The Romantic Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania
By Alison Blackman
The Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania is a magical place. Asked how he would describe his spectacular home, which was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and nestled above a waterfall in the Laurel Highlands, owner Edgar Kaufman Sr. uttered just one word: “Romance.”
On my recent trip with the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau it was easy to see why people fall in love with the area. There is so much natural beauty, and for art lovers, the Laurel Highlands (coupled with at least a few days in the City of Pittsburgh –check out our feature on the City of Pittsburgh ) makes a great vacation destination.
The Laurel Highlands area located to the south east of Pittsburgh, attracts people for a lot of different reasons, most notably the historic Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses, Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater. And while Wright’s man-made beauty is impressive, natural beauty can be enjoyed in nearby Ohiopyle, a small community and state park offering scenic views along with hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting and other outdoor sports activities. You can easily spend a few days enjoying both.
No matter who you are, it is a must to tour both Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Be sure to call first or reserve a tour online as you can’t visit the interior of the homes without a guide. The homes speak for themselves, but you will also find romance walking around the extensive grounds of Fallingwater, and touring the sculpture gardens at Kentuck Knob. The FallingWater Café is a nice place to take a break and have snacks or lunch.
While there are dozens of hotels, inns and other lodging choices in the Laurel Highlands, the one of a kind Nemacolin Woodlands Resort offers a particularly spectacular experience. This huge, luxury resort has as world class spa and a wellness center. The lobby of the chateau is designed after the Ritz Hotel in Paris, with impressive Waterford chandeliers. A splurge is the Forbes 5-star rated Lautrec Restaurant with its different sized tasting menus.
The resort has several golf courses and also a Casino (free shuttle). If you’re visiting the Wright houses and staying at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, there is a shuttle service to Fallingwater.
The entire complex is decorated with pieces of the $45 million dollar Hardy Family art collection. Take a tour with a guide or just enjoy the art throughout the resort, indoors and out with diverse paintings, collectibles, sculptures and work from local artists. Also enjoy a visit to owner Joe Hardy III’s collections of cars, planes and the animals in his private zoo (including bears, big cats, buffalo, wolves, lions and tigers). There’s also skiing, horseback riding, and so much more to do (some by request within 24 hours).
Venturing about an hour down the road you can visit The Westmoreland Musuem of Art in nearby Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It is located in a stunningly renovated building with sweeping view of the outside. Inside, find traditional art from the region, including both modern art installations, and folk art. Have dinner in the unique setting of The Supper Club at Greensburg Station, offering a farm-to-table menu served in the charm of a restored 1911 train station.