Stephanie Anderson Witmer

Correspondent

  • Carlisle, PA, USA

Stephanie Anderson Witmer is a correspondent who covers the Laurel Highlands area for Forbes Travel Guide. The Pennsylvania native has been a freelance writer and editor since 1996. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Spirit, Susquehanna Style, and other magazines and websites. She also is the author of two cookbooks, Killer Pies and Killer Chili. In addition, she teaches at Shippensburg University in central Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and son.

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  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    What are the best historic sites in the Laurel Highlands?

    The Laurel Highlands is as rich in its history as it is in its scenic beauty. Some of the historic sites date back to the pre-Revolutionary era, including Bushy Run Battlefield in Jeannette, Fort Ligonier in Ligonier and Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington. The Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown houses artifacts and exhibits about the devastating 1889 flood. The Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville commemorates a much more recent tragedy: the crash of the hijacked commercial airliner on Sept. 11, 2001.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    What is the best thing to bring home from the Laurel Highlands?

    Besides great memories, gorgeous photographs and sore muscles, you’ll want to take home some antiques as souvenirs of your trip to the Laurel Highlands. The three-county region is composed of small towns, most of which have long histories — and many antique shops or country stores. One standout is Mill Shoppe Antiques on Main Street in Rockwood, where antique merchandise is displayed in a Victorian parlor, library and dining room. You’ll need to plan your visit to this shop — it’s only open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment on weekdays and evenings. Throughout the year, the region hosts antique shows and flea markets in Somerset, Greensburg, Ligonier and Johnstown.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    What are the best Laurel Highlands food experiences?

    Ranging from the ritzy to the rustic, the Laurel Highlands is diverse when it comes to its food and libations. Here are the five best food experiences in the Laurel Highlands:
     
    1. Homemade pies and pastries. If there’s one thing rural Pennsylvania does well, it’s down-home desserts. Indulge your sweet tooth with fruit and cream pies with the flakiest of crusts, ooey-gooey sticky buns and cinnamon rolls, decadent donuts, and autumnal spicy-sweet pumpkin rolls — all made from scratch. The Country Pie Shoppe, with locations in Donegal and Mt. Pleasant, is one of the best family-owned bakeries in the area. Don’t expect to find delicate French pastries here. The desserts here are down-home and hearty, just like Grandma used to make.
     
    2. Local wine. Pennsylvania’s largest industry is agriculture, and while the region isn’t exactly Napa Valley, viticulture is alive and well here. Follow the Southwest Passage Wine Trail to discover delightful family-owned, small-batch wineries. The trail includes seven regional wineries — Christian K. Klay, Glades Pike, Greendance, Greenhouse, Raspberry Acres, Thistlethwaite Vineyards and Walnut Hill. Enjoying gorgeous mountain views while sipping a glass of wine made from traditional grapes or even fruit. What could be better?
     
    3. Hungarian food at the Darlington Inn. If you’re looking for authentic exotic flavors, look no further than this Ligonier gem.  Since 1996, owner Elizabeth Kastal and her family have shared Hungarian-Transylvanian cuisine made from scratch with guests. Satisfying comfort food is what you can expect here, including savory crepes filled with chicken or spinach, stuffed cabbage, Hungarian meatloaf, pierogies, chicken paprikash and goulash.
     
    4. The Ultimate Tasting Menu at Lautrec. Lautrec in Nemacolin Woodlands Resort holds the distinction of being a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant. In order to truly experience what Lautrec has to offer, splurge on the Ultimate Tasting Menu. The menu of elegant, European-style cuisine by chef Earl Morse changes with the seasons, but recent dishes included local Pekin (aka Long Island) duck, Maine lobster cioppino and grass-fed beef Rossini style. (Prix-fixe dinner menus, vegetarian and vegan tasting menus, and wine-pairing service for all menus are also available.) We suggest you dress up, and expect to spend at least two hours dining. But with cuisine this good, you won’t be in a hurry to leave.
     
    5. Beer from All Saints Brewing Company. While Pittsburgh gets most of the beer accolades in these parts, the Laurel Highlands deserves some attention too.  All Saints, a craft brewery in Greensburg, makes a beer for every palate, including Crimson Halo (an amber ale), Voodoo’s Child (a dunkel), All Saints Barleywine, and the lovingly named Laurel Highlands Pale Ale. Try seasonal beers on tap in the brewery’s tasting room or take a growler to go.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    Where is the best nightlife in the Laurel Highlands?

