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2017 Pennsylvania Calendar and Book Buying Options

11.29.2016

Exploring the Old Growth Forest at Alan Seeger Natural Area: Rothrock State Forest, Huntingdon County, PA

The Alan Seeger Natural Area is home to one of the few stands of old growth forest within the state. It is located in an extremely remote part of Huntingdon County, within easy range of the Raystown Lake Region and State College. There are a number of old growth trees, with it considered to be one of the finest stands in the state. 

Per the PA DCNR:

"Scientists believe the largest tree in the area could be over 1,000 years old, possibly the oldest in the state, some on small islands in the middle of Stone Creek. Other tree species in the area include white oak, red maple, white pine, pignut hickory, black gum and black birch."

They have even included small shelters and picnic areas to sit and enjoy the surroundings. 
The area was named after a poet that died in World War I. It is a beautiful area with lots of old growth trees, with a mix of secondary forest that is well over a hundred years old.
I look forward to spending some more time getting acquainted with the Alan Seeger Natural Area. The forest is absolutely stunning and peaceful. Stands of hemlock, pine, and oak are always awesome to see. These are even better considering their extreme size and age, a rarity within this state that has been largely clear cut for lumber multiple times. This is a rare gem within Penn's Woods and well worth exploring. It is one of many places of natural beauty within Rothrock State Forest.
Coordinates: 40.6944° N, 77.7552° W

11.22.2016

Jo Hays Vista: Pine Grove Mills, PA, Centre and Huntingdon Counties

The Jo Hays Vista in the Rothrock State Forest is absolutely stunning. It showcases a stunning view from Tussey Mountain, looking out over Centre and Huntingdon Counties, and the Nittany Valley of State College, the home to Penn State University. 
The site is dedicated to the memory of state senator Jo Hays, whose efforts helped create this location and the restoration and preservation of Rothrock State Forest.
This place has an inspirational and beautiful view out over the rural landscape. The view from this past weekend includes the first snowfall of the season. 
This location is directly on the border of Huntingdon and Centre Counties. From this spot, you can connect to the Mid State Trail, which connects you to a myriad of other trails throughout the state. This is a rugged location that serves as an entryway into huge state forest lands, places that are awesome to randomly drive around in. You could easily spend a whole day driving and not retrace any of your steps. Those are some of my favorite kinds of drives. 

Coordinates: 
40.7169° N, 77.8940° W

11.20.2016

Lakemont Park Lights on the Lake: Altoona, PA Blair County

Today we take a look at the 2016 edition of Altoona's Lakemont Park Lights on the Lake. This is an excellent drive through Christmas lights display. The display encompasses most of the area of this classic amusement park. They also have a full miniature train display and gift shop that you can visit upon leaving the display. The display is open daily until 10:00 PM through January 8th. While the park's coasters, including Skyliner, and the world's oldest coaster, Leap the Dips, are not open, the display is a ton of fun and the rides provide a cool backdrop to the lights display.
The entrance to the lights goes into the back of the park through the parking lot for the ballpark. For those of you coaster lovers out there like myself, you are greeted with a beautiful sight, Skyliner's white structure aglow with radiating lights from the display.
There are many awesome spots throughout the display, though one of my favorites is their conversion of the park's train ride into a beautifully lit display while it sits in its winter slumber, before it gets back to traversing the park's "Pony Shoe Curve," an ode to the region's important rail history.

Light tunnel time!
There is nothing quite like when trees are fully covered with lights. This area in the park's grove really shines in the display.
If you have any holiday shopping to do, or really like to see model train displays, as I love to do, you should definitely stop at the end of the journey to take a look. Lakemont is one of our favorite places to go during the summer for some great rides and affordable prices, and it is also one of our favorite places to check out holiday lights in the state. For more information on visiting, be sure to check out their website at http://www.lakemontparkfun.com

11.17.2016

Pennsylvania Gifts: Six Great Ideas

It is that time of the year again. If you are looking for some gifts for the holiday season, here are some ideas that should help you out!
A view of Bucks County's Knecht's Covered Bridge

1) Our 2017 Pennsylvania Calendar
We have created a 2017 Pennsylvania wall calendar that features many different sites from around the state. It is available for only $9.99 plus shipping through this link, or through the dropdown menu at the top of the page. 

