The Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania is the ideal place to get away from it all and seek out an adventure or frolic in the great outdoors. You will find remarkable landmarks such as the highest point in the Keystone State, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and so much more.
Fayette, Somerset, and Westmorland Counties make up the Laurel Highlands. Located 18 miles east of Pittsburgh, there are four exits in the Laurel Highlands if traveling the PA turnpike. Many scenic routes provide spectacular views when traveling by car to the Laurel Highlands.
The area has experiences to enjoy in all four seasons, from hiking, biking, and trout fishing in the spring to Steelers Training Camp and whitewater rafting in summer. They offer gorgeous fall foliage and over 50 festivals in the fall, and don’t forget skiing, tubing, and drinking cocoa by the fireplace in winter.
Visit for a day or a week; the quaint towns, picturesque covered bridges, beautiful scenery, and historical sites will wow you. Let’s check out a few of our favorite experiences in the Laurel Highlands that mature travelers will enjoy.
Fallingwater is one of the United States’ 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Pennsylvania is home to only two. It is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most widely acclaimed works,
Frank Lloyd Wright’s legendary home stands over a waterfall. The architecture is unique in a beautiful setting. It was built as a residence and summer home in 1935.
It is now open as a museum with self-guided and guided tours available. Tickets are available online for both types of tours.
Within the structure, most of the walking is on flat surfaces. But the tour includes at least a mile of walking, including some uphill and downhill gravel pathways. Proper footwear is required.
Kentuck Knob and Polymath Park are two other Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the Laurel Highlands.
2. Fort Necessity Battlefield
The Fort Necessity Battlefield National Historic Site marks the beginning of the French and Indian War. The opening skirmish of the war between the British, French, and American Indians was the battle of Fort Necessity. A young George Washington had his first military engagement here and his only surrender.
Visit the reconstructed fort in the Great Meadow located about 200 yards from the visitor center. You can enjoy talks, tours, and historic weapons demonstrations during the summer months.
There are five miles of hiking trails through the forest and meadows around Fort Necessity. Note that they are not groomed.
3. Flight 93 National Memorial
This is a national remembrance for the victims of September 11, 2001. The Tower of Voices is the first monument visitors see when entering the Flight 93 National Memorial area. It is an impressive 93 feet tall and contains chimes to represent the eternal voices of the 40 crew and passengers of Flight 93. Stop for a visit and listen to the chimes.
Then move on to the National Memorial Visitor Center. The artifacts provide a chronological display of that fateful day in 2001. There are also self-guided tours of the Memorial Plaza and Wall of Names. This memorial is emotionally powerful.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and the visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Pro Tip: If you visit nothing else, make time to visit this site.
4. Great Allegheny Passage
If you are into biking or hiking, you will find the Great Allegheny Passage to be 150 miles of spectacular between Cumberland, Maryland, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The path snakes around mountains, soars above valleys, and skirts alongside three rivers (the Monongaleha, Youghiogheny, and Casselman) on its nearly level path.
Interesting sites along the way include the Cumberland Narrows, crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, and the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,392 feet. Your journey takes you through the Laurel Highlands, the 20,633-acre Ohiopyle State Park, and the region’s coke, coal, mining, and steel-making corridor, and ends at the majestic Point State Park in Pittsburgh.
5. Fort Ligonier
See one of the finest recreated 18th-century artillery collections in North America in the museum. Learn about the events that led up to the American Revolution. Fort Ligonier also has an exclusive exhibit of George Washington’s extraordinarily rare treasures.
Many consider Fort Ligonier to be the finest reconstructed fortification from the French and Indian War. You can explore the grounds and learn more about our country’s history.
You will be indoors and outdoors on gravel walking paths. Wheelchairs can maneuver the paths but will not fit inside many of the doorways.
6. The Palace Theatre
Home to the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, The Palace Theatre in Greensburg is also a venue for the River City Brass.