    Nearly every small town in the region is going to have its share of local taverns and watering holes, but more upscale cocktail bars and lounges can be found at the resorts, such as Nemacolin Woodlands and Seven Springs. The Mariettaville Tavern at the Ohiopyle House Café serves more than 60 varieties of beer; the large deck with gorgeous views makes a great place to enjoy them. Another great choice for a night out is the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown, which books theatrical events, as well as national musical and comedy acts year-round, from Fiddler on the Roof to Larry the Cable Guy.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    What is the best way to see the Laurel Highlands in one day?

    Because the Laurel Highlands spans three counties, it’s not possible to see every nook and cranny in one day. This is a region teeming with natural beauty — so it’s a place you’ll want to savor rather than race through. If you can’t stay for the weekend (or longer) to eat, shop and ski, then take a scenic drive along U.S. Route 40. Driving along the Pennsylvania corridor of this Historic National Road will at least allow you to enjoy some of the area’s breath-taking views. As the road takes you through the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, on to Maryland and into West Virginia, the road cuts through some of the Highlands’ historic small towns, including Hopwood, Uniontown, Brownsville and Washington.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    Where is the best shopping in the Laurel Highlands?

    Laurel Highlands is not exactly a shopping mecca. If big-city boutique shopping is what you’re looking for, make the relatively short trip  to Pittsburgh, particularly to the high-end shops in the Shadyside neighborhood. But before you go, first check out Main Street in Ligonier, Pa., a town that’s so quaint and picturesque, it looks like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Check out the home accents and accessories at Amica, classic and collectible toys and kites at The Toy Box, and contemporary pottery, hand-blown glass, jewelry and art for the home and garden made by American artisans at Main Exhibit Gallery.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Stephanie Anderson Witmer answered the question: Stephanie Anderson Witmer

    What are the best things to do with kids in the Laurel Highlands?

    The Laurel Highlands is about as kid-friendly as you can get, with tons of adventures and activities both indoors and out that are perfect for children of all ages. From amusement parks to art museums, we found plenty to please even the most persnickety of pipsqueaks. Here are the five best things to do with kids in Laurel Highlands:
     
    1. Play at Idlewild Park & SoakZone. Idlewild Park in Ligonier is an award-winning park that has been a family favorite since its creation in 1878. Explore the Story Book Forest to meet Mother Goose and see favorite nursery rhymes and fairy tales come to life or take a trolley ride through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe. The Raccoon Lagoon is a 19-acre area filled with rides made just for the park’s littlest guests, and the Jumpin’ Jungle is am interactive play area with a climbing net, swinging bridge and three-story tree house. In warm months, cool off in the wave pools and water slides of SoakZone, the companion water park.
     
    2. Visit Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. While Nemacolin certainly is a great place for grown-ups to get away, it’s jam-packed with fun stuff for kids, too, making it a great destination for the entire family. The Adventure Center features a climbing wall, zip lines, mini-golf, ropes courses and paddleboats. The Wildlife Academy is home to animals like lions, a tiger and bears. Safari tours and train rides are available, as are trail rides on horseback and year-round sled rides pulled by a team of sled dogs. Indoors you’ll find a pool, arcade games and a bowling alley.
     
    3. Explore Laurel Caverns. Take kids off the beaten path at Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania’s largest natural cave, in Farmington. The entrance to the caverns was created by a sinkhole dating back to the 1700s, and it’s now a popular destination for tourists, school field trips, scouting groups, spelunkers and rappellers. Guests can pan for gemstones or play mini-golf in the underground 18-hole course. As Laurel Caverns is also the state’s largest natural bat hibernacum, it’s closed from November to April, during the hibernation season. (If the idea of a real-life bat cave makes you a little squeamish, never fear: The caverns are virtually bat-free May through October.) Hiking-appropriate footwear and sweaters or jackets are recommended, as the temperature is roughly 52ºF year-round. 
     
    4. Tour Westmoreland Museum of American Art. Located in downtown Greensburg, Pa., the Westmoreland Museum of American Art is an ideal place to introduce kids to art and maybe inspire their own creativity. Plus, the peacefulness of a museum can be a welcome respite in a vacation otherwise filled with constant activity. The museum features art from famed American artists such as Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Louis Comfort Tiffany and James McNeill Whistler. Kids can explore art in the hands-on, interactive KidSpace, create a free art project on Sundays between noon and 3 p.m., or strap on a free Family Backpack full of games and activities.
     
    5. Go play outside! Since the Laurel Highlands region is home to eight state parks and two state forests, comprising more than 120,000 acres of natural beauty, there’s no shortage of good, old-fashioned outdoor fun in these parts. Kids will have so much fun hiking, biking, skiing, swimming, fishing and exploring that they’ll forget all about playing video games and texting their friends — at least for a few hours. The area is also home to three skiing and snowboarding spots: Hidden Valley Resort, Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Don’t know where to start? The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources provides extensive travel information on its website.