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Customized Tourist Trails Make it Easy to Explore Different Interests

One of the most wonderful things about living in southwestern Pennsylvania is that it’s easy to take off for a weekend to find something fun to do. And a simple way to do this is to follow a ready-made tourist trail that meets your interests—whether that’s world-famous architecture, sweet treats, history, craft beer or even following in the footsteps of one of the area’s most beloved icons.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater is part of The Great Wright Road Trip. Photo courtesy GO Laurel Highlands

In August, GO Laurel Highlands introduced The Great Wright Road Trip, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired tourist trail that will take you to a number of the architect’s masterpieces, including UNESCO World Heritage Site Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, the Darwin D. Martin House, Graycliff and more.

The route, which travels from the Laurel Highlands to Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY, includes nine different sites that span five decades of the world-famous architect’s career. If you’re hoping for inspiration, you can experience where Wright worked at his reassembled San Francisco office at the Hagen History Center in Erie, and if you plan ahead, you could even sleep in an FLW home: Mantyla at Polymath Park, featuring Wright’s eclectic yet visionary design techniques, is available for overnight stays.

“The Great Wright Road Trip does a remarkable job of connecting road trip aficionados, architectural fanatics and cultural enthusiasts to some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest creations,” said Anna Weltz, director of public relations and community relations, GO Laurel Highlands. “We have a lot of visitors who come to Fallingwater, and then want to immerse themselves in all things Wright. They go to Kentuck Knob and Polymath Park and still want more, so the trail was the next logical step.”

The Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College. Photo courtesy GO Laurel Highlands

While you’re in the Laurel Highlands, you can also stop and visit with America’s most famous neighbor along The Fred Rogers Trail. The iconic children’s television star was born in Latrobe, PA, and you can visit the town where he grew up, as well as tour the Fred Rogers Exhibit at St. Vincent College. It only takes a minute for memories to come flooding back when you see the different colored cardigans, the puppets from the show, the Neighborhood Trolley and Daniel Tiger’s clock.

“The Fred Rogers Trail is immensely popular, just like the man, the myth, the legend himself,” said Weltz. “So many people grew up watching Fred, and they love that the sites in the Laurel Highlands and Pittsburgh provide such an easily attainable and enjoyable experience.”

Other stops along the trail include the Fred Rogers statue in James H. Rogers Park, where you can sit beside Fred on a bench for photos; Idlewild Park, where kids can take a trolley ride through Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and the Latrobe Art Center, which was started by Fred’s sister, Nancy Rogers Crozier. The trail continues on to Pittsburgh, where you can view the largest collection of original items from the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood TV show during a visit to the Senator John Heinz History Center, and you can also get great photos at the 10-foot bronze statue of Mister Rogers tying his shoes at the Tribute to Children Monument on the North Shore.

Baldinger's Candy, part of the Butler County Sweet Tooth Trail. Photo courtesy BCTCB

A favorite trail of kids and adults alike is the Butler County Sweet Tooth Trail, a self-guided tour of local bakeries, ice cream shops and nostalgic candy stores. You can create your own itinerary from the choices listed on the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau (BCTCB) website, and then fill up a passport with specially designed symbols from each participating location. When you turn in the completed passport at the BCTCB, you get a commemorative prize in addition to your sugar high.

“The trail, which started this past April, is a sweet way to explore the area,” said Tiffany Hernandez, BCTCB public relations and communications coordinator, of the route that has attracted people from as far away as Texas. “Not only are they visiting the stops on the trail, but they’re also enjoying dining out in our wonderful restaurants, shopping in local stores and exploring our charming towns.”

Just a few of the stops along the trail include the Mainstreet Bake Shop, Two Fraus Bakery, Speckled Hen Chocolate Company, Valencia Donut Company and more. And kids will especially enjoy the hands-on, printable activity packet that lets them record their favorite memories while wandering the Sweet Tooth trail.

“Kids can write down their dessert ‘bucket lists,’ and even design their own ice cream flavors,” said Hernandez. “It gives them a chance to be really creative.”

Adults like their treats, too, and there’s no shortage of craft beer, wine and spirits trails throughout western Pennsylvania. Depending on the type of drink you like and the route you want to travel, you can take part in a variety of beverages on the Butler County Beer Circuit, Pittsburgh Brewing Trail, The Laurel Highlands Pour Tour, the Wine & Brew Trail of Mercer County, the Lake Erie Ale Trail, the Lawrence County Wine & Brew Trail or the PA Wines Southwest Passage Wine Trail, among others.

For those looking for more educational opportunities—or perhaps a longer trip—the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has created trails to some of the state’s most historic sites. These include the Military History Trail, which features Pittsburgh’s Fort Pitt Museum; the Historic Homes Trail, which includes Daniel Boone’s homestead in Birdsboro, PA; the Industrial Heritage Trail, which pays tribute to the state’s iron, coal, lumber and oil heritage, and the Rural Farm & Village Historic Trail, which travels from Lancaster to Ambridge and includes the 1824 Harmonist community, Old Economy Village.

Whether you’re looking to follow a specific subject, or just have an overwhelming desire to hit the road to explore new places, no matter what your interest, there’s a trail in Pennsylvania to take you there.

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