With so many things to do it’s hard to think of a place that could be more perfect for a getaway than tiny Latrobe Pennsylvania. This small town of fewer than 8000 residents is the home of our childhood fave Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers) and legendary golfer Arnold Palmer. It serves as the training camp for 6-time Superbowl Champs the Pittsburgh Steelers. This tiny municipality and the surrounding area pack a punch in terms of things to do including some wonderful natural gardens and state parklands for biking and hiking.
**Disclaimer: This was a hosted stay, however, all opinions are my own. I strive to provide my readers with my most authentic sentiments.
Reminder: Because of the global pandemic, things continue to change rapidly and vary from place to place. Please stay current on all travel restrictions, admissions requirements, and scheduling changes. Information contained here may be incorrect as it may have changed since publishing.
Where is Latrobe PA
Part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, Latrobe is located in Westmoreland County. The county is one of three counties that make up what is collectively known as the Laurel Highlands.
Situated just 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Latrobe, and the larger Laurel Highlands are easily accessible from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and the Washington DC Metropolitan area.
If you are planning to fly, the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport located in Latrobe receives several flights from around the country daily. The main carriers in and out of Latrobe are Spirit Airlines and NetJet.
If you are arriving from a destination not serviced by this smaller airport, then look at flights into nearby Pittsburgh. You will certainly find more options available to you and can then rent a car to make the short drive.
If you are traveling from DC by car, you are looking at about a 4-hour drive.
For Philadelphians, the journey is closer to 5 hours coming across the state on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
And those visiting from Akron or Cleveland can expect to arrive in under 3 hours.
Visit the Birthplace of the Banana Split
The story goes that the Banana Split is the creation of an apprentice Pharmacist, named David Strickler. Beginning in 1904, his sweet creation was served at Tassell Pharmacy in Latrobe and became quite a hit.
While Tassell Pharmacy is no longer in existence, you can visit the place where this American favorite was discovered. The location in downtown Latrobe is marked by a historical marker and a colorful Banana Split statue.
Just two blocks from this location is the 512 Café (512 Ligonier St), a coffee and ice cream shop. Stop in and pick up a Banana Split (or a coffee) to go and walk to the statue and enjoy. (801 Ligonier Street, Latrobe)
Get your picture taken with Mister Rogers
Grab your cardigan and lace up your Keds for a photo shoot in James H. Rogers Park. The park named after Fred Roger’s father, a community activist, features a sculpture of Fred seated on a park bench. And of course, he left room for you to take a seat and get that Instagrammable image. (212 Main Street, Latrobe)
Get your Mister Rogers swag and a coffee at Latrobe Art Center and Ricolita Café
After posing with Mister Rogers, walk to the end of the block where you will find the Latrobe Art Center and Ricolita’s Café. They share a space making it a wonderful spot to grab a coffee and peruse the art. Or better yet, join in a class.
The Latrobe Art Center founded in 2002 by Fred Rogers’ sister, Nancy Rogers Crozier, and watercolor artist, Elizabeth Hazlett is a members-based studio and gallery. They offer a wide selection of artwork in a variety of media including paint, clay, jewelry, and woodwork from both local and nationally known artists.
Ricolita’s Café offers breakfast and lunch with an Italian and Mediterranean flare. There is plenty of seating throughout the gallery and Wi-Fi is available. I can’t think of a more perfect place to take a coffee break.
Finally, Latrobe Art Center is your go-to spot for all your Mr. Rogers gear. Whether you are looking for a Daniel Tiger plush or a wooden replica of the Neighborhood Trolley, you can find it here. (819 Ligonier Street, Latrobe)
See the stunning Archabbey of Saint Vincent
You may wonder, what exactly is an archabbey. To understand it better it is helpful to know what an abbey is. This can refer to a church or a monastery. But regardless of whether it describes a church as a place of worship or a monastery as a place of residence and seclusion, it is under the rule of what is known as an abbot. That being the case an archabbey could consist of a church and monastery or some other religious order.
Now that we have cleared that up, the Archabbey of Saint Vincent consists of the Archabbey Basilica (church), the Archabbey Monastery where the monks reside, Saint Vincent Seminary (theological school), and Saint Vincent College, a private Benedictine Liberal arts college.
Established in 1846 by Father Boniface Wimmer, OSB, the Archabbey of Saint Vincent was the first Benedictine monastery in the United States. And, with a monastic community consisting of 150 Benedictine monks, it is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, Saint Vincent Seminary is the 4th oldest Roman Catholic seminary in the country.
