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15 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Pittsburgh

Admittedly, Pittsburgh is a great city with a lot of things to do — I mean it didn't get named the second best city in America for nothing. But sometimes you just need to get away from the usual and explore the world outside of your comfort zone. 

What's really great about Pittsburgh is that it's so close to the border of West Virginia and Ohio (not to mention both of which have gas and cigarettes at a MUCH cheaper price). While it's true that there are a ton of great places in Pennsylvania, you certainly don't have to contain yourself here. 

So, that's why we've rounded up a list of 15 places to take a spontaneous day trip within a 3-hour drive from Pittsburgh; some places in Ohio, West Virginia, and even New York. I hope you're excited because this list is about to be lit.

Enjoy the beach at Lake Erie, Pennsylvania

Distance: 1 hour, 54 min

When to visit: Year-round

Erie may sound eerie, but it's truly a magical place throughout all of the seasons in the year. It features an adorable amusement/water park, Waldameer Park & Water World, that is open in the summer, and the well-known Presque Isle State Park — our very own beach paradise on Lake Erie, open year-round. 

What makes Presque Isle so great is not only the sandy shoreline and coastal features including a lighthouse, lifeguards, changing rooms, boating and much more, but in the winter season it becomes a winter wonderland. Since the lake is freshwater it sometimes freezes over, and the ground around it becomes blanketed in snow. It's amazing to see it change from a bustling vacation spot to a desolate snow desert during the different times of the year. The town has many places to eat and shop, so whether you're bored in the summer or winter, Erie can be your go-to spot.

Ride the vintage rides at Conneaut Lake Park, Pennsylvania

Distance: 1 hour, 28 min

When to visit: Summer

Make it a point to stop at the Conneaut Lake Park on your way to or from Erie. It's about an hour south of Presque Isle — and a little out of the way — but it's worth the minor detour. This little town was centered around a once-popular amusement park built in the 1890's. The rickety old park has been kept alive and running for over 100 years! It still maintains nearly original features and is open for public enjoyment during the summer months.

Only a few blocks away is the equally exciting must-see Hotel Conneaut, which majestically overlooks the Conneaut Lake and marina. The hotel was built in 1893 as a place to stay while visiting the park and hasn't been updated since what looks like the 70's — giving it a funky retro charm you won't find anywhere else. There are a plethora of haunted hotel tales to be told and if you're feeling particularly skeptical, stay a night in their notoriously most haunted room.


Drive by miles of wine vineyards along Lake Erie in Dunkirk, New York 

Distance: 2 hours, 33 min

When to visit: Summer/fall

If you go a little while north of Erie, you will come to the town of Dunkirk. Not only is there a cool little boardwalk area, pier, Point Gratiot Park, and another historic Lake Erie lighthouse, there are hundreds of miles of vineyards along the roadways that are truly a site to see, and if your taste buds are craving some local wine, be sure to pop over to the Liberty Vineyards Winery

Explore the waterfalls of Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania 

Distance: 1 hour, 17 min

When to visit: Year-round

Ohiopyle is a park known for its beautiful waterfalls and rocky trails that will keep you busy for hours. Most people would argue that the best time to visit the park is in the summer so you can watch the roaring rapids or perhaps do some kayaking, but don't let that deter you from visiting in the offseason. The autumn offers fantastic views of the fall foliage, while the winter features waterfalls frozen dead in their tracks. No matter when you choose to go, Ohiopyle will be nothing short of spectacular. 

Stargaze at the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania

Distance: 1 hour, 57 min

When to visit: Clear nights

The Allegheny National Forest is one of the only places in Pennsylvania with low enough light pollution where you can clearly see the milky way. While that's the best part of this location, you will totally want to check out the numerous trails, woodlands, and rural landscapes throughout the park during the day. 

Take a dip in the crystal clear springs at Mt. Davis, Pennsylvania

Distance: 1 hour, 42 min

When to visit: Year-round

Mt. Davis is not only the tallest point in Pennsylvania — it features two crystal-clear springs that people love to go swimming in during the hot summer months. The nicer of the two springs is Big Spring, but it's about a 3-mile hike to reach it. If the springs aren't really your thing, there are miles of trails, camping, and wildlife spotting opportunities all around. 

Get pampered, go to the zoo, and chill at the resort at Oglebay Park, West Virginia 

Distance: 1 hour, 5 min

When to visit: Spring/Summer/Fall

Oglebay is a quaint park near Wheeling, West Virginia that features a zoo, resort/spa, obstacle course, swimming pool, miles of trails, wildlife watching, a lake (often populated by swans, geese, and ducks), boat rentals, dining, events and much more. This is the ultimate all-in-one nature park that will have enough to keep you — and the family — entertained all day. 