2) Andy Vasquez Furniture:
Andy is a friend of mine from my high school days. He is in the custom furniture business, but also does great handiwork with different items such as planters and cutting boards. He does many projects from small to large, and is located in Philadelphia. He has online ordering through his page at www.andyvasquezfurniture.com


3) Pennsylvania Photo Prints: 
If you love our photos and would like to get a print made of them, or even a throw pillow, phone case, greeting card, poster, or something else made with our photos printed upon them, check out our photo print page at Fine Art America. If there is a certain photo of ours that you really like that is not included, message us at contact@interestingpennsylvania.com and we can arrange for you to get what you would like. Below is a sampling of our photos that are available.
4) Your local bookstore and shops:
Moravian Book Shop, Bethlehem
Pennsylvania is home to many great local bookstores that carry a wide assortment of gifts in addition to literary works. The first place that comes to mind is the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, the nation's oldest continuously running bookstore, along with the many little shops in the downtown Bethlehem area. Other areas that come to mind for having an awesome selection of little shops are New Hope in Bucks County, Jim Thorpe in the Poconos, Wellsboro near the PA Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, and many others. Shop local and support the many awesome small businesses and shops that are located throughout the state.

5) Our Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip Book
We wrote this book about the ten different awesome and historic amusement parks throughout the state. Pennsylvania is home to more wooden roller coasters than any other state, and many rare or last of their kind rides. These parks have brought joy to Pennsylvanians for many generations and we cover these parks in our book, including Knoebels, Kennywood, Waldameer Park, Idlewild, Dutch Wonderland, Lakemont Park, Dorney Park, DelGrosso's, Conneaut Lake Park, and Hersheypark. Instrumental park visionaries, ride designers, and timeless memories of these parks are chronicled in this book, along with some cool regional places to check out in the areas of these different parks.

It is available through the dropdown menu at the top of the page, or through this link.

6) Holiday Gift Markets:
There are a wide variety of different seasonal gift markets throughout the state. Some of our favorites include Bethlehem's Christkindlmarkt and Christmas City Village Weihnachtsmarkt, and Pittsburgh's Holiday Market. Additionally, Philadelphia runs Christmas Village, Mifflinburg runs Christkindl Market, along with other holiday markets. Pennsylvania's old German roots go hand in hand with the German style holiday markets that are thrown all across the state. They are excellent places to go have a good time and to get your holiday shopping done. 

11.15.2016

The Original Pie Shoppe, Laughlintown, PA, Lincoln Highway, Westmoreland County

If you are looking for the ultimate cupcake, pie, or any other baked good, the Original Pie Shoppe is the ultimate place. Located along the Lincoln Highway in the Laurel Highlands region, this bakery is a great place to get a snack or a meal as a rest stop along the road, or as a start to some adventures around the region. We make a point of going here every time we are in the area. Everything they have is nothing short of delicious. 

This family institution was started in 1947 when Melvin Columbus returned from World War II. In the navy he was a chef and created cinnamon rolls as a treat for the sailors. He lived the American Dream and built a business from the ground up, using his abilities, along with help from his mother, Mildred. Their efforts have lead to an institution that seems to have lots of business, at every hour of the day. 
Lots of cupcakes and pies!
Along with pastries and pies...
Cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, donuts, and more, along with a deli. 
The Laughlintown Pie Shoppe makes some of the most amazing baked goods in the state, and their prices are very affordable. We highly recommend a stop and even a long trip alone to have some of the delicious baked goods from this great family business. The location of the bakery along the Lincoln Highway also makes for a great launching point into the Laurel Highlands and nearby Linn Run State Park, Beam and Wolf Rocks, and more. Additionally, there are many awesome things to check out in the surrounding village.

More information and hours of operation can be found at http://theoriginalpieshoppe.com 

11.10.2016

Beam Rocks Overlook Hike and Linn Run State Park, Laughlintown, PA, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties

One of my favorite little hikes in western PA is the Beam Rocks Overlook hike. If you are traveling along the Lincoln Highway in this area, you absolutely need to stop here, stretch your legs, and take in the magnificent views. Even though this is a generally level and obstacle free hike, between this and the nearby Wolf Rocks hike, the absolutely spectacular views make these some of the finest places to hike in western PA. The last time I showed you these places was during the depths of winter. Today we visit during the autumn season, and get a view of some of the residual colors and fresh blanket of leaves across the forest floor of Laurel Ridge. 

For more in depth information about this and the nearby Wolf Rocks hikes, check out this guide that we wrote. 

