Pennsylvania is a diverse state filled with lively cities, rural farmlands and small towns. It is also rich in American history and culture. Philadelphia is where the Declaration of Independence was signed and Pittsburgh is known as the city of steel and bridges, for its 300-steel business and over 400 bridges.
However, I’m here to inform you about a lesser known county about 2 hours north of Pittsburgh- Crawford County. Filled with small town charm and Amish farmland this county will surprise you with its plethora of unique actives to do.
I’ve visited in all four seasons but by far my favorite time to visit is during the summer. I recently spent a month living in Crawford County and have comprised a list of must do activities for visitors and residents alike.
Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad
The town of Titusville in Crawford County is known as the birth place of the American oil industry. You can catch a train ride back in time at the vintage 1892 Perry Street freight station.
Your ticket purchase includes a three-hour trip though the scenic Oil Creek State Park as the conductor tells tales of the people and places that made up this once oil rich town.
They have many special events such and murder mystery dinners haunted train rides during Halloween and even Santa train rides during Christmas time for families.
Local Music Showcases
The music you listen to is proven to impact your mood and can decrease stress levels. Music is a form of cultural expression so what better way to get to know a small town then through its musical voice.
If you happen to be in town during the summer Titusville Council of the Arts puts on a summer concert series in the park. One night a week bands from various genres perform on the gazebo stage in the center of the park. Bring your own lawn chair and enjoy the free musical sounds of bands from around the country.
If you happen to be in town and are looking for a more spiritual festival like experience, Meadville hosts The Ignite Festival. Where Christian rock enthusiasts can camp and enjoy some of the nation’s top Christian artists and speakers.
Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum
Built in 1843 by United States Supreme Court Justice Henry Baldwin; this house is now a museum that serves as a cultural, educational, artistic and historical hub for the region.
Two mayors of Meadville once lived on the property before it was turned into a museum, that is now owned by the non-profit Crawford County Historical Society.
You can explore the museum on a tour or attend one of their musical events, or dinner theaters.
They also have a beautiful botanical garden and public park area on the land that is perfect for exploring during the spring and summer months.
Erie National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1959 Erie is the only refuge in the nation protecting endangered northern Rifflefish and Clubshell Mussels. It’s home to the most biologically diverse stream in Pennsylvania where over 80 species of native fish are found. For all you bird watchers out there, it is also home to more than 230 species of birds.
You can discover the hundreds of species of plants and wildlife as you hike along their 5 different nature trails and deer overlook. It’s perfect for nature enthusiast and photographers alike.
You can discover multiple habitats on this 8,777-acre wildlife refuge. Some include upland grasses, wetlands and mixed forests. The entire refuge is beautiful to explore during all the seasons. If you’re up for a more active experience, during the winter you can even ski near the Tsuga Trail.
In June the refuge hosts a summer fest where they showcase nature exhibits, demonstrations, activities and games for all ages.
Meadville Market House
Also known as “The Heart of Meadville”, the market house is where you can find local produce and an array of home-baked goods and specialty items.
Constructed in 1870 it is the oldest continuously run market structure in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
They serve farm to table breakfast and lunches and run a Saturday farmers market. It is the one stop shop to support a variety of local famers and business owners.
No trip to Crawford County is complete without a stop at the Linesville Spillway!
The spillway can be found off of a bridge in the Pymatuning Reservoir. Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese traverse the waters but the stars of the show are the thousands of hungry Carp swimming in the water.
What makes this destination so unique is that it’s the only legal public area in Pennsylvania where wildlife can be feed. The reason behind this is because of the long history and tradition of families buying bread from side of the road food vendors in the 1930’s to feed the fish.
Now over 300,000 people a year bring loafs of bread to feed the spillway wildlife.
Local Wine Vineyards and Breweries
If you’re into wine and beer tastings you’d be happily surprised as to how many breweries and wine vineyards are located in Crawford County. There are some popular ones like Voodoo Brewery, Timber Creek Tap & Table, and Conneaut Cellars Winery.
My favorite has to be Davenport Fruit Farm Cidery and Winery. They have such great tasting ciders that with an 8.5 % ABV average you have to be careful, because they most surly will sneak up on you, if you know what I mean.
If you happen to visit during the summer, they have a limited-edition raspberry lemonade cider that is absolutely delicious!
You’ll be sure to notice the 1200-foot-long mural made up entirely of road signs, as you drive on the outskirts of Meadville.
The PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden can be viewed while driving south along Route 19.
An Alleghany Art Professor and her students created this work of art by hand from the years 2000 to 2010.
It depicts various parts of North Western Pennsylvania’s history, for example the hot air balloon section of the art is to commemorate the Thurston Classic Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Conneaut Lake and Park
This big glacier lake is a hot spot for summer homes and boat lovers. Many families from Pennsylvania and surrounding states spend time fishing, jet skiing and swimming on this lake.
Although a lot of these houses alongside the water are privately owned it is possible to find vacation rentals on Trip Advisor.
On top of the lake activities the historic Conneaut Lake Park is a popular attraction for the entire family. It has classic roller-coasters and other amusement park rides as well as a small waterpark and mini golf area.
Locally Owned Restaurants
What attracts me to a lot of small towns are the locally owned restaurants. I always try to support local businesses as much as possible especially local organic farms and family operated restaurants.
If you are in the mood for seafood you won’t regret going to Silver Shores. You’ll shortly realize why this establishment has been in business in Conneaut Lake for over a century!
Don’t let the store front fool you, Maria’s Italian Restaurant in Titusville may look like an average pizza shop but the food is competitive to Little Italy in the Bronx. As a fellow New York native, I like to think that carries some clout, but seriously the food is outstanding, I can personally suggest the stuffed eggplant parmigiana.
If you’re interested in a more leisurely outdoor activity, I suggest taking a light hike or a bike ride down the Ernst Trail. The trail is alongside a beautiful little creek and has imprints in the terrain that dates as far back as the ice-age.
The suggested route is 5 miles of paved path from Parke Avenue in Meadville to Route 19.
There are benches along the path where you can stop and rest to admire nature and the fish swimming in the creek. You will also pass over a small wooden bridge and come across a gazebo, perfect for a cute photo op.
As you can see there are lots of unique places to visit and activities to do in Crawford County. Whether you decide to feed the fish at the Spillway or feed yourself at Maria’s, small towns are the perfect places to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
So, if you happen to be on a road trip or are just passing through, I highly recommend you do at least some of these activities. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much you appreciate small town life and you’ll make wonderful memories along the way.