Loving the Laurel Highlands
There’s something invigorating about heading to Steelers training camp in Latrobe and watching the players work out in the shadow of the majestic Laurel Highlands. But if your experience of this area, which neighbors Pittsburgh, is only what you’ve seen at camp, then you are missing out on some spectacular beauty, awesome historic sites, and amazing attractions.
The Laurel Highlands, the 3,000 square miles of the Allegheny Mountain range which lies in adjacent Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties, has something for everyone and every interest. So before you crowd all the fans into the van and head out to St. Vincent’s to take a peek at this year’s crop of Steelers, you may want to develop an itinerary which includes some of these not-to-be missed destinations in the Laurel Highlands.
Since the area is so vast, we have broken the Laurel Highlands up into five regions, but all are with a few hours’ drive from Pittsburgh or training camp, which is centrally located.
Fort Ligonier – A key battlefield in the French and Indian war, Fort Ligonier in the town of Ligonier was where the young George Washington began his military career. In addition to a museum, the site has a full-scale reconstruction of the original fort.
Idlewild and SoakZone – This charming amusement park near Ligonier has been voted the “Best Kids’ Park in the World” by Amusement Today, and your thrill seekers will no doubt agree as well after spending a day or two at Idlewild and SoakZone.
Living Treasures Wild Animal Park – Located in Jones Mills, Living Treasures Wild Animal Park has more than 300 animals in habitats that bring you up close and personal with the critters.
Flight 93 Memorial – The catastrophic 9/11 attacks hit home when Flight 93 crashed into the Stoystown countryside. Today, the National Memorial there honors the passengers and crew who courageously fought the terrorists who had taken over their plane on that fateful day.
Jennerstown Speedway Complex – Have a need for speed? Then, a visit to Jennerstown Speedway is a must. From mid-May through mid-September, Jennerstown hosts auto racing on Saturday nights.
Johnstown Flood Museum – The Johnstown Flood in 1889 devastated the city of Johnstown. Delve deeper into this tragedy at the museum dedicated to telling the story of this catastrophe.
Ohiopyle State Park – In addition to camping, hiking, biking and other outdoor activities, Ohiopyle, located in Fayette County, is noted for its whitewater activities. The Youghiogheny River touts Class I-IV rapids.
Laurel Caverns – The adventures run deep at the Laurel Caverns in Farmington. You can explore the cavern on your own or take a guided tour. Why, you can even play a round of below-ground miniature golf at Kavernputt.
Fallingwater – Acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wrights’ masterpiece Fallingwater is located in Mill Run. It is the perfect marriage of architecture and natural environment and is open for tours.
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art – Located in Greensburg, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art prides itself on being “a regional museum with a national presence.” Its collection includes more than 3,000 pieces of fine and decorative American art.
The Palace Theatre – Also located in Greensburg, the beautiful Palace Theatre hosts a variety of entertainment from touring shows to renowned entertainers and concerts.
Big Mac Museum and Restaurant – The world’s most popular hamburger, the Big Mac, was invented here at the McDonald’s in North Huntingdon more than 40 years ago. This McDonald’s is still serving up the tasty sandwich as well as being a museum devoted to the beloved burger. Visit and see the larger-than-life Big Mac, which would be sure to please burger lovers.
Mount Davis – Visit the highest point in Pennsylvania at Mount Davis in Elk Lick Township, Somerset County. The 3,213-foot peak is accessible by foot or you can drive nearly to the top. It is especially beautiful in the autumn.
Great Allegheny Passage – The 150-mile hiking and biking trail courses through much of the Laurel Highlands and a great portion lies within this region and takes in some of the state’s most beautiful scenery.
Covered Bridges – The villages of Rockwood, Garrett, New Baltimore, and Fairhope boast covered bridges that would give the Bridges of Madison County a run for their money. Some are even still open to vehicular traffic.
There is much more to the Laurel Highlands – too much to list in one article. For more information, visit the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau at: www.laurelhighlands.org.