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12.13.2020

Hyner View State Park: All Season Views from one of PA's Finest Vistas

Hyner View State Park is one of the finest scenic overlooks in Pennsylvania. You get sweeping views of the valley of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, with 1300 feet of elevation change in view from a height of 1940 feet to depths of 640 feet at river level. It is awesome to check out in all seasons, but especially with some snowfall, though 4 Wheel Drive and/or snow tires are recommended, for the ride to the top is quite rugged.
A few autumn views
CeCe taking in the incredible views. She always loves to take in the views at the scenic overlooks.

It is one of the most stunning views in Pennsylvania, which says a lot, considering how many spectacular vistas can be found throughout the state. In all of our journeys throughout the 67 counties of Pennsylvania, this view in Clinton County is certainly one of the best. 
This view looks out upon the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Route 120, a portion of the 75 mile long Bucktail State Park Natural Area, a stunningly beautiful area and drive that goes through Cameron and Clinton Counties. 
A summer view
Another summer view! While the view from this direction at Hyner View is not as famous, I think I may like it even more. 

As with most of the awesome things within our state, the state park's facilities were built by the Great Depression era CCC workers. This stone wall has certainly prevented some 1300 foot tumbles. In the distance you can see the small boroughs of Renovo and Hyner, and the surrounding mountains.

The West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the overlook at Hyner View, one of the finest views in the entire state.
The hang gliding launch pad. It is clear to see that this must be a thrilling ride.


Here is the fire wardens monument. This state's fire wardens have heroically kept our state safe and this monument was erected in their honor on the 50th anniversary of their founding. This is an especially important time for them, for many of the fire towers that have either stood idle or been abandoned, will come back online or be rebuilt entirely in coming years. The monument has twenty stones surrounding it, each one originating from each of the twenty state forest systems. 
Hyner View is easily in the upper echelon of scenic overlooks in the state. Our travels throughout the state have brought us countless spectacular views, but this one really stands out as one of the best, if not the best in the entire state. The state park itself is only six acres, but it is nearly surrounded by state forest land that has trails surrounding it, leading into hikes and more. Near the bottom of the mountain is the beautiful Hyner Run State Park, a beautiful area that is home to recreational opportunities, including a campground for those who want to spend an extended amount of time here. If you are headed eastward or westward on a northerly route across the state, Hyner View State Park is the perfect place to stop. It is within short range of the PA Grand Canyon, Elk Country, Kinzua Bridge State Park, and more. 



12.06.2020

PA's Muffler Man Sculptures: A Slice of Kitsch Roadside Americana

I always relish the opportunity to see a real life muffler man in action. These giant sculptures are treasures of Roadside Americana, and the Inside Scoop Ice Cream Shop in Coopersburg, PA, Lehigh County, pleasantly surprised me with the addition of a classic muffler man. These giant fiberglass "men" are scattered across the country and measure anywhere from 18-25 feet tall, so they are pretty much impossible to miss. They were built by International Fiberglass, which was based out of Venice Beach, California, primarily in the 1960s through the early 1970s. They initially worked on boats, but in the slow seasons, they expanded to doing these sculptures with their skill in fiberglass. With the oil crisis in the 70s and the growth of the highway system, the statues fell out of favor, and the remaining numbers began to dwindle. In the 90s, interest was rekindled in these sculptures by one of our favorite websites, www.roadsideamerica.com and a worldwide search took place to catalog the remaining sculptures, save ones that had fallen into disrepair, were abandoned, or were discarded. 

The figures are often adorned in all sorts of outfits, such as food servers, cowboys, mechanics, Paul Bunyan, and more, with one decorated to look like a giant rabbit, and another made to look like Star Trek's Spock. There were a number of customizable options, such as arms in different positions, and more. While most of these muffler men have similar features, since they were mostly made from the same blow mold, they are often carrying all sorts of different implements, such as mufflers, ice cream scoopers, shovels, axes, and more.

