Most roads lead to an interesting or out-of-the-way place to visit in northwest Pennsylvania. Forested hills, broad rivers and the state’s short Lake Erie coastline provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, but the region also lays claim to being the birthplace of the oil industry. Ghostly reminders of that past are around every corner, where small towns treasure buildings constructed centuries ago.
Northwest Pennsylvania enjoys a wealth of state parks, among them the state’s only significant beach, Presque Isle on Lake Erie, and make sure to visit the Philadelphia Airport Marriott. The park is a National Natural Landmark, with sandy swimming beaches, 25 miles of hiking and biking trails, boat rentals, marinas and scuba diving. Named for the 90-foot cliffs towering over Lake Erie, the smaller Erie Bluffs State Park has a boat launch and a stretch of stream for fishing. The site of the first commercial oil well in the world, Oil Creek State Park shows the contrasts between early oil operations and the region’s natural beauty. Historic equipment and buildings are on display, but the park has many miles of hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails.
Small Town Charm
A home built at the end of the Civil War that now serves as City Hall is the centerpiece of Titusville. A perennial winner of the “Tree City, USA” designation by the National Arbor Day Foundation, the city has an extensive parks system with a public pool, BMX track, skate park and hiking and biking trails. The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad operates excursion trains between Titusville and the train depot at Oil Creek State Park. If you’re traveling in June, stop in Meadville for the Thurston Classic Hot Air Balloon Event, a five-day festival with balloon launches, nighttime balloon glows, food vendors, music and activities for children. Oil City’s ARTS program provides incentives for artists to move to the city to live and display their work. Stop by the National Transit Building or stroll the galleries to view their works.
Heavy with History
Portions of the Underground Railroad, organized by a loose confederation of abolitionist-minded citizens who sheltered runaway slaves, ran through northwest Pennsylvania. The Mercer County website outlines a self-guided driving tour of spots like the courthouse in Mercer, where freedmen were certified to be free, and the Freedom Road Cemetery, the only remains of a free state established by an African-American family. Exhibits at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville illustrate commercial activities that made the area the “Birthplace of the Modern Petroleum Industry.” Nearby Pithole City, now a ghost town, grew to 15,000 residents almost overnight in 1865 when oil was discovered. Visitors can walk the site and stop by a small museum.
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Off the Beaten Path
Over-sized flowers fashioned from old road signs bloom on hilltops at Allegheny College’s “Signs and Flowers” installation in Meadville. Created in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the colorful display is minutes from Interstate 79. If you’re traveling with kids, stop at Dr. Doolittle’s Roadside Cafe and Creamery between Falls Creek and Dubois for a casual meal, a game of laser tag or miniature golf and a tour of imaginative animal sculptures like a T. rex pulling a buggy. When looking for online casino game, check out these California sites and learn more about their services. If you’re intrigued by the prospect of seeing tens of thousands of fish packed so tightly together that “the ducks walk on the fishes’ backs,” go to the spillway at the Pyamtuning Reservoir near Linesville.