Laurelville is a great place to beat the heat during the summer

LIGONIER, Pa. (April 15, 2024) – Summer is a special time in the Laurel Highlands, and a national publication is taking notice.

USA Today announced Monday that a panel of experts and 10Best editors selected the Laurel Highlands as a Readers’ Choice Award nominee in the Best Summer Travel Destination category. Voting will be conducted online at through 11:59 p.m. on May 13.

The Laurel Highlands is home to excellent outdoor recreation on the Youghiogheny and Stonycreek rivers as well as eight state parks (Keystone, Kooser, Laurel Hill, Laurel Mountain, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Summit, Linn Run and Ohiopyle) and two state forests (Forbes and Gallitzin).Fallingwater

Architecture aficionados flock to the Laurel Highlands to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater – a UNESCO World Heritage site – as well as Mantyla and the Duncan House, both of which are located at Polymath Park, and Kentuck Knob. History lovers are drawn to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Fort Ligonier and the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Family vacations are especially popular in the region, which is home to Idlewild and SoakZone, Laurel Caverns, Jennerstown Speedway and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

The lazy river at Idlewild & SoakZone is a great summer escape

Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands – the official destination marketing organization of Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties – said the region’s diverse range of activities and experiences make it the perfect summer getaway.

“Summer is a season filled with anticipation,” she said. “Three months filled with dates circled for family gatherings, celebrations, parades, and vacations simply are not enough.

“The Laurel Highlands has always been a summer destination because the region checks many boxes for visitors,” Nemanic said. “An entire week could be filled with outdoor experiences alone – hiking numerous trails, biking the Great Allegheny Passage, floating a kayak on calm water, or screaming excitedly over Class IV rapids on the Yough. A blend of history and cultural assets is appealing to many, with museums and artist studios scattered throughout the landscape. For little tots, Idlewild and SoakZone create memories for their first amusement park experience. Pepper in farmers markets for fresh-grown ingredients to take home, and you have yourself one tremendous escape this summer.” 

Other nominees include Bar Harbor, Maine; Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota; Capitol Reef Country, Utah; Catalina Island, California; Cody, Wyoming; Door County, Wisconsin; Finger Lakes, New York; Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama; Juneau, Alaska; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Ocean City, Maryland; Ocean City, New Jersey; San Juan Islands, Washington; Sandusky, Ohio; Sevier County, Tennessee; South Rim – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; Space Coast, Florida; Swain County, North Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Whitewater enthusiasts at the Stonycreek Rendezvous

What they’re saying

Sean Kertes, chairman, Westmoreland County commissioners

“Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, beckons travelers with its scenic beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality, making it an ideal destination for unforgettable experiences. From exploring historic landmarks to immersing in nature's tranquility, visitors are sure to find endless delights in this charming county.”

Brian Fochtman, chairman, Somerset County commissioners

“Exposure and recognition from a publication like USA Today validates what those of us who live here already know about the Laurel Highlands – what a beautiful part of the country we live in.”

Scott Dunn, chairman, Fayette County commissioners

“The diverse amount of activities, venues, and accommodations make Fayette County and the Laurel Highlands an attractive four-season destination. Our landscape provides a picturesque backdrop for biking, hiking, rafting, golfing, skiing, fishing, hunting and more. Historical sites from the founding of the country and the Industrial Revolution share the countryside with architectural wonders like Fallingwater. You can stay at a five-star resort, go tent camping, or anything in between. The reasons are endless, you’ve just got to get here!”

Sunrise as seen from Baughman Rock Overlook, Ohiopyle

Best of the best

The popularity of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands has been showcased multiple times by USA Today 10Best, which provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world. Its staff is made up of a collection of local travel experts that specialize in the region or city they write about.

On April 10, Ohiopyle Borough was named the Best Small Town in the Northeast. In the past year, Keystone State Park was named the Best Destination for Fall Foliage in the U.S., and the Foggy Goggle at Seven Springs Mountain Resort was chosen the Best Apres-Ski Bar in North America. Ohiopyle outfitter Wilderness Voyageurs was voted one of the 10 Best Whitewater Rafting Tours, and Greensburg’s El Diablo Brewing Co. was one of the nation’s top new breweries. The Great Allegheny Passage was recently in a contest for the top recreational trails in the U.S., and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Mill Run is currently a nominee for Favorite RV Campground while the Evergreen Drive-In Theatre is a nominee for the Best Drive-In Theatre.

Great Allegheny Passage - GAP Confluence

About Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands

A magnificent mountainous region, the Laurel Highlands is an outdoors lover’s paradise that spans 3,000 square miles in southwestern Pennsylvania. Located just an hour east of Pittsburgh, the beautiful four-season destination offers spectacular natural scenery, outstanding skiing, hiking, biking and golfing opportunities, historic sites and attractions, family activities and world-class resorts. Notable destinations within the region include four architectural masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright – Fallingwater®, Kentuck Knob, Mäntylä and Duncan House – as well as Nemacolin, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Flight 93 National Memorial, Idlewild and Soak Zone, whitewater rafting in Ohiopyle State Park and much more.

Located within 200 miles of the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Washington D.C., Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands can be easily accessed from exits 67, 75, 91 and 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Visitors to the Laurel Highlands can find information online at Established in 1958, GO Laurel Highlands, formerly known as Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, is the official destination marketing organization for Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.