Holiday Festivals in PA

There’s something special about attending a festival. Whether it’s a flower fest in the spring, strawberry fest in the summer or a fall fest filled with pumpkins and apples, these festivals capture the essence of their respective season. While we may associate festivals with warm weather months, there are still lots of fests to enjoy before Old Man Winter spends some time in our state. 

If you’re looking for some fantastic festivals to enjoy this holiday season, get out your calendar and jot down the info below! 

Festival of Ice

For over 25 years, the annual Festival of Ice has put lots of smiles on plenty of faces. For two days, the Lewistown community embraces the holiday spirit by decorating the downtown area with a collection of remarkable ice sculptures. Intricately carved, these festive sculptures line the streets, parks, and businesses, inviting visitors to enjoy their beauty while they shop, take a carriage ride and enjoy the sounds of wandering carollers. Special events for all ages are held throughout the festival and Santa has been known to stop by for some fun, too!  

Holiday Lights Festival & Tree Lighting

Fischer’s Park in Montgomery County ends its festival season with a truly spectacular event: the annual Holiday Lights Festival and Tree Lighting Ceremony! The fun starts at 4:30 PM with a dance workshop followed by a choir performance of holiday favorites. Then, after the sun sets, Santa arrives to light the tree and invite all to enjoy free hot chocolate, cookies and marshmallows to roast. Children can meet Santa and have their pictures taken with him, while everyone enjoys more holiday entertainment until 8:30 PM. 

Winter Luminary Nights

Looking for a more serene festival to get yourself in the holiday spirit? Then head on over to Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens in Devon. That’s where you can bask in the glow of Winter Luminary Lights! As you walk the luminary-lined paths, you’ll ultimately find yourself at a beautiful pond setting surrounded by luminary lanterns. After you’ve finished walking the trails, head over to the education center for cookies, brownies and other delicious treats. Kids can enjoy hot chocolate, while adults can sample some special holiday brews. Then end this special evening with a photo opportunity in front of the arboretum’s giant holiday wreath! 

Old Fashioned Christmas Evenings

Have you ever wanted to experience an old-fashioned holiday? Old Bedford Village invites you to travel back in time to the 19th century to enjoy their Old Fashioned Christmas Evenings! See historical re-enactors in period costumes partake in Pennsylvania holiday traditions that date back to the 1700 and 1800s. Hear music from those eras performed by musicians on vintage instruments. Enjoy treats that PA families feasted upon during their holiday festivities. Fun, informative and festive! It’s a holiday tradition you’ll want to experience again and again! 

Christmas City Village

Praised by Travel and Leisure as one of the best holiday markets in the country, Bethlehem’s Christkindlmarkt is a festival you won’t want to miss! Find handmade crafts from dozens of artisan vendors. Sing along to your favorite holiday songs with the live entertainment performed throughout the festival. Purchase ornaments and gifts imported from Germany. And so much more!

Hawley Winterfest

There’s plenty of holiday fun to be had at Hawley Winterfest! From the lights strewn on the town’s trees and the holiday music that fills the air to the delicious treats along the Cookie Walk and the unique gifts available at the Holiday Artisan Marketplace, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a winter wonderland! Don’t forget to wrap up your day with a delicious feast at the Winterfest Dining experience! 

The holiday season is here – and these festivals are sure to dazzle and delight. Enjoy these great events and all of the other holiday festivals happening throughout PA during the season. 

If you’d like to learn the latest news about Pennsylvania festivals and events, be sure to sign up for our newsletter! That way, you’ll never miss out on all of the fun stuff going on in PA!

Enjoy Holiday Lights in PA Parks

Local parks are a beauty to behold every season. However, there’s something extra special about a stroll through a park during the holiday season – especially if there’s a dazzling display of lights! 

While many of the area’s amusement parks and attractions are known for their holiday presentations, your local parks are treating residents and visitors to equally impressive holiday light displays. In addition to decorating trees with lights of all colors and shapes, these local parks are also adding extra perks to give all who enter a memorable holiday experience. 

If you’re ready to get in the holiday mood, we’ve highlighted a few of the many Pennsylvania parks that are treating their communities to sensational holiday light events! 

Allentown Lights in the Parkway

Perhaps the most well-known of the local park holiday displays, Allentown’s Lights in the Parkway is a wonder to behold! Stretching more than a mile through the Lehigh Parkway, this drive-through exhibit turns the park into a winter wonderland. Complete with sparkling lights, festive music and animatronic puppets creating serene holiday scenes, it’s a feast of sight and sound. To commemorate its 25th Anniversary, this year’s Lights in the Parkway promises to be a truly spectacular display! 

