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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State College, PA
Call this escape Penn State Plus. After the tailgating and triumph at Beaver Stadium, escape the crowds and flee east to the new Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park, a picturesque lakeside haven with LEED gold certification. The lodge has a sustainable vibe, evinced in its construction and respect for the local environment. Nature Inn has just 16 rooms, not hundreds; it offers a patio with a fire pit and gas grills instead of a gourmet dining room (though it serves breakfast daily by the fireplace in the lounge); and you can bird-watch from your balcony. Depending on the season, there’s ice fishing, sledding or a chance to watch the PSU crew teams practice.
Laurel Highlands, PA
Between pilgrimages to Frank Lloyd Wright’s two nearby masterpieces, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, be sure to book your room way (way) in advance if you’d like to spend the night at another home designed by the master. The Usonian-style Duncan House, flanked by other homes built by Wright disciples, has been reassembled on a mountaintop in nearby Acme. The resort offers white-tablecloth dining on the property and a “chef on request” service for private catering. Scheduled tours inside Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob go deep for architecture buffs; plus, you can wander at will on the grounds outside. Don’t miss: The unusual sculpture garden with pieces by Claes Oldenburg and others, assembled by Kentuck Knob owner Lord Peter Palumbo.
Route 30, PA
The Lincoln Highway (you knew it was America’s first, right?) links four fine little western Pennsylvania museums: the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Southern Alleghenies Museum in Ligonier, the National Museum of the Guild of American Papercutters in Somerset and the National Museum of the American Coverlet in Bedford. The Westmoreland is by far the largest and generates buzz for its outstanding temporary exhibits as well as its permanent collection. The Coverlet museum, housed in Bedford’s old schoolhouse, is a great excuse to explore the quaint town. Don’t miss: The low-key charm of the Golden Eagle Inn.
This city isn’t the only pit stop along the Great Allegheny Passage, the region’s favorite long-distance trail, but it is an easy 10-mile bike ride from Ohiopyle State Park. With its riverside trail, fall mountain foliage, friendly eateries and B&Bs, Confluence is an ideal introduction to the gentle pleasures of trail-town life. Mid-October brings the annual PumpkinFest to the town square. Choose a weekday ride or a different segment of the Passage if you want to avoid a crowd —this stretch is deservedly popular. Don’t miss: Breakfast and “sisterly advice” at Sisters’ Café.
Elk County, PA
Around the little town of Benezette, elk are big. Well, they’re big everywhere — but here, hundreds roam freely around the local meadows. During the fall rut, the bulls clash for mating rights, and the unearthly sound of their bugling calls echoes through the hills. Folks at the visitors center, located a few miles northeast of town, explain elk lore and offer a safe perch for viewing. Down in St. Marys, you might pass an elk or two en route to the Straub Brewery, with its famous “Eternal Tap.” Straub has been making beer since 1872 and has been offering free samples to patrons (of legal age) almost that long.
Route 6, PA
Route 6 is a classic American road trip, threading neatly across the rural northern counties of Pennsylvania. That’s why motorcyclists love it. Plan your own route close to home in the picturesque Brokenstraw Valley, or book a weekend with Canyon Vista Motorcycle Tours in Wellsboro. Don’t have your own hog? Canyon Vista can advise on local rentals and will even pair you up with other couples or singles, as you prefer.
Veteran’s Day is the traditional time to honor our military, and Carlisle is the place to do it; the town’s been a fort of some sort since the British named it in 1751. George Washington passed through. The Confederate army fired on the courthouse en route to Gettysburg. The U.S. Army War College is still there (although closed to visitors since 9/11). Learn the town’s fascinating story at the Cumberland County Historical Society or from historical markers all around the town square. Then, let your kids run through the outdoor heritage trail at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. Designed to convey the experience of the ordinary soldier, it recreates the redoubts of Yorktown, Civil War cabins, World War I trenches and more.
New River Gorge, WV
Even if you’re not a base-jumper, you’ll get an adrenaline rush at the New River Gorge Bridge. The gorge is 1,300 feet deep and 345 million years old, with spectacular opportunities for whitewater rafting, rappelling and more. On Bridge Day (Oct. 20 this year), more than 800 extreme-sports addicts are permitted to hurl themselves from span to river level, deploying special parachutes midway through the descent. This is one of West Virginia’s most popular annual events, but hikers can catch the best views — and photos — from high points along local hiking trails.
All aboard the Potomac Eagle, an old-fashioned train that rides a sure-to-please track along the South Branch of the Potomac River near Cumberland, Md. In addition to standard passenger cars, it features an open-air “gondola” car fitted with benches. All the more reason to bring your camera and tripod to capture spectacular foliage displays and eagle sightings in “the Trough.” September weekend trips coincide with community fairs in nearby Hardy County.
White Sulphur Springs, WV
The Greenbrier has been an upscale resort since 1778 — and it certainly has attracted Pittsburghers over the years. If you’ve always wanted to experience the resort’s truly elegant Southern hospitality — or play on one of its famed golf courses — this nearby destination offers some of the most reasonable rates in late fall. If you happen to get lucky at the baccarat tables (the resort added a casino described as “Monte Carlo meets Gone with the Wind” in 2010), you can buy your own Greenbrier cottage overlooking the famous white colonial hotel.
Don’t miss: The sulphur soak in the spa — it’s the mineral waters that put the Springs on the map.