Holiday Gift Idea: A Great Family Vacation Any Season by Andrew Der

A family vaction is a perfect holiday gift, to enjoy now or to book for summer. My family returns again to this destination in only one year for no other reason than it was just too much fun, in winter or summer! Laurel Highlands region of central Pennsylvania, so easily accessible to many Mid-Atlantic cities, is one to know about .

Multiple themes in the first feature describe this Pennsylvania playground as absent of intimidating crowds, home to the Idlewild amusement park and world class white-water rafting, as well as having a myriad of other opportunities for children of all ages looking for a summer getaway in driving distance of many east coast metropolitan areas. The popular region is also removed from any big cities and is home to a massive State and U. S. Park System, offering premium golfing, fishing and hunting opportunities for the big kids and numerous Mayberry-like towns.
We did succumb to a repeat performance of outdoor nature appreciation and the premium nostalgic amusement park, but this time we took a closer look at a very unique regional experience usually known for its ski season – Seven Springs, the closest thing to an Alpine resort in the Appalachian region. This busy and renowned winter destination does not hibernate as another golf course or campground in the summer but, to the surprise of many, is also a premier outdoor and indoor escape for the senses. Think of a massive cruise ship sailing to nowhere in the mountains and it might begin to portray what this astounding forested Shangri-La might offer in endless family enjoyment. For starters, lodging includes a 385-room high-rise hotel, chalets, dormitories, and condominiums as well as 11 restaurants.

Founded as a Bavarian style cabin in 1935, using the world’s first mechanical rope to pull skiers up the mountain, Seven Springs Resort not only has grown to be one of the top 50 winter resorts anywhere (as voted by most ski magazines), but has also made its reputation as a four season resort as important as a winter one. Isolated tranquility will make time stand still while you reconnect with life. Fun can include special golfing packages, mountain biking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, paint ball, ropes course, horseback riding, nature appreciation, hiking, tennis, volleyball, swimming and even Pennsylvania’s only mountain slide utilizing wheeled sleds (a regional favorite). Be sure to check their bargain web specials.
Kids Adventure Day Kamp with a myriad of kid activities, including crafts arts, nature, games and a water slide, provides opportunities for parents to go it alone. The unpredictable rainy day allows for the appreciation of the plethora of indoor adventures, including a pool, fitness center, spa services, racquet ball courts, bowling, puttputt golf, an arcade, and billiards. Forgot to bring sports equipment? Not a problem – everything is available for loan from tennis rackets, soccer balls and softball equipment to Bocce balls, frisbees, horseshoes and street hockey.

If by any chance there is any time to fill, try a concert, shopping at the many boutiques, or a leisurely meal while viewing the mountain scenery. Celebrity concerts rival that of Atlantic City and can include such performers as the Beach Boys, Indigo Girls, Gordon Lightfoot, Creedence Clearwater Revival and BB King. For a real treat, go there during the Polka festival, Octoberfest or Wine Festival. Their motto of “What do you want to do today?” now makes perfect sense.
Another aspect of this region were the many nearby communities with festivals of historical significance and battlefields back to the French and Indian War. Numerous museums and heritage areas permeate the region. Perhaps the best locations are Fort Ligonier (in the town of Ligonier near Idelwild Park) and the National Parks system’s Fort Necessity National Battlefield. Experience a glimpse into the pre-independence period of British and French control of the Midwest, while learning about American history before the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. Displays and battle re-enactments have authentically costumed, in-character narration by soldiers and Native Americans. I learned how a young George Washington – still a British subject- and his conflict with French forces not only shaped American history but also world events and served as his training ground for the future revolution. I especially enjoyed listening to the French, British and Native players describe their daily soldiering life while taking politically incorrect jabs at each other.


If not staying at Seven Springs (why?), the Highlands are peppered with the popular chain motels as well as numerous private lodges for both the ski and summer visitors. The above sites will give many suggestions including all-inclusive packages.


Definitely dine at the 11 Seven Spring Resort restaurants. For adult only time, do not pass up their best and most elegant establishment – Helen’s Restaurant – situated in a cozy but posh cabin that is the original home for the resort’s founders next to the lodge. Dress up a bit for this one because it is the best anywhere. Other than that, the most practical alternatives are whatever is in your area at the time – a multitude of selections abound throughout the region and most places are good values. Keeping with the outdoor adventure lifestyle most menus are meat and potatoes oriented.