A fresh blanket of leaves on the forest floor of Laurel Ridge.
There's Brit!
The shapes of the stones give them an almost lifelike feel. With some imagination, the rock in the center of the photo almost looks like a sleeping or planking person, to bring back a meme phenomenon from a few years ago. The rock is complete with two nostrils facing us towards the end of the rock, with the sides of the rock almost looking like the arms of someone with an hourglass figure, and the hips tilting back outwards towards the bottom right of the photo. 
These sandstone outcroppings stand about ninety feet above Laurel Ridge. 
A commanding view of Laurel Ridge
A look down about 90 feet, with the forest floor having some low lying Mountain Laurel or Rhododendron. Nothing makes me feel as alive as taking in nature on a nice crisp day like this.
It is neat to see how the sandstone has weathered with rounded edges without one jagged/90 degree edge. 
A commanding view of the Somerset County countryside with just a hint of remaining autumn color.
Brit!


Now we headed back to the parking location and needed to quench our thirst.
So we stopped at Grove Run Spring at the nearby Linn Run State Park, a gorgeous little wonderland, complete with this spring, a deeply forested gorge, a small waterfall, and historic cabins that were constructed by the CCC, a Great Depression era program that built the infrastructure of many of the places that we hold dear. Grove Run Spring gushes the cleanest and most delicious spring water that is known to man, in my humble opinion. My goodness is it so delicious. The best things in life are free.
Linn Run State Park, Forbes State Forest, and the surrounding areas abound with spectacular natural beauty and are well worth your time. These places are so awesome to relax in. 

11.07.2016

PA Holiday Bucket List: 13 Awesome Things to Do

The brightest time of the winter season is coming up, the holiday season. I hope that all of you have done some or all of the activities on this list, but if you have not, try to plan some time to enjoy them in the future. Christmas would just not be the same without them for us. While we do not get to all of these places each year due to time constraints, we try to do as many as possible. This is the list of our favorite things to do and places to experience during the holidays.

1) Koziar's Christmas Village in Bernville, PA:
Article and Koziar's Website

Bar none, one of the quirkiest and most awesome places to visit in the country is Koziar's Christmas Village in Bernville, PA, just north of Interstate 78 in Berks County. This is a special place where family memories are made as brightly as the 500,000 old style, large bulb, Christmas lights that Koziar's uses. Some of my earliest memories were made here. There is nothing like sipping a cup of hot chocolate and walking around this attraction that has been family run and owned since 1948.
2) While we live in Pittsburgh, I (Dave) am originally from the Lehigh Valley. I consider Bethlehem to be my home city. No other city in the entire state decks itself out as great as Bethlehem, the Christmas City. The city was founded on Christmas Eve in 1741 by a group of the pacifist Moravians, led by David Nitschmann and Count Zinzendorf. Every year we go back to the Lehigh Valley and spend Christmas Eve with my family in Allentown. We drive through Bethlehem after spending the evening with my family, and it is always so special. 

Throughout the holiday season, lights are wrapped around many trees, actual Christmas trees are placed upon every light pole and every streetlight post, giant steel advent wreathes are placed around the city, christmas trees are decorated, and so much more. The Star of Bethlehem, visible for up to twenty miles away, shines as it always does on top of South Mountain looking over the city. 

