Located in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Laurel Highlands region is a relaxing vacation destination packed with outdoor recreation options, historic sites, family activities and world-class resorts. Set to beautiful wooded mountains, the region spans 3,000 square miles of Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties. We recently visited over a 3 day weekend from Washington, DC and enjoyed a variety of activities from great golf, fun goat yoga, delicious food and drinks, to famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. Here are some great things for you to experience in Laurel Highlands, PA set to a gorgeous backdrop of autumn foliage.
Getting to the Laurel Highlands
The Laurel Highlands makes for a great weekend getaway from several major US cities. Here is the time it will take to drive to the region from several US cities. If you’re traveling by plane, Pittsburgh International Airport is the closet airport.
Washington, DC: 3.5 hours drive
Pittsburgh: 1.5 hours
Baltimore: 3.5 hours
Philadelphia: 5 hours
New York City: 6 hours
Cleveland: 4 hours
Buffalo: 5 hours
What to See in the Laurel Highlands
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
One of the most popular highlights of a visit to the Laurel Highlands is legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. In 1935 department store owner Edgar Kaufmann commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a weekend house for his family near Bear Run. Wright designed the home to blend with its surrounding nature in the most seamless way. The cantilever design of the home makes you feel like you’ve stepped outside even from upstairs rooms. The home also features original paintings by famous artists like Picasso and Diego Rivera.
In July of 2019, Fallingwater was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It became the second such site in the state of Pennsylvania, joining Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Since Fallingwater opened to the public in 1964, its drawn over five million visitors.
Fallingwater Prices and Operating Hours
Guided Architectural Tours: $35
Grounds and exterior access, house interior not included: $15
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays. Closed Wednesdays.
Ohiopyle State Park
Rugged natural beauty is in abundance at Ohiopyle State Park. Serving as a gateway to the Laurel Highlands, the park encompasses approximately 20,500 acres on the southern reaches of the Laurel Ridge. One of the highlights of a visit to Ohiopyle is Cucumber Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls among Pennsylvania destinations. The falls cascade over a 30-foot drop, and parking is available nearby, making the falls easily accessible to visitors.
Ohiopyle State Park is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. The park office and visitor center is open 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. daily, but closed on Sundays from November 1 to mid-April. Day use areas close at dusk.
Where to Stay in the Laurel Highlands
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Seven Springs Mountain Resort is an all-season resort located in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The resort is a destination unto itself as it features a variety of on-site activities like golf, skiing, bowling, rock climbing, zip-lining, an alpine slide, Trillium Spa and fine dining at historic Helen’s.
We visited during their annual autumn festival, which features live music, a petting zoo, goat yoga, many artisan vendors, beer tasting and more. Autumnfest at Seven Springs is a fun time to visit.
Play a Round of Golf in the Laurel Highlands
Highlands Golf Club highlights the picturesque beauty of the Laurel Highlands with mountain vistas throughout the tree-lined course. I enjoyed the sweeping views of autumn foliage while playing the course on a beautiful early October day. The hilly layout offers a challenging round for advanced players, while also being beginner friendly for those teeing off from nearer tee boxes.
Monday-Friday the greens fees for 9 holes costs $48 and 18 holes is $65. Saturday and Sunday greens fees for 9 holes costs $50 and $75 for 18 holes. Daily specials after 2pm cost $30 for 9 holes and $44 for 18 holes.
Seven Springs and Hidden Valley Resorts also hosts many corporate golf outings, charity golf tournaments, fundraising tournaments and other special events. Seven Springs Golf Course measures just over 6,500 yards in length.
Among the many fun activities at Seven Springs Resort is an Alpine Slide. Take a scenic chairlift ride up the mountain and enjoy sweeping views of the picturesque mountains of the Laurel Highlands. The twisting and turning alpine slide track is built directly into the ski slope. The track takes visitors down 1,980 feet on a two-wheeled sled equipped with a handle brake to control speed.
Calling all yoga and animal lovers! If you’ve never tried a downward dog with goats prancing around you, you can change that in the Laurel Highlands during Autumn Fest. Upon checking in with NamastHay Goat Yoga, you will be given some crackers to feed the goats. As soon as you walk into the pen they know you have food, so expect to have a bunch of new friends all vying for your crackers! The yoga is not advanced, it’s an all-levels class, and whatever you do, do not have food in your bag, because they will find it! The worthwhile experience combines stretching and good laughs.
Trillium Spa offers a sanctuary of relaxation at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Massages are available and services range from targeted treatment to a menu of signature massages. A variety of facials and body treatments are also offered. Trilliam Spa also has three manicure stations and three pedicure thrones, with massage settings and a whirlpool tub for soaking your feet.
