By Kathleen Ganster
Summer may be over, but there are still plenty of opportunities -- and great places -- for family vacations or Baby Boomer travel.
The HeritagePA sites are regions that specialize in partnering historic areas with natural and cultural resources. The state of Pennsylvania has plenty of amazing historical sites and visiting these spots can easily be accompanied by activities taking advantage of great natural sites and cultural venues.
In many cases, winter and fall are excellent times to slate a vacation. The fall foliage is amazing, parks are less crowded and winter sports abound in colder months.
Each of the 12 HeritagePA sites has its own gems to satisfy any traveler. Here are some highlights to help you plan your own fall/winter getaway: History
Sure there are the well-known historical sites including Gettysburg and Valley Forge -- which are certainly worth visiting -- but there are other wonderful historical sites including the Steamtown National Historic site with its amazing locomotive collection, museums, roundhouse and freight trains. WW II buffs can view authentic uniforms, letters home and other artifacts at the Eldred WWII Museum.
The Lumber Museum pays homage to an important part of the state’s past and learn all about the importance of the glass industry at the Dorflinger Glass Museum. A tour of the Carrie Furnace brings to life the important steel industry so important to the Rivers of Steel Heritage National Area. Learn more about this Nation’s first highway -- The Historic National Road -- with a visit to Fort Necessity National Battlefield.Recreation
Fall is one of the most beautiful times to hike or bike along the extensive network of trails in PA including the Rails- to-Trails that weave throughout the state. The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail is popular and visitors can sign-up for hiking-kayaking combination tours, or visit the Susquehanna River Valley for fall canoeing. You may also want to utilize the new app program to take advantage of the sites and venues along the Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail -- 86 river miles, navigable in canoes or kayaks and includes waterways in Armstrong, Cambria, Indiana, Somerset and Westmoreland counties.
What better place to enjoy the fall scenery than at the Kinzua Sky Walk? Visitors can see for miles at the walkway and there are plenty of trails for hiking, mountain biking and geocaching nearby.
Dust off your skis and head down the slopes at Seven Springs or Hidden Valley, both located in the Laurel Highlands and The Historic National Road Heritage Area.Or cross country ski for miles along the recently completed Great Allegheny Passage, the 135-mile trail that connects to the C&O Canal Towpath.Arts
Artists and crafters thrive in PA. Follow one of the scenic drives that also encompass local artists along one of the PA Artisan Trails. The PA Route 6 Artisan Trail blend hip with old-time American crafts and the Byway of the Arts along Route 15 traverses from rural areas to the state capital. HeART of the Alleghenies Rt. 22 Artisan Trail features art-filled historic districts and recreational opportunities.
Drive the 90-mile trip between Johnstown and Huntingdon, stopping to shop at unique, shops from talented artists and crafters along the way.
Fall is also one of the best times for fairs through the state. Each little town seems to host its own fall, pumpkin, apple or harvest festival this time of year.Kids
Combine a nature trip with education and take your grandchildren birding. Fall birding is popular at Presque Isle in Erie -- take a surrey for a ride around the park to spot the bald eagles and osprey.
Did you know that PA is home to the largest herd of elk in the Northeast? Children will love to hear the bugling of the male elk as they look for mates during September and October. Stop at the Elk Country Museum, and then drive the Elk Scenic Route to view these majestic animals.
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh has been rated as one of the best in the country and who can resist the Please touch Museum in Philadelphia? Little ones will enjoy hearing, “Please Touch,” after hearing quite the opposite at most venues.
Johnstown Children’s Museum allows children to learn through play about Johnstown's rich history, culture, industry and geography. Visit the Crayola Factory in Lehigh Valley to see where America’s favorite crayons and markers are made or visit Hershey where the air smells like chocolate and even the streetlights are shaped like kisses.
Need more ideas for fall or winter vacations in PA? Each HeritagePA region has its own website. For more information about the association and for link to each region visit: http://www.heritagepa.net.