Delaware County Holiday Festival of Lights 

Held annually at Upper Providence Township’s Rose Tree Park, the Holiday Festival of Lights is a free event that everyone can enjoy! Showcasing dazzling arrays of multi-color lights and displays starring such holiday favorites as Snoopy and the Grinch, the Holiday Festival of Lights draws visitors from all over the state and our neighbors in Delaware and New Jersey. This year’s display promises to be the biggest one yet, thanks to the addition of a Holiday Village featuring lots of local vendors and food trucks! 

Christmas Magic in York 

When it comes to holiday light displays in York, Rocky Ridge Park is the place to be! That’s where you can enjoy the town’s annual Christmas Magic attraction! Guests can marvel at over 600,000 twinkling lights along a candy-cane lined half-mile ADA-accessible walking trail. Once in a while, they’ll spot their favorite holiday characters celebrating the season in their serene wildlife surroundings. After a stroll through the park, festive folks can enjoy cookies and hot chocolate at the Friends of the Park holiday stand and witness the wonders of the Susquehanna Valley Garden Railway Society’s model train exhibit. 

Holiday Lights at Gring’s Mill

Historic Gring’s Mill Recreation Area in Berks County is home to one of the area’s best seasonal displays. Each year, the Holiday Lights at Gring’s Mill invites visitors to enjoy the illuminated park grounds, live music and entertainment in the barn, a model train exhibit and festive refreshments. And we’ve even heard that Santa likes to visit the holiday lights, too! 

These displays and all of the other great holiday shows in your local PA parks are sure to elevate your seasonal spirits. In the event of inclement weather, be sure to confirm any cancelations before heading out your door. 

If you’d like to learn more about the cool events happening in local PA parks throughout the year, please sign up for our newsletter! Thanks and have a wonderful holiday season!

The Nature of The Holidays

Before there were department stores and numerous shopping centers, Pennsylvania settlers made their own holiday decorations. And to find the elements they needed, they relied on the inventory of the original craft store supplier: nature. 

From wreaths and centerpieces to ornaments and garland, the early residents of Pennsylvania used the natural elements around them to create their decorations and gifts. Now, due to recent global supply chain delays, many store shelves that typically flush with holiday decorations will be empty. Instead of relying on stores for your decor or going without, look to your backyard and local parks to supply the natural elements you’ll need to make your own holiday decorations!

Making natural Christmas decorations is a mindful way to reduce waste, learn new crafting skills (or brush up on your existing skills), and add a touch of nature to your home. 

Below, we’ll examine some of the many native plants, berries, and nuts and herbs that you can observe in your local parks and perhaps find inspiration for charming natural décor this season. Plus, we offer some decoration ideas that incorporate these elements!  

Greenery 

A great way to brighten your holidays is to include lots of greenery in your home. Not only will these plants, shrubs and trees create a festive environment, many will also fill your home with pleasant scents. Here are some suggestions when you forage for holiday greenery:

  • Evergreens – These trees and shrubs are found in every continent (except Antarctica) so there’s a good chance you’ll find a fine specimen in your backyard, neighborhood or local park. Unlike other tree types, evergreen trees and shrubs (such as pine, spruce, fir, inkberry, hemlock, and mountain-laurel) do not shed their foliage for winter. Evergreen branches are perfect for creating garland to drape across mantles or hang from arches. Look for broken branches on your next walk in the park. Or, you can visit a tree farm and ask for branches that have fallen from their tree. Most vendors will be more than happy to let you take as many as you wish! 
  • Holly – Except for the poinsettia, no other plant exudes the spirit of the holidays like holly. Although many types of holly are evergreen, most of the species that are native to Pennsylvania are not. So it’s a good idea to forage for holly during mid-autumn and early winter before they shed their leaves. If you’re thinking of making a new holiday wreath for your front door, you can’t miss with a classic holly wreath. 
  • Wisteria – This vine will have shed its beautiful leaves by autumn and winter. Once that happens, it can be woven in a wreath or centerpiece that’s perfect for Thanksgiving decor. Or you can cut the vine into smaller pieces and shape them to create minimal ornaments for your tree.  

Berries

On their own or used as accents, berries are a bright and cheery accent to any holiday decoration. Here are some of the many berries you’ll find throughout Pennsylvania:

  • Winterberry – If you’re looking for bright red berries to use in your holiday decor, winterberry is the perfect choice! This native shrub is typically found in damp, moist spots. Its long branches are adorned with lovely red berries that emit lots of positive holiday vibes. Snip a few branches, place them in a glass vase and you’ll have a lovely arrangement for your dining room table.
  • Beautyberry – If you’re looking for a pop of color to complement all of the reds and greens, turn to beautyberry. During the summer months, it looks like any average green plant. By autumn, beautyberry is covered in an abundance of lavender-colored berries that are a great addition to your holiday wreaths, centerpieces or arrangements.
  • Winterthur Viburnum – Although it begins life in the spring with white flowers, winterthur viburnum  bears deep blue berries by early fall. Soon after, its leaves turn from green to a deep burgundy. This blue/burgundy is a perfect color combination for the autumn months and makes a lovely decorative accent for your Thanksgiving gathering.

Nuts, Spices and Herbs

Nuts, spices and herbs not only provide lots of inspiration for holiday decor, they also help make the season smell and taste better, too! Here are some of our favorite multi-purpose nuts and herbs:

  • Walnuts – One of the most simple, clean and welcoming pieces of holiday decor is courtesy of the walnut. Simply filling a decorative bowl or dish with a selection of walnuts is a wonderful way to create a festive mood in any holiday setting. And the walnuts won’t go to waste as they’re also a tasty treat on their own or baked into your favorite holiday cookie! 
  • Cinnamon – There’s nothing quite like the smell of cinnamon. Not only is it pleasant, it’s also very relaxing. Fill your home with this welcoming aroma by wrapping a few cinnamon sticks together with a small piece of twine to create a minimalist tree ornament. Or you can glue sticks in your holiday wreath to add more earthy tones. And don’t forget to add sprinkles of cinnamon to your cookies, hot chocolate and other winter weather favorites! 
  • Rosemary – We all know that rosemary tastes delicious in stuffing, roasted chicken and lots of winter dishes. But this tasty herb can also be used in holiday decorations, too. Since rosemary has a very branch-like appearance, we like to wrap several springs around a glass votive to create a lovely table accent that’s perfect for the holidays and throughout the winter. 

We hope you enjoyed this look at the natural elements that you can use for your holiday decorations. If you would like to receive more great information like this article, please sign up for our newsletter! Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Top Safety Tips For Your Winter Adventures

One of the most common misconceptions about the winter is that it limits the amount of fun you can have at your local and state parks. While it’s true that you can’t enjoy some warm weather activities like swimming, kayaking and sunbathing, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure at your parks. From sledding and ice skating to geocaching and birdwatching to hiking and hunting, there is lots of seasonal fun to be had outdoors during winter.  

While you should always take the necessary precautions to stay safe when outdoors (regardless of the season), winter weather does impose some extra risks if you’re not properly prepared. To help you avoid any winter-related risks during your outdoor adventures, we’ve compiled this list of helpful safety tips!

 Confirm Any Closures or Restrictions

While most parks continue to operate during the winter season, there may be times when certain parts of the park are closed or access is restricted to the public. This may be due to a variety of factors such as weather conditions, hazardous roads or trails, or other factors that may impose a risk to public safety. So, if you are planning to hike a trail, skate on a lake or go sledding, be sure to check the park’s website or call your park ranger/parks department to confirm that there are no restricted areas before you make your way to the park. 

Monitor the Weather

A gentle rainshower during a summer’s day doesn’t typically ruin a good time in the park (it may actually be refreshing if it’s one of those particularly humid summer days in PA). The same can’t be said for winter. While the forecasted snowstorm may end up resulting in a few flurries, you should never take that chance.

It’s always a good idea to start monitoring the weather forecast a few days before your planned park trip. That way you can reschedule your visit if the weather is predicted to take a turn for the worse. Even if the earlier forecast calls for clear weather on the day of your planned visit, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast on the day of your trip. You never know when the winds will change and bring colder temperatures, freezing conditions and other risks that could prove harmful to you and others. 

Wear Appropriate Clothes

Dressing appropriately for the outdoors is also important. But it’s even more critical in the winter. Since the temperature fluctuates fiercely on winter days, we recommend dressing in layers. If you arrive at the park to find that the weather is more pleasant, you can easily remove that extra shirt or get by with a lightweight fleece jacket. If the temps drop, you can easily put your heavier coat back on. When it comes to winter weather, it’s always best to have too much apparel than not enough.  

Pack the Right Gear

Much like dressing appropriately, you must make sure that you have the right accessories in hand before you partake in winter outdoor activities. Even though most phones have a GPS application, bad weather or the remoteness of the park may interfere with its functionality. To avoid getting lost in the park or forests, be sure to pack a map and/or compass to help navigate your way back to safety. 

Although you may think sunscreen is strictly for summer, the sun’s rays are even more harmful in the winter – especially if they have lots of sun to reflect off of. Be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin and wear a hat or head covering. Dehydration is still a concern even in the winter, so be sure to bring a reusable water bottle with you and refill it at water stations or fountains when necessary. 

Since there’s less daylight in the winter, you should keep a flashlight handy. And packing a first-aid kit is a necessity. Even if you’re just going to the park to enjoy a leisurely walk, you never know when you may slip on a patch of ice and scratch your hand. Remember: it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  

Know the Warning Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia

Exposure to extremely cold or freezing conditions can result in two very serious cold-weather illnesses: frostbite and hypothermia. 

Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing conditions that affects the fingers, toes, ears, nose and cheeks. If frostbite is severe, it could possibly result in surgery or amputation. 

The warning signs of frostbite include:

  • Numbness in the extremities 
  • Discolored skin or loss of color in the affected area
  • Firm, stiff or waxy skin 

Prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause the body to lose heat faster than it can produce it. This reduces body temperature which affects the brain causing issues with mobility, coordination and comprehension. 

The warning signs of hypothermia include:

  • Severe shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech 
  • Shaky hands
  • Dizziness 
  • Drowsiness

If you or anyone in your party experiences any of the above symptoms, please seek medical assistance immediately. Both of these conditions are serious and the sooner they can be treated the better the outcome will be. 

Practice Safe Hunting

Hunting season with regular firearms typically begins a few days after the Thanksgiving holiday and lasts until the middle of December. Pennsylvania’s local and state parks/forests offer and monitor plenty of designated hunting grounds for licensed residents. 

While all first-time PA hunters are required to take and successfully pass a hunter education course, it’s always a good idea to go over some of the most relevant hunting safety tips as a refresher for others. 

  • Review and obey all PA hunting, wildlife and gun safety laws 
  • Wear a hunter orange vest and hat at all times to ensure that you’re clearly visible to all surrounding hunters in the area
  • Never shoot at sound or movement – big game is not the only thing in the woods
  • Be sure that your firearm has been properly cleaned and sighted to avoid any malfunctions or accidents
  • Always identify your target before you pull the trigger
  • If you’re an inexperienced hunter, join an experienced hunting party instead of hunting alone 
  • Report any violations by other hunters to the game warden and/or local law enforcement officials 

We hope that you’re ready to make the most of your local and state parks this winter. As you can see, there’s lots of adventures to be had outdoors during the cold weather. You just need to practice a bit of extra causation. If you would like to receive more great tips about outdoor fun and learn the latest news about local PA parks, please sign up for our newsletter! Thanks and have a fun and safe winter! 

Best Hawk Watching Spots in PA

Fall in Pennsylvania isn’t just the ideal time for foliage tours. It’s also prime time for hawk watching!

Starting in mid-August and lasting until mid-December, the autumn hawk migration lets PA residents and visitors witness approximately 18,000 raptors during this annual event. In addition to hawks, watchers often have the opportunity to see eagles, falcons and vultures in action, too! 

Seeing hundreds and thousands of these magnificent creatures in flight is an exhilarating experience. And Pennsylvania boasts multiple spots for exceptional hawk watching opportunities. 

Below, we’ll spotlight some of the best hawk watching spots in the state – and offer some helpful tips to make the experience even more enjoyable for you! 

Best PA Places for Hawk Watching

Of all the hawk watching locations in Pennsylvania, one spot in particular often seems to top the list: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Located near Berks and Schuylkill Counties along the Kittatinny Ridge, this popular spot is not only a global resource for raptor studies and education, it’s also a state-designated Important Bird Area. Although this spot charges a small admission fee, it offers quite possibly the best views and trails for outstanding hawk watching during the migratory season. 

In addition to its views and lookouts, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary includes a museum, bookstore, a native PA plant garden, and multiple accommodations for hawk researchers. Throughout the year, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary also serves as a great resource for watching songbird, dragonfly and butterfly migrations, too. 

Also located along the Kittatinny Ridge, Waggoner’s Gap is another popular PA spot for serious hawk watching. Visitors have their choice of two trails to follow: the Hawk Trail and the Songbird Trail. No matter which trail visitors choose, each one leads to breathtaking views of the Cumberland Valley. From these spots, trailblazers can marvel at varieties of hawks and eagles in flight. 

With an elevation of 2,690 ft, the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch offers perhaps the highest elevation for any PA hawk-watching lookout. Located on the Somerset/Bedford County Border and operated by the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society, it’s a great location for a variety of hawk and eagle species along with various other migratory birds. 

Hawk Watching Tips

Much like any journey, hawk watchers need to be properly prepared for their surroundings and weather conditions. Below are some helpful tips for optimum hawk watching:

  • A pair of quality binoculars. Although the naked eye can see plenty during a watch, binoculars elevate the experience to the next level by allowing visitors to see the creatures up close. 
  • A folding camp chair or stool. Watchers may be on the lookout for long durations, so it’s best to have a place to rest. 
  • Dress in layers. Temperatures and conditions fluctuate throughout the day. So it’s always best to dress in layers. If the temperatures get warmer, you can always shed a layer or two. If it cools off, you can add them back. 
  • Sunscreen. Yes, it’s fall. Yes, it can be foggy and overcast somedays. But hawk watchers are still exposed to the sun’s rays for long periods of time. It’s always best to cover exposed areas with sunscreen. A wide-brimmed hat also provides extra protection. 
  • Bring a map or guidebook. Since cell phone and GPS service can be spotty along the trails and lookouts, it’s always best to bring a map or trail guide for reference. 
  • First-time hawk watchers may want to bring along a hawk reference guide to help them identify the various species they’ll see during their visit. 

These are just a few of the many great hawk watching lookouts in Pennsylvania. If you would like to learn more about this great fall activity, we recommend visiting Audubon Pennsylvania for more hawk-watching information and tips.

Fantastic Fall Foliage Tours in PA

Did you know that Pennsylvania offers some of the best fall foliage in the country? It’s true! Thanks to our geography, PA boasts over 130 tree species. Plus, our state offers the added benefit of various shrubs that contribute to its fall color palette. Each October, these trees and shrubs give PA residents a wonderful gift before they fade away and winter arrives. 

While PA’s many local and state parks each offer their own unique fall foliage offerings and events, there’s one area of the state where the sights are truly spectacular: The Laurel Highlands

Located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, these highlands offer visitors breathtaking views and some of the best fall foliage displays to be seen. If you’re a fan of fall foliage, then this mountainous region provides you with two wonderful driving tour options that let you experience the beauty of these changing leaves on a whole new level.  

Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour – Northern Loop

Serious leaf peepers will want to take full advantage of this wonderful road trip. Approximately four hours long and covering a 125-mile loop, this scenic driving tour provides plenty of opportunities to fully indulge in fall colors. 

Travelling along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, the tour begins with a bang at The Laurel Ridge. This densely forested area includes seven state parks, a 70-mile hiking trail and plenty of yellow, orange and red leaves to dazzle and delight. 

The next destination on your road trip is the Conemaugh Gap. Named after the mighty river that carved this chasm in the Laurel Ridge, this unique route lets you travel along and through  the ridge! Plus, you get to enjoy the added bonus of seeing the third deepest gorge in our state!

From the Conemaugh Gap, you’ll next travel to the Johnstown Inclined Plane. Now, navigating your way through the world’s steepest vehicular inclined plane may sound intimidating but it’s well worth the journey. Surveying the fall foliage and the landscape from 900 feet above the river valley is a site you won’t soon forget. 

As you make your back down the inclined plane, you’ll travel to the Allegheny Plateau portion of the Highlands. Composed of various high ridges and steep valleys, portions of this area receive contrasting weather elements. One area may experience rain while the high barriers on the other side keep things dry. It’s a marvelous anomaly to experience! 

Before your tour culminates at the point where you started, you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring panoramic views at Beams Rock Overlook in Forbes State Forest, hike a trail to marvel at the Spruce Flats Bog and Wildlife Area, and get a beautiful view of Linn Run Hollow at the Wolf Rocks Overlook. 

Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour – Southern Loop 

If you’re travelling with young children or older adults, then the Southern Loop option of the Discover fall Scenic Driving Tour may be a better choice for you! 

Clocking in at an easier to manage 2½ hour timeframe and 70-mile loop, this option begins at the Laurel Ridge and then diverts to Baughman Rock to witness the wonder of the Youghiogheny River Gorge. From there, you’ll drive to Laurel Hill State Park to enjoy scenic views and fantastic exhibits. After you leave the park, you’ll pass through the Seven Springs Mountain Resort and enter The Laurel Highlands and the Allegheny Plateau to complete the loop. 

