Exploring Laurel Highlands

With historic forts, outdoor activities such as hiking or white water rafting, historic homes by one of America’s foremost architects, art museums and the Flight 93 Memorial, there is much to do for kids and adults alike in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania. Whether you dart over there for a daytrip, plan a long weekend, or stay for a week, there’s plenty to do and discover in this beautiful part of Pennsylvania!

What to Do?

More than 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River — referred to by locals as the “Yak” — passes through Ohiopyle State Park. The park offers a number of nice hikes, but a quick little hike that you shouldn’t miss is to Cucumber Falls, a sweet little waterfall. In warmer weather, you can stand below the falls and enjoy the water. More daring adventurers will enjoy rafting down the Yough’s rapids!

Skylights in the porch roof create interesting patterns on the slate floor below at Kentuck Knob.

Just around the corner from Cucumber Falls and the state park are two incredible Frank Lloyd Wright homes, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Discover for yourself why these two iconic homes have had such an influence on American architecture!

A must-do stop is the Flight 93 National Memorial, a touching monument to the 9-11 victims. We brought our kids there, and were surprised at how much they understood about the events.

Kids will enjoy exploring two forts, while learning a little of America’s early history, when it was still a British colony. Fort Necessity National Historic Site tells the story of then 22-year-old LtCol George Washington’s first, and only, surrender. Fort Ligonier served as a supply fort for the British in the French and Indian War.

Close by Fort Ligonier is the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, which features rotating exhibitions. While I was there, the lovely artwork of Doreen Currie was featured, showing pastoral scenes of the region. But what really grabbed my attention was the sculpture garden!

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art — Ligonier Valley Sculpture Garden

The Westmoreland Art Museum is more extensive, and also features the work of regional artists, spanning the 1800s to the present. This museum makes a point of demonstrating that art isn’t just for adults, with two galleries devoted to interactive spaces for kids (and adults) to bring out the inner artist in everyone!

Cyclists will enjoy the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile railtrail that connects Pittsburgh with the C&O Canal towpath in Maryland. The region hosts a number of other excellent railtrails too, such as the pleasant 36-mile Ghost Town Rail Trail, which runs between Backlick and Ebensburg and brings you past the sites of former mining towns (now mostly gone, except for a few foundations).

Where to Stay?

There are a number of places to stay in the Laurel Highlands, from quaint bed and breakfast inns to camping and glamping to the luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Nemacolin’s walls and halls are lined with impressive artwork and sculptures.

In addition to offering a place to stay, of course, Nemacolin also provides a breadth of activities for its guests, from painting workshops and spas to Jeep offroading, ziplining, and an animal safari that ranges from Texas long-horns and bison to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!).

Looking for other articles about the Laurel Highlands? Check out the posts below: