6 of Western Pennsylvania’s Best Attractions

Ann Abel, award-winning travel writer and editor for Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, and more, has traveled all over the world, and some of Western Pennsylvania’s finest attractions rival the ones she’s traveled much farther to experience. 

When I first visited Pittsburgh, I had no clue that I’d become a travel writer. I was there for a pre-college academic program at Carnegie Mellon—nerd camp, as we called it—in architecture. But a few college-major changes and lucky career breaks later, I’ve spent decades traveling the world and writing about it for the likes of Forbes and Condé Nast Traveler. 

I’ve seen a lot, but I still think fondly of that summer in Pittsburgh. It was my first time outside the 20th-century cities of the West. Pittsburgh is a place with a history almost as long as that of the United States, with solid foundations in culture and architecture, and a classic melting-pot heritage. And some of Western Pennsylvania’s best attractions stand up to the ones that I’ve traveled much farther to see. 

Fallingwater

1491 Mill Run Road, Laurel Highlands
Fallingwater is the most famous work by America’s most famous architect. Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature project was designed in 1935 for the Kaufmann family and is located in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, 70 miles from Pittsburgh. It’s hailed as an excellent example of organic architecture, a style meant to symbolize the harmony between people and nature—the boundary between indoors and out is a blurry one. Since it opened to the public in 1964, it has welcomed more than six million visitors, and in 2019 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail

436 Grant Street
Henry Hobson Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail has been called the best building of the 19th century. Richardson, who designed the building in 1883 but didn’t live to see its completion in 1888, is one of the greatest American architects in history, and his final work is his masterpiece. Along with its impressive Renaissance and Romanesque architecture, the building is distinguished by its 229-foot-high tower, soaring arches and dignified columns, and picturesque, turreted rooflines. 

The Andy Warhol Museum

117 Sandusky Street
Spanning seven floors (plus an underground level), The Andy Warhol Museum showcases the Pittsburgh-born artist’s life story and explores his legacy through the largest collection of his work and archives in the world. Along with the permanent collection and rotating exhibitions, the museum has a robust events calendar, with talks, children’s workshops, music performances, and LGBTQ+ programming. Its latest project is the Pop District, a youth-led transformation of the city’s eastern North Shore through arts, creativity, and economic development. 

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

1 Schenley Drive
Phipps Conservatory has been delighting visitors for more than a century with its 14-room glasshouse and 15 acres of gardens. Even before sustainability became a buzzword, the conservatory has lived up to its name, promoting practices that tread lightly on the environment. The Welcome Center is LEED-certified, and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is considered one of the greenest buildings on Earth. It’s refreshing to visit a botanical garden that isn’t just a Victorian throwback but shows a way to a better future. 

Laurel Caverns

1065 Skyline Drive, Farmington
It’s not only the American West that has stunning caves and rock formations. Laurel Caverns in Farmington is Pennsylvania’s largest cave, with more than four miles of passages to explore. The limestone caves were likely formed before the building of the Pyramids, and arrowheads found near the entrance reveal that Native Americans used them. Spelunkers can sign up for caving excursions on weekends. 

Flight 93 National Memorial

6424 Lincoln Highway, Stoystown
While it’s not a fun attraction, the monument bears witness to a day that changed history forever and pays tribute to the 40 heroic passengers and crew who prevented an attack on the US Capitol. 

Story by Ann Abel

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