Trip Tips 

Before you set out to explore the Northern or Southern Loop, you’ll want to follow these helpful tips:

  • Monitor the weather forecast and dress accordingly
  • Pack and refer to maps as cell phone and GPS services may be affected by the terrain and remoteness of the surrounding areas 
  • Check the various park website for fall events as they may result in more traffic and extended travel times
  • Bring water and light snacks to hold you over until lunch or dinner
  • Take everything with you and leave nothing behind

Now you’re ready to hit the road for an amazing fall foliage trip! Be safe, have fun and take plenty of pictures! 

Best Spots for Elk Watching in PA

What’s one of the most popular reasons people visit Pennsylvania parks in the fall and winter? Witnessing the beauty of the leaves changing colors is high on the list. Sledding down PA’s many rolling hills is another. Taking a nice walk on a crisp morning is pretty popular, too. However, we’re certain that one of the most rewarding fall/winter activities is also one of the most overlooked by many: Elk watching.

Starting in late September, areas in Cameron, Clinton, Clearfield, Potter, and Elk counties, the elk population takes center stage. That’s the time of the year when elk activities (called “the rut”) such as antler sparing contests and distinct calls begin. These are just a few of the many mating season rituals the elks perform and it’s impressive.

If you’re interested in witnessing these majestic animals in all of their glory, then these are some of the prime Pennsylvania elk watching spots to visit this fall and winter.

Dent’s Run

The most popular elk watching location in the state, Dent’s Run Elk Viewing Area, is maintained by the PA Game Commission. In addition to four fields for unobstructed views of elk roaming, grazing on oats, wheat and clover, and activity, Dent’s Run also features a wooded area where elk freely roam. The game commission also hosts elk history presentations at the on-site amphitheatre. Dent’s Run also features plenty of helpful accommodations such as handicap-accessible parking, park benches and bathrooms.

Elk Country Visitor Center

Another popular spot for elk watching, this center is often included on many of the state’s “Best Things to Do in the Fall” lists. And there are many reasons why. In addition to the many opportunities to see elk in their natural habitat, the Elk Country Visitor Center also showcases revolving exhibits and a state-of-the-art immersive 4D theater that screens movies about these majestic creatures. Operated by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, who are dedicated to elk conservation, the center also offers elk viewing tips, horse-drawn wagon rides, and a wonderful gift shop.

Quehanna Trail

This 75-mile trail, part of the Quehanna Wild Area that passes through the Moshannon and Elk State Forests, connects hikers and backpackers to some of the state’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Here, visitors can enjoy the beauty of natural streams, black cherry trees, savannas and, of course, herds of regal elk.

Hicks Run

Located in Driftwood, PA near a popular elk foraging location, the Hicks Run Elk Viewing Area features a covered blind. This makes it an ideal spot for elk watching in rainy or misty weather. The handicap-accessible blind not only keeps visitors sheltered from nature’s elements, it also acts as a buffer between visitors and the elk. Outside of elk watching season, this spot is also ideal for fall foliage and year-round photography opportunities.

These are just a few of the many fine viewing destinations in Pennsylvania’s elk country. No matter which spot you choose, please be sure to follow all park and viewing area rules and regulations. PA parks wants all visitors to enjoy their elk watching activities but they also want everyone to be safe, too. All rules against feeding and approaching elk are not only in place to protect these magnificent animals – they’re also present to protect the public. Be safe and have a fun time this fall!

Best Scenic Overlooks When Hiking in PA

Looking for a hobby that supports both physical and mental wellness? Hiking is the perfect choice. From a physical standpoint, hiking improves bone density, balance, weight control and muscle strength. Its mental health benefits include decreases in anxiety, depression and stress. 

While these and other benefits seem like ample evidence to convince non-hikers to lace up their boots and hit the trails, it may not be enough. It may take some extra incentive to motivate most folks to consider hiking as a hobby. And we understand that. Hiking can be exhausting. While the physical and mental health benefits are rewarding, folks may need a more immediate reward for their hiking efforts. A reward in the form of a spectacular view! 

To encourage folks to pursue hiking as a hobby or outdoor activity, we’ve compiled this brief list of some of the best scenic overlooks that are a part of Pennsylvania hiking trails. 

