Escape the ‘Burgh for Some Outdoor Adventure
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Spring is finally here, which means that it’s time to get outside! We’re lucky that living in western Pennsylvania gives us access to a lot of incredible places in all directions, and it doesn’t take much time to get there. So whether you’ve got a three-day weekend coming up, or just want to take a spontaneous road trip for a change of scenery, here are some great destinations in Pennsylvania within a two-hour drive.
Conneaut Lake, as they say, is naturally great, especially if you like fishing, swimming, water skiing, recreational boating or just relaxing by the water. As Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake, the area offers something for everyone about 1-1/2 hours from the ‘burgh. Conneaut Lake Park, which opens at the end of May, features the nation’s 17th oldest wooden roller coaster along with other rides. And for the budget-conscious, there are special savings times, including Second Sunday events ($5 ride wristbands all day), as well as $10 all-day passes to Splash Water Park. Campsites and rustic cabins are also located nearby. www.ConneautLake.com.
There is so much to do in Erie, and of course, a lot of it revolves around the water. Presque Isle was named the #1 freshwater beach in the country in 2016 by USA Today, and its seven miles of beach is a great place to just relax, or you can get a little more active taking a Segway tour or bike ride; they’ve got rentals right there. The Lake Erie Ale Trail features 11 breweries, and there are also wineries to tour. You can take the kids to Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park in the spring, and once it warms up, visit Waldameer Park and Water World, which just underwent a major expansion and opens on May 26. www.VisitErie.com
Laurel Highlands and Ohiopyle State Park
Located roughly 45 minutes east of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania attracts adventurers of all kinds. Whether you want to go whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River, hike to the Baughman Rock Overlook for a panoramic view, zip line across parts of Ohiopyle or bike the Great Allegheny Passage, this is the place to do it. The area is designed for all levels of activity; rafters can tackle everything from Class II to Class IV rapids, and kids as young as age 4 can fly across a 90-foot zip line, while older folks can tackle tougher adventure courses. When you’re ready for something a little calmer, you can stop by two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes; Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, to see how the architect incorporated the great outdoors into his home designs. www.LaurelHighlands.org.
If you love history, you’ve got to visit Ligonier, which is located less than an hour from Pittsburgh. Recognized as “one of the most charming small towns in America” by Country Living magazine, a visit to the area is like taking a trip back in time. There are parks and walking trails, and of course, Fort Ligonier, which opens to the public for the season at the end of April. It’s especially impressive to wander through reconstructed Fort Ligonier, which sits on eight acres of the original site that served as a garrison during the French and Indian War. If you get a chance, plan a visit over Memorial Day weekend, when re-enactors from the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment will show what it was like to live and serve at the 18th-century site. Idlewild and Soak Zone, located minutes away on Rt. 30, will also be open for visitors beginning May 20, so you can make it a full family weekend! www.ligonier.com
Mercer County is a great place to canoe and kayak; there’s nothing quite like spending an afternoon manuevering the 23 miles of Class 1 rapids of the Upper Shenango River Water Trail. As one of the largest parks in Pennsylvania, Pymatuning State Park offers a lot of hiking opportunities, including seven miles of trails, and it also features Pennsylvania’s largest lake, the Pymatuning Reservoir. When you’re in the area, you’ve got to stop at the Linesville Spillway, where there are so many fish that it’s claimed that “ducks walk on fishes’ backs” to get to food. If you want to take a break from all of the outdoor activities, stop in at Daffin’s Candies in Sharon to see the Chocolate Kingdom, featuring a 400-pound chocolate turtle, chocolate castles and chocolate miniature village, or visit Kraynak’s in Hermitage (before Easter Monday) to get a chance to see its special holiday display—Easter Bunny Lane. www.VisitMercerCountyPA.com.
Washington County is home to 23 miles of the Montour Trail, a rail-trail that has been named the 2017 Trail of the Year by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Visitors have numerous opportunities all over the county to hike or bike, but if you’d prefer to drive, take a minute to download the Covered Bridge Tourbook from the www.VisitWashingtonCounty.com website, which guides you to 30 covered bridges between Washington and Greene counties. One really unique place to visit is Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, which opens for the season on May 6. America’s oldest site of human habitation (16,000 years!), it has been named a National Historic Landmark.