Do mountainous activities at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania

Distance: 1 hour  

When to go: Year-round 

Go zip lining, rock wall climbing, mountain bike riding, fishing and more in the summer, or take a horse-drawn sled ride, ski or snowboard down the mountain, ride the ski lift back, and enjoy some hot chocolate by the fireplace at Seven Springs Mountian Resort during the winter. Check the website below for a complete list of activities. 


Get schwifty during a hippie music festival at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, Ohio

Distance: 1 hour, 30 min

When to visit: Spring-Fall

Okay sure, you aren't limited to visiting Nelson Ledges just for a music festival, but it's definitely one of the coolest aspects of the quarry. The park itself is made up of 250 acres of forest, meadows, streams, rock ledges, fishing lakes and the quarry itself. It features 400 campsites, some deep in the woods, some along the quarry, and others in secluded meadows — making it the perfect spot for music festivals. You'll often hear of bands like the Grateful Dead, Badfish, and Mushroomhead headlining the many concerts hosted here, and you'll probably see a lot of decked out, vintage, VW campers.


Experience the simplicity of Amish living in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

 Distance: 1 hour

When to visit: Year-round

A close-knit Amish community calls the local towns of New Wilmington home. Most notably is Volant, a little tourist town full of stores, many of which offer local Amish-made products. Driving the rural streets and touring the downtown shops of Volant will offer a glimpse into the Amish lifestyle as they ride by in buggies, hang their clothes out on the lines, and bale hay by hand while the children play outside for entertainment. 

Get spooked at Beaver Creek State Park, Ohio

Distance: 1 hour, 6 min

When to visit: Year-round

This park is not only historic, beautiful, and a great camping site, it has several really cool ghostly legends that supposedly haunt different areas. There are three different spots that paranormal investigators and skeptics alike often go; the placard site where the notorious gangster, Pretty Boy Floyd, was shot dead, the old mill house, and Gretchen's Lock (all pictured below).

While I won't go into too much detail, the old mill house is supposedly haunted by an old caretaker, the lock which was never finished is supposedly haunted by Gretchen — a little girl who died of malaria while her father was working on the lock (some say she was buried in the lock), and obviously Pretty Boy Floyd himself is said to haunt the area of his death. If you want to explore the park at night I suggest staying at the campsite — or else the rangers may harass you for being at a state park after hours. 


Taste some authentic maple syrup at the yearly Brady's Run Maple Syrup Festival, Pennsylvania 

Distance: 44 min

When to go: Event dates (usually a weekend in April)

Every year for the past 31 years there has been a maple syrup festival at Brady's Run Park, Beaver County, that draws thousands of tourists for an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast featuring maple syrup drained from maple trees at the park. What else is really cool is that during the fall and winter months when you walk along the park trails you will see several trees with buckets and hoses attached to them — maple sap is being collected for the upcoming year's festival. More information about the festival can be found here

Go oddity exploring in Moundsville, West Virginia

West Virginia is a state with a lot of weird happenings and history — you know, like the legend of Mothman. Unfortunately, most of the Mothman memorabilia is further than 3 hours away, but Moundsville is equally as strange. This town has a bit of a dark past — from the long-closed Moundsville State Penitentiary (featured on many ghost hunting TV shows) to the Archive of Afterlife Museum and Grave Creek Mound, there's no shortage of macabre places to visit here. 

Become a cave dweller at McConnell's Mill State Park, Pennsylvania

Distance: 42 min

When to visit: Year-round

A lot of people like to visit McConnells Mill State Park to see the old historic mill, covered bridge, and walk the trails. What us exciting people like to do is climb around on the huge rocks and search the crevices and caves that formed between them — carefully, of course. 


Be aw-struck by the frozen lighthouse in Cleveland, Ohio

Distance: 2 hours, 11 min

When to visit: Winter

There are a lot of things to do in Cleveland, Ohio, like visit the Buckland Witchcraft Museum, learn the history of the mysterious Franklin Castle, and behold the world's largest stamp, to name just a few of the many things to do here, but there's something extra special about the abandoned lighthouse on the lake. When the wind mixes with the freezing weather the lighthouse becomes encased in a blanket of ice — making it a truly remarkable site for the thousands of visitors who bare the winter weather just to see it — then they probably go and do all those other touristy things. 

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