Where are the kid unfriendly places in Western Pennsylvania?
November 16, 2009 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Where in Western Pennsylvania / Northern West Virginia are the places you'd take your Mom but not your kids?

Mom's coming to visit us in Pittsburgh. She visits fairly often, and we've done all the normal tourist stuff. The catch is that this time, she isn't bringing any of my younger siblings. I want to take her to all the awesome places you wouldn't take kids.

Mom loves history and politics. She doesn't drink, and has been lukewarm about Fallingwater and art&architecture. The Heinz history museum could be saved for a trip when the kids are here.

Simply going to Homestead or Donora and saying "stuff happened here" won't be too much fun. We'd rather go somewhere with a story - either with tours, or a museum, or something more than dollar general stores and a vague historical plaque.

The Duckboat tours won't be running the days she's here.

We're willing to drive up to 2-3 hours away but we need to be back in Pittsburgh at night.
posted by arabelladragon to Travel & Transportation around Pennsylvania (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said that she's been lukewarm about Fallingwater, but so was my mother until my dad took her there in the spring. Now she talks about it all the time and wants to go back to see it with the leaves changing color. It might be worth a visit up there so that you could do a short hike as well and enjoy the fall!
posted by amicamentis at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Man, this is tough. No kid stuff? No art museums? No Church Brew Works? No Fallingwater? What's left?

How about going to The Strip early Saturday morning when the serious shoppers are out?

Does she like to walk? Spend half a day in one of the parks or in one of the cemeteries (Homewood and Allegheny are great) or on the River Trail on the North Shore where you can get a good look at the bridges from underneath.

My mother always likes hitting Ikea when she's in town.
posted by booth at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2009

Also, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation offers quite a few tours (walking and otherwise) that focus on both specific and general aspects of Pittsburgh. I wouldn't want to take my kids on a tour of the Allegheny County Courthouse, for example, but it may be something your mom would like.
posted by amicamentis at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2009

Have you done Phipps? The candlelight evenings start on December 7, and are quite lovely but bore the kids to tears.

I've been wanting to tour the Bayernhof (http://www.bayernhofmuseum.com/) - they don't admit children under 12.

Meadowcroft is closed for the winter, but it is about as historical as you're going to get.

We've done two of the Homewood Cemetary tours - the guide Jennie is all kinds of awesome. I liked the one on the symbolism of the graves, but there's a certain irony to the "you can't take it with you" one.
posted by librarianamy at 11:43 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

What about any of the Smithsonian Museums in DC? They're free. You can park at a Metro stop outside DC and Metro in to save yourself the challenge of driving in the city. I wouldn't call them "kid unfriendly" places, but they may be of more interest to the adults. I particularly enjoy the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals in the National Museum of Natural History. It houses the Hope Diamond.
posted by onhazier at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2009

As a kid, we had to tour the Bradford House and the LeMoyne house for school trips. BORING back then. But now, knowing that the LeMoyne House was key to the Underground Railroad, and is in walking distance from the Bradford House which started the Whiskey Rebellion... that's kind of cool for a small town.

There's also a quite nice place to eat in the George Washington Hotel which has some history to it as well. I love the Malcolm Parcell murals that surround the dining area.
posted by librarianamy at 11:52 AM on November 16, 2009

Also, I like The Century Inn for some adult dining. The Inn was built in 1794 and has been continuously open since then in one form or another. Admittedly, we usually detour on the way home from Fallingwater to eat there, but I've also made the trip itself for "special event" dinners. (Not because it's swank, because it's a trip.)

The last time we were there my husband hauled me into the men's room to look at some sort of historical documentation they had framed and hanging on the wall. (He's the history buff...)
posted by librarianamy at 12:17 PM on November 16, 2009

Let me just note about the Bayernhof that it is a crazy, crazy experience. The man who owned it was a lunatic. But the collection is very cool.

But really, I think you should just drag her to Fallingwater and let her mind be blown.
posted by palliser at 12:19 PM on November 16, 2009

IDK Where Mom's coming from, or how old she is, or what her mobility is like. However, there are lots of really amazingly beautiful places here in Northern WV.