Six of these remain in Pennsylvania, including at the Cadet Restaurant in Kittanning (a cowboy holding a burger), Mr. Tire in Uniontown (a Paul Bunyan figure factory model), Lugnutz Tire in Greensburg (originally a Paul Bunyan factory model, and now a Pittsburgh Steeler) Scottyland Campground in Rockwood (Uncle Sam ensemble, originally wore a kilt), Arnold's Family Fun Center in Oaks, and the newest installation in the state, at Coopersburg's Inside Scoop (Soda Jerk). 

There are several other large fiberglass figures, including the Pied Piper of the Lincoln Highway, and several Amish themed ones near Lancaster, including the Hershey Farm and Restaurant, and which are cool, but I am not sure if they are from the same manufacturer or origin story to have them classified as Muffler Men nor are they as tall as the examples that we mentioned earlier. They are still neat kitsch to see though. 

Due to the immense size of these structures to move and transport, their fiberglass construction, and their placement along roadsides where it takes just one careless driver to take them out, the odds of these structures surviving for decades in a roadside setting are very low. It takes a special kind of dedication to maintain Muffler Men sculptures, and that dedication should earn positive attention from everyone. 
The cowboy burger man at the Cadet Restaurant in Kittanning was out of commission for a few years after it had been hit in a car accident. 

Arnold's Family Fun Center in Oaks rescued their Muffler Man from Seaside Heights, New Jersey, following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The rescue effort required serious restoration work.
Coopersburg's Inside Scoop is an ice cream place that has continually expanded with homemade ice cream and a sprawling complex at the edge of the Southern Lehigh Living Memorial Park, which is a hub for local Little League Baseball, festivals, and more. Naturally, this is the perfect place to build an ice cream shop. Their complex has continually grown, and they have added a decent amount of Roadside Americana and kitsch to their cool location, including a new, custom made Muffler Man that was produced from a mold of an original Muffler Man that sat in pieces in a junkyard in Canada. "Giant Chip" is an impressive work of art and it is impossible to not drive down 309 and not notice him, beckoning you to pick up some ice cream. 

If you are reading this and you are from one of these businesses, thank you for your dedication. If you are not one of these businesses and you have the means to rescue one of these sculptures, please do so. They are obviously great for advertising, considering the fact that this is one of the only times you will hear us talk about random tire shops and auto repair shops on a travel page like ours. If you are in the hospitality business like the Inside Scoop is, the Cadet Family Restaurant, Scottyland Campground, or Arnold's Family Fun Center, you are sure to bring yourself attention from outside your region with the addition of one of these giants. For more PA roadside Americana and oddities, check out this list of our favorites. 

11.22.2020

Clinton Christmas Light-Up Celebration: Holiday Drive Through in Western Allegheny County

Today we visit Clinton, PA and Findlay Township's Christmas Light-Up Celebration in Western Allegheny County Of all of the holiday drive through displays we have visited, this is one of the most laid back and relaxing. The display is set on a mile-long course through the woods of Clinton Community Park. If you go on a slower evening, typically on a weeknight, they will often let you drive through it multiple times, which is something that is really awesome. 
A mile-long drive-through awaits visitors to the Clinton Christmas Light-Up Celebration. This community event has welcomed visitors since 1993. 
One of my favorite parts of the display is the Christmas tree decorating. Trees are lined up and down across the display that are decorated by different members of the community. They are often individually dedicated to community organizations and to memorialize lost family members and often have themes. This part of the display is what I often pay the most attention to as we go through. On our visit last year, we drove through three or four times, and we noticed different details on the trees each time. This event is low key and really neat. It is within half an hour of most of the Pittsburgh area and well worth seeking out.  It is located just west of the Pittsburgh Airport on Lincoln Highway / Route 30. 

The admission rate is ten dollars a car, cash only, and you can ride through it as many times as you want on nights that it is not busy. It is open nightly through January 3rd.

For more information, check out their website at https://www.christmaslightup.com




11.15.2020

PA Holiday Bucket List: 17+ Awesome Places to Check Out

 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. With it being 2020, this list is going to look way different than a typical year, with some of our typical favorites having different operations or not running this year.  If you are looking for gift ideas, be sure to check out our gift guide.


