Pittsburgh, also known as the “Steel City”, is Pennsylvania’s second-largest city situated right alongside the Ohio River. This city certainly has a lot to offer – from the zoo and aquarium to multiple museums. While it is an industrial city, it has been modernized to adapt to various demographics.
If you’re from Pittsburgh, chances are you’re wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the thriving city. Sometimes, all you want is to go away for the weekend to see something new. Likewise, if you’re from the countryside and you’re looking for an exciting getaway, Pittsburgh might be the place for you.
Whether you’re looking for a city-based road trip or a quick weekend getaway to explore the great outdoors, we’ve got you covered. Here are the 15 best Pittsburgh road trips, weekend getaways, and day trips!
Cook Forest State Park
113 River Road, Cooksburgh, PA 16217
Just 91 miles (or one hour and forty five minutes) from Pittsburgh is the ultimate picturesque weekend getaway – Cook Forest State Park. There’s no better place to be one with nature and to find solace in yourself and the world around you than a forest, so it only makes sense to visit this state park.
With 8,500 acres of land (including over 3,000 acres surrounding the Clarion River), this state park has everything you could want from a weekend getaway. If you’re the adventurous type, you can go kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, biking, or even sledging in winter. For those who want to relax, the forest is the perfect place to meditate. Plus, it’s not too far from Pittsburgh, so you can even make it a day trip.
One of the most popular road trip destinations in the country is upstate New York. Just a 156-mile drive from Pittsburgh (two and a half hours) is Chautauqua County, which is one of the nicest weekend getaway destinations on the East Coast. Not too metropolitan, and not too outdoorsy.
Chautauqua County is surrounded by lakes, including Chautauqua Lake, Findley Lake, Lake Erie, and Cassadaga Lake, making this a very lake-oriented destination. For the adventurous visitors, there’s an abundance of outdoor activities available including paddlesports, fishing, and boating. If being on the water isn’t your thing, you can spend your weekend getaway walking around and taking the gorgeous sights in.
Presque Isle State Park
Peninsula Drive and Fisher Drive, Erie, PA 16505
Who said you have to travel to a different state to make it a fun-filled road trip? Presque Isle State Park, some 131 miles from Pittsburgh (a two-hour drive) is the ideal day trip or weekend getaway for a quick summer vacation (see also ‘15 Amazing Things To Do In Des Moines During Your Vacation‘). Located right on Lake Erie, this state park is an excellent option for those looking for a fun day out. With options to go fishing, boating, paddle boarding, jet skiing, or to simply relax on the sandy beaches, this place has it all.
Plus, Presque Isle State Park offers 11 miles of various trails for an enjoyable hiking experience. This is the perfect place to make some memories with friends or kids.
200 Hartwood Acres, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
Fancying a day trip to somewhere historic and quiet in Pittsburgh? Hartwood Acres is one of the best kept secrets in Pittsburgh, featuring a 16th-century, Tudor-style mansion – though it was actually built in 1929.
Learn about the unique history of this stunning mansion on a guided tour before taking a stroll through the endless grounds surrounding the mansion. The interior of the mansion is spectacular, with original artifacts and antiques from both America and England, including a unique hand-carved oak mantle from a 16th century castle in England.
This is definitely the best day trip to go to with your family – especially if you want to get your kids interested in history!
If you’re fancying a slighter longer road trip, you’ve got to check out Niagara Falls if you haven’t been there yet. This iconic destination is 239 miles from Pittsburgh, or three and a half hours to be exact, making it an ideal final destination at the end of a road trip. As everyone knows, Niagara Falls straddles the border between the United States and Canada and is made up of three waterfalls that are said to be over 12,000 years old.
Due to the popularity of Niagara Falls, there are several hotels in the surrounding area that would make this a great weekend getaway for those who have never been before. Sure, some people might want a road trip away from people, but it’s fun to be a tourist in your own country!
Monongahela National Forest
200 Sycamore Street, Elkins, West Virginia, 26241
Another long road trip from Pittsburgh is to the breathtaking Monongahela National Forest, which is 200 miles from the Pennsylvanian city (or three and a half hours). This forest is located in West Virginia and one of those secret (not so hidden) treasures that is ideal for those looking for an absolute escape. You can spend your time amongst the forest floor, or you can make a hike up the Allegheny Mountains to reach the tallest peak, Spruce Knob.
The Monongahela National Forest features over 921,000 acres, so make sure to pack your hiking boots and suitable clothing for a lot of hiking. This size also means that this is probably the best place to go if you’re wanting to avoid tourists.
Pack a tent in your car for an unforgettable camping experience that is far enough away from Pittsburgh without the fear of moving light years away from home!
If you’re looking for a culturally diverse experience, you’ve got to check out Baltimore. This is quite the road trip, 247 miles to be exact (or three hours and forty five minutes), so it might be worth making some pit stops on the way.
In fact, as you’re driving through Pennsylvania on Route 70, you’ll probably come across the world’s largest paint can – certainly one of the most unique roadside attractions.