Take Coopers Rock State Forest, for example. 3 weeks ago would have been more ideal in terms of colors, but the 3-state view and associated awesomeness are pretty great. I'm not 100% sure about the gate being closed or open this time of year (should be open, people are still climbing) but I could find out for you. I mean people take their kids there, but I mean....there are cliffs to fall off of.

A smidgen further south gets you into the appalachian national forest for a day hike, maybe a chance for a super late season holdover trout or 3.

Wheeling is interesting too, the symphony of lights may be up by now too at oglebay, not sure about that either. You've also got the Wheeling Downs, which is gambling/casino/table games, definitely not kid friendly.

I live in Morgantown---I'd be happy to help you find out what parks etc are open in this area...if you'd like.
posted by TomMelee at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2009

Oh, and Klavons! I suppose they would fall under the umbrella of being extremely kid friendly, but part of the reason I love to take people there is to show off the water line from the St. Patrick's Day flood in 1936.
posted by librarianamy at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2009

I'll speak up for my hometown, Wheeling. It is home to West Virginia Independence Hall which is where West Virginia's founding fatehrs met to argue and decide to break away from Virginia. Nearby is the Wheeling Suspension Bridge which at the time of its construction was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Oglebay Park as others mentioned is a very large park outside of Wheeling with a history and glass blowing musuems and the Festival of Lights is currently running which is a large series of lit holidays displays that you drive through. Some are static, other incorporate mechanical movement and animations.

For the slightly more macabre, just south of Wheeling in Moundsville is the former West Virginia State Penitentiary. They offer tours of the place and is very imposing. Literally next door to the pen, is the Grave Creek Burial Mound which is one of the large Indian burial mounds of its type. There is a museum there as well.
posted by mmascolino at 1:08 PM on November 16, 2009

Gettysburg is just over your time restriction but it is absolutely worth it.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:02 PM on November 16, 2009

-Take a hot bath and shop at Berkley Springs just over the border in Maryland. There are also some interesting hiking and abandoned railway tunnels along the way.
-Dolly Sods in West Virginia is pretty, and a good spot for exploring. Nearby are the quaint towns of Thomas and Davis
-Have high tea at either Sunnyledge or in the tea house at Frick Park. If she hasn't seen it already, there is a small art museum and an auto museum around the corner.

If you're loaded, there's always a nice spa day at Nemacolin.
posted by Alison at 3:28 PM on November 16, 2009

I live in Bedford County (about 99 miles east of Pittsburgh on the Pike). Bedford (county seat) has antique stores, a fair number of interesting old houses, and some history with a self-guided walking tour -- check in at the visitor's bureau for the walking tour).

Bedford also has the National Coverlet Museum (kind of interesting, actually) and the Bedford Springs (recently restored to an expansive and expensive state of luxury) which is a ginormous hotel (for the area) currently being run by Omni. The Springs has a quite-pricey spa, an historic eighteen hole golf course, and several expensive places to eat, definitely worth at least a drive-by. They're sort of reservation-happy, though, so if you want to eat there, plan accordingly.

The county has fourteen covered bridges, most of them visit-able (the visitor's bureau has a map so you can drive around and look at 'em if you want). Heck, a lot of them are car-driveable. (Burr Truss and Kingpost construction styles) They're popular for people to take pictures of, if you're into that. November isn't our prettiest month, though...

Everett (next town east along Route 30) has the Union Hotel on Main Street, just redone and reopened this fall, they do a quite tasty lunch menu and I'm told the dinner menu is just as good. I'd go there to eat, probably on the way to or from one of the covered bridges. Prices at the Union are way more reasonable than at the Springs. There's also a walking tour of Everett available from the BCVB.

This really is late in the season for touristy activity where I live -- November is not good weather and a lot of our stuff runs April through October because of the weather. The first two weekends of October are a huge craft fair and fall foliage festival in Bedford. Lots of people attend that. (Our trees usually peak second weekend in October for color.)

Geology people might enjoy driving down to the Sideling Hill Cut on I-68 which is a really great example of a syncline with a walkway along the cut face so that you can see it in detail. It's one of the better examples of Visible Geology around here.

