Canadians often flock north for a fun-filled weekend of camping, cold beer, burgers, and fireworks. As incredibly fun and patriotic as this is, I have another suggestion to enjoy an inexpensive, nature-filled weekend getaway!
Allegheny National Forest is spread across Pennsylvania and New York and it has all you need to enjoy your weekend getaway, jam-packed with exciting excursions. If you decided to road trip down to the States, here are my top five scenic and tourist stops that you absolutely must add to your itinerary!
Kinzua Bridge State Park
Just east of Allegheny National Park and near Mount Jewett (a tiny town with the largest ice cream servings you will ever have, large is enough for a family of six), is the Kinzua Bridge.
This bridge was originally built in 1882 to support a railway. Upon completion, Kinzua Bridge was the highest and longest bridge in the world! As the bridge was no longer used for trains, it was turned into a tourist attraction, though it became a true destination stop after a tornado destroyed half of the bridge in 2003.
The remaining bridge spans halfway across the valley and has an observation lookout that has a glass floor to see all the way down. How far you might wonder? 301 feet, about the same height as the Statue of Liberty.
Inside the tourist information center, there is an interactive and informative mini-museum. Adventurous? You can actually hike right next to the bridge remains, through the valley, and to the other side of the original tracks. There is a path that leads you to the ruins themselves (which feels like exploring ancient ruins), though as soon as you get to the base of the bridge it is rather free range.
There is a section of the ruined bridge that appears that it rolled along to ground as it fell, as the behemoth iron support columns are rolled like fruit roll-ups! It’s pretty neat!
Rock City Park
Walk through an artsy gift shop and step out into a rocky wilderness. This was one of my favourite stops. At first, you seem to be walking on large rocks with massive cracks that go down 30 feet. But after some exploration, you will find a staircase that leads you down into the nooks and crannies below.
Twist and turn through caves, large rock formations, and discover nature’s playground that features one of the largest exposure of quartz conglomerate I’ve ever seen. The best part, admission is only $5 a person! Don’t forget to pick up a cool souvenir on your way out!
Tip: If you look carefully, there is a camouflaged Cadillac; it took us a few minutes to find it. When we were there, the car was for sale and alleged to be the only camouflaged Caddy in the world. But how you know? You can’t see them…
Every local we spoke with suggested this must-see waterfall, though warned that it can be difficult to track down. It was easier to find than anticipated and we had no issues at all.
After parking your car, expect to go on a bit of a hike (level: easy) until you reach the end of the clearly marked path. From this point, it is much easier to just follow your ears (sorry Toucan Sam) to echolocate this gorgeous waterfall.
The water is quite calm that you can get close enough to touch; I tried this and ended up falling in due to a slippery rock – which felt good on a hot day. If you are adventurous enough, there is a massive boulder in front of the falls that you can get some interesting perspective shots for Instagram, or it could be a good perch to lay out your picnic.
Flickerwood Wine Cellars
What vacay is complete without some wine tastings? Exactly 0%.
I highly recommend Flickerwood Wine Cellars. They have two locations, we stopped in Kane. Their high-quality wine is filled with the best quality fruit and local ingredients, family love, and if that was not enough, they have live rock and roll on Saturday nights. It is like a tasting and a show!
With a massive variety for every taste bud, you can enjoy a sample of six flavours (which includes white, red, and even dessert and sparkling), for as little as $4. We ended up taking home the Riesling and Dechaunac.
Enjoy responsibly and not on an empty stomach. Pair your tasting with one of their delicious snacks; I suggest the thick crust pizza! Veggie options yes, gluten-free not so much.
Penn-Brad Oil Museum
Their website was currently down, so we almost bypassed this stop – so glad we didn’t. This museum is older and bigger then it appears from the road. I was pleasantly surprised by how many artifacts it held, and the interactive useful information is provided.
The staff there were extremely passionate and offered a VIP experience. The admission was low at $5 a person, and you can pick up delightful souvenirs such as hand-rolled candles (did you know one of the stages of oil is wax?!), magnets, postcards and more.
The best part of the museum was hearing and seeing the old drilling rigs in action. They are slow to start up, and as soon as they get up to speed, they hiccup and sputter, followed by irregular exhaust backfire, reminiscent of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A true sight to hear and see!
The fun doesn’t end there. You can end up filling your schedule quickly with other stops such as the Kinzua Dam (one of the largest dams east of the Mississippi), Rimrock for the best view, stroll and stretch your legs through the picturesque cute town of Warren, eat a home-cooked meal at Grandma Bears, and walk around an entire lake at Marilla Bridges Trail.
You can camp in many spots though Allegheny or there are quite a few motels scattered throughout if you prefer to sleep and bathe glamping style (that was our choice). They are budget-friendly and do the trick.
The drive from Toronto is an estimated 4.5 hours, however, if you leave during rush hour it can take up to 8 hours once you add in dinner, a bathroom or gas break, crossing the border and the horrendous city traffic on a long weekend. So go explore and enjoy your next long weekend, American style!