Top Historic Sites, Attractions, and Museums in the Laurel Highlands

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The Laurel Highlands is full of historical attractions and sites to explore. Southwestern Pennsylvania has historic sites that have survived a range of cultural eras in the United States. In the Laurel Highlands, you can explore what life was like for Pennsylvanians from the pre-American Revolution to the dawn of the industrial era and into the 20th century. Here are some of the top historic attractions, sites, national parks, and museums to explore the Laurel Highlands!

Discover the Laurel Highland’s Historical Attractions, Sites, and Museums

Fort Ligonier

During the French and Indian War, the British army constructed fortifications along the newly cut Forbes Road, which provided access from Philadelphia to Fort Duquense (which would later become the British Fort Pitt and Pittsburgh. You can learn more about all things Fort Pitt at the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh!) Fort Ligonier was the last of these fortifications.

At Fort Ligonier, you’ll see full-scale reconstructions of the fort at their original sites including the artillery train, powder magazine, the hospital ward, and Forbe’s hut. Fort Ligonier has an extensive museum with time-period artifacts, multimedia experiences, and reenactments.

Things to Discover at Fort Ligonier:

  • Visit during the fall for Fort Ligonier Days, the historic site’s top annual event. See reenactments, support local vendors and business, and experience Fort Ligonier come to life
  • Tour the museum to learn about the role Fort Ligonier played during the French and Indian War
  • Explore the reconstructed fort to see what life would have been like for the 5000 soldiers who served at Fort Ligonier

Practical Information for Visiting for Ligonier

  • Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 5pm, Sunday 11am to 5pm
  • Admission $12 adults, $6 youth, children 5 and under free, $10 Students and seniors
  • Location: Ligonier

Learn more about how to spend a day in Ligonier!

Bushy Run Battlefield

The Battle at Bushy Run occurred in August 1763 during Pontiac’s War. Here, the British emerged victorious over the Native Americans, which prevented the capture of Fort Pitt and kept the gateways to western expansion open.

Bushy Run Battlefield is the only historic site or museum that exclusively dedicated to Pontiac’s War, which remains one of the most significant Native American conflicts in American History

Things to Discover at Bushy Run Battlefield:

  • Go on a guided battlefield tour included with your admission
  • Walk along one of the many free walking trails on the grounds

Practical Information for Visiting Bushy Run Battlefield

  • Hours: Wed. through Sat. – 9am to 5pm, Sunday – noon to 5pm
  • Admission: $5 adults
  • Location: Jeannette

Historic Hanna’s Town

Founded in 1773, Hanna’s Town was the site of the first county seat and English court for Westmoreland County. Hanna’s town was a destination for travelers, settlers, and those seeking justice by the court.

All buildings at Hanna’s town are reconstructions of the originals at their perceived original sites. After Hanna’s town was attacked and burned down in 1782 by a Seneca and British raid, the town never recovered. The land was subsequently converted to farmland for decades. In 1969, the county purchased the property and with the help of archeological excavation, the town was reconstructed to the historic site we see today.

Things to Discover at Historic Hanna’s Town:

  • Visit during Court Day’s, the sites largest annual event where you can see court reenactments, learn about time period crafts, and what life was like for residents
  • Take a guided tour of the site to see the reconstructed fort and tavern

Practical Information for Visiting Historic Hanna’s Town

  • Hours
  • Admission
  • Location

Idlewild and Soak Zone

Idlewild and Soakzone was our favorite spot as kids to visiting during summer break from school. Idlewild Today, Idlewild and Soakzone is one of western Pennsylvania’s top children’s amusement parks. Idlewild’s story beings in 1878, when the land was given to the Ligonier Valley Railroad to create a space for “picnic purposes and pleasure grounds.” For years it remained a green, outdoor space, until the 1930s where more money was invested to create more amusements. Over the next 50 years, Idlewild expanded with Storybook Forest, a historic village, more rides, a waterpark and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Idlewild is among one of the oldest amusement parks in the nation.

Things to Discover at Idlewild and Soak Zone:

  • Relive your childhood at Storybook Forest
  • Enjoy the next generation Mr. Roger’s Neighboorhood at Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with your little ones
  • Ride the RolloCoaster: a historic 1938 wooden roller coaster

Practical Information for Visiting Idlewild

  • Hours: variable by time of year
  • Admission: variable by age and date
  • Location: Ligonier

Learn more about how to spend a day in Ligonier!