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 south 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.  For 2020, they have changed to reservation times on prime evenings, so be sure to go to their website to reserve.

2) Bethlehem: The entire city that goes all out for the holidays.
First Moravian Church and the Holiday Craft Market
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. 
Bethlehem's Advent Candle sculptures
Bethlehem's Advent Candles and the Star of Bethlehem out in the distance. 
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 former Bethlehem Steel Blast Furnaces, known as SteelStacks and the Hoover-Mason Trestle, are especially neat to see with holiday lighting. 
Bethlehem's festivities include two German style Christmas craft marts, including Christkindlmarkt and Huts on Main Craft Vendors. Other things include the awesome Live Advent Calendar, which happens every night at 5:30 from December 1st-23rd, 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. Walking around outside with the family and taking in the festivities outside is a great way to get the family together this year as opposed to typical indoor house gatherings. 
3) Pittsburgh Light Up Night and Holiday Market. Pittsburgh usually kicks off the holiday season in the way it knows best, by running a huge fireworks display. This year will not involve the typical fireworks display, but the city is still going all out with beautiful decorations.  It is always a treat 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. Be sure to arrange a reservation time to visit. 
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 and Lights in the Parkway
Every year, Allentown closes its Little Lehigh Parkway and creates a drive through holiday display.  
Lights in the Parkway is awesome!
7) Lancaster: The Strasburg Railroad
Strasburg Railroad Website


Similar to Bethlehem, Lancaster is another awesome area to visit over the holidays.

While perennial favorite, the National Christmas Center, recently closed, it will be reopening in a few years with a newly rebuilt building.

Photo from the Strasburg Railroad
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 classic trains, the trains and route are elegantly decorated for Christmas, and they even run themed holiday train rides.

8) 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. Indiana 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
9) 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.
10) 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.

Going to Wanamaker's (now known as Macy's) has been a Christmas shopping destination for Philadelphians over a century. The store is decked out with the focal point being the Wanamaker's organ, the world's largest playable musical instrument, which is played and followed with a coordinated holiday light show. While the light shows will be virtual this year, the decor can still be seen. It is not hard to find this beautiful place when you are in Center City, for it is located right across the street from the city's stunning City Hall and Dilworth Park, where they have another light show and an ice skating rink. 

12) Knoebels Joy Through The Grove Holiday Drive Through Event Website

Knoebels Amusement Resort is starting a new drive through holiday event this year. I do not often include things on our page that we have not personally experienced, but Knoebels Amusement Resort is nothing short of a treasure and they go all out with everything they do. The event should be awesome and it runs nightly from November 27th through January 3rd

13) Easton's Peace Candle

The 106 foot stature of this structure is pretty amazing. Since 1951, the city of Easton has built this landmark One of the neatest aspects of this landmark that it was created with a vision of peace, something that is the true meaning of the holiday season. This tradition was started in the midst of the Korean War and the idea behind the creation of this landmark is something that I have not seen with any other holiday decoration. It is a special tradition that you should definitely check out if you find yourself in the Lehigh Valley. Several of Easton's cool attractions are located near this landmark, including the Crayola Experience, celebrating how Easton brought us Crayola Crayons, and Weyerbacher Brewing, one of the finest craft breweries that we have ever experienced. 

14) Gettysburg:

Between the cute shops, decorations, and more, Gettysburg is a beautiful place to visit over the holidays.

15) Hersheypark's Candylane: Website
I have lots of early memories of Hersheypark's Candylane from when I was very little and the event was just beginning. It was a wonderful time. Candylane has since grown considerably, with the addition of a gate admission fee. With a few coasters open for the event now, including the brand new Candymonium Roller Coaster, Wildcat and several others, we now believe that the admission fee of $39.95 is more justifiable than before.  

16) While you are driving around the state, be sure to keep your eye out for some beautifully decked out houses, including Leechburg Lights, perhaps the most decked out house in the history of human civilization. 

Epic holiday decorations at a house in Ambridge, PA. 
17) 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 in the eastern part of the state, 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!
Indiana County

For a list of the many Christmas Tree Farms in Pennsylvania, check out this website

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 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar.

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