52 Great Weekend Getaways
Whether you're a rock climber, arts lover or foodie, we've got a destination for you.
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The Chestnut Ridge mountaintop overlooking Uniontown has two big attractions — one above ground, one below. Up top, it’s the Summit Inn, a hotel whose grand porch surveys a five-county panorama. Below the very old-fashioned and demure inn lies Laurel Caverns, a labyrinthine cave that has a temperature of 52 degrees year-round. Both are good places to chill.
All you currently know of the Flagship Niagara is that it appears on some mud-spattered Pennsylvania license plates. That can change after one visit to Erie. The reconstructed Niagara is one of only four early 18th-century war ships in the world; the ship’s pivotal role in the War of 1812 actually arrived in 1813, when it won the Battle of Lake Erie. It docks outside the Erie Maritime Museum, which uses videos and great interpretation to explain the conflict. But the way-cool opportunity here is the chance to set sail yourself. The Niagara makes day trips for landlubbers, as well as longer training cruises for young sailors. Pack a bathing suit, too, and maybe some rollerblades: Presque Isle has beaches with gentle surf and a lovely shorefront promenade.
Family afloat! Rent a houseboat on the Allegheny Reservoir to explore the lake's 100-mile shoreline, created by the Kinzua Dam and completely surrounded by forest. Bring binoculars: Eagles, black bears and other wildlife abound. The folks at Kinzua Wolfs Run Marina can set you up with a 28-foot houseboat. Don’t miss: The brand-new Skywalk at nearby Kinzua Bridge State Park. The clear Plexiglass-floored overlook — built on the remaining towers of a historic Pennsylvania railroad bridge — suspends visitors over a 2,000-foot ravine.
Monongahela National Forest provides a natural green backdrop (that’s nearly one million acres) for Elkins. The Augusta Heritage Festival at Davis & Elkins College (running in August) is all-natural, too, featuring hands-on workshops in Appalachian everything — from pottery to wood-carving. The Old-Time music festival is renowned. Be sure you raft the Cheat River for an afternoon. Don’t miss: The Victorian Graceland Inn.
This laid-back village offers more than the usual array of small-town entertainments. In addition to tubing on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and biking on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, there’s a summer theater and music festival, and a weekly farmers market. Since it’s not far from Antietam, the area has authentic Civil War history, to boot. Proximity to Baltimore and Washington may mean crowds at times, but never fear! There are plenty of bistros and boutiques for all. Don’t miss: Plum, a new artisanal jewelry and craft shop.
Cherry Springs State Park, PA
Off Route 44 near Coudersport, Cherry Springs is the state’s only “dark sky” park. It’s great for astronomy buffs, but also caters to serious stargazers; on a clear night, its hilltop Astronomy Observation Field has a spectacular panoramic view of the Milky Way. Bring your telescope or laptop — the field is equipped with electric outlets — and stay overnight. You can even rent small observatories (for three to four people) for only $25 per night. Public “star parties” and “music and stars” shows with entertainment are held at a separate public viewing area several times a year. Since this is, after all, rural Potter County, that’s about the extent of the social scene hereabouts. Consider driving further east to Wellsboro, a friendly, quaint town with a few more creature comforts — including the delicious Wellsboro Diner.
Mt. Gretna, PA
The Pennsylvania Chautauqua Society founded this lakeside summer camp in the 1890s in Lebanon County, and its genteel tradition lives on. Check out the Arts and Crafts-style cottages at the Mt. Gretna Inn; they’re family heirlooms (though a few can be rented). The sand-bottomed freshwater lake is the daytime draw; at night, it’s the Gretna Theater, an open-air playhouse with a full schedule of quality music and drama. Don’t miss: The Jigger Shop, an old-fashioned soda fountain (remember lime rickeys?).
Do you pride yourself on a truly bloodcurdling scream? Test it out against others at Blobfest! Vintage-film fans converge in this Chester County town for an annual July weekend celebrating The Blob, the cheesy sci-fi classic filmed here in 1958. Don’t forget your very own handmade tinfoil hat (to ward off evil alien space rays, of course) as you wander the downtown streets, compete in the scream contest and re-enact the crowd scene, running out of the movie theater.
Don’t miss: A five-star meal at the Yellow Springs Inn in nearby Chester Springs; it’s a splurge, but you need a hot meal (kind of like The Blob itself).
A lovely red-brick Shenandoah town, C’ville has it all: great 18th-century architecture at Monticello and the University of Virginia, a happening music scene (it name-drops Dave Matthews and Mary Chapin Carpenter, among others), horse farms, grand plantations and down-home cookin’. When they’re not shooting the bucolic views, photographers converge on Look 3, the prestigious workshop held at the university each June. Don’t miss: A smorgasbord of music at the Paramount Theater.
This small town is a great destination, even if you’re not visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Book tickets instead for the lovely Glimmerglass Opera Festival, which takes place each August. A visit doesn’t stop with a professional opera (or American musical theater) performance on the shores of Lake Otsego; there’s a fine Edward Hopper collection at the Fenimore Art Museum. Don’t miss: The Cooperstown Beverage Trail for local beer, wine and cider.