania is a landscape of beautiful rolling hills and the mountains of the Appalachian Plateau, so it’s not surprising that a number of natural attractions can be found in its parks and wild lands. Winding country lanes and miles of hiking and biking trails lead to lakes, ponds, running streams, waterfalls and scenic viewpoints. This is one of the best places in the Mid-Atlantic to view fall foliage. Historic sites span the ages, from the French and Indian Wars to the 21st century, and three masterpieces of modernist architecture are open to tourists. And for kids, there’s one of the most beloved theme park complexes in the United States. All of these fun things to do are easily accessible on day trips from Pittsburgh.

1 Laurel Highlands

Laurel Highlands
 

Less than two hours south of Pittsburgh, the mountainous region of the Laurel Highlands includes the state’s highest point, Mount Davis, with a paved road to its 3,213-foot summit. The eight state parks of the Laurel Highlands are all free, and one of them, Ohiopyle State Park, protects the beautiful 100-foot Cucumber Falls. The caves and geological park of Laurel Caverns are large enough to accommodate an 18-hole golf course. Through this terrain of rivers, lakes, and forested mountains runs the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail for hiking and biking with some of the region’s finest vistas and never exceeding a 2 percent gradient.

Official site: https://www.laurelhighlands.org

Read also: Tourist Attractions in Pennsylvania

2 Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water

Fallingwater Robert Gray by Frank Lloyd Wright / photo modified
Fallingwater Robert Gray by Frank Lloyd Wright / photo modified
 

Deep in the Bear Run Nature Reserve, 27 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Fallingwater was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 and is recognized as a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. Designed to complement and be part of the dramatic site over a waterfall, Fallingwater incorporates the falls both visually and with the sound of water throughout the house. Stairs from the living room lead directly to the water below. Wright designed the furniture and decorations that are still in the house today.

Not far from Fallingwater are two other Wright homes that are open to visitors. On a bluff above the Youghiogheny River Gorge, Kentuck Knob is a mountain home built in the 1950s, and the 1957 Duncan House, which was dismantled and moved from Illinois, is now available for overnight stays.

Address: 1491 Mill Run Road, Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Official Site: https://fallingwater.org/

3 Hartwood Acres

Hartwood Acres Holiday Lights iris / photo modified
Hartwood Acres Holiday Lights iris / photo modified
 

The Tudor-style stone mansion is the focal point of a 629-acre park, 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Built in 1929 as a private estate, the house and stables are now open to the public, as are the extensive gardens. The rest of the park offers free access to miles of hiking trails and bridleways through the woods. Horseback riding is available, and an amphitheater hosts concerts and plays in the summer. On winter evenings there are guided tours of the house by candlelight.

Address: 200 Hartwood Acres, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

4 Idlewild & SoakZone

Idlewild Jeremy Thompson / photo modified
Idlewild Jeremy Thompson / photo modified
 

The award-winning children’s park includes seven separate themed areas with two roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, a whip ride, a historic carousel, and a water park with 11 more rides. Kids can get wet and stay in the hydro racers; the pipeline Dive; Wowabunga Family Wave Pool; or on Float Away Bay, a 200-yard tubing river. Younger kids will love the Little Squirts and Captain Kidd’s Adventure Galley pool with six slides and plenty of spray and splash features. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales come to life in the enchanted castle, where the King Arthurs can try to pull the sword, Excalibur, from the stone.

Address: 2574 US-30, Ligonier, Pennsylvania

Official site: www.idlewild.com

5 Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
 

Cited as the opening speech of the French and Indian Wars, the Battle of Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754, was not one of George Washington’s better moments. Although the war eventually resulted in the British colonial army driving the French out of the northern colonies, the young Colonel Washington was forced to surrender to the much stronger French forces based at Fort Duquesne, in what is now Pittsburgh.

The simple palisaded wooden fort Washington’s men built here is replicated in the Great Meadow, and the visitor center offers talks, tours and demonstrations of historic weapons in the summer. Also part of the park, Mount Washington Tavern, built in 1827, was one of the inns for travelers on the national road and displays artifacts from that era. Five miles of hiking trails are here, and another half-mile loop with interpretive signs is at Jumonville Glen, about seven miles from the battlefield, where Washington had his first encounter with the French troops.

Address: 1 Washington Parkway, Farmington, Pennsylvania

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/fone

6 Johnstown Inclined Plane and Flood Memorial

Inclined plane David Wilson / photo modified
Inclined plane David Wilson / photo modified
 

Built after Johnstown’s disastrous flood of 1889, the inclined plane connected downtown to much higher Westmont, which was developed into a residential area. But during later floods, in 1936 and 1977, it proved to be an invaluable escape route for people in the lower town and a way to get relief and supplies to the flooded area. At the peak of the Johnstown steel mill, the elevator carried as many as a million passengers. It is the world’s steepest vehicular ramp and supports 30-foot cars that can carry 30 passengers.

When South Fork Dam gave way on May 31, 1889, the 20 million tons of water it released devastated the city, destroying 2,209 lives. It also brought the largest outpouring of public support to date with people from around the world committed to helping the homeless survivors. Rangers at the Johnstown Flood National Memorial lead guided bus tours and hikes to sites associated with the flood, following the path of the flood waters.

Address: 206 Johns Street, Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Official Site: https://www.inclinedplane.org/

7 Quecreek Mine Rescue Site Historic Landmark

Quecreek Mine Rescue Site Historic Landmark daveynin / fashion model
Quecreek Mine Rescue Site Historic Landmark daveynin / fashion model
 

A story with a happy ending captivated the world’s attention in 2002, when nine miners were trapped 77 feet below the surface in a coal mine for 77 hours. The story of their five-day ordeal in cold and darkness and the tireless work to save them when success seemed hopeless is told at the scene of the rescue. The memorial site is a work in progress as funds are raised to create a permanent home here for memorabilia, first-hand equipment, and the rescue pod that finally carried them to safety. Near the shaft, which you can also see, is a seven-foot bronze statue of a miner. The site is often manned by relatives of the trapped miners and those who participated in the rescue.

Address: 151 Haupt Road, Somerset, Pennsylvania

Official site: www.quecreekrescue.org/

8 Mystic Mountain Skiing and Nemacolin Woodlands Golf

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort daveynin / photo modified
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort daveynin / photo modified
 

Nestled on 2,000 acres of forest in the Laurel Highlands, the four-season Nemacolin Woodlands Resort offers skiing and snow sports in the winter and two championship golf courses when the snow melts. Mystic Mountain’s seven downhill skiing and snowboarding runs are served by a quad chairlift and a beginner’s drag, and are all lit for night skiing. Along with a tubing park, winter sports include dog sledding with Alaskan huskies, sleigh rides, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.

Address: 1001 Lafayette Drive, Farmington, Pennsylvania

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