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!

Enjoy the State’s Best Meteor Shower of the Year

The dog days of summer bring lots of heat and humidity to our great state. They also give us a terrific view of one of the best light shows you’ll ever experience: the Perseid Meteor Shower! 

No matter where you live in Pennsylvania, you’ll have a chance to see some of the finest meteor showers during the evening and early morning hours of August 11, 12 and 13. But if you want to have the full experience and the best views, you’ll need to plant your chair (and a telescope for the ultimate effect) in a wide-open space for a clear view of the northeastern sky. You’ll find such a space in PA’s local parks and recreation facilities!

Below are some of the best local parks and places for serious stargazing and meteor shower viewing (clear skies permitting) this August! 

Rose Tree Park

Media, PA, the Delaware County seat, is home to Rose Tree Park. Perhaps the county’s most beloved local park, it features lush, rolling hills that are ideal for watching their free summer concerts at the bandshell, sledding in the winter, and year-round stargazing. A great spot for viewing the Perseid meteor showers, Rose Tree Park also hosts a different kind of light show every year. Their “Festival of Light”, held annually during the holiday season, is one of the most popular local attractions in the surrounding area. 

Brightball Park

Located in Lower Paxton Township, Brightball Park offers 41 acres of gorgeous ground for fantastic views of August’s meteor shower spectacular! During the day, the park provides its community with a playground, an all-purpose field for playing and picnicking, softball fields, baseball fields, and a pavilion for special events and functions. In addition to stargazing at night, residents can enjoy games of pickle and basketball on their lighted courts. 

Marshall Square Park

The oldest park in West Chester, PA, Marshall Square Park is known for its popular summer music series and family movie nights in July and August. However, this August the park may be more of a draw due to its great location for meteor shower watching. Also known as one of Chester County’s best spots for geocaching, Marshall Square Park is favored by families with young children thanks to its colorful playground and tot-friendly swing set. 

Raystown Lake

Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania is not only the largest lake located entirely within the state, it’s also one of the best places for sensational star gazing. This 8,000 acre lake is the perfect place for an unobstructed view of the upcoming Perseid meteor showers, it also adds the extra cool element of seeing the stars and meteor showers reflected in the shimmering water. In addition to camping accommodations, Raystown Lake features beaches, boat launches, and picnic areas. Best of all, you may be able to spot some of the eagles that are currently nesting in the community. 

Emerald View Park

Officially created on Earth Day 2007, Emerald View Park is not only the best place to experience Pittsburgh’s gorgeous skyline – it’s the area’s best spot to see the Perseid meteor showers in full splendor! Thanks to its wonderful view, the park draws approximately 1 million visitors each year. In addition to its fantastic views, the dog-friendly park is also a popular attraction for bicycle enthusiasts, runners, walkers, hikers, swimmers, bird watchers, and anyone who wants to unwind and experience the beauty around them. 

These are just five of the state’s many great parks and recreational settings for stargazing and meteor shower viewing. There are many more – some in your backyard – that are just waiting to welcome you. Although the five parks listed above are typically open to the public after dusk, it’s always a good idea to check with the parks and recreation department or local park managers to ensure that you’ll be able to access these attractions in the evening.

Road Tripping for Parks, Playgrounds and Ice Cream

We all know that summertime is the perfect time to enjoy the warm weather and hit the local parks for fun, play, fitness and general wellness. It’s also the best time to enjoy the cooling comforts of a delicious scoop of ice cream! 

To celebrate our state, small businesses, and everyone’s favorite treat, the fine folks at VisitPA have created a super ice cream trail. What’s an ice cream trail?  It’s actually three separate trails in Eastern, South Central and Western Pennsylvania that showcase 31 of the best local creameries and ice cream shops in their respective communities. Folks who set off on the trails not only enjoy a variety of wonderful flavors and treats, they see gorgeous scenery, meet new people, discover new places, and witness the many wonders found throughout the state.