At Saint Vincent, the Archabbey Basilica is both the visual and spiritual centerpiece of the monastic campus. This stunning cathedral built in the Romanesque style features soaring vaulted ceilings, Roman arches, exquisite stained glass, and Carrera marble. The red-orange brick façade and towers give the basilica a distinctive appearance.
The church receives students, parish members, and visitors. Masses are held daily. However, you are welcome to look around on your own. (300 Frazier Purchase Rd)
Explore the campus of Saint Vincent College
The campus of this private Benedictine liberal arts college will blow you away. It is pristine and picturesque. Of course, you’ve already read about the Basilica which is a highlight but there is much more to see here. (300 Frazier Purchase Rd)
Visit the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College
The Fred Rogers Center holds the official Fred Rogers archives and is dedicated to his legacy. Visitors can view exhibits that provide an intimate look into Roger’s early life, his connection to the Latrobe community, his pioneering television show, and more.
While you may look at Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as just a kids’ television show, it was quite revolutionary in the way it tackled difficult subject matter without dumbing it down. He recognized that small children did not need to be bombarded with silly quick-moving content and considered it “demeaning.”
He slowed down the pace and took on topics such as divorce, death, and disability as well as everyday fears like visiting the dentist. He promoted values such as kindness and cooperation. He did these using puppets, a trolley, and his imaginary neighborhood but also utilizing interviews, music, and educational methods.
The Fred Rogers Center holds artifacts such as Mr. Rogers’s sweaters and tennis shoes as well as the full puppet cast. But this center is more of an adult exhibit. There is a good deal of reading and aims to educate and promote creative approaches to children’s media. (Located on the campus of Saint Vincent College. Use Parking lot A and enter from the lower level.)
View the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery
Located just downstairs from the Fred Rogers Center is the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery. The gallery is dedicated to weaving and folk traditions in the northeastern United States. The gallery displays examples from a collection of over 300 coverlets donated by the McCarls. The pieces make up one of the foremost coverlet collections in the country.
See the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Training Fields
The Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camps have traditionally been held on Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent College. However, in 2020 and 2021, they moved to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh due to the pandemic. It is everyone’s hope that they will once again resume training on campus.
But despite the temporary move, you should still swing by the training fields. It is quite surprising that a major NFL team and Super Bowl champs would practice at such a modest location. As you might imagine, despite its humble setting, Steelers Training Camp is quite a draw for the area.
In past years, the Steelers have also played a Friday Night Lights practice game at nearby Latrobe Memorial Stadium, the home field for the Greater Latrobe School District. In the past, it has been one of the largest events of the year for this small town.
Check out the Saint Vincent Gristmill and Wetlands
While the Saint Vincent Gristmill is part of the larger campus you will need to drive to get to it. However, it’s worth making the effort and like the rest of the campus, it is in a beautiful setting.
Planning for the gristmill began in the mid-1800s by Archabbey founder Boniface Wimmer. He commissioned a millwright to design the mill and imported burh stones from France.
Today the Saint Vincent Archabbey Gristmill endures as a symbol of Western Pennsylvania’s agricultural heritage. Visitors can purchase whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, buckwheat, grain berries, rye, cornmeal, and bran all ground on-site by the monks of Saint Vincent.
Behind the mill are trails that wind through wetlands. The area has been under the conservation of Saint Vincent and without the use of pumps, motors, electricity, or chemicals, has reduced pollutants left by defunct mining operations by 90 percent. (Beatty County Rd, Latrobe)
Explore the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve
One word: AWESOME!! Standing in the shadows of Saint Vincent’s College and the Archabbey Basilica, you will find this nature reserve dedicated to both environmental conservation and education. The reserve fulfills the vision of the late Winnie Walzer Palmer, the wife of Arnold Palmer.
The focal point of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve is the Learning Barn which houses animal exhibits, a learning library, educational spaces used for programs, and a small gift shop. The Reserve is part of the Seed Saver Exchange, and a significant seed collection is cataloged here.
Roughly two miles of trails wind through meadows, marshes, and wooded areas. There are pollinator gardens, an apiary, an heirloom vegetable garden, and more.
One of the highlights of the Nature Reserve is the Archibald Lochry Blockhouse, a small fortress dating back to the 18th century. The blockhouse was rediscovered on the property in 1999 and stands restored. A Colonial Garden beside the blockhouse features both vegetables and ornamental plants from the period and indigenous to Pennsylvania.