Saint Vincent Gristmill

The Saint Vincent Gristmill offers a unique look into western Pennsylvania’s agricultural heritage. The gristmill was built by Benedictine monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1854 and has been operating ever since. Today, you can see the gristmill in operation and shop in the general store.

While visiting the Gristmill, take a walk around the back and view the wetland system, or consider visiting Saint Vincent’s campus where you can visit exhibitions on Fred Rogers and 19th century coverlets at the Fred Roger’s Center. We will be talking more about these historic things to see later in this post!

Practical Information for Visiting the Saint Vincent Gristmill

  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays
  • Admission: free
  • Location: Latrobe

Learn more about how to spend a day in Latrobe!

McCarl Coverlet Gallery

The McCarl Coverlet Gallery, located in the Fred Roger’s Center at Saint Vincent College, is a donated collection of 19th-century coverlets. What is a coverlet? A coverlet is a jacquard woven bed covering. The collection at the McCarl Gallery includes over 724 coverlets that were collected by the McCarl Family. Selected coverlets are on display year-round with time period themes and topics.

Practical Information for Visiting the McCarl Gallery

  • Hours Tuesday to Friday: Noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday Evening 6:30 to 8 p.m
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: Latrobe, at Saint Vincent College

Learn more about how to spend a day in Latrobe!

Fred Rogers Center Exhibition

Latrobe was the birthplace and home of the children’s television show host Fred Rogers. Saint Vincent College has an exhibition and children media research center dedicated to everyone’s neighbor. In the exhibition, you’ll see props and some of Fred’s sweaters and learn about how Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood came to be.

Practical Information for the Fred Roger’s Center

  • Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: Latrobe, Top floor of the Fred Roger’s Center at Saint Vincent College

Learn more about how to spend a day in Latrobe!

West Overton Village and Museum

The West Overton Village located near Mount Pleasant is a fascinating destination offering visitors a look into pre-Civil War life in Pennsylvania. The history of West Overton begins with Henry Overholt and his family, who moved to Westmoreland county with his German Mennonite community. West Overton became known for the Overholt’s rye whiskey business, which allowed the community to be self-sustaining.

If you’re familiar with Pittsburgh history, you might recognize the name Henry Clay Frick, the industrialist who later led the Carnegie Steel Industry. Henry Clay Frick was born at West Overton and lived here for thirty years.

Today, the West Overton Village is the remaining 18 buildings of the historic community including a barn, gardens the Overholt room, and mansion. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We can enjoy West Overton thanks to Henry Clay Frick’s daughter when she purchased the site to memorialize her family’s heritage.

During a visit to the site you’ll tour the Overholt Homestead, a museum space, and the distillery. The entire site is a fun place to explore and learn about local history. In 2019, the site began to distill whiskey again for the first time in decades!

Practical Information for Visiting West Overton

  • Admission: Adults $8
  • Location: Scottdale

Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum

The Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum preserves the legacy of the Ligonier Valley Railroad, which operated from 1877 until 1952. The railroad served 9 local million passengers and 32 million tons of freight during its operation. It served as the mainline between Ligonier and Latrobe. The museum is housed in the original 1896 Ligonier Valley Railroad station and has a 3000 piece collection including lanterns, keys, maps, dinnerware, and time period pieces.

Things to Discover at the Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum:

  • the 1905 Bobber Caboose

Practical Information for Visiting the Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum

  • Hours: Saturdays – 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m
  • Admission: adults $5
  • Location: Ligonier

Lincoln Highway Experience

The Lincoln Highway experience is an interactive museum in Latrobe that chronicles over 100 years of America’s first coast-to-coast highway. Here, you’ll see how the highway transformed American travel.

The Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania is marked by 150 wooden and metal roadside signs.

The Lincoln Highway is part of the Heritage Corridor, a 200 mile stretch of south-central Pennsylvania, which connects residents and visitors with what life was like in 1913 when the highway was opened. Along the Heritage Corridor, you’ll experience small-town charm, quirky roadside attractions, and state parks.

