The northwestern part of our state has many more interesting sights to visit than you could possibly mention here, but we found five that almost everyone will enjoy.

State Parks/Recreation Areas

Maurice K. Goddard State Park, Mercer County

Just five minutes off I-79, the lush beauty of Maurice K. Goddard State Park welcomes travelers with activities like hiking, wildlife watching, photography and biking, said Mark Scarpitti, park manager.

“I think visitors are caught off guard by the size and the beauty of Lake Wilhelm,” he said. “You only get a tiny glimpse of the water when you’re driving over I-79, so to visit the park and witness the 1,600-acre lake with almost 20 miles of quiet, wooded shoreline is an entirely different experience.”

Visitors frequently note it’s a “great paddling lake,” he said, and they comment on seeing large numbers of eagles, osprey and great blue heron.

“They also appreciate biking and hiking on the John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop, which is a 12-mile, paved loop that follows the shoreline,” Scarpitti said, “but also carries trail users through a mosaic of mature hardwoods, rolling agricultural fields, and young forest habitat.”

Historic Site

Harmony Museum, Harmony, Butler County

Full disclosure: this was supposed to be about the historic Harmony Museum, but once you get to the town itself, you keep finding more fun things to do.

From unique gift shops, to wine and craft beer venues, to kayaking and biking, to, yes, the Harmony Museum, a day can pass before you know it.

“We like to say we’re just 30 miles and 200 years from the big city,” quipped Rodney Gasch, president and CEO of the museum, referring to Pittsburgh. “Really, it’s like a step back in time. We have the little town square, and we have a really unique history, with the Harmonists coming here and Commodore Perry marching up the main street. Not to mention George Washington coming here as a young man.”

The Harmonists followed George Rapp, a German weaver and vine tender who founded Harmony, in 1804 and preached pacifism and pooling resources to serve the community.

Something kids will enjoy: climbing the 94 steps to Rapp’s Seat, a carved rock where, supposedly, Fr. Rapp sat to meditate and keep an eye on his congregation. The wooden beam steps built into the steep hillside make for a challenging climb.

Bragging points of Harmony’s history include 21-year-old George Washington traveling through and sleeping by the bank of the nearby Connoquenessing Creek in 1753. And in 1813, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry marched through town on the way to Erie and an engagement with the British navy.

When the Harmonists left the area in 1814, a group of Mennonites moved in – their 1825 Mennonite Meetinghouse is one of the sites preserved by the Harmony Museum. Skilled Mennonite workers enclosed the Harmonist cemetery with stone walls and an impressive stone gate that weighs more than a ton.

Harmony is one of those rare places where shop owners support each other. Susan and Richard Webb, owners of The Linden Tree Antiques, enthusiastically chatted about their town’s bakeries, brewpub and historic inn.

“Many of the shops are in historic Harmonist buildings that have been restored,” Susan said.

At Harmonie Laden, owner Kelly Scott showed off gifts, candy and locally made crafts but also talked about the yarn shop, bookstore and Harmony’s Christmas in July.

In the Wagner/Bentle Haus, quilters Donna Hauschulz and Linda Powlus worked on a quilt that would benefit the museum.

If you’re tired of discord in today’s world, Harmony might be just what you’re looking for.

Upcoming events:

- June 11, House & Garden Tour

- Saturdays in June, Artisans In Harmony

- Christmas in July

- August 13, Antique Gun Show

Especially for Kids

Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, Titusville, Crawford County

Take the kids on a different sort of adventure with a three-hour train ride through Pennsylvania’s oil history and natural woodlands.

“Every day you go down through the valley on that train, you never have the same ride,” said Cheri Porter, general manager. “A lot of people are not fortunate to live in this area, so … ‘Oh, there’s a deer running through!’ Or an eagle, or a bear. That’s a big thing for them.”

Passengers from around the world, take advantage of the only operational railway Post Office Car in the country. Letters mailed on the train receive an official USPS OC&T hand stamp.

Even better, spend the night in a real caboose at the Caboose Motel.

“The kids, they think it’s just awesome that they get to sleep on the train,” said Marie Rainey, manager. “Stay in the motel, ride the train. That just blows their minds.”

The train station displays glassware, lanterns, wagons and other memorabilia. Kids can crush a penny with the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad stamp, have their picture taken in a photo stand-in board, and shop for train toys and games while learning the history of the railroad.

Special events:

- wine tastings and murder mystery dinners throughout the summer

- June 19, Father’s Day Special

- June 24 and 25, WWII events

- July 3, Veterans/Military Special

- July 24, Christmas in July

- August 13, Speeder rides

- Sept. 2, Taps on Tracks

A Quirky Site

Playthings Etc., Butler, Butler County

Don’t be afraid when approaching Playthings, Etc. It’s the same size, color and rough shape of a B52 bomber, but what explodes inside is a selection of the coolest, quirkiest toys you can imagine.

“I feel like the shape of the building gets people in the door,” said Tim Shingleton, son of owners Todd and Nadine Shingleton, who opened it in 2005. “But that’s only the beginning of it. They’re entertained by the cool employees who greet everyone. And by the cool toys.”

Employees happily demonstrate remote control toys, plasma cars, rubber band guns, unique Silly Putties, baby toys, Legos, rockets … or any of the thousands of toys, games and hobby kits on display.

“We scour the earth for the coolest things we can find,” Shingleton said.

“Make it a point to interact with the workers,” advised Adam Soergel, floor manager. “The best part of our day is getting to show toys to people.”

In the kids’ area, children can try dress-up clothes and play with toys. But big kids have fun too – Soergel and crewmate Josie Reott demonstrated plasma cars right there in the store.

“People don’t usually come in here to have a bad time,” Soergel said, to which Shingleton added, “I like to think we’re the best part of anyone’s day.”

Important Historic Site/Memorial/Battlefield

Drake Well Museum and Park, Titusville, Crawford County

To look at the old oil wells at the Drake Well Museum and Park is to wonder, how on earth did they do that?

Without the aid of modern tools, in the blistering summers and frigid winters of northwestern Pennsylvania, Edwin L. Drake managed to strike oil at 69.5 feet.

“Drake Well Museum and Park is the birthplace of the modern petroleum industry,” said Sarah Goodman, museum educator. “The museum offers interactive exhibits which explore everything from the need, creation, and discovery of oil to modern-day uses and more.”

Families may start their visit with a film, explore the interior exhibits and then head outside to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the oil industry, she said.

“Our museum also offers great recreational opportunities, as well,” she added, “with easy access to Oil Creek for kayaking, bike trails and hiking trails.”

Visitors appreciate the chance to see the oilfield equipment working.

“Although we do not pump oil onsite today, we have engines onsite that run equipment which pumps oil,” Goodman said. “Pennsylvania visitors are proud to find out that the oil industry started here.”

Upcoming events include:

June 11, Wildcatter Festival at Pithole

July 7, 14, 21, 28, Discovery Days Camp

August 14, Drake Well Marathon

August 27, Drake Day

September 10, Fall Gas Up

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