Mount Nittany

Let’s start with one of the most popular spots in the state. A rite of passage for many Penn State students and alumni, Mount Nittany offers gorgeous views of the college’s main campus. Maintained by the Mount Nittany Conservancy, there are seven scenic overlooks along the eight miles of hiking trails. Of the seven views, the Mike Lynch Overlook is considered the best. Named in honor of one of the many dedicated volunteers who help maintain the trails, the Mike Lynch Overlook gives hikers beautiful views of the main campus, Beaver Stadium and the downtown State College area. 

Bake Oven Knob

Given its unique name due to its resemblance of a bowl-shaped cooking accessory, Bake Oven Knob is a popular hiking destination for many reasons. Besides being ideal for moderate hiking, it also accommodates walkers, trail runners, and nature enthusiasts. Part of the Appalachian Trail in Germansville, PA, Bake Oven Knob is also a dog-friendly environment as long as they are leased at all times on the trail. However, the best part of hiking Bake Oven Knob is the breathtaking views of Eastern Pennsylvania. 

Chimney Rocks Park

What’s so special about Chimney Rocks Park? It’s named after the tall limestone pillars found at the top of the mountain. Legend has it that the tallest of these pillars was once used as the lookout spot by local Native Americans. There’s a giant stone furnace at the base of the park. And visitors can enjoy three spectacular scenic overlooks! The Lower Overlook offers incredible views of area mountains and nearby Hollidaysburg. The Middle Overlook is a great spot for fall foliage. However, the Upper Overlook is the prime spot. From its fenced-in observation deck, hikers can indulge in a perfect panoramic view of the park. 

Hawn’s Overlook

Looking for gorgeous river views? Then Hawn’s Overlook is the spot to hike. A moderate, dog-friendly trail, Hawn’s Overlook is ideal for all hiking skill levels. Located in Huntingdon, PA, it’s an extremely popular destination due to its magnificent 180 degree view of Raystown Lake and Hawn’s Peninsula. 

Whether you’re an avid hiker looking for some new trails or a first-timer looking for popular places to hike, these trails are perfect for you. Plus, you get the added bonus of rewarding your hard work with impressive views of our great state! 

Alternative Activities for PA Parks

Local parks are great places for lots of outdoor activities and recreational fun. If you’re an energetic sports enthusiast there’s always baseball, basketball, soccer and tennis. Exercise enthusiasts know that parks are perfect for running, jogging and walking. And parks are ideal for more calm and serene activities and hobbies such as picnics, birdwatching, or simply relaxing on a bench and absorbing all of the wonderful sights and sounds. 

However, local parks are also very progressive places. Classic activities aren’t the only things happening at the local recreational spots. There’s lots of newer, alternative activities and hobbies taking place at many Pennsylvania parks. 

Below, we’ll highlight some of the most popular trends taking place in your local Pennsylvania parks!

Disc Golf  

You can’t play golf in a local park – but you can play disc golf! 

If you’re unfamiliar with this creative spin on traditional golf, allow us to summarize: While golfers try to sink a ball in a hole using a minimum of strokes, disc golfers attempt to land their flying disc in a standing basket in the least amount of throws possible. Played on a course that has 18 target baskets, disc golf is safer for local parks, fun for all ages and is a lot more economical than traditional golf. 

Although disc golfers do not have to lug around a bunch of heavy and cumbersome clubs, they do have to rely on multiple discs. Just like each golf club has a specific purpose (drive, wedge, putter, etc), there flying discs designed to perform certain actions. There are discs for short distances, long distances, curves, etc. Many are made from different materials and molded into different shapes to best perform these unique functions. 

Many local parks are now transforming some of their open spaces into disc golf courses. One of the most popular local disc golf courses in PA can be found at the Thornbury Township Park in Delaware County. To see if there’s a local disc golf course available in your area, consult the Good For PA Local Parks Finder! 

Pickleball

Do you find the tennis court too intimidating? Are you a champ when it comes to table tennis or backyard badminton? If you answered “Yes” to any or all of these questions, then you’ll want to hear all about pickleball! 

Typically played with two to four players, this racquet sport blends elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton into a unique sport that’s a great deal of fun. Invented during a lazy summer day in the mid-1960s, pickleball is the product of parents looking to entertain their bored children. Wanting to play badminton but unable to find the shuttlecock, the adults substituted a Wiffle ball. Realizing that traditional badminton racquets wouldn’t work, they made handheld paddles from leftover plywood. Then they lowered the net to tennis level and pickleball was born! 