Realizing what a wonderful idea the PA ice cream trail is, we thought we would lend our assistance and spotlight some of the best local parks located near some of the trail’s most popular attractions. Whether you’re working up an appetite from a day of play in the park or looking to walk off that triple-scoop on a nearby trail, these parks are the perfect places for extra ice cream trail fun. 

East PA 

Chester Springs Creamery at Milky Way Farm is a historic, multi-generational, family owned and operated working farm in beautiful Chester County, PA. In addition to providing the community with high-quality farm-fresh products, Chester Springs Creamery at Milky Way Farm boasts over 40 fantastic flavors. After one bite, you’ll understand why this popular creamery has garnered high praise from the locals. 

Chester Springs residents not only have this wonderful creamery in their community, they also have one of the best local parks, too! Hickory Park showcases a variety of age-spanning offerings in a clean, quiet and serene setting. Smaller children can let their imaginations run wild on the playground, while older children and teens will enjoy access to ball fields, basketball courts and sand volleyball courts. If a stroll in the park sounds perfect, the paved walking trails are ready for you. For more rigorous activity, the hiking trails will do the trick. 

South Central PA 

Fox Meadows Creamery in Ephrata, PA not only serves up thousands of cones, shakes and treats each year – they also let visitors get a peek behind the scenes! Step into the creamery, place your order and then take a look in the nearby window to see how their ice cream is made! Owned and operated by the Fox family since the 1950s, this popular ice cream destination features this signature “Baked Fox” treat: customer choice of a hot-pressed chocolate chip cookie or brownie outer shell with a cold scoop of their favorite ice cream inside!

Just down the road from Fox Meadows, you’ll find the Ephrata Township Community Park. Located on US-322, this 50-acre park features paved and stoned hiking trails throughout, baseball and soccer fields, and a pavillon that is able to rent for special events. Best of all, the park’s beautiful lake and pond are open to the public for fishing (subject to rules and regulations of the PA Fish & Boat Commission). 

Another great option in Ephrata is the Thomas P. Grater Community Park. This 19-acre park includes favorite features such as a playground, multiple ball fields, a community pool and walking trails, along with some uncommon additions like a skate park and wetlands area. 

West PA 

One of Mt. Lebanon’s local gems, Betsy’s Ice Cream has been pleasing taste buds from 1 to 100 with delicious handcrafted, homemade ice cream. Along with their topnotch ice cream, visitors can enjoy frozen yogurt, thick frosty shakes and other assorted frozen treats. Betsy’s has become so popular that they even offer catering services and online ordering! 

If you’re looking for a wonderful local park, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s one just down the road from Besty’s. Bird Park is a quick three minute drive from the area’s popular ice cream spot. A great place for a picnic, this popular park offers a grilling area, picnic tables, a pavilion, multiple athletic fields and is also dog friendly. Best of all, it features some of the area’s best nature trails. 

If you’re looking for one of the best playgrounds in the neighborhood, you’ll find it at Church Place Park! Located just 2 minutes away from Betsy’s doorstep, this gem of park also features a picnic area and game tables, too.  

This is just a quick glimpse at the many wonderful creameries, shops and parks you’ll discover on this year’s ice cream trail! No matter which part of the trail you choose, we’re sure you’ll have a fun (and delicious) time!

Parks and Recreation Supports Human Development

In previous blogs, we’ve demonstrated the many ways parks and recreation programs help promote health and wellness and fosters social cohesiveness. But there are so many meaningful ways these programs enrich the lives of community members. In the following article, we’ll explore a few of the significant ways parks and recreation support human development for people of all ages and abilities.

Learn and Strengthen Social Skills

You may not think of them as centers for learning, but playgrounds, hiking trails, and even park benches provide lots of opportunities for children and adults to learn social skills.
More than just a place for children to run, jump and climb, playgrounds also provide a safe space for children to interact with each other and learn interpersonal skills. Unlike sports which are grounded in rules and can be competitive, free play on playgrounds allows outgoing and shy children of all abilities to interact without having to worry about winning or losing. Playground features such as merry-go-rounds and see-saws encourage cooperation and team building.

