Fall and winter festivals meld easily in Indiana County, Pa., where traditional Amish celebrations complement a festival honoring favorite son Jimmy Stewart and It’s Wonderful Life, a huge holiday light display, and seasonal fun on the area’s numerous Christmas tree farms.
October fun includes Yarnick’s Farm Haunted Fun and Pumpkins, where you can visit the haunted hollow, maze, and haunted house — or sit by the bonfire and sip hot chocolate while others do the scary thing — before picking out a pumpkin to take home.
Scary Harry’s Haunted Trail is a local tradition on weekends, Oct. 4-Nov 1. You’re driven in a truck-drawn hearse to the top of the property where the trail starts, then weave your way through the woods trying your best to avoid Scary Harry and his bandits.
The It’s a Wonderful Life Festival and Parade on Nov. 21 opens the holiday season with a salute to movie star Jimmy Stewart, who hailed from the Indiana. A visit to the Jimmy Stewart Museum seems especially appropriate as the holidays draw near.
Thanksgiving is also the traditional opening of the Festival of Lights at Blue Spruce Park, where you can view 80 different light displays on a 2-mile drive around the lake. The display is open weekends until Dec. 13, when it begins daily operation through Jan. 1.
Indiana County proclaims itself to be the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World” and there are ample opportunities to cut your own or just visit the farms and enjoy seasonal activities.
Then there’s the wine
Indiana County’s wineries provide different experiences. Country Winery and Vineyard in Blairsville is in its second year. Owner George Bogdanski offers nine selections in a venue with a Southwestern theme.
Two other wineries are also located in Blairsville: Raspberry Acres and Walnut Hill. At Raspberry Acres, visitors can sip their favorite wine on the patio overlooking a small lake. Bands often perform at Walnut Hill Winery on weekends and the seven wines offered tend to the sweet side.
Windgate Vineyards and Winery is in the Amish community of Smicksburg. It is the oldest and largest estate winery in southwestern Pennsylvania, and produces more than 9,000 gallons of wine per year, largely French varietals of 10 red and nine white offerings. The owners also produce several fruit and “party” wines.
Groundhog Wine Trail
The Indiana County wineries are part of the Pennsylvania Groundhog Wine Trail, which draws its name from Punxsutawney Phil, the famous prognosticator that draws a crowd to the region every year to learn if there will be six more weeks of winter.
The trail is the state’s longest, stretching from Altoona, through the Pennsylvania Wilds region, toward Erie and the New York border. Indiana is at the hub of the trail. The wineries are great to visit during any season of the year, although fall is an ideal time, especially if you’re a leaf peeper.
The Groundhog Wine Trail will take you on a scenic route among Pennsylvania’s rolling hills, sun-dappled woods, and bucolic farmlands, which are the perfect backdrop for a lazy day of sumptuous sipping.
A day after Punxsutawney Phil rears his head and delivers his annual forecast, many will toast to this furry little critter at the eighth annual Groundhog Wine Trail Festival. Held at Clearfield County Fairgrounds on Feb. 3, the event will feature more than 40 vendors, and Phil himself usually makes an appearance. Amateur vintners can even compete in a competition judged by the American Wine Society.
For more information
Indiana Co. Tourism: visitindianacountypa.org
Groundhog Wine Trail: groundhogwinetrail.com