The stressful election season proves that we may have our disagreements from time to time, but everyone from the Keystone State should be able to agree that we have a lot of natural (and some unnatural) beauty to enjoy. Plan a trip this weekend to relax and enjoy one of the 12 prettiest spots in PA, from abandoned bridges to swiftly flowing rivers.
Located in Southeastern PA, right near the WV/MD borders, Ohiopyle is one of the most visited state parks in the Keystone State. At Ohiopyle, visitors have their choice of outdoor activities -- including camping, hiking trails, and hunting -- but the park is probably best known for the 14-mile stretch of the Youghiogheny River that contains some of the best whitewater rafting on the East Coast.
Susquehanna River Valley
Outside of State College, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the middle of PA -- which is part of the reason why you can find such staggeringly beautiful views in the Susquehanna River Valley. The naturally hilly landscape, especially during the fall season, and a slew of scenic overlooks make the Valley the perfect stopping point as you drive across the state.
Home to the oldest Amish community in the US, Lancaster is a place where you can see what farm life was like 150 years ago, and enjoy colorful farmland, quaint farmhouses/silos, and frequent encounters with horse-and-buggy drivers. It’s a short drive from Philly, so it’s a perfect place to go snap some pictures and get a shoofly pie this fall.
Not many people think of heading to the shores of Lake Erie for vacation, but when you see the views at Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre peninsula that juts into the lake, you might think twice about heading east next summer. At Presque Isle there are all the things you would associate with a trip to the shore -- sandy beaches, tons of outdoor activities, and that one person that has been in the sun for way too long.
Okay, so you probably knew architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous building, Fallingwater, existed, but it is a surprisingly short drive from Pittsburgh, making it a great option for a day out of the city. Built for the Kaufmann family (yep, the department store Kaufmanns) in 1935, Fallingwater was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is constantly listed as one of the best architectural destinations in the country. Not bad for a little cabin in the woods.
Cathedral of Learning
For anyone who has harbored dreams of going to school at Hogwarts, the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of Pitt is the closest thing to the Hogwarts Castle outside of Universal Studios. Commissioned in 1921, the 535ft-tall building towers over Oakland. Inside, the four-story great hall is pretty impressive, as are the 29 Nationality Rooms that are available to tour (for non-students).
In a city filled with beautiful cobblestone streets dating back to the founding of the country, Elfreth's Alley is easily one of the most picturesque. There are 32 buildings lining the street, all of which were built between 1720 and 1830, making Elfreth's Alley a must-visit for any history buff (or anyone trolling for likes on Instagram).
Let’s be honest, driving on 76 (at any point) is gonna be a miserable experience. But the commute into the city, especially at night, is slightly better than the rest of it thanks to Boathouse Row. The iconic boathouses were first built in 1858 by the Schuylkill Navy and have housed the city's social and rowing clubs since then. At night, the outline of the boathouses makes one of the better photo ops in the city.
Two hours north of Pittsburgh sits Cook Forest, an 8,500-acre state park filled with mountainous hills, white pine and hemlock trees, and the Clarion River. It’s one of the lesser-known state parks, which doesn’t make it any less beautiful. While you could always take a hike, one of the best ways to experience Cook Forest is to take a kayak/canoe/tube for a leisurely float down the river.
When the pope (or more accurately, the World Meeting of Families) decided to come to Philly this fall, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was a natural choice for his opening mass. The Roman-Corinthian-style church was modeled after the Sant’Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso in Rome and features a 156ft-tall vaulted dome which boasts a painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
Cherry Springs State Park
Missed your chance to spot the #bloodmoon last month? Well, unfortunately for most of us living on the East Coast, light pollution is a serious problem when trying to stargaze -- that is unless you head to Cherry Springs State Park in Northern PA. The park is one of the only “dark sky” areas on the East Coast, and the location is so isolated that you see over 10,000 stars with the naked eye during optimal conditions. So keep that in mind the next time the blood moon shows up in 2032.
Prior to the 2003 tornado that took out the middle section of the structure, the Kinzua Bridge was a 30ft-tall, 2,052ft-long trestle bridge that was a connection point for the local railroad across Kinzua Creek. Sensing that it wasn’t economically viable to rebuild the bridge, the state has turned the site into a tourist destination where visitors can walk to the end of the bridge and view the expansive surroundings from the glass-floored observation deck.
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