As you enter the preserve on Walzer Way, you will find the Children’s Nature Explore Classroom, where young kids can play, explore, and learn about nature and the environment in an unstructured way. This natural play area provides a variety of activities for little ones to explore. They can dig, climb, and make music. Or they can become a human sundial and learn to tell time the way the ancients once did. They can even study insects at the bug hotel. (744 Walzer Way, Latrobe)
Reminisce at the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum
A visit to the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum will have you reminiscing (or having flashbacks to) road trips in the family station wagon.
The Lincoln Highway was the first coast-to-coast interstate road system in the country. This museum is dedicated to the heyday of automobile travel and the road trip. The exhibits cover everything from the monumental task of building the interstate highway systems to the culture of car travel including roadside attractions, motels, postcards, diners, and more.
If you feel up to it, you can try pedaling across the United States on a simulator. If you make it the entire way you will get a prize.
After touring the exhibits, you are invited to fill out a stamped postcard and mail it off. Step into a real diner and enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of pie at the counter or in a booth. You will truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time. (3435 Route 30 East, Latrobe)
View Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
Architecture enthusiasts and nature lovers alike will thoroughly enjoy a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Built in 1939, for the Kaufmann family, this UNESCO-designated site is one of Wright’s premier works typifying his organic style of incorporating art and nature. It is the only Wright property to come into the public domain fully intact including the original art and Wright-designed furnishings.
Surrounding the home are 450+ acres with miles of walking trails. The paths around the home are well-maintained and exploring the grounds is easy and enjoyable. (1491 Mill Run Rd, Mill Run)
Remember heroes at the Flight 93 Memorial
Every visitor to the region should take a bit of time to explore the Flight 93 Memorial, the site of the September 11th crash of Flight 93 near Shanksville. Of course, 2021 marked the 20-year anniversary of the tragedy.
Upon arrival you are greeted by the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot-tall musical instrument meant to serve as a visual and audible reminder of those who perished that day. Within the tower are 40 wind chimes, one for each of the passengers and crew lost.
From the tower, you will wind your way back to the Visitors’ Center (follow the road signs) situated on a hill above the crash site. The visitors center provides a timeline of the events that day, not only for flight 93 but all those of 9/11. Visitors can listen to cockpit recordings and calls from the plane. You will learn of the heroism of the passengers aboard the flight who decided to fight back. Allow about 45 minutes to review the exhibits.
After you’ve spent sufficient time reviewing the displays you can either choose to walk from the visitors’ center or drive to the Memorial Plaza. The Memorial Plaza consists of the quarter-mile-long Plaza Walkway. The path takes you past the Hemlock grove where Flight 93 made impact. The trees are still scarred from the blast. The crash site is marked by a sandstone boulder.
Continue on the path to the Wall of Names. Here you will find 40 white marble panels each marked with one of the names of the heroes.
A visit to the Flight 93 Memorial is a moving experience from beginning to end and should not be missed. (6424 Lincoln Highway, Stoystown)
Visit the Charming town of Ligonier
Ligonier is a little slice of Americana. The focal point of downtown is a bandstand situated in the center of town on the Ligonier Diamond, where visitors and locals enjoy live weekly entertainment all summer long. In addition to weekly concerts, the diamond is the site of festivals throughout the year.
But Fort Ligonier Days, a three-day town-wide fall festival featuring food vendors, entertainment, parades, crafters, and more is certainly the premier event of the year. The cornerstone for the weekend is the reenactment of the Battle of Fort Ligonier, a consequential clash of the French and Indian War.
Bike (or hike) the Laurel Highlands
It’s a wonder that Pennsylvania isn’t better known as a biking destination. Throughout the state, there are some wonderful rail trails, mountain biking, and gravel riding. And this region is no exception.
Just 50 minutes from Latrobe is Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania’s largest State Forest. Hikers will find miles of trails that lead to waterfalls, natural waterslides, mountain vistas, and more. Be sure to check out the majestic Cucumber Falls. For marvelous mountain vistas, take the short hike to Baughman Rock Both spots are popular for photos and just enjoying nature.
Cycling enthusiasts of all stripes will find the Youghiogheny River Trail to be an enjoyable way to experience the park and visit some of the region’s tiny towns. The 17-mile ride from Ohiopyle to Connellsville takes you along a section of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). The trail crosses a bowstrung truss bridge built upon the piers for the original structure that once carried trains from Cumberland MD to Connellsville PA.
If mountain biking is your style, head to the Sugarloaf Mountain Biking area. Here you will find trails rated from beginner to advanced. You will find the trailhead on Sugarloaf Rd.
