The Pioneer Spirit of Western Pennsylvania: This four-day itinerary begins in Pittsburgh and explores historically significant sites in the city's surrounding counties, including Beaver, Butler and Armstrong.
|Day 1: Pittsburgh|
|Day 2: Harmony|
|Day 3: Moraine State Park|
||Day 4: Washington County|
Day 1: Pittsburgh
In the center of an area with great historical significance, Pittsburgh is the logical starting point for your heritage tour of the region. And no place packs in 250 years of history better than at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. It opens at 10 a.m., so grab some biscotti at Enrico's Bakery (a local favorite on Penn Ave.) and make this your first stop.
Set in a renovated warehouse built in 1898, the History Center reflects the city's greatness and its unique contributions to the history of the United States and the world. One of only a handful of such museums in America, the History Center takes you back through time from the 1750s to the present. A robot offers a guided tour of the first floor.
Although you might be tempted to spend an entire day exploring the History Center, be sure to leave time to poke around Pittsburgh's many neighborhoods, each with its own unique history, architecture, and culture. In fact, just outside the History Center lies one of the city's most intriguing neighborhoods, known as The Strip District.
A flat strip of land on the Allegheny River's south shore, the Strip District was once filled with warehouses and small factories. It has only been in the past 20 years that retail shops, wholesalers with retail front-ends, restaurants and dance clubs have re-invented the area, making it a perfect place to stroll and stop for lunch. Though the many street vendors and ethnic markets are tempting, be sure to stop in Primanti Brothers - a Pittsburgh institution serving up its famous sandwiches for over sixty years.
After lunch, continue your tour of Pittsburgh's world-renown museums in nearby Oakland - home to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, with one of the best dinosaur collections anywhere in the world. And the renowned architecture collection at the Carnegie Museum of Art is the largest collection of plaster casts of architectural masterpieces in America, and one of the three largest in the world. The marble Hall of Sculpture replicates the interior of the Parthenon.
Ready for a break? The museum's delightful cafés make for a nice spot to rest and refuel. Enjoy lunch, dessert or a glass of wine at the Museum of Art Café, or gourmet coffee at the Fossil Fuels Café.
Though it's been an exciting day, the highlight of your tour is yet to come - because no visit to Pittsburgh is complete without a trip to Mt. Washington. And there's no better time to go than at sunset. At the base of the "mountain," you'll find the Duquesne Incline, making getting there half the fun. Also known as a funicular, the incline was built in the late 1800s to transport immigrant workers from work at plants along Pittsburgh's rivers to their homes above. While they still serve as transportation for area residents, they are also a great way to enjoy the beautiful panoramic views of Pittsburgh.
Once at the top, take in the views from one of the many restaurants along Grandview Avenue - the Georgetown Inn, Isabella's or a long-time favorite, the Le Mont. It's the ideal place to reflect on the significance of this historic city.
Kids Would Love:
|Carnegie Science Center|
|Pittsburgh Children's Museum|
|Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium|
|Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel|
|Omni William Penn|
|Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc.|
From points north or south, take Interstate 79 to 279. From points east or west, take the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 70/76).
Day 2: Harmony
Following a busy day in Pittsburgh, it's time to gain a feel for what lays beyond the city limits. And you don't have to travel far. Less than an hour north of Pittsburgh is Harmony, PA, one of the area's most unique historical sites.
Harmony was the first settlement of the 19th century communal Christian society called the Rappites, also known as the Harmonists. In 1804, the followers of the Separatist George Rapp came to America from Germany seeking religious and economic freedom. Nearly 800 farmers and craftsmen followed their leader to Butler County, Pennsylvania, where they built the town of Harmony.
Now a National Historic Landmark, this historic village is great for exploring. You'll find the Wagner House and Ziegler log house interesting, as well as the Harmonist cemetery, the Mennonite meeting house, and the Harmony Museum. The museum itself shows off a collection of Harmonist relics, and information about the history of this pious group.
Though the Harmonists migrated westward to Posey County, Indiana, they returned to Pennsylvania in 1824, only this time settling along the Ohio River. There, they founded "Oekonomie," now known as Old Economy Village - the next stop on your itinerary.
Follow Route 65 to Old Economy, but if you get hungry along the way, stop for lunch in Sewickley, PA. This quaint town was discovered in the 1800s by the industrial barons of Pittsburgh as a retreat and home for their mansions. Grab a bite at the Sewickley Café before browsing Beaver Avenue's many antique shops and boutiques. Back on the road, be sure to catch a glimpse of the neighborhood's breathtaking Victorian homes.