Civil war fun -- I think Antietam is an under-appreciated civil war battlefield. It has a nice self-guided by-car tour. Antietam (not Gettysburg, which is surprisingly flat to my eyes) was the place that cemented for me how terrain wins and loses battles. Highly educational stuff. Antietam is located down I-70 into Maryland and then off exit 29A. It's about an hour from Breezewood (PA turnpike exit) but as a bonus, you'd go right past the Sideling Hill Cut (above) and could pop by and check that out, too.

The two abandoned PA turnpike tunnels (Sideling Hill and Ray's Hill) are now a walking and bike trail, about which you can learn more here. It says it's not "officially" open but they don't run you off if you're on bikes or on foot. (I live next to the abandoned turnpike and am an authority on this subject.) Fans of urban decay will probably enjoy checking out the tunnels but it's getting a bit late in the year for extensive hiking and biking and stuff.

Closer to you, I have done the Johnstown Flood Museum and the National Memorial for same. I found them really interesting and well-presented, a nice and educational day trip chock-full of local history.

Also, note that Normal-People Deer Season starts the Monday after Thanksgiving. There's archery and muzzle loader and other stuff before that, but Normal People Deer Season starts Monday after Thanksgiving and runs for two weeks. The county is overrun with hunters during that time.
posted by which_chick at 4:01 PM on November 16, 2009

Seconding the Johnstown Flood museums.

Interested in trains/transportation? Altoona is less than 90 miles from Pittsburgh. They have the Railroaders Museum which has some trains you can get in and touch.


Horseshoe Curve and the Gallitzen Tunnels are nearby Altoona, and there is a funicular to take you to the top of the Horseshoe Curve.

The Allegheny Portage Railroad shows the almost-forgotten twenty year period when canal boats went from Philadelphia to Hollidaysburg, then were portaged over the Alleghenies and back into canals to get to Pittsburgh.

posted by GregorWill at 4:16 PM on November 16, 2009

I was going to recommend the Bradford House, the LeMoyne House, and the Century Inn, but I see I've been scooped!

Have you toured the Nationality Classrooms in Pitt's Cathedral of Learning? Because they are awesome. And luckily for you, they're currently decorated for Christmas -- the best time to see them, in my opinion. About the rooms.

Or you could tour the Yoghiogheny Opalescent Glass Co. factory. Apparently they make the type of glass used by stained glass artists. There's also a retail gallery/outlet.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 5:35 PM on November 16, 2009

Nice to see fellow Morgantonians here ;-)

-- If your Mom is into a bit of history, you might enjoy the Gallatin Estate at Friendship Hill. It's right outside of Point Marion. A small and understated historical site. It also has the benefit of being close to Apple Annie's restaurant in Point Marion. The food is pretty standard fare but the cakes are to DIE for.

-- Wright's other local house, Kentuck Knob, is close. It's not as spectacular as Fallingwater but it has a very cool sculpture garden with all kinds of weird installations.

-- Also echoing the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, if you're not squeamish. It was a bit much for me.

-- the Palace of Gold, just outside of Moundsville. Out in the middle of nowhere, totally unexpected, and totally worth it.

-- also, have you been to St Anthony's Chapel, home of thousands of Catholic relics? It's pretty astonishing.
posted by media_itoku at 8:24 PM on November 16, 2009

Well, it turns out that most of the options were closed for the year, closed because it was Monday, or closed because of state budget cuts. So that left us only the nationality rooms at Pitt (which she loved) and Fallingwater (which neither of us liked.)

If they had been open, we would have gone to Bayernof (you need to call a day or two in advance to make tours, for any one using this in the future), LeMoyne / Bradford house, Frick House or Old Economy Village (which hit the news while we were trip planning for abruptly losing all its funding).

We still had fun, and now you all have given my husband and I plenty of things to do in the spring. Thank you!
posted by arabelladragon at 10:24 AM on November 26, 2009

« Older A piece of fruit on prime time?   |   My mother's lung biopsy for pulmonary fibrosis:... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.