Since then, pickleball’s popularity grew. Now it’s played in schools, at retirement homes and even professionally. Yes, there’s not one, but two championship tournaments: the U.S. Pickleball National Championships and U.S. Open Pickleball Championship.

Most local parks with tennis courts often accommodate pickleball players. Best of all, you can sign up for pickleball classes, events and tournaments at many of PA’s parks and recreation centers! 

Recumbent Biking 

If you’re looking for a unique alternative to traditional bicycling, give recumbent biking a try! Unlike traditional biking where a rider is seated in an upright position, recumbent biking lets the rider do their thing in a reclining position. This allows riders to benefit from the exercise and weight loss offered by traditional biking – while taking stress and weight off of knee  joints. 

If you had to give up bicycle riding due to knee issues, you may be able to get back in the saddle with a recumbent bike. Consult with your doctor or rheumatologist to see if recumbent biking is appropriate exercise for you! 

Caving or Spelunking 

Looking for a unique educational opportunity at the park? Inquire with your state or local PA park to see if they offer spelunking or cave exploring events and activities. Although some folks think these activities are one-in-the-same, there is a bit of a distinction: spelunking is entering a cave for recreational or touring purposes while caving is exploring for geological or scientific purposes. 

Whether you just enjoy being outdoors, exploring nature, exercising or have a geologist-in-training in the household, these two educational and entertaining activities are for you!

Next time you’re in the mood for something new to do at your local park, remember these great alternatives – and give them a try!

New Skateparks in Pennsylvania

Back in the day, the local “skateboard park” was an empty parking lot. School property after class was dismissed. Bank parking lots on a Sunday. Basically any place that had a skatable surface where you could set up a makeshift ramp. These were the options. And they weren’t great options for lots of reasons. 

Besides not being entirely free of traffic, skateboarding in parking lots and on residential streets were designed for function – and not fun. Luckily times have changed and many communities are adapting to the need for designated places that accommodate safe skateboarding, in-line skating and even BMX biking. 

Pennsylvania is leading the way with some of the newest and most innovative skate parks in the country. Here are just a few of the best places to skate in the state! 

Free Fall Action Sports  

Quakertown was home to the popular Main Street Skatepark. Once a wonderful location for skating and recreation, the park fell into neglect and disrepair. Rather than tear it down, the borough and some dedicated community members decided to save the park. Ten years ago, these community members began to reclaim the park through a series of outreach efforts such as fundraising cookouts and skating competitions. 

Through their efforts the park regained its popularity. Seeing the positive impact the park had on the community, the local Borough Council decided that the best course of action was to expand the park. Fundraising efforts began and within a year, the community had enough money to begin planning and constructing a modern, state-of-the-art skatepark. 

Now that new skatepark is a reality! In June 2021, the Free Fall Action Park opened. Now Bucks County residents and PA skaters and action sports enthusiasts can enjoy this cutting-edge park’s many perks including a large flow bowl, a pool, a traditional street section, and even lights for nighttime fun. Fans can also enjoy classic skatepark standards like rails and ramps, too!

Bethlehem Skateplaza

This is not just a great skatepark – it also has one of the coolest backdrops! Much like the transformation of Quakertown’s Main Street Skatepark, this park is the product of the hard work and fundraising efforts of committed community members. 

Totally free to the public, the Bethlehem Skateplaza provides skateboarders, skaters and bikers with the classic elements of an old school, ad-hoc skatepark in a safe and welcoming environment. Action sports enthusiasts can apply their magnificent skills and tricks of their trades on the various rails, stairs and benches. 

Open from dawn until dusk all year long (weather permitting, of course), the Bethlehem Skateplaza also hosts classes, local competitions and national skateboarding and BMX bike events. Easily accessible by major roadways, the Skateplaza is part of the area’s “Rails-To-Trails” program that transformed three miles of decommissioned railroad tracks into an open space for recreational activities. 

Gettysburg Alternative Sports Park

Don’t know how to skateboard or skate but always wanted to learn? Then the Gettysburg Alternative Sports Park is the place for you! This popular spot draws many enthusiasts to its various ramps and obstacles. It also caters to beginners and skaters of varying levels with its cool tutorials, courses and community events. Open every day from dawn until dusk, this park does require a small entrance fee (but if you’re a PA resident you can enjoy a significant discount!). 

If you’re ready to break out your skateboard, lace up your inline skates, or take your BMX Bike for a spin, you can’t go wrong with these three fantastic PA skateparks. Be sure to check these and other great skateparks in the state this year!