Things to Discover at The Lincoln Highway Experience:

  • Have a snack in the museum’s restored 1938 diner car
  • Admission: Adults $14
  • Location: Latrobe

Compass Inn Museum

The Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown is a restored stagecoach stop on the National Register of Historic Places. The Compass Inn has served as a stagecoach stop along the Philadelphia Pittsburgh Turnpike from 1820 to 1862. After 1862, stagecoach travel declined due to the instruction of the railroad, so the owners closed the inn but continued to live there for 7 generations. In 1966, the inn was sold to the Ligonier Valley Historical Society who restored it to its 1820 condition.

Today, you can visit and take guided tours of the inn and museum, where you’ll learn about what life was like for stagecoach traveler.

Practical Information for Visiting the Compass Inn

  • Hours May through October, Tuesday through Saturday: 11:00 to 4:00, Sunday: 1:00 to 5:00
  • Admission: $9 adults
  • Location: Laughlintown

DiSalvo’s Station

DiSalvo’s Station is one of Latrobe’s interesting historic sites. This 1903 National Landmark has been thousands of train passengers come and go. DiSalvo’s is still the operating train station in downtown Latrobe and serves as an upscale restaurant and cigar bar.

  • Hours: Regular dining hours
  • Location: Latrobe

Big Mac Museum

Did you know that the Laurel Highland’s was the birthplace of McDonald’s Big Mac? In 1967 the Uniontown McDonalds franchise owned by Micheal Delligatii unveiled a new menu item: the Big Mac.

While the Museum is located at the North Huntington McDonald’s location, the location is owned by the Delligatti Family. At the big Mac Museum, you’ll see a 14 foot tall Big Mac, learn about how this McDonald’s staple came to be.

Practical Information for Visiting the Big Max Museum

  • Hours: During McDonald’s open hours
  • Admission: Free
  • Location 9061 Route 30, North Huntingdon, PA

Birthplace of the Banana Split: Latrobe

Latrobe gets its name on the map because it’s the birthplace of the banana split! In 1904, the 23-year-old pharmacist at Tassel’s Pharmacy in downtown Latrobe created the banana split. The ice cream recipe took off and became a staple in ice cream shops across the United States. The Great American Banana Split Celebration is held throughout the downtown Latrobe area in late August. In 2013, Latrobe was officially named the birthplace of the banana split and is remembered with a larger than life statue and historical marker.

Learn more about how to spend a day in Latrobe!

Fallingwater- the Laurel’s Highlands UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 2019, Fallingwater, the famed architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright, was named (among his other works) a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This architectural masterpiece features a carefully designed private home built among nature over a stream and waterfall. Guided tours are available for visiting Fallingwater.

Things to Discover at Fallingwater:

  • Stop by the XX by taking the XX trail to get a view of Fallingwater and the waterfall.
  • Visit the site’s extensive gift shop

Practical Information for Visiting Fallingwater

  • Hours: March 7 to December 31st, 10 am to 4 pm
  • Admission: $30 adult, $18 youth (themed tours are available for an additional charge)
  • Location: Mill Run, PA

Make a weekend out of visiting Fallingwater! Fallingwater is located a short 20-minute drive from Ohiopyle State Park, one of the Laurel Highland’s top parks for hiking, whitewater rafting, and adventuring! M

Palace Theater

The Palace Theater in Greensburg is one of the region’s historic theaters. The Palace opened in 1926 as the Manos Theater and for decades has served as the home for vaudeville shows, movies, comedy, concerts, and dance. At the time, the Palace was one of the most elegant and finest theaters in the region. Much of the original theater remains intact today such as the marble ticket booth and the wheel of lights a the theater’s entrance.

Today free guided tours are available, which give backstage look at the theater’s history and operation.

  • Hours: variable
  • Admission: variable
  • Location: Greensburg

National Parks in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Southwestern Pennsylvania, which encompasses the Laurel Highlands features some of Pennsylvania’s National Parks and historic sites! Read more in our post about this amazing National Parks!

  • Rivers of Steel National Historic Area
  • Fort Necessity National Battlefield
  • Flight 93 National Memorial
  • Allegheny Portage National Historic Site
  • Friendship Hill National Historic Site
  • Johnstown Flood Museum and National Historic Site

Let’s explore the Laurel Highlands’ Top Historic Sites, Attractions and Museums!