Autumn Fest in October
In the month of October, Seven Springs hosts Autumn Fest, and each of the weekends has a theme. The weekend we were there, there was live music, pumpkin throwing, beer tastings, craft stalls, a petting pen, alpaca’s, a buffet and bonfire. We lucked out with beautiful blue skies and we loved petting the alpacas! Other weekends this year included a chili cook-off and a Halloween weekend.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Located on 2,000 wooded acres in the Laurel Highlands, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is an upscale resort 3 miles from Fort Necessity National Battlefield. In addition to 2 championship golf courses and a casino, there’s a salon, shops and 2 spas (including a kids spa). Accommodations are set in 2 luxe hotels, plus a Tudor-style lodge, 2-bedroom townhouses and high-end private homes. Dining options include 4 high-end restaurants and 6 more casual spots, as well as 7 bars and lounges. Activities offered at Nemacolin include skiing, tennis and paintball.
Laurel Highlands Pour Tour
Laurel Highlands has partnered with local wineries, breweries, distilleries, meaderies and cideries to put together a fun Pour Tour in the region. Check out partnering locations and request a Pour Tour passport. You can also request a passport at partnering locations. With each purchase, you get a stamp, and as you accumulate stamps you can collect prizes.
Sandhill Berries and Greendance Winery
Greendance Winery is located on the beautiful property of Sandhill Berries in Mt. Pleasant, PA. Sand Hill Berries is famous for delicious fresh-baked pies and cheesecakes by-the-slice and à la mode. Enjoy a delicious made to order sandwich with a glass of wine in their lovely garden. I really enjoyed their Italian sandwich, packed with a variety of high-quality meat and cheese between good Italian bread. They often feature live music on the weekends too.
Greendance Winery produces a wide variety of red, white and fruit wines grown on their farm. If you haven’t previously tried fruit wines like blackcurrant, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry and gooseberry, this is the place to do that! Their Cor X is a very nice dry red for those that don’t have a sweet tooth.
Four Seasons Brewing
Located in Latrobe, PA, Four Seasons Brewing is a great brewery in the Laurel Highlands. They brew an excellent variety of beer styles from around the world including German-style Dunkleweizen and Belgian style sour beers. One of their Russian Imperial Stouts is maple bourbon barrel-aged, offering a nice local twist. Their pumpkin ale is a popular local favorite – the beer itself is not overwhelmingly sweet, but the glass is rimmed with cinnamon and sugar. Their Nebulous New England IPA hits the spot for those that love brews high in IBU’s. Order a beer flight at Four Seasons Brewing and sample several different styles.
Where to Eat in Laurel Highlands
Laurel Highlands offers some fantastic dining to suit even the most discerning of palates. Helen’s and Out of the Fire are two of the best restaurants to eat in the region.
Out of the Fire
Out of the Fire serves wonderful upscale food in a casual rustic setting in Donegal, PA. When the weather permits, you can sit outside on their deck and enjoy sweeping views of the Laurel Highlands ridge. Their steaks are aged 30 days and are packed with juicy flavor. Among their delicious appetizers is a wonderful charcuterie board. Their ribeye steak entree with a romaine wedge salad topped with bacon pieces and hand cut fries is also excellent.
Helen’s Restaurant is located in the historic original log homestead of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, which dates to the 1920’s. Their menu features organic and local ingredients, paired with a Wine Spectator Award Winning wine list. I enjoyed their pan-roasted tenderloin with bernaise sauce, red wine demi-glace, mashed potatoes and asparagus. Other great entrees include Sea Scallops, Lamb Lojn and Laurel Highlands Trout. Helen’s is a great place for a fine dining experience in a relaxed setting.
Laurel Highlands in the Fall
If you visit Laurel Highlands on a Friday or Saturday night in October and enjoy haunted houses, visit Huston’s Haunted Hollow. Chilly fun awaits both indoors and outdoors in a setting of multiple spooky houses, carriage rides and cornfields. If you purchase tickets online you’ll save $3 and avoid some additional waiting time. It’s scary good fun but the line when we visited was around an hour, so plan accordingly.
Some Additional Highlights of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a lot to offer visitors and we’ve enjoyed covering the state over the years.
Gettysburg was the turning point in the US Civil War and along with its epic battlefield, offers a fantastic Pour Tour, featuring some of the country’s best craft ciders.
Harrisburg is the capital of the state, and nearby Hershey offers a fantastic Chocolate World experience, with an amusement park, tours and chocolate tastings galore. Read our article on how to spend 2 days in Hershey and Harrisburg.
Philadelphia was the original capital of the United States before it was moved to Washington, DC. Birthplace of the cheesesteak sandwich, the city is a great place to indulge in a fun food tour with a company like Chew Philly.
According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on the morning of February 2nd, Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, it’s predicted to be an early spring. Phil and his girlfriend can be visited year-round at their enclosed den attached to the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.
Raystown Lake is the largest lake in the state of Pennsylvania, offering a variety of leisure activities for visitors.
Where are some of your favorite places and things to do in Pennsylvania? Let us know in the comments below!
Disclosure: We visited the Laurel Highlands on a press trip organized by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Special thanks to Anna Weltz and Katie Buchanan for organizing the trip. All photos and opinions here are our own. This article also contains some affiliate links.