Adults of all ages and abilities can strengthen their social skills when walking trails or taking a break on a bench. These spots encourage adults to greet neighbors with a simple “Hello” or strike up a friendly conversation. Though these opportunities seem small on the surface, they lead to a growing sense of community and human connection.

Learn and Strengthen Physical Skills

Adults and children alike need dedicated time for physical activity each day for optimal health and wellness. Unfortunately, most recess and lunch breaks do not provide ample time for such activity. After-school activities and programs at local parks provide children and youth of all ages with opportunities to stay active each day and develop necessary physical and motor skills. Whereas a leisurely walk, hike, or jog before or after work, gives adults the chance to exercise, clear their minds, feel less exhausted and shake off stress which in turn helps them maintain their physical, mental, and emotional wellness.

Learn and Strengthen Emotional and Intellectual Development

Interacting with nature and spending time in green spaces is beneficial for children and adults in multiple ways. The brain just like the body needs exercise and stimulation in order to develop and stay healthy. Parks and recreation programs give children and adults contact with nature and let them explore and experience a multitude of sights, sounds, and textures which help them develop and strengthen their emotional and intellectual connections to their environments and may spur creativity, too.

Parks and recreation do more than provide the perfect spot for a picnic or a pick-up game of Wiffle ball. These invaluable agencies also provide the programs, activities, and environments that lead to positive physical, emotional and mental development for children and adults of all ages and abilities.

Parks and Recreation Supports The Economic Vitality of Communities

Building a strong sense of community and boosting health and wellness through the many outdoor activities, events, and programs they offer are just two of your local parks and recreation agency’s biggest accomplishments. Through their hard work and expertise, you and your neighbors can hike trails, play tennis, fish, kayak, enjoy various concerts, festivals, and fairs, and enroll your children in recreational camps. Yet, there is another significant accomplishment of local parks and recreation departments that often goes unnoticed: their considerable contribution to their community’s economic vitality.

A recent National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) report conducted by the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University found that parks and recreation services supported 1.1 million jobs while spending at local parks and recreation agencies contributed over $166 in economic activity. Those are some incredibly impressive numbers!

Below are just a few of the noteworthy ways parks and recreation programs support their communities’ economic vitality.

Create New Jobs & Business Opportunities

In addition to offering diverse job opportunities that range from high-level directorships to administrative assistants to out-in-the-field park operators and program instructors, thriving parks and recreation program also attracts more businesses to the community which increases local spending. When parks host festivals, concerts, parades, marathons, and other community-driven events, residents, and visitors spend money at surrounding businesses such as food trucks, ice cream parlors, restaurants, boutique shops, bed and breakfasts, and other local services and shops.

Provide Affordable Childcare Alternatives

Every spring, working parents are faced with a challenge: What do the kids do when school is out for summer? While enlisting the help of daycare and childcare services is an option, many of these services may not accommodate every community member’s budget. Parks and recreation services offer affordable childcare alternatives for working families. Their summer camps and programs are cost-effective alternatives that allow children to learn new skills, enjoy fun activities, stay active and make new friends – and give parents peace of mind knowing that their children are in good hands while they’re working. Plus, these programs help the summer months fly by for both kids and their parents.

Revitalize the Community

When neighbors are engaged and active in their parks and recreation programs and events, they evolve into advocates for their community. This newfound advocacy acts as a magnet that not only attracts visitors but new interested homebuyers as well. This positive word of mouth leads to a prosperous and welcoming community that will continue to thrive.

Clearly, parks and recreation agencies now only provide ample opportunities for communities to enjoy open spaces, stay active and connect with their neighbors, they also create jobs, attract new businesses, generate local spending, and improve its overall economic vitality. Through parks and recreation programs, communities can truly thrive and meet their economic needs.