The Laurel Highlands, 60 miles to the southeast, boasts historic sites and a wealth of outdoor activities, all set in some of Pennsylvania's loveliest countryside. The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, 120 E. Main St., Ligionier (tel. 800/333-5661 or 724/238-5661; www.laurelhighlands.org), provides details about the entire area.
Active outdoor enthusiasts make time for Ohiopyle State Park, just east of Pa. 381 (tel. 888/PA-PARKS [727-2757] or 724/329-8591; www.dcnr.state.pa.us), home of the Ohiopyle Falls and more than 19,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness bordering the Youghiogheny River gorge. Popular activities include hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and serious white-water rafting down the "Yough" (pronounced yawk).
Nearby, just off U.S. 40, Fort Necessity National Battlefield (tel. 724/329-5512; www.nps.gov/fone) first tested George Washington's mettle during the French and Indian War in 1754. The 900-acre site includes a visitor center, the battlefield, the reconstructed Fort Necessity, and the Mount Washington Tavern.
For some childish good fun, spend a day at Idlewild Park in Ligonier (tel. 724/238-3666; www.idlewild.com). Idlewild doesn't have America's sleekest, fastest rides; it's simply a great old amusement park, with a fresh new Soak Zone waterpark to refresh on hot days. Little ones will enjoy the park's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe, inspired by the late Fred Rogers, who lived close by.
The Laurel Highlands feature prominently on the radar of Frank Lloyd Wright lovers. A number of the architectural innovator's masterworks sit within the area, chief among them Fallingwater, 1478 Mill Run Rd. (tel. 724/329-8501; www.fallingwater.org). Three cantilevered house levels extend from the hillside, allowing the namesake waterfall to gush through the building. When Wright designed the house in 1936 for Pittsburgher Edgar Kaufmann, most engineers said it wouldn't stand. Extensive reinforcements were added 60 years later to prevent Fallingwater from rejoining the river that runs through it, but Fallingwater still stands and remains a national architectural treasure.
Tours of Fallingwater highlight the house Wright designed, its custom-made furniture, and the surrounding property. Take your pick from an array of options (including sunset, nature, and individualized tours), but tours are generally held from March to Thanksgiving with few exceptions. Standard 1-hour tours cost $16 for adults, $10 for ages 6 to 12 (5 and under prohibited). Two-hour in-depth tours, which include more interior rooms and thorough interpretation, cost $55 (children 8 and under prohibited). Advance reservations are essential.
When I. N. Hagan saw Fallingwater, he commissioned Wright to construct Kentuck Knob, 723 Kentuck Rd. (tel. 724/329-1901; www.kentuckknob.com), a home smaller and less pivotal in architectural history but worth visiting. Guides lead tours on the hour from March through November, with a reduced schedule other months. Standard 1-hour tours cost $16 for adults, $10 for ages 6 to 12 (5 and under prohibited). In-depth 2-hour tours cost $55. Advance reservations are recommended.
Polymath Park, 1 Usonian Dr., Acme (tel. 877/833-7829; www.polymathpark.com), marks the latest addition to Frank Lloyd Wright tours in the Laurel Highlands. The park's Wright-designed Duncan House can be explored on 60- to 90-minute tours, costing $16 for adults and $8 for ages 6 to 12 (5 and under not permitted). Thorough grounds tours cost $22 and last 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Tour availability varies widely by the season. Call ahead for specific dates and times. Polymath Park's Balter and Blum Houses were designed by Wright apprentices. They are not available to tour. All three houses feature overnight lodging.
Where to Stay
For an unforgettable weekend, reserve lodging at Polymath Park, in the Wright-designed and -influenced Duncan, Balter, or Blum Houses, 1 Usonian Dr., Acme (tel. 877/833-7829; www.polymathpark.com). The Duncan and Balter houses, which sleep as many as 12 and begin at $345, must be reserved in their entirety; the Blum house offers individual rooms beginning at $175. The luxury, rural Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, 1001 LaFayette Dr., Farmington (tel. 800/422-2736 or 724/329-8555; www.nemacolin.com), offers lodge rooms beginning at $309 and two-bedroom town houses starting at $379. The resort includes restaurants, pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and spas, and sits near Ohiopyle State Park, Fallingwater, and Kentuck Knob.
Look for more moderately priced lodging near Idlewild in Greensburg. Four Points by Sheraton, 100 Sheraton Dr. (tel. 888/625-5144 or 724/836-6060; www.fourpointsgreensburg.com), offers an indoor pool; doubles begin at $110. In Uniontown, the Holiday Inn, 700 W. Main St. (tel. 888/465-4329 or 724/437-2816; www.hiuniontown.com), also has an indoor pool; doubles start at $126.
To get to Idlewild from Pittsburgh, follow U.S. 30 east. To get to Fallingwater, Ohiopyle State Park, Farmington, and Chalk Hill, take I-76 east to exit 91. From there, take Pa. 31 East, then Pa. 381 South.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.