Unwind and Explore: Great Spots for a Weekend Getaway from Pittsburgh

Unwind and Explore: Great Spots for a Weekend Getaway from Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

By Kalena Thomhave

August 2, 2023

You won’t have to spend too much time in the car to find a variety of ideal spots for a weekend getaway from the Steel City.

Pittsburgh residents love their city with good reason. It’s walkable, scenic, full of great restaurants and museums, and there’s always something fun going on, whether it’s a festival, a concert, or a game.

Another great thing about Pittsburgh is its proximity to great spots for a weekend getaway. Whether you seek a big city full of international flavor and history, or a small, quaint town, you can leave Pittsburgh in the morning and by lunch time, be settled in at your destination of choice.

Here are five ideas for weekend getaways from Pittsburgh.

Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Leave the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers and travel to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia all meet. It’s about three-and-a-half hours by car to Harpers Ferry, a must-visit destination for Civil War history buffs as well as those interested in adventure sports. You can raft and tube the two rivers and hike 22 miles of beautiful trails.

But most famously, Harpers Ferry was the site of a raid by John Brown and his party of armed abolitionists. The assault on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry — which failed in its attempt to start a widespread slave revolt — helped lead to the Civil War. Brown was hanged for his efforts, and his last words that “the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood” were ultimately proved correct.

The town itself, a national historic park, is full of Civil War museums, historic buildings, as well as shops and restaurants.

Fayetteville, W.Va.

Unwind and Explore: Great Spots for a Weekend Getaway from Pittsburgh

The view from Long Point Trail, Fayetteville, W.Va., Shutterstock

Visitors to this West Virginia small town (population less than 3,000) may have originally booked their trip simply to visit the New River Gorge. And while the views of the gorge are certainly breathtaking, the little town of Fayetteville punches above its weight with its lively culture: art, shops, restaurants, and more. People are taking notice. Fayetteville was named by Smithsonian one of the best towns to visit and Budget Travel named it one of the coolest towns in the US.

Located about three-and-a-half hours from Pittsburgh, Fayetteville is the perfect place to combine small town touring with adventure. You can spend the mornings rafting the whitewater of the New River or hiking the nearby trails, and then spend the afternoons meandering through the eclectic shops and galleries of downtown Fayetteville. Check out Water Stone Outdoors to pick up your mountain essentials and then browse the vintage wares at locally owned The Hobbit Hole. For art fans, we recommend the Love Hope Center for the Arts, a gallery that hosts local Appalachian artists. In the evenings, you can grab a bite to eat and drink at one of the local breweries, like Freefolk. While many restaurants and other spaces host live music around Fayetteville, Freefolk hosts monthly jam sessions—just bring your own instrument.


Unwind and Explore: Great Spots for a Weekend Getaway from Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Sure, some diehard Pittsburgh sports fans wouldn’t be caught dead in Cleveland (or Philly, which we left off this list by design), but we encourage you to just make the two-and-a-half hour trek on a weekend when the stadiums are dark. Terrible Towel wavers likely won’t see eye-to-eye with Browns fans, but the mid-size city with an industrial past (hmm, seems familiar) has a ton of cool stuff to do.

The biggest attraction in Cleveland is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It’s not only a hall of fame honoring music greats, it’s also a museum devoted to rock and all adjacent forms. Besides its main exhibits detailing the history of rock and roll, there are often live music events.

You should also explore the downtown area on a walking tour. Make sure you see the historic Public Square, downtown’s central plaza, as well the Cleveland Arcade, a palatial, Victorian-era indoor shopping center—the first in the US!

Outside of the city, you could take a day trip to Cedar Point and its roller coasters, which is about an hour away. Or you could head for the trails at Cuyahoga Valley National Park—yes, there’s a national park that’s less than 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland!

Washington, D.C.

Unwind and Explore: Great Spots for a Weekend Getaway from Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

At four hours, a journey by car to the nation’s capital might be pushing it for some. But the payoff for the time spent in the car is well worth it.

Once you’ve visited the museums in DC, it’s hard not to be ruined for all other museums. Thanks to the Smithsonian Institution, the museums in DC are almost all entirely free. And there are many—so take your pick! Would you like to visit the National Air and Space Museum or the National Museum of American History—or both? Will you remember to reserve passes for the National Museum of African American History and Culture? Can you make time for the National Museum of the American Indian—and its fabulous food court, the Mitsitam Cafe? Be sure you know DC’s museums offerings before your trip.

You will also likely want to tour the different monuments, like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Want a pro tip? The monuments are particularly lovely—and much less crowded—if you tour them at night.

DC, however, is much more than monuments and museums. You can explore some of the District’s culture outside of politics by visiting neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and U Street. For a taste of the real DC, be sure to stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl.


Unwind and Explore: Great Spots for a Weekend Getaway from Pittsburgh

Presque Isle Lighthouse in Erie, Pennsylvania (Shutterstock: Sean Pavone)

Pittsburgh’s neighbor to the north is a mere two-drive away, and the Great Lakes, like Lake Erie, are “vast inland freshwater seas” according to the EPA. So, you might as well consider a trip to Erie a beach trip!

The best “beaches” in the area can be found within Presque Isle State Park, and you’ll be able to choose among several beaches depending on your wants and needs, like if you want to play beach volleyball, set up lunch at a pavilion, or have access to a children’s playground.

There’s plenty to do outside of the water as well. Presque Isle is home to a 13.5-mile trail that’s great for bicycles, roller skates, or four-wheeled surreys.


READ MORE: From Field to Fork: Try These 9 Pennsylvania Farm-to-Table Restaurants Revolutionizing the Local Food Scene



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