Updated: Jul 27, 2022
If you're like me, you're always looking for new and fun ways to get your kids outside, especially in the summertime. Whether you're vacationing to western PA, new to Pennsylvania, or just looking for a great place to explore, check out my top 5 western Pennsylvania day trips for families!
1) Presque Isle
I feel lucky to live so close to this beautiful state park! The peninsula is gorgeous anytime of the year, but it's especially great in the summer! If you and your family are into the outdoors, you'll love Presque Isle. A scenic bike trail surrounds the 3,200 acres of this day-use park and provides beautiful views of Presque Isle Bay, downtown Erie, PA, beaches, and wildlife. Don't worry if you forget your bikes! There are bike rentals available on the peninsula. Between swimming, hiking, fishing, boating, and playgrounds, Presque Isle has everything that an active family could want!
If you and your family are history buffs, check out Commodore Perry's monument on the peninsula and learn about the important role Erie played in our nation's history. Then drive to the beaches and check out the Presque Isle Lighthouse.
If your kids are into nature, sign up for a pontoon boat ride through the ponds and lagoons on Presque Isle. Don't forget to tour the Tom Ridge Environmental Center before you leave! It's full of local wildlife exhibits, hands-on fun, and educational activities!
If your kiddos are into trains, you have to check out the Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean county! It's awe inspiring! This 339 acre park is home to what was once the longest and tallest railroad viaduct. It was destroyed by a tornado in 2003 and reconstructed as a pedestrian walkway in 2011. I will say...this is not for those who may be afraid of heights! You can take a stroll down the walkway at 301 feet high and see some incredible views!
If heights aren't your thing, that's OK! Check out the museum they have on-site. (I especially enjoyed the story of the pilot flying a plane through the support beams of the bridge!!) Be sure to hike down the trails and check out the rubble from the collapse that still remains to this day! Kinzua Bridge is close to three other state parks that offer camping and other recreational activities, too! I can't wait to go back in the fall to check out the beautiful colors in the valley below!
While you're out near the Kinzua Bridge, be sure to check out the Tionesta lake and dam! The Tionesta is vital to flood control and has prevented over $570 million in damages caused by flooding! The lake is beautiful and offers a great way to cool off on a hot summer day! Rent a pontoon boat, fish for bass, musky, panfish, trout, and more, or just cool off with a swim! There's camping nearby and no fees for parking. So even if you're just out sightseeing for the day, stop by the lake and have a picnic and check out the gorgeous landscape!
Located in Fayette county, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, you can tour 4 miles of Pennsylvania's largest cave! At a constant 52 degrees underground, you may want to pack a jacket or sweater for your kiddos. With different tour options available, you can customize your visit to your family. If your travelling with little ones stick to the easy 30 minute guided tour. No steps or special equipment involved! (And infants are free, which is a great bonus!) However, if you and your family are really looking for adventure, go spelunking all day in the caverns! (Kiddos must be at least 9 years old and come prepared with some special equipment for this option.)
There are plenty of fun activities for younger kiddos, too! The learning grottos offer families the chance to study stalactites, safely explore a dark cave, and play archaeologist! Kids ages 4-9 will especially enjoy this area. Don't forget to pan for gemstones and get a picture from the family lookout spot!
If an urban setting is more your scene, make sure to check out the many options that downtown Pittsburgh has available! There are so many incredible activities in the city that it's tough to narrow it down; so I'm going to only include suggestions that my own children especially love! Ride the incline up Mount Washington for a spectacular view of the city. Take in a Pittsburgh Pirate's baseball game. Ride bikes along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail for beautiful views on both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. Take your kiddos bird watching at the National Aviary or check out the fun-filled Pittsburgh Children's Museum! (Be sure to bring a bathing suit or change of clothes for the kids, as one floor is made entirely for water play!)
If history is more your style, head to Oakland and spend the day at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. There you'll find plenty of hands-on activities for the kids, architecture, art, and...DINOSAURS!! And what kid doesn't love that?? The museum is big; so allot a full day to see everything. Make sure to grab a map, too, if you're like me and have a terrible sense of direction! If you're family still has energy after a day at the museum, head to the Cathedral of Learning on The University of Pittsburgh's campus to tour the Nationality Rooms and take in the amazing gothic architecture of the cathedral. It's really something special, especially around Christmas time!
I hope this list has given you some new ideas for getting your kids out and about in western PA! If you have a favorite activity for this beautiful area, let me know in the comments!!
Until next time, take care and smile pretty!!