Science Daily reported in 2010 that as the obesity epidemic increases, visits to state and national parks, which are inexpensive, are on the decline. “Teaching children to understand and appreciate their world will make them more open to their responsibility to the environment,” writes William F. Jordan of Clemson University.
The least expensive way to enjoy a staycation in these parts is to go outside. (Keep in mind that in many cases, you’d be bringing along packed food which comes out of your regular weekly grocery budget, and this does not include the price of gas, an unknown in the equation.) This itinerary includes some of the best history, scenery and fun Western PA has to offer.
Day One: About an hour southwest of Pittsburgh, Ohiopyle State Park offers natural water slides, fishing, hiking with an extraordinary view, or a shady place to picnic. Stay the night in a tent at their Kentuck Campground (fees may apply), and wade in the creeks. Just bring the bug spray. Price: Free.
On the way back from Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle on Route 30 is Ligonier, a historic town founded in 1758, around Fort Ligonier, a stronghold of the French and Indian War. Containing an historic gazebo and many boutiques for window-shopping, Ligonier is a great way to spend an afternoon surrounded by genuine Americana. Price: Free.
After you’ve re-convened at home and had dinner, take an evening drive to Grandview Avenue on Mount Washington to watch the sunset over the city. Price: Free.
Day Two: In and around Pittsburgh are many parks that offer free entertainment. Frick Park has awesome bike trails, a popular playground, and places to romp with your pet. Schenley Park does great free movie nights on Flagstaff Hill. Go to Point State Park and get wet, next to the fountain. Price: Free.
Last I checked there wasn’t a price to go into a Chuck E. Cheese just to mess around in the tubes, or a McDonald’s with a PlayPlace. Just sayin’. Price: Free.
If your children have never experienced a drive-in movie, consider the Evergreen, where children under 5 go for free, and what admission you pay covers two films. (My family would pay $38 admission at the Evergreen for two films as opposed to $42.50 for just one evening movie at an indoor theater.) Price: $38.00.
Day Three: Most people associate Seven Springs Mountain Resort with rich people. It can also be a cool destination for those of us who want a rich experience without the platinum price tag. From Pittsburgh, it’s a day trip that offers a scenic drive. Submit for your approval the Alpine Slide, a 1,980-foot tall apparatus that allows riders to twist and turn their way all the way down the mountainside. Rides are $8.00 apiece, or $35 for a booklet of 5 tickets. Price: $35.00
On your way back to town, stop for a small ice cream at a fast food restaurant. I don’t care how old your kids are – everyone loves ice cream. Price for 5 small ice cream: $5.35
Day Four: The Museum at Frick in the morning/early afternoon. Price: Free.
For a $4 bag of balloons from the party section of your local grocery store, your family can have one heck of a backyard water balloon fight. Just remember to pick up all the pieces when it’s all over. Price: $4.00. For dinner, splurge on a Big Daddy with just cheese, from your local Fox’s Pizza, and have a picnic in the yard, then snuggle on the couch together while you watch movies until bedtime. Price: $15.00.
TOTAL PRICE: $97.35