A Weekend Road Trip Filled With Halloween Spirit
A Saturday drive down the backroads of Beaver and Butler counties is an entire October mood.
I haven’t traveled much these days thanks to the pandemic, but last weekend I crossed the border …. into Beaver County.
Who says a vacation requires a weeklong stay in a tropical locale? A short road trip through Western Pennsylvania on an idyllic fall day can be just as good for the soul, even with the potholes and high gas prices.
My daughter, Sarah, and I kicked off our autumnal adventure at Recon Brewing in Cranberry, where I was born and raised. (No, I didn’t grow up inside the brewery, although it often feels that way with this job.)
Sarah isn’t old enough to drink a beer, but she’s obsessed with the Army and Recon has a certain be-all-you-can-be vibe. It’s named in honor of the Bantam Reconnaissance Vehicle, the first Jeep prototype, which was manufactured in Butler during World War II.
The 3,000-square-foot taproom, which overlooks a three-acre greenspace, has indoor and outdoor seating for 200. Twelve draft beers are available, including the Karma Tap; sales of the rotating brew benefit a different local charity each quarter.
I ordered the Nicodemus, an Irish dry stout, and an Italian hoagie, while Sarah opted for an old-fashioned bottle of pop and a kids’ pizza. Recon’s food menu isn’t extensive, but it’s good. Starving, I took a bite before taking a picture. The staff was delightfully chatty and kind. Throughout our visit, we saw them greet multiple customers by name. It’s a neighborhood joint in every sense of the word.
With our lunch mission accomplished we headed to Yeck’s Pumpkin & Hayrides in Freedom to pick our future jack-o’-lanterns. A recent bout with Covid put a damper on my spirit, but, as a diehard horror fan, October is my month to shine.
Located off the beaten path, Yeck’s isn’t a massive operation, but it checks all the boxes for my idea of a perfect October afternoon: corn maze, petting zoo with Satanic-looking goats, friendly owners, seasonal baked goods and decorations for sale (cash only!), handmade photo op props and row upon row of perfect pumpkins.
My newly minted teenager wasn’t too thrilled with my laborious Samhain mascot selection process, but it’s a job I take very seriously. Each year, my squat, orange orb gets a face comprised of three triangles and a gap-toothed grin. I refuse to deviate from this pattern.
I silenced the whining by promising Sarah ice cream at our next stop, Witch Flavor? in the borough of Beaver.
In addition to loving all-things military, Sarah is really into witches. If anyone knows where I can find a pointy camouflage hat, send me an email.
With our pumpkin buckled into the passenger seat (safety first!) and a Halloween playlist blaring from the radio, we drove down winding, tree-lined roads, past old graveyards covered with fallen leaves. Despite spending half of my life in Cranberry, it was my first visit to Beaver.
The borough has an All-American, Mayberry quality to it, with a wide main street running through the business district. People bustled down the busy sidewalks, ducking into quaint shops and eateries, including Witch Flavor?.
Owners Lisa Ragazzini and John Biondi opened the spooky ice cream parlor 11 years ago. Photos of smiling customers hoisting cones cover an entire wall of the business, which is decorated in various shades of purple. A life-sized Wicked Witch of the West sits on a bench by the front window.
It’s a coven Sarah was happy to join.
We cackled with the affable Ragazzini, who gave us samples of more than a dozen hard-packed offerings. Sarah finally selected a scoop of Super Hero on a sugar cone. I got a cup of Toasted Coconut and a massive brain freeze from devouring the dessert in 10 seconds. I have absolutely no chill when it comes to eating. Thankfully, you can warm up with a rotating selection of homemade soups, which are served from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
After sitting for a spell by the green-faced hag from Oz, we crossed the road to Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop to select even more confections from their $5 buffet. ‘Tis the season, after all.
Anticipating the inevitable sugar-crash, we capped off our day at Spirit Halloween for a little retail therapy. Sarah decided to be an angel, so, of course, I have to don a devil disguise on All Hallow’s Eve.
Despite our differences, this touristy journey through Butler and Beaver counties brought us closer together — and that’s the best treat of all.