Written by Beth Exley
In this blog entry, we want to concentrate on free things to do in the PA Great Outdoors region for those with limited mobility that require limited walking or physical exertion. We will highlight places to tour, where to see interesting things, and historically significant attractions.
In Jefferson County, BWP Bats specializes in custom handmade wooden baseball bats from the finest quality local hardwood timber. They are approved for all levels of play from T-ball to professional. They offer free factory tours. Your next stop along your journey would be to the Weather Capital of the World, Punxsutawney. Visit the Groundhog Club Headquarters and Phil’s Burrow, home to the world’s most famous groundhog and TV star. The Weather Discovery Center is perfect for school age children with intriguing hands-on interactive exhibits. No trip to the weather capital of the world would be complete without posting some great selfies with one of the dozens of Phantastic Phils sculptures throughout town (tour for Phantastic Phils can be a walking tour or a driving tour). After you are done in Punxsutawney, head north on Route 36 to Sigel to feed animals and fish. The Farmer’s Inn, just off Route 949 near Sigel, has a wildlife and exotic animal park. In front of the restaurant, there is petting zoo where it is free to pet and feed the farm animals including goats, rabbits, sheep, and donkeys. The Lewis Painter Memorial Trout Nursery is a great stop. The Heath Township Sportsman’s Club raises trout for a kids’ fishing derby each May and to stock in local streams. You can purchase trout food from dispensers for a quarter. Just drop it in the water and let the fun begin.
Elk County has a few stops that are well worth your while. Decker’s Chapel is one of the smallest churches in the United States, measuring 12 feet by 18 feet, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places built by Michael Decker in 1856. The Chapel is located on the Million Dollar Highway in St. Marys. While in St. Marys, check out the new Straub Brewery Tap Room and Visitor Center. For nostalgia, go to the Straub Brewery for the Eternal Tap for a free taste.
The Mt. Zion Historical Park would be a great stop on your journey. It has a stone walkway featuring 600-plus granite plaques honoring local veterans, a Civil War monument, a special “Veterans’ Walkway” and “Citizens’ Walkway” informational kiosk, and antique gristmills. While you are there, please stop to visit the Cross on the Hill. It is an interfaith memorial that stands on a hill overlooking the Spring Run Valley. Then head to Ridgway next for Millionaire’s Row at the “Lily of the Valley” Historic Homes Tour. The guide was published as a walking tour as these beautiful homes are within close proximity to each other, but they can easily be enjoyed from a vehicle as well. The “Lily of the Valley” National Historic District is an outstanding example of the region’s rich lumber heritage of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Before heading out of Elk County, a must stop is the Elk Country Visitor Center. Everyone will love the hands-on exhibits and activities. Here you can feel the weight of an antler, hear the sound of a bugling bulls, step on a scale to see how you weight up to an elk, and more.
Clarion County has a few diverse options for those with limited mobility. First, in Fairmount City in southern Clarion County is Swift Safariland, at the Long Shot Ammo and Arms, which is a museum with over 100 mounted big game animals from around the world. From there, head to East Brady on Route 68 to Brady’s Bend Overlook to experience a spectacular 8 – mile panoramic view of the Wild and Scenic Allegheny River. The Red Brick Gallery is a great spot to visit that is just upper river in the resort town of Foxburg. The Red Brick Gallery is currently showing “Clarion River Art Exhibit” through August 18, 2019. you have interest in the industrial past of the Clarion County area, head to Helen Furnace on White Oak Road, between Clarion and Leeper just off the Miola Road. Helen Furnace is the remains of a cold-blast charcoal stone furnace and iron works built in 1845 with an eight-foot bosh, 32 feet high. Clarion University in Clarion has Pierce Planetarium where shows are periodically open to the public to view shows about the stars over Clarion and other programs.
Forest County offers the Tionesta Fish Hatchery. They are open for tours to show you how they raise steelhead, walleye, channel catfish, muskellunge, and tiger muskellunge for stocking in Pennsylvania waterways. Tionesta also has a most unique shopping experience in Victorian style settings at the Tionesta Market Village. Arts and crafts, local winery, bakery, BBQ, and honey/syrup. The little shops are gathered together and surround a playground and a beautiful grassy area with picnic tables. Heading out of Forest County, take a drive along River Road in Cook Forest. It is scenic and beautiful with many places to stop and view the river.
Cameron County Historical Society and The Little Museum in Emporium is one of PA’s top 10 seasonal museums. More than 15,000 items including tools and photos from lumbering and dynamite industries, personal effects from Tom Mix and General Joseph McNarney. While you are in Emporium, drive through Emporium to view the Cameron County Canvas murals that depict county residents and military personnel. The murals were painted by Michael Pilato and Yuri Karabash and funded by the Sylvan Heritage Council.
The Sinnemahoning Wildlife Center, on Route 872, would be an excellent way to round out a day in Cameron County. It has a state-of-the-art center with educational and interpretive exhibits, opportunities to view eagles, elk, and other wildlife and also to learn about green building design.
I hope this blog helps those looking for great things to do in the Great Outdoors that do not require a lot of walking or a fee to participate. For more information on the PA Great Outdoors, go to VisitPAGO.com