From Historic Rails to Scenic Trails: This 4-day itinerary begins in Altoona and Johnstown and travels to Bedford, Ligonier and Johnstown, as well as Fayette and Somerset Counties.
|Day 1: Altoona and Johnstown|
|Day 2: Bedford|
|Day 3: Fort Ligonier and the Lincoln Highway|
||Day 4: Highlights of the Laurel Highlands|
If you enjoy the outdoors, you may choose to start your day early with a morning hike along the Allegheny Portage Railroad Trail. Historical artifacts and structures along this path will set the mood for your trip through America's industrial past. Next, visit the Altoona Railroaders Museum in downtown Altoona
In the heyday of rail transportation, Altoona was one of the most important rail facilities in the United States, as home to railroad repair, maintenance and construction resources. The Horseshoe Curve is located in Altoona and visitors can learn more about it in the museum. This incredible section of railroad track carves into the side of a mountain, boldly cradling a deep valley.
For lunch, there are a number of small restaurants in downtown Altoona, including Finelli's Italian Villa, which is very close to the intimate galleries of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona.
In the afternoon, travel a scenic mountain road to Johnstown. The city's coal and steel industries reached a peak in the 1940s. Today, you can ride the steepest vehicular inclined plane in the world and enjoy the overlook that soars across the historic downtown area. Now fully restored, the Inclined Plane once transported materials down the mountainside to the waterway below. Year round, you can take your car, your bike, or just yourself up and down the slope. Call ahead to see if the Incline Station Pub and Restaurant will be open during your visit.
In historic downtown, visitors may enjoy touring the historic streets, antiquing, visiting the Heritage Discovery Center or viewing the remarkable exhibits at the Johnstown Flood Museum, a center that tells the story of the massive flood that submerged the city in 1889.
Enjoy an evening meal at the Johnstown Brewing Company, where their specialty is Morley's Red brew as well as sumptuous, hearty meals.
If you plan ahead, catch a performance at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in the evening. The center is located on the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus and shares its facilities with the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown.
In the evening, rest your head at the Dillweed Bed and Breakfast, a charming inn on the outskirts of Johnstown.
Kids Would Love:
|Quaint Corner Children's Museum|
|Dillweed Bed and Breakfast|
|Days Inn - Johnstown|
|Sleep Inn - Johnstown|
|Johnstown and Cambria County Visitors Bureau|
Major Highways from Altoona to Johnstown: U.S. Route 22 west to U.S. Route 219 South into Johnstown.
The street terrain of downtown Bedford reflects the surrounding mountainous area of South Central Pennsylvania--rolling hills and, at times, steep inclines. You'll be happy to have comfortable shoes when walking around town.
Highlights in town are Fort Bedford Park and Old Bedford Village which demonstrate early frontier life with historical architecture and living history demonstrations.
Friday afternoons in the summer and fall, the Bedford County Visitors Bureau offers guided history tours of the town of Bedford. These narrative tours are enjoyed by young and old, and tell the tale of Colonial America and early Bedford. Several presidents have stopped in Bedford, including President James Buchanan, who received the first trans-Atlantic telegram there. It's amazing to hear the tales captured within the framework of a small town!
Have a delicious lunch at the Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford, a local favorite that offers a colonial theme. The building itself, built in 1760, is on the National Historic Register.
The Bedford Country Arts Center offers galleries of fine art, including paintings and photography. Every visitor should stop to view the antiques at Founders Crossing, an antique store in town that features over 100 dealers.
Consider exploring other tourist destinations around the area, such as Blue Knob Four Seasons Resort. Indian Caverns with its amazing limestone formations is a little over an hour's drive away. Or, enjoy the foliage on horseback by scheduling a trail ride at Buck Valley Ranch in Warfordsburg.
Kids Would Love:
|Old Bedford Village|
|Buck Valley Ranch|
|The Covered Bridge Inn|
|Pennsylvania Best Western Bedford Inn|
|The Bedford House Bed and Breakfast|
|Bedford County Conference and Visitors Bureau|
Major Highways from Johnstown to Bedford: PA Route 56 east to Bedford.
Rise early on Day 3. The trip to Ligonier is along the historic Lincoln Highway, America's first interstate highway. This route is not only steeped in history, but also offers gorgeous views of the Southern Alleghenies wilderness.
When you arrive in the town of Ligonier, spend an hour or so browsing this historic town. There are many unique shops and boutiques in the downtown district. Stop for lunch at an eatery such as Diamond Cafe, which offers the perfect lunch menu complete with soups, sandwiches and daily specials
Plan to spend up to four hours at Fort Ligonier. Open daily from May through October, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sundays noon to 4:30 p.m.
A full-scale reconstruction and the finest of its kind, Fort Ligonier revives the tumultuous times of the French and Indian War, when westward land routes were highly coveted by European and Native American forces. Living history demonstrations, interactive exhibits and the sheer magnitude and detail of the 1758-1766 fort combine to make this an educational and memorable destination. If you plan your trip for mid-October, you'll enjoy Fort Ligonier Days, a special celebration of history and heritage at the fort.
If you have children, you may want to plan for an extra day to enjoy Idlewild Park, and amusement park that features a water park, a Storybook Forest and rides perfectly designed for young children.
For unique lodging for the evening, you may wish to rent a cabin from Ligonier Valley Cottages. These 4-person cottages are fully-equipped, and perfect for multiple-night stays.
Kids Would Love:
|Idlewild Park and Soak Zone|
|Colonial House On Main|
|Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau|
Major Highways from Bedford to Ligonier: U.S. Route 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway, west to Bedford.
Day 4 of your journey allows you time to enjoy activities of your choice in the Laurel Highlands.
Ohiopyle State Park is the site where George Washington passed on his way to negotiate, and later to battle, the French in Pittsburgh. Named after a Native American word which means "white, frothy water," the park is a nature lover's playground. Hiking and biking trails traverse the beautiful Youghiogheny River Gorge, which offers Class III and IV rapids for the avid kayaker. There are several outfitters in the area for taking whitewater rafting tours.
Within this region of natural beauty reside two homes designed by renowned 20th century American architect Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Wright himself admired materials and patterns found in nature, and environmental inspirations echo throughout his designs. Fallingwater is one of Wright's famous works, perhaps because it is uniquely situated over a waterfall. Kentuck Knob is not as well known, but it is as equally interesting to the visitor.
Reserve at least two hours for each Wright home. The guided tours do not last more than an hour, however you will want to stroll the grounds of each estate, especially if the weather is nice. Both administered by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the houses are just a few miles apart, making it possible to tour both homes in one day. Tour reservations are highly recommended.
Another entertainment option for the day is a selection of resorts, which are perfect for couples, families or groups who desire a variety of activities. Year round, there are many resorts in the area to choose from, including Hidden Valley, Seven Springs and the luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
Outings in the Somerset and Fayette Counties can include everything from outlet shopping and historic house tours to great skiing, golf and kayaking. No matter what you do during the daylight hours, a great way to spend the night is at a cozy bed and breakfast.
Kids Would Love:
|Ohiopyle State Park|
|Living Treasures Animal Park|
|Historic Stone House Restaurant and Country Inn|
|Huber Haus vacation rental|
|Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau|
|Ohiopyle State Park Visitors Center|
Major Highways from Ligonier to Laurel Highlands: PA Route 381 South, past the Pennsylvania Turnpike, to Ohiopyle.