Beginners will want to stick to the Canyon Edge section of trails. While it is rated as a green trail, the single-track path traverses some rocky terrain and has some moderate hills for climbing and fun descents. If you take the Upper Canyon Edge trail you will pass through some lovely fern gardens and an old abandoned homestead site with a pond and spring house. This is a nice spot for a little break. If you continue on you will reach an overlook area that offers stunning vistas.
From the lookout point, more advanced riders can pick up McCune Trail. This challenging 3.5-mile black trail offers fluid singletrack and technical rock gardens that follow a ridge. Riders recommend taking the trail in a counter-clockwise loop to avoid a substantial climb in favor of a thrilling downhill descent.
If you’re not traveling with your bike but want to explore off-road, pick up a rental from one of the many outfitters in the absolutely adorable tiny town of Ohiopyle.
Laurel Summit State Park within Forbes State Forest is also a popular destination for mountain biking and hiking. From the recreation area at Laurel Summit State Park take the quick hike out to Spruce Flat Bog and Wildlife Area. It is absolutely breathtaking.
Another short hike in this area is to Beam Rock. This hike is vastly different from the bog hike. It is through a forested area and can be a bit rocky in spots but certainly doable for most people. This 1-1/2 mile trail will take you to an overlook offering stunning valley views. Be certain to use caution when out on the rocks as there are some dangerous drops.
Sample beer at Four Seasons Brewing
This is a microbrewery putting “quality over quantity.” Beers are brewed on-site and the processing area is open for viewing. This is one of 40 stops on the Laurel Highlands’ Pour Tour. To participate in the tour, download the Laurel Highlands Pour Tour App from Google Play or iTunes. (745 Lloyd Avenue Extension, Latrobe)
Golf at the Arnold Palmer Latrobe Country Club
While the club is private and requires membership there are a few ways to get in to play around.
One way is to stay at the Arnold Palmer-themed SpringHill Suites. They have partnered with the country club and offer packages that include a round of golf.
Or if you have a large group or are bound by few financial restrictions, rent one of two private Palmer residences located steps from the club. Deacon’s View and the Milfred House are single-family residences once owned by the Palmer family and offer an intimate glimpse into their lives. These rentals include access to all the amenities, including tennis and the pool as well as the first-rate dining of the Latrobe Country Club. (346 Arnold Palmer Dr, Latrobe)
Shop and play at the Westmoreland Mall and Live Casino
Just a quick drive from Latrobe in Greensburg is the Westmoreland Mall. Anchored by Macy’s and JC Penney, and offering over 75 retailers and 16 eateries, it’s easy to see why this is a favorite shopping destination for the region.
Additionally, the Westmoreland Mall welcomed Live! Casino Pittsburgh to its lineup in late 2020. This 100,000-square-foot casino offers all the action you would expect from a much larger gaming venue including 30 table games, 750 state-of-the-art slot machines, and a FanDuel Sportsbook lounge highlighting a 40′ TV screen. In addition, the casino features multiple bars, restaurants, event space, and even a bowling alley. (5256 US-30, Greensburg)
Where to Eat in Latrobe
Dino’s Sports Lounge
According to USA Today, Dino’s serves the best wings in the state. Having not sampled them all I can’t say with certainty that they are the best, but they are darn good.
Dino’s is exactly what you would expect from a sports bar: big televisions with football, baseball, and golf streaming across them and a menu of finger foods. In addition to the wings, they offer steak sandwiches, fries of all sorts, and even a salad topped with French fries. And, every weeknight they offer a different special.
DeNunzio’s Italian Restaurant and ChopHouse at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
Denunzio’s dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks the runway. Watch as planes arrive and depart from this small airport. This is a date night restaurant. The décor is the right combination of rustic and elegant.
This Italian restaurant offers your favorite pasta dishes, steaks and chops, specialty pizzas, and seasonal menu options. And on Fridays and Saturdays, they offer a Prime Rib Special that can’t be beaten. (148 Aviation Lane Latrobe)
Where to Stay
While this may be a chain hotel, it provides a unique experience in that its themed décor pays homage to the late golf legend, Arnold Palmer, and his roots in Latrobe.
Whether you golf or not, the SpringHill Suites are a lovely place to stay and convenient to all the sites as well as the airport. The rooms are comfortable, well-appointed, and remarkably quiet, especially considering the hotel is across from the airport.
You will find all the amenities you might expect from a larger more expensive hotel including, a bar, fitness facilities, and an indoor pool. Airport shuttle service is available, and breakfast is included. (115 Arnold Palmer Dr., Latrobe)