Just a short drive from Sewickley, Old Economy was the third and final home of the Harmony Society, and the last stop on your itinerary. Built between 1824 and 1830, it became a large commercial center that manufactured cotton, wool and silk. This meticulously preserved National Historic Landmark is a virtual time machine that transports you back to days gone bye. It contains many of the original buildings and gardens, including the community kitchen, granary and George Rapp's home. Demonstrations, like the one at the blacksmithing shop, bring the village alive.
Head back to Pittsburgh for the evening, or for a more unique overnight experience, stay at the Whistlestop Bed and Breakfast, a couple miles from Sewickley. It is a quaint brick Victorian built in 1888, with wide plank pine floors, original woodwork and country furnishings.
Kids Would Love:
|Raccoon Creek State Park|
|Scally's Golf Center|
|Conley Inn - Beaver Falls|
|Whistlestop Bed and Breakfast|
|Sewickley Country Inn|
|Beaver County Recreation and Tourism Department|
Major Highways: From Pittsburgh to Harmony, take Interstate 79 to Zelienople exit, PA Rt. 68. From Harmony to Sewickley and Old Economy, take Rt. 68 to Rt. 65.
Day 3 is a nice change of pace, as you head further north to spend the day at Moraine State Park. Stop in Sewickley for some picnic supplies and get an early start, because there's one stop on your way - McConnell's Mill State Park. A National Natural Landmark, this 2,529-acre park serves up beauty and excitement. Here, you can get your day going with a tour of the restored rolling gristmill or the covered bridge. There is also scenic hiking, whitewater rafting and two rock climbing and rappelling areas. In the winter months, enjoy snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and ice boating.
But spend your energy wisely - because Moraine State Park features 3,225-acre Lake Arthur, an outstanding warm water fishery that is also great for sailing and boating. Of special interest is the Frank Preston Conservation Area, as well as a seven-mile paved bike trail that winds around the north shore of the lake. Barber Point, near the Lakeview Beach, is popular for windsurfing.
The park's historic highlights include Davis Cabin, construction of which began before the American Revolution. Tucked in the woods is another highlight - the Oil Pump House. Built at the turn of the century, it contains a Bessemer engine and other equipment used during the early days of the oil industry.
With your picnic basket in hand, search out one of countless spots to enjoy lunch in the great outdoors. Perhaps Hilltop Trail's 1.1-mile hike, or Glacier Ridge's 14-mile trail, will provide a secluded spot. If not, it is bound to help you work up an appetite!
Eleven modern cabins are available for rent year round, and are a unique way to spend time with friends or family. These electrically heated cabins sleep six people and have two bedrooms, bathroom with shower, kitchen, dining/living area and a dock.
Kids Would Love:
|Fun Fore All|
|Armstrong Farms Bed & Breakfast|
|McMurray House Bed and Breakfast|
|Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau|
Major Highways: Accessible from Interstates 79 and 80, Moraine State Park is bisected by PA Route 422 running east/west and PA Route 528 running north/south.
After spending time in points north, it's time to head south - to beautiful Washington County. Pack up another picnic and relax for a day of exploring peaceful farmland and breathtaking forests. Though there are many sites to see, you might become engrossed in seeking out the 25 covered bridges for which the county is known. You can drive through a few of the bridges and walk through many. Maps are available at the Washington County Tourism Center.
No matter how many bridges you set out to find, be sure to leave time to visit Washington's many other historical attractions. A good place to dive in is the town of Washington itself, where you can stop for lunch and stretch your legs, or head straight for the sites.
One not to miss is the David Bradford House. Learn about the famed Whisky Rebellion at this18th century home of David Bradford, a prominent attorney and leader in the rebellion. The LeMoyne House is a second point of interest. The first National Historic Landmark of the Underground Railroad, LeMoyne House is one of only seven such sites in the United States.
Next, ride into the past on a scenic four-mile trolley ride. Catch the vintage trolley at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, which has more than 25 on display, the oldest of which dates back to 1894.
After spending a few hours in town, head west to the town of Avella to see one of Washington's most popular historical attractions - Meadowcroft Village. A family farm turned museum of rural life, Meadowcroft Village recreates the 1890s using historic structures relocated to the museum. It is an imaginative trip back in time, complete with a blacksmith shop, covered bridge, a one-room schoolhouse and an old general store. Each building features a volunteer who brings history to life through a demonstration of skills from the past.
Extend the day's theme into night by escaping to the tranquility of meadows and gardens, as well as cows and sheep. Weatherbury Farm, a quiet place removed from the cares of the world, is a unique B&B that provides the perfect retreat to wrap up your vacation.
Kids Would Love:
|Red Roof Inn - Washington|
|Econo Lodge - Washington|
|The Inn at Martin Farms|
|Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency|
Major Highways from Moraine State Park to Washington: Interstate 79 south. Washington is at the intersection of Interstates 79 and 70.