They host diverse entertainment, including nationally renowned acts and concerts such as Vince Gill, The Oak Ridge Boys, STOMP, Riverdance, Blue Man Group, and more.
Pro Tip: Check their website to see what is scheduled and to obtain tickets.
7. Seven Springs Resort
The largest resort in Pennsylvania, the Seven Springs Resort has activity options for year-round fun.
Winter is the biggest season here, and winter wonderland best describes this snowy playground. Skiing, snowboarding, and tubing are available outdoors.
Indoors you will find bowling, mini-golf, an indoor pool, a spa, and an outdoor hot tub to enjoy while viewing the white blanketed slopes.
They offer a variety of lodging options from individual cabins to a lodge and whole houses.
8. Lincoln Highway Experience
Memory Lane awaits as you visit a one-time stagecoach stop on the Lincoln Highway in Latrobe. Visitors learn about the historic Lincoln Highway and the fascinating sites along the way. It is a retro experience with artifacts from the 1930s.
The Lincoln Highway Experience boasts that it offers a slice of pie, a cup of joe, and a fun place for you to go!
9. Festivals Galore
With over 50 festivals in the Laurel Highlands each year, you will find one almost every weekend. If you are a foodie, check out the Laurel Highlands Garlic Festival or the Great American Banana Split Celebration. (Did you know Banana Splits were invented in the Laurel Highlands?) Both take place in August. If you are into music, the Sunday Evening Band Concerts on the Diamond in Ligonier are a hit. Don’t forget the Fall Fest in October.
Pro Tip: Check the calendar of events to learn which festival might be happening when you visit.
10. Ohiopyle State Park
Active 50+ travelers seeking some adventure will enjoy this state park. There are over 80 miles of trails to explore and abundant waterfalls. The 30-foot bridal veil waterfall known as Cucumber Falls is accessible by car or foot.
Twenty-eight miles of the Great Allegheny Passage rail-trail runs through the Ohiopyle State Park. So you might want to bring your bicycles.
And if you need a bit more adventure, there is whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River’s waters.
Pro Tips: If planning to view the falls on foot, please note there are steps. Also, if you’re interested in rail-trails, consider our picks for The 10 Best Rail-Trails In America.
A luxury resort, the Nemacolin provides a variety of lodging options and experiences. The 50+ traveler will enjoy a stay.
It is home to two professionally designed golf courses, Mystic Rock and Shepherd’s Rock. Pete Dye designed both.
The Woodlands Spa and Salon at Nemacolin offers cutting-edge signature therapies and traditional, holistic practice luxury spa treatments perfect for the 50+ traveler.
12. Mount Davis
Mount Davis holds the record for being Pennsylvania’s highest point at 3,213 feet above sea level. An observation tower, which is several floors high with many stairs, is located on the high point. As you look out over the area, the view is worth the climb.
It is a beautiful nature park with multiple hiking trails, and there are historical markers about the area. Most of the trails are flat, but they’re not paved.
Pro Tip: Be mindful that it is approximately 15 degrees colder with a brisk wind due to elevation.
If you’re looking for more hiking opportunities, read up on the 10 Best Hikes In Western Pennsylvania.
13. Allegheny Portage Railroad
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the final piece of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, circumventing the Allegheny Mountains. “The Portage” opened in 1834, marking the first time there was a direct route between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It served merchants, passengers, slaves in pursuit of freedom, and soldiers of the Mexican War.
The railroad consisted of 10 inclined planes, five on each side of the mountain. There were stationary engines at the head of each inclined plane, powering ropes to tug the railroad cars up the steep mountain. The incline system was used because the locomotives of that time did not have the strength to pull the cars up the mountains.
There are hiking trails, a gift shop, and several educational displays, and you can visit the Lemon House where travelers stayed during their trips.
Whatever you choose to do in the Laurel Highlands, your time spent in this beautiful region of Pennsylvania will be remembered long after your trip is concluded. Want more Pennsylvania? Consider my picks for 15 unique places in Pennsylvania for mature travelers, too.