This post is brought to you by Go Laurel Highlands and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.
Last weekend Brandon and I packed up the girls and headed to Laurel Highlands for a really fun weekend getaway as a family. We had no idea how much there is to do so close to our hometown in Pittsburgh and how wonderful the property at Nemacolin Resort is! To say we were blown away is an understatement- the girls kept asking what country we were in which made us laugh. They’ve been all over the world, to Costa Rica, Disney World and a Disney Cruise and the gorgeousness of Lake Chautauqua– but they never dreamed we’d have such a fun vacation right in our backyard!
Make sure to checkout my IG Story Highlight from our weekend in Laurel Highlands- such fun videos and pics of our trip!
The Laurel Highlands is located within 200 miles of the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. This makes it the perfect family friendly destination for a three day getaway.
The following is a little look at all we were able to to as well as our detailed itinerary and links to the things we saw and did along the way. The best weekend ever!
Idlewild and Soak Zone
We aren’t quite at the stage of huge amusement parks yet. Half our crew is too short and the other half is too wary of giant amusement park rides. But Laurel Highlands is home to a perfect theme park for families with younger kids: Idlewild and Soak Zone! This nostalgic family friendly park is the best of both worlds with rides that are fun and exciting for little kids AND a water park that is so much fun for the entire family.
Just a few minutes away from Idlewild, there is a wonderful little town in Ligonier. It feels old world and beachy but it’s right in the middle of Laurel Highlands! If you get there before evening there are tons of quaint little shops and stores. We ate dinner at Ligonier Tavern and Table. It was so delicious and (even better) super family friendly. The wait staff was so kind and sweet to the girls who had a really long amusement park day.
My salmon special entree was literally to die for- I’ve never had a dish like this and it was so unexpected and delicious with a corn compote underneath a crunchy tostada type thing… and my blackened salmon was cooked perfectly. Lilly had perfectly light and crispy calamari and Brandon had a spicy pasta dish that Olive inhaled.
We checked into the Washington Townhomes at Nemacolin Resort on Friday evening. Our townhouse was decorated so perfectly – modern but traditional and quirky. We had a two bedroom two and half bath setup with full kitchen and laundry! The kids got a huge kick out of being smack in the middle of the on-property Zoo. We woke up and went to sleep with animals roaring and making noise all around us. It was pretty unique! Before we went to bed we took the Resort shuttle to PJ’s Ice Cream Parlor and before bed. It was so cute and retro and the girls were in heaven.
The townhouses have a pull out sofa in the living room on the main floor. One upstairs bedroom has two big double beds and a full bath and the other “master” bedroom has a king bed and attached bath.
Perfect for us!
On Saturday morning we had room service deliver our breakfast right to the townhouse. We had pancakes and French toast and fruit, eggs and bacon. It was the perfect start to an early day.
About 20 minutes away we headed into Laurel Caverns visitor center. From there we walked down into the caves with all the girls on their “traditional” tour which was perfect for our little kids. It is a steady 52 degrees inside the caves so make sure you pack and wear jackets!
These stairs are a good representation of the extent of how strenuous this tour was. Lily, Gracie and Sally could handle walking the whole tour. Olive walked a little, was carried a little and was in the backpack carrier a little. But it really wasn’t bad! It’s clearly lit, relatively flat (albeit perpetually inclined and declined) and open. There are a few tighter spots but I didn’t think it was too bad. If you get claustrophobic or panic in low or high spaces you might have an issue in the caves. But this was one of our favorite parts of the whole weekend and I’d label it CAN’T MISS. Brandon and I really want to go up again with Lilly and Grace and do the longer upper caves tour.
First of all, I cannot resist matching my kids. Their little ponchos just kill me.
Second, Paradise Pool really is just that; Paradise. We absolutely fell in love with this pool. The water slide is so much fun for the girls (and for us), there’s a swim up bar, poolside restaurant and lounge chair waiters. It’s heaven in Pennsylvania.
Caddy Shack Mini Golf at Nemacolin
After swimming all day we went off property a very short way to the Maywood Grill. This was the perfect casual family restaurant for us and was easier than corralling tired kids at a formal restaurant. We heard from others that breakfast and pastries are amazing there too!
On our way back from dinner we strolled around and looked at all the animals at Nemacolin. Olive could’ve stood watching the goats or wolves or lions or tigers or bison or bears literally all night. She was in heaven.
Mini golf is free for resort guests (always a huge draw for Brandon and I because paying for big exciting activities for little ones who may or may not melt down/not last through them is never fun, ha!) and course is absolutely beautiful! I could not get over the flowers everywhere.
We ended this perfect day with room service delivery of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and Millie’s ice cream. It doesn’t get too much better than that!
On Sunday morning we had breakfast at The Pantry before checking out. This was the perfect little coffee shop/bakery/quick service spot and everyone was able to get exactly what they wanted. They had breakfast sandwiches, fruit, pastries, packaged foods, and of course coffee! Ollie highly recommends the French Macaroons.
Once we checked out of our gorgeous townhome, we headed to Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. I think this might be the best kept “secret” of the Laurel Highlands- but it definitely isn’t a secret. We elected not to do anything like white water rafting (ahem, babies) but we wanted to try hiking to the waterfall with all the kids. My advice is to wear your bathing suits from the beginning. Don’t bring your good camera, and pack towels, change of shoes, and change of clothes.
You can fully swim here, get soaked, and certainly get really really muddy. We managed this but Sally and Olive needed a ton of help and patience. Your crawling over rocky terrain and there are some deeper pools of water. We couldn’t always safely hold Olive but she was fine to walk and crawl and climb too- just got really muddy. If you’re prepared for that this place is amazing. The waterfall is so impressive and there are natural waterslides and pools to play in.
If your kids are a little older than mine I’d highly recommend packing a picnic and water bottles and staying the entire day. It’s the absolute perfect place to splash and relax and play.
When you finish up at the falls, you are really close to a little hub of rentals and eatery options. Coffee, a convenience store type market place and a great bbq spot. We elected to eat outside as we were a little bit wet, sweaty, muddy and gross ha but no one seemed to mind as all were in the same boat!
Have we convinced you yet?! There’s something for everyone in the Laurel Highlands. Find your adventure today!
Love our trip? Here is a printable itinerary to use when planning your own stay in Laurel Highlands.