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 9am-4pm every day of the week except Wednesdays. Standard 1-hour tours cost $18, free for children under 6. Two-hour in-depth tours, which include more interior rooms and thorough interpretation, cost $60 (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 $20 for adults, $15 for ages 6 to 12 (5 and under prohibited). In-depth 2-hour tours cost $55. Advance reservations are recommended, limited hours on Wednesdays (check the seasonal schedules).
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 home (4 of them) can be toured together in an experience that lasts 3 hours and costs $26 (children 5 and under not permitted). Tour availability varies widely by the season, and is never offerred on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Check the website for specific dates and times.
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, must be reserved in their entirety; the Blum house offers individual rooms. 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 and two-bedroom town houses. The resort includes restaurants, pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and spas, and sits near Ohiopyle State Park, Fallingwater, and Kentuck Knob.
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.