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A Laurel Highlands Getaway to western Pennsylvania can be packed with adventure, sprinkled with art and history, loaded with luxury, or all of the above. Just a three-hour drive west from Washington DC leads to a beautiful natural area rich in outdoor fun and history, including two Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces.
If you’re looking for romance, build your Laurel Highlands getaway around the incredible luxury of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. If family fun is your priority, Nemacolin delivers that too, with one-of-a-kind experiences that kids will love. Food is always part of the fun, and Laurel Highlands offers plenty of dining options from the very casual to the most refined.
Lodging and some meals and experiences on our visits to Laurel Highlands were hosted by Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau. As always, all opinions are our own.
Fantastic Places to Visit on a Laurel Highlands Getaway
Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic masterpiece, Fallingwater, is a must see for architecture lovers. Built over a waterfall in Bear Run, the home beautifully expresses Wright’s commitment to integrating his homes with the natural landscape. Most visitors take the hour-long Guided House Tour, but other in-depth and specialty tours are available. Reserve tickets online and allow time to wander the grounds. Architecture lovers can make Fallingwater the core of a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired road trip to Laurel Highlands.
Nearby, Kentuck Knob tours explore a less famous but equally lovely Wright melding of art, architecture, and nature. Wright was 86 and a famous, busy man when he designed Kentuck Knob. He visited the site when the foundation was laid, but worked from photographs and topo maps for the initial design. After your tour, follow the path to stunning views of the Laurel Highlands and, if time allows, return to the Visitor Center on the Woodland Walk.
Ohiopyle State Park is the place to go for natural beauty and outdoor adventures on a Laurel Highlands getaway. The Youghiogheny River is the spot for fun in and on the water, with natural water slides, whitewater boating, and lovely waterfalls. If you’d rather keep your adventure dry, there are picnic areas, hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, fishing, a zip line, and other outdoor activities to enjoy.
Bike the Great Allegheny Passage, aka the GAP trail, from the quirky town of Ohiopyle, located within the state park. This 150 mile trail is a favorite for serious cyclists, but a short ride on the trail is perfect for family fun. Rent a bike in Ohiopyle and head west over the award-winning Ohiopyle Low Bridge, then continue on to the Ohiopyle High Bridge. You’ll enjoy an easy ride and great views of the Yough from both bridges.
A slightly longer alternative is an 11-mile bike ride (or hike) on the GAP Trail from Ohiopyle to Confluence. The wide, dirt trail is level so you can relax and enjoy scenic views of the Yough River throughout your ride. Here are a few more pictures from this beautiful ride:
Want to get some exercise without too much strain? Bike the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP Bike Trail) between the quaint…
Get close to nature of a different kind with Nemacolin Wildlife Academy. Join the 90 minute Safari Tour for an up-close look at the resorts wildlife and a chance to feed the resident lions, tigers, sheep, big horn cattle, and more. While you’re safely separated at feeding time, this is likely the closest you will ever stand to a lion or Bengal tiger. Nursery tours visit the resorts smaller and younger animals, and you’re always welcome to check out the wildlife habitats on your own. Be sure to visit Lightning, a rare white buffalo considered sacred by some Native Americans, and his companion, Thunder.
Fort Necessity was the site of one of the first skirmishes of the French and Indian War, sparking the drive for American independence. It was also the place where George Washington gained recognition and began his rise as a military leader and American patriot. Today, a Visitor Center and reconstructed fort tell the story of that battle and the history of travel on the historic National Road. Rangers offer free guided tours when available, and there’s a fun playground for the kids.
Northeast in Shanksville, the Flight 93 National Memorial honors the 40 crew and passengers who perished while thwarting a terrorist attack on 9/11/2001. The memorial includes an interpretive Visitor Center, Memorial Grove, natural areas, and Memorial Walkway. The walkway follows the edge of the crash site, the final resting place of passengers and crew, to the Wall of Names honoring the dead.
Stay at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for Luxury and Family Fun
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is a bit of an odd-ball among luxury resorts, but in a good way. Rooms, service, and public spaces all meet the luxurious standard needed for special occasions and weekend escapes. But there is a lot for families to love, including fun and unique experiences like the Wildlife Academy. Nemacolin surrounds guests with the rolling hills and woodlands that makes a Laurel Highlands getaway so special. Guests enjoy a perfect combination of pampering and nature that sparks energy and fun by day, and deep, relaxing sleep at night.
Where to Eat in Laurel Highlands PA
Bittersweet Cafe is a cute breakfast, lunch, and pastry shop in Farmington, just half a mile from Route 40. The farm-to-table menu features tasty sandwiches, salads, and treats. If the weather is good, enjoy your meal at one of the outdoor tables, or order to go for a picnic at Ohiopyle State Park.
Falls Market Restaurant and General Store, near the river in downtown Ohiopyle serves juicy hamburgers and sandwiches in a casual, country store setting. Ohiopyle House Cafe is another good bet for casual dining in town, with seating inside and on a big, open porch.
Stone House Restaurant offers refined dining in a historic setting in Farmington. The tavern has been welcoming travelers on the National Road (now Route 40) since 1822. Chef Jeremy Chritchfield transitioned from his years as Executive Chef at high-end properties like Nemacolin and Greenbrier to become co-owner of the Stone House. He has a passion for locally sourced game, and makes a delicious steak. Enjoy a quiet table in the main dining room or a booth by the livelier tavern bar. The tavern is also a great stop for craft beer.
Stop at Kentuck Knob Cafe for a treat after your house tour. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Kentuck Knob for the Hagan family, owners of Hagan Ice Cream. That yummy ice cream is still sold today in the lovely cafe at the Visitor Center, along with snacks and hot dogs.
Patron Mexican Grill, to the west in Uniontown, is a good bet for hearty and reasonably-priced Mexican meals. Our carnitas platter was excellent, accompanied by surprisingly good $1.50 Happy Hour margaritas.
Luxury Dining at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Dining at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort comes in a range of options, but if your budget allows, choose luxury. Inside the AAA Five-Diamond Falling Rock hotel is Aqueous. The restaurant occupies one end of the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired building, with sweeping views from a wall of glass. The emphasis is on dry-aged steaks, which are expertly aged and cut in-house. It’s also a perfect location for a sunset cocktail on the terrace.
Back in Chateau Lafayette, Lautrec takes fine dining to an even higher level. The restaurant is one of only 29 in the world to earn both the Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond ratings. The elegant, French-inspired interior is a fitting backdrop to beautifully prepared local and seasonal cuisine. Build your dining experience from the prix-fixe menu or try the tasting menu and leave the choices to Chef Kristin Butterworth.
Getting to Laurel Highlands from Northern Virginia
Driving to Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania is actually part of the fun, as long as you avoid rush hour. Just a three hour drive from the Washington DC region, the road west is scenic in many areas. Allow extra time to make stops along the way and enjoy the views.
Depending on your starting point, GPS will offer a few options for the drive west. We like the route that follows Routes 70 and 68, but it’s fun to head home on one of the alternates if time allows.
The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau is full of information and tips to help you plan your visit. Whether you are headed for family fun, a romantic escape, or an adults outing, we wish you safe and happy travels on your Laurel Highlands getaway.
This article was published in 2017 and updated in 2018.