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North Hills Monthly

Winter Fireplace Getaways Showcase Wonders of Raystown Lake Region in the Off-season

Feb 29, 2020 10:53AM ● By Vanessa Orr

You can warm up while enjoying stunning views at the Rustic Ridge Retreat, just one of many impressive accommodations.

For those of us living in Pittsburgh, it hasn’t seemed like a real winter. There hasn’t been a lot of snow, the temperatures have barely touched the teens, and the rain has been almost unbearable. But you can still celebrate the season in style for another month with a visit to the Raystown Lake Region to experience their Winter Fireplace Getaways, which run through the end of March.

The key to this promotion, which was introduced this year, is that you need to have between eight and 20 people to participate, so start calling all your friends and extended family now. The hook is that as part of your lodging experience, you get to enjoy either a free class for your group, or an exclusive off-site visit to one of the cool attractions in the area.

Having spent a week this past spring on a houseboat on Raystown Lake, I’m a big fan of this area, which is only a 2-1/2 hour drive from the ‘burgh. Admittedly, it was quite different driving there in November, during the ONE blizzard that our area saw, but once I arrived and got tucked into the Edgewater Inn, a historic structure whose main lodge was built in 1761, it was easy to kick back and get in the mood for some wintertime relaxing.

One thing I really liked is that instead of having to choose from just one or two accommodations, there is a wealth of options to meet every need. From log homes along ridgelines, to an 18th-century farmhouse, to a Southern Colonial on 80 acres, it’s easy to find somewhere on which everyone in your party can agree.

Maybe more difficult is choosing the activity or attraction that you want to do. In-lodge experiences include coffee cupping, a painting class, cake decorating and Kind Yoga. All of these hands-on presentations are led by local experts, which makes it even more fun to try something new.

Our group opted for coffee cupping, and while I am (in my mind) an expert on wine tasting, I knew nothing about the process behind finding that perfect blend of coffee. The class was led by Master Coffee Roaster Greg Anderson, owner of Standing Stone Coffee Co., and it was absolutely fascinating. Not only did we learn about coffee history, but also got to experiment with different brewing and roasting techniques. 

One of the interesting things to me is just what makes up a cup of coffee—who knew that there were 36 aromas in coffee—all of which were gathered in vials on the table for us to smell and try to guess. Or that roughly 1,500 enzymes show up in any cup of coffee, with tastes differing based on the region, growing conditions and more? Cupping is the art of discerning what’s in the coffee, and after watching Greg go through the process, I have to agree with his statement that coffee is one of the most complex foods on the planet.

And did I mention that I don’t even drink the stuff?

Probably the biggest difficulty you’ll have with your group is choosing which experience to try. I’m personally a big fan of the off-site activities, simply because, unlike at the height of tourist season, you get a more ‘exclusive’ look at some of the places that make the Raystown Lake Region special. 

The Isett Heritage Museum, for example, has more than 40,000 items on display, amassed by Melvin Isett, now 97, who never found a collectible he didn’t like. From barbed wire to baby dolls to a room full of radios, the collection is as eclectic as its owner, who is usually found on his recliner chatting with folks who come by. 

It’s also pretty cool (pun intended) to get to tour Lincoln Caverns and Whisper Rocks without the crowds. In the middle of winter, it’s a balmy 52 degrees inside, and you can wander through not one but two caves that were discovered during the construction of Rt. 22. 

The William E. Swigart Jr. Automobile Museum is a fun place to visit, even if you’re not a car aficionado. How can you not enjoy hanging out (and taking selfies) with Herbie the Love Bug? Started in 1920, the Swigart is the oldest antique automobile museum in the country, and it doesn’t disappoint. Just like the Isett, it’s a little eclectic; not only did Swigart collect automobiles, but also toys, name badges, and license plates—in fact, the museum holds the largest collection of license plates in the world.

A fun fact: did you know that license plates have been made out of leather, slate, tin, steel, aluminum, and porcelain? They were once also made out of soybeans, but animals ate them, so there aren’t any of those on display since they no longer exist.

While you may not be able to get a large group together in the next month, winter comes every year, and so do those big family get-togethers. The accommodations also lend themselves to girlfriend getaways, corporate retreats, reunions, weddings and more. To learn more, visit or