While it may seem counter-intuitive to plan a trip to the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World” in the spring and summer, the fact is, Indiana County, Pa., has something fun to offer to travelers year-round.
For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s the opportunity to enjoy 64 miles of walking and riding trails that meander throughout the county along abandoned railroad routes.
The Hoodlebug Trail, which is named after a self-propelled passenger coach that provided service until 1940, runs from the town of Indiana to a point where it intersects with the Ghost Town Trail in Black Lick.
Along that rails-to-trails route, hikers and bikers can view the Eliza Furnace Historic Site, which dates to 1846 and is one of Pennsylvania’s best preserved iron furnaces.
There are also the remains of eight mining towns that were abandoned in the 1900s, earning the Ghost Town Trail its name.
Smicksburg, in the northern part of the county, is a wonderful place to walk and shop. It is located in the heart of Amish country.
“People enjoy coming here because they say it takes them back in time,” said Patty Painter, of The Drying Shed, who, along with her cat, Sammy, has enjoyed welcoming people to her six-room store in the center of town for the past nine years.
“They sit out on our porch and just watch the Amish buggies go by—it’s life as it should be.”
Thousands of people visit Smicksburg to enjoy the area’s festivals, including a Spring Open House on May 3 where area merchants display their newest merchandise, and Strawberry Saturday on June 7, which includes locally grown strawberries in and on everything from cobblers to ice cream to cheesecake.
During Penny Candy Days, July 4–5, area businesses give out free old-time, nostalgic treats, ranging from wax lips to candy necklaces.
For a real taste of Amish life, visitors can make reservations to attend the Amish Wedding Feast at Thee Village Eatinghouse, where a costumed narrator provides a historical look into the Amish community’s wedding custom-s.
The hearty menu is unique to the western Pennsylvania Amish and nothing goes to waste — including the celery centerpiece.
Enjoy local libations
Just up the road, Windgate Vineyards and Winery offers tours as well as the chance to sample wines before shopping for antiques, American and English furniture, and more.
A drive south to the town of Homer City
provides the opportunity to sample some truly unique libations, including premium blue corn vodka, cherry whiskey, and apple brandy at the recently opened Disobedient Spirits, an artisan distillery.
Of course, you can’t visit Indiana County without taking time to visit the museum of its most famous native son, Jimmy Stewart.
Located on Philadelphia Street next to the courthouse where the actor’s statue stands, the museum not only celebrates Stewart’s Hollywood accomplishments, but his triumphs as a military figure, civic leader, and family man.
Though it’s earned its place as the most popular attraction in the area, the museum itself is just as welcoming and down-to-earth as the man it honors. It provides a fitting tribute to his roots, including a view of the former site of his father’s hardware store.
For more information
Indiana County Tourism: visitindianacountypa.org