Back to Baltimore. Baltimore is a haven for those who love anything to do with music, food, and history. With over 200 different communities, Baltimore is rich in cultural diversity.
This city has it all – the American Visionary Art Museum, the National Aquarium, a variety of historic ships, a 200+ year old food market, and the birthplace of the American National Anthem should all be on your to-do list.
Gravity Hill Road, New Paris, PA 15554
To some Pennsylvanians and Pittsburghians, the idea of making a road trip to Gravity Hill might seem like a tourist trap. But why not join in with the fun and experience the novelty of this strange hill? As the name suggests, Gravity Hill (also known as magnetic hill) is a road in Bedford County where the surrounding land and trees create an optical illusion. This illusion makes the downhill slope look like an uphill one, so while it might look like a soccer ball is rolling up the hill, it’s actually rolling down it.
This unique location is the ideal day trip for those who live in Pittsburgh, even if it is a silly novelty. Plus, you don’t have to drive too far to see it, as the road is located at Pittsburgh’s North Park intersection of McKinney Road and Kummer Road.
222 Penns Cave Road, Spring Mills, PA 16828
If you want an exciting day trip that doesn’t involve driving to a different state, check out America’s only all-water cave, Penn’s Cave. It’s a two and a half hour drive from Pittsburgh (154 miles) and is definitely worth the visit for adults and kids alike. Penn’s Cave offers a unique historical experience, where visitors are taken on a guided tour of the caves via a boat. Visitors can then explore the caves however they wish – whether it’s to go mining for gems or look for wildlife within the cave (hint: there’s a lot of bats).
Penn’s Cave also offers 1,600 acres of preserved land that is home to native American wildlife, including bison, bears, deer, wolves, and mustangs. Visitors can take a guided tour driven by a bus to see these wonderful creatures.
Cherry Springs State Park
4639 Cherry Springs Road, Coudersport, PA 16915
Cherry Springs State Park is the perfect weekend getaway for the lovers of nature and astronomy. You know those gorgeous photos you see online of the night sky with the stars and galaxies looking edited and filtered?
Yup, you can actually see those sights in real life at Cherry Springs. Some 182 miles from Pittsburgh (a three and a half hour drive) holds some of the most beautiful nighttime sights you will ever see due to completely unobstructed views.
If you’re a keen astronomer, you can stay at the Astronomy Observation Field with your equipment to see the night’s sky. If you just want to go camping under the stars, make sure to pitch a tent at the designated Nighttime Viewing Area. During the day, make sure to go hiking and bring a picnic!
Franklin in Pennsylvania is a mere 53 minutes away from Pittsburgh (53 miles), making it the ideal place to spend the day in a quieter town. This town might make you feel like you’ve ended up in a 80s-inspired indie Netflix television show, with its classic theater and antique buildings built in the 19th century. Some lovely memories can be made in Franklin, so if you’re looking for a quick respite to get away from the city for a day, Franklin is the place to go.
Make sure to check out the 1896 cast-iron fountain in Fountain Park, the antique musical instruments in DeBence’s Antique Music World Museum, and the trails at Oil Creek State Park.
Tired of technology and want to go back to basics? Head northeast out of Pittsburgh for 64 miles (just over an hour) and you’ll come across an abundance of rolling fields until you reach the Amish community of Smicksburg. Just because it’s an Amish community doesn’t mean you’re not welcome, just make sure you respect their rules by not taking any photos and not using your cell phone.
In the small community of Smicksburg, you can buy pottery, furniture, and baked goods all made by the Amish community. Plus, Smicksburg is home to Strawberry Saturday for every Saturday in July and Peach Saturday for every Saturday in August. This is certainly one of the most charming places to visit for the day.
Haunted road trip
In preparation for the spooky season, lovers of all things horror-related have to check out this haunted road trip. This road trip spans across Pennsylvania and can be completed however you like, so it’s best to make your own route by choosing your favorite spots. Here are ours:
- Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike
- Fricks Locks
- Eckley Miners Village
- Concrete City
- Ghost Town Trail
Pennsylvania is home to some of the creepiest haunted locations, all of which can be reached in a road trip around the state.
Christmas Lights Road Trip
‘Tis the season, which calls for a seasonal road trip to spot the state’s best Christmas lights displays in Pennsylvania! Sure, you could walk around your neighborhood, but why not check out the professional work across the state? Here are the key locations to drive to:
- Longwood Gardens
- Lights in the Parkway at Lehigh Parkway
- Lehigh Valley Zoo Winter Light Spectacular
- Candy Cane Lane
- Holiday Lights on the Lake at Lakemont Park
- Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
- Hershey Sweet Lights
- Koziar’s Christmas Village
- Dutch Winter Wonderland in Lancaster
- Herr’s Christmas Lights in Nottingham
Mount Davis is the highest elevation point in Pennsylvania, some 3,213 feet above sea level, making it a once-in-a-lifetime day trip. This mountain is only 95 miles from Pittsburgh (just under two hours) and provides some stunning views of the surrounding Somerset County in the observation tower. Bring a camera, hiking boots, and a picnic for a breathtaking hike (literally).