Where & When Pennsylvania Winter 2021
There may never be another Mayberry, but we’re fortunate to have lovely small towns in every corner and cove of Pennsylvania. They still have the same charm and hospitality as the old-school sitcom, but with many amenities of a large city. That’s why exploring small towns is on the top of the list for many travelers this fall. Typically located near ample opportunities for outdoor excursions, towns, and villages throughout the Commonwealth are inviting visitors to stay over and enjoy the unique shops, historic properties, and great restaurants that locals love.
Yes, visit those bucket list sites, like the Gettysburg Battlefield, but don’t visit without exploring the beautiful downtown area, or you’ll miss a lot. Travelers say they prefer to avoid metro and crowded spaces in this uncertain travel climate. I can’t think of a better way to experience the fall foliage than a road trip to explore Pennsylvania’s exceptional small towns.
From county fairs to harvest festivals, autumn provides ideal weather for outdoor activities. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many events have been canceled for 2020, while others have been restructured to follow CDC guidelines.
One of my favorite activities when visiting a new location is exploring the shops. Shopping local is the mantra for towns throughout Pennsylvania because it is the only way independent businesses compete with the national chain stores.
MANHEIM | Lancaster County
Buying local is embraced at Prussian Street Arcade in Manheim, Lancaster County. This unique shopping experience allows local makers to rent space to sell their products without having to handle money or pay staff to operate their boutique-style micro shop. Co-ops are not uncommon in Pennsylvania, but the vendors at Prussian Street Arcade bring a fresh feel to a time-honored shopping experience. Manheim is a small town in Lancaster County surrounded by fertile farmland. Route 72 runs through the middle of Manheim, which connects Lancaster to Lebanon and points north. The tight-knit community has always rallied around high school sports and community causes. In recent years, Manheim has become a destination where you can spend the day or weekend shopping, dining, and attending unique events. The focal point of this new destination status is REO Marketplace on Main Street. In all, the marketplace is the home of Mill 72 Bake Shop & Café, REO Suites, and Prussian Street Arcade.
The town boasts several restaurants, in addition to the Weary Traveler Pub & Marketplace, which is slated to open in early 2021. The owners are also the proprietors of Mount Hope Estate and Winery and the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Wine, beer, and spirits produced at Mount Hope will be sold at the pub, an tavern fare in the 80-seat restaurant.
Manheim is also home to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which occurs on weekends from September 5th through November 1st. Tickets are sold online at parenfaire.com. The website also outlines its safety initiatives and restrictions.
ELLWOOD CITY | Lawrence County
Treasure hunters know that there are great opportunities for antiquing in Pennsylvania. Antiques shops and centers are plentiful throughout the Commonwealth, including Lewisburg, Adamstown, Clearfield, Columbia, and many more.
Elwood City, Lawrence County, is a quaint town with a population near 7,400. You’ll find multiple antique shops, including Market Place on Main, Condition Mint Galleries, and Shop at the UnderPass. The stores have an eclectic selection of antiques and one-of-kind home decor items.
Antiques aren’t the only treasures to be found in Ellwood City, Ladybird’s Luncheonette is a great place to grab lunch, while dinner at Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub at Olde Stonewall Golf Club is a unique treat. Throughout the year, the town hosts several annual events and concerts held at Community Plaza. Home to the town’s farmers’ market, Community Plaza has cascading waterfalls, flowering planters, shady trees, and an open area for seating.
Located within the borough is Ewing Park, a 20-acre all-season park with a beautiful nature trail that winds its way along the Connoquenessing Creek. There is no shortage of natural beauty in the area, McConnells Mill State Park and Moraine State Park are just under 30 minutes from town. These parks offer hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, camping, and even rock-climbing at McConnells Mill.
ST. PETERS VILLAGE | Chester County
Approximately 25 miles north of West Chester is one of those ethereal places that make the Brandywine Valley a bucket list destination. St. Peters Village is a lovely hamlet that runs along the picturesque French Creek in northeastern Chester County. The 19th-century company town has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003. Along the quarter-mile stretch of St. Peters Road, the village shops include Saint Peter’s Bakery, which recently garnered the distinction of The Best Little Bakeshop in America. In addition to tasty baked treats, you can also grab breakfast or lunch.
A vintage arcade, a hand-blown glass shop, a winery, and other unique shops will make this excursion well worth the drive. The Inn at St. Peter’s is a luxurious bed-and-breakfast with breathtaking views of French Creek. The inn’s restaurant serves Italian cuisine on three outdoor patios overlooking the flowing water and large rocks for which French Creek is known.