The town's festivities include two German style Christmas craft marts, including Christkindlmarkt and Christmas City Village Weihnachtsmarkt. Other things to do include horse drawn carriage rides, staying overnight or dining at the historic Hotel Bethlehem, browsing at the famous Moravian Book Shop, and so much more. Bethlehem is a place to spend a weekend at if you have the opportunity, especially during the Christmas season.
3) Pittsburgh Light Up Night and Holiday Market. Pittsburgh kicks off the holiday season in the way it knows best, by running a huge fireworks display. Always done the Friday before Thanksgiving, the fireworks, musical performances, demonstrations, and other festivities kick off the holiday season in Pittsburgh. During the festival, many displays set up around the city are lit up for the holiday season, ice skating starts at PPG Place, and so much more. It is always a treat taking in Pittsburgh's Light Up Night Festival and taking in the many holiday displays throughout the season.
4) Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Winter Flower Show: Pittsburgh, PA.
Article and Website
Phipps Conservatory is a world class horticultural display garden that really comes alive in the holiday season. Lights and displays are set up throughout the sprawling indoor gardens complex, and outside on the grounds of the facility. This facility is stunning and constantly growing and improving, and dates back to 1893 when it was built by steel and real estate magnate, Henry Phipps. Any time of the year is awesome to visit this place, but one of the best times is during the Winter Flower Show.
5) Longwood Gardens: A Longwood Christmas: Kennett Square, PA
Article and Website
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, is another one of the world's premier horticultural display places. Similar to Phipps, this stunning facility was created by a gilded age industrialist. Pierre DuPont founded the facility, of which many of the buildings within the campus were a part of his mansion. The tract of property dates back to William Penn in 1700 who sold it to the Peirce family. In 1798 they started an arboretum and opened the land for public viewing. Pierre DuPont purchased the land in 1906 to prevent it from getting logged, and he made it his private mansion, of which he kept open for tours of the old arboretum and the new plant specimens that he added to the gardens. In 1946 he founded the Longwood Foundation, an organization that has kept the facility open in his honor ever since. The complex gets intricately decorated for the holiday season each year, with many displays, the thousands of plant and tree specimens throughout the complex, the famous fountains, and the sound of the famous 10,010 pipe organ still entertains visitors as it has since 1929. Longwood is an awesome place to visit any time of the year, but especially during Christmas. If you are going to visit, be sure to contact the gardens to reserve a time to visit.
6) Allentown PA
Every year, Allentown closes its Little Lehigh Parkway and creates a drive through holiday display. This year the event is back after a hiatus last year due to a construction project on the Parkway. Lights in the Parkway is awesome!

7) Roadside America: Shartlesville, PA
Website
Roadside America, located just off of Interstate 78 in Shartlesville, PA, Berks County, is one of the most stunning miniature train exhibits in existence. Operating for over 80 years, this famed William Penn Highway mainstay has captured the imagination of many generations of visitors. Roadside America's miniature train village is 8000 square feet of awesome, and open year round.
Photo Courtesy of Roadside America
8) Lancaster: The National Christmas Center, Strasburg Railroad, and more.
National Christmas Center Website
Strasburg Railroad Website
National Christmas Center Website

Similar to Bethlehem, Lancaster is another awesome area to visit over the holidays. The National Christmas Center is a year-round museum dedicated to all things Christmas. A number of awesome displays cover the history of the holiday, old traditions, and classic memorabilia. This is a must-see attraction.

As with many of the places that we have talked about throughout this article, the Strasburg Railroad is an absolutely awesome place to visit. Cited by many as the best preserved steam train attraction, Strasburg is a must-see attraction for anyone that loves trains and beautiful Amish farm scenery. In addition to the scenic ride you get on their old trains, the trains and route are elegantly decorated for Christmas, and they even run themed holiday train rides.
Photo Courtesy of the National Christmas Center
9) Indiana, PA: Jimmy Stewart Museum,  It's a Wonderful Life Festival, and the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.

If you were unaware, one of the best actors of all time, Jimmy Stewart, grew up in Indiana, PA. The city is home to the Jimmy Stewart Museum in his honor, which celebrates the career of the legend that brought us one of the best Christmas movies of all time, It's a Wonderful Life. The town also celebrates a festival in his honor, with the It's a Wonderful Life Festival, which will be celebrated each weekend from the weekend of November 18th-Christmas. Be sure to come and visit the museum anyways and maybe even cut down a Christmas tree in the area nicknamed the "Christmas Tree Capital of the World."
Photo from It's a Wonderful Life
10) Lakemont Park: Altoona, PA: Holiday Lights on the Lake
Website
With the park's legendary coasters, the winter hibernation of the world's oldest operating roller coaster, Leap the Dips, and the Skyliner, Altoona, PA's Lakemont Park has a delightful drive-through holiday display. If you are in the area, definitely spend an evening at Lakemont Park.
11) Overly's Country Christmas: Mt. Pleasant, PA, Westmoreland County
Overly's has a great drive through display, along with a village with displays, food, hot chocolate, wagon rides, and even a bonfire to warm you up! Overly's is a great place to enjoy during the holidays.

12) While you are driving around the state, be sure to keep your eye out for some beautifully decked out houses. 
13) Go out and cut down a Christmas Tree! Quakertown, PA's Wata Christmas Tree Farm and Bobwhite Acres Orchard, is our Christmas Tree farm of choice, but there are many awesome places to choose from across the state. This photo was taken a few years ago, so I assume that the trees in this photo are probably ready for this year!
Get started planning! If you are looking for a gift for anyone, our book about Pennsylvania Amusement Parks "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip," is available through the drop down menu at the top of the page, or through this link, along with our 2017 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar.
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