The sleepy towns and peaceful countryside of the Laurel highlands make southwestern Pennsylvania a great destination for a getaway. And for vacationers who want more than Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and Ohiopyle's white water, the area won't disappoint.
In Ohiopyle, visitors looking for a different sort of white-water adventure can rent an inflatable kayak called a "duckie" or participate in a canoe or kayak clinic. For the faint of heart and families with children under 12, a quiet stretch of the Youghiogheny River offers a milder type of white-water experience.
The town is also a great place to rent a bike to tour the 16-mile scenic hike-and-bike trail, which follows the middle and lower sections of the river through Ohiopyle State Park. Pull-along bike buggies for small children are available.
Last year, the trail was used by more than 150,000 people. Ten additional miles are under construction and should be completed
by mid-summer. Cyclists will eventually be able to ride 28 miles along the river from Connellsville to Confluence. Bikers who continue into town at Confluence can dine at the River's Edge Cafe.
But the park also has a hilly, challenging 10-mile mountain bike trail. There are also 41 miles of day-hiking trails in the park, some leading to cascading waterfalls (one of the most dramatic is Cucumber Falls). The park also provides access to the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail which continues northward.
In addition, the Youghiogheny River has some of the best trout fishing in the state.
The area offers a wide range of choices in overnight accommodations, from budget-priced and rustic to extravagant and refined. Ohiopyle State Park has 223 campsites and is open year-round. Reservations are recommended, especially for weekends and holidays.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort -- a ski destination about 30 minutes northeast of Fallingwater and the park -- offers golf packages, indoor and outdoor swimming, horseback riding, an alpine slide, bike rentals, hayrides, hiking, tennis, a day camp for children and fine dining.
And to the southwest in Farmington is the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort on U.S. 40. Set on more than 800 acres, it has, as its main inn, a Tudor-style chateau filled with $20 million worth of artwork. Art tours are offered daily at 9:30 a.m.
This four-star Pennsylvania resort features three restaurants and tavern as well as several lakes for canoeing, paddle-boating and shoreline fishing. Guests can spend time on the 18-hole golf course or at the equestrian center for riding lessons, trail rides and surrey rides. There's a spa which offers mud wraps and massages as well as a weight room, aerobics classes and a pool. There is also a miniature golf course for children.