Hiking is also very popular in the area, with many interconnecting trails allowing you to take a different route each time you visit.
With it’s proximity to West Chester, Chadds Ford, and Kennett Square, you will find plenty of great experiences on this excursion. Read more on St. Peters Village and the Brandywine Valley go to whereandwhen.com/springtime-getaway-in-the-brandywine-valley.
JIM THORPE | Carbon County
With a storied past, the quaint charms of a European village, and the outdoor recreation of a mountain sports destination, Jim Thorpe is a must-see town tucked into the Pocono Mountains. Originally known as Mauch Chunk, Jim Thorpe is a destination rich with history and is often called “Switzerland of America” because of its scenic views and charm. Its unique Victorian architecture pays homage to its roots of coal mining and industrialism. Today, those Victorian structures house unique shops and eateries, museums and galleries, and popular entertainment venues. With nostalgic charm coupled with a unique history and exciting recreation, Jim Thorpe is a favorite for weekend getaways for many types of travelers.
Read more on Jim Thorpe at whereandwhen.com/jim-thorpe.
MILFORD | Pike County
As visitors turn onto Broad Street in Milford, something about the town will immediately seem a little familiar. Not necessarily in a déjà vu way, but rather as if the town is welcoming guests home. That’s Milford, a small Victorian village in Pike County in the heart of the Pocono Mountains. It’s a region known for ski resorts and lakes, outdoor recreation, and family-oriented lodging complexes. But Milford stands out, not only for its nostalgic, friendly feel but for its unique country elegance that’s both charming and inviting.
Broad Street (the main thoroughfare through town) is lined with shops, cafes, and art galleries, each operated by friendly locals who are more than happy to share their favorite spots throughout town or to help a visitor out with restaurant or sightseeing suggestions. After all, many of the locals were once visitors themselves, eventually choosing Milford’s charm over the big-city bustle. Don’t miss Artisans Exchange, which has become one-stop-shopping for anyone looking for the newest works from local and regional artists.
The Craft Show, located in a large historic home, showcases everything from handcrafted furniture and carvings to garden gnomes and country chic décor. If visitors are looking for the perfect items for a picnic, Fretta’s Italian Food Specialties (yes, the same Fretta family of the famous Fretta’s in NYC’s Little Italy) is an authentic salumeria.
Milford offers several quaint Victorian-era beds and breakfasts, as well as the grand Hotel Fauchere, located right on the main thoroughfare. The hotel, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a luxury boutique hotel with three restaurants with a storied past.
For more on Milford go to whereandwhen.com/the-unique-charm-of-milford/
FOXBURG | Clarion County
Nestled along the Allegheny River and accessible by traversing across a series of hills and valleys, the tucked-away community of Foxburg in Clarion County welcomes guests to relax, enjoy the small-town way of life and truly get away from it all.
In Foxburg, everything is within steps of each other. The town is only about a block long, with the Foxburg Inn right at the center. Park the car and just wander along Main Street. Enjoy the river view, rent a canoe or kayak for a trip out on the water, or take a stroll along the water on the rail trail. There are even Segway tours to do a little more exploring.
Most diners choose the chateau-like Allegheny Grille for at least one meal. The waterfront restaurant, complete with vaulted wooden ceilings and a large patio, and windows that give a panoramic view of the river, provides dinner with a spectacular view. Classic American dishes, a full bar, and plenty of opportunities for small groups to gather, make this the go-to spot in town. Couples can enjoy a quiet evening by the windows or in front of the large fireplace for a cozy dinner.
Foxburg Wine Cellars has been offering fine wines for more than 15 years. The winery sources its grapes from Lake Erie region and makes all its more than two dozen varieties of naturally processed wine on-site. For more on Foxburg, go to whereandwhen.com/foxburg-along-the-allegheny.
Dining on your Getaway
Pennsylvania is a melting pot of cultures; Italians, Eastern Europeans, German and Irish immigrants came here for work, religious freedom, or both, and brought along the traditions of their homeland. Small town restaurants often offer menu items from the people who live there. I have always thought that the best way to understand a different culture is through their food. There’s nothing more satisfying than enjoying haluski and kielbasa from a diner in coal country, or chicken pot pie in Amish Country.
Ask a Local
The best asset of any community is its people. Most are more than willing to direct you to their favorite breakfast place or that hole-in-the-wall shop you may otherwise miss. So, on your small-town getaway, don’t forget to use the best resource you have, the locals.
For links to the destinations listed in the article, go to whereandwhen.com/small-town-getaways. Please consult business websites before heading out. Days and hours of operation are continually changing during this time.