Whether you’re looking for the great outdoors, quaint towns steeped in history, or a thriving food and beverage scene, you won’t be at a loss of options when visiting Butler County Pennsylvania. Located in the rural suburbs of Pittsburgh, Butler County is the perfect escape from city life; from the hiking trails and historical houses to the microbreweries and eateries, Butler County certainly has something for everyone. As for me, I wanted to try out a little bit of everything, which is why I’ve compiled a list of 10 fun things to do in Butler County for a weekend getaway.
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How To Get To Butler County & Where To Stay…
Butler County’s closest airport is Pittsburgh International Airport. There are multiple nonstop flights serving Pittsburgh, and you can be sure to find yours here. Once you arrive, the best thing to do is to rent a car so that you can easily access all of the recommended destinations below. Luckily, there are multiple rental car desks within the airport. As always, ensure that you book your rental car ahead of time. I personally use RentalCars (no matter where I am in the world), and you can have a look at their options here. And, of course, be sure to have your accommodations booked and on hand. While there are a variety of cute B&Bs and Inns throughout Butler County, I stayed at the Pittsburgh Marriott North and couldn’t have been happier (more on that later)! You can check out their rates and dates here.
With logistics out of the way, here are 10 fun things to do in Butler County…
1. Take a step back in time in Harmony
It’s becoming harder and harder to find towns that remain untouched by industrial growth, and yet Harmony has managed to find a way to retain its historical heritage. From the first turn into town, I felt like I was transported to the 1800s, as German Colonial Houses were plentiful. Categorized by exposed timber, thick walls, and bricks, these houses are simply charming. Harmony dates back to 1804 when a group of German Lutheran Separatists fled Germany seeking religious freedom; these “Harmonites” – interestingly enough – vowed to a life of celibacy to remain pure for the coming of Christ. Understandably, they died out as they were not reproducing.
Harmony is also known for being part of the Washington Trail, as George Washington was there on a mission in 1753 (before the town of Harmony became known as Harmony). It was nearby that the first shots were fired at Washington, which sparked the French-Indian War. Who knew there was so much history in Butler County?
Today, 9 buildings make up “Historic Harmony,” and the entire town has the feel of an old German village. It’s worth stopping by the Harmony Museum, housed within an original building from 1809. The museum itself documents over 250 years of history! You can also find the Harmony Society Cemetery…which doesn’t have any tombstones. The Harmonites didn’t believe in marking their graves, but there are over 100 Harmonites buried there.
2. Sip on a Latte at WunderBar (Don’t worry, you won’t walk out a hipster!)
Aside from the history of Harmony, the town is filled with some amazing eateries. My absolute favorite was Wunderbar, a coffee and creperie shop that holds itself to the highest standards. Not only is it in a historic opera hall, but all of their products are locally sourced as well. Factor in time to look at the menu because you will find so many coffee and food options. The crepes at Wunderbar are about the size of a burrito, and SO delicious! They offer both sweet and savory options to cater to everyone. I personally recommend the Berries & Cream Crepe, as it was simply mouthwatering. I paired that with Lavender Rose Vanilla Latte and, honestly, it was one of the best coffees I have ever had in my life. I need to find someone who can make that for me at home! And, finally, to satisfy my savory cravings, I ordered the Amish Horseradish Grilled Cheese with a Tomato Basil Bisque. It was cooked on pretzel bread, made fresh by the ladies at the German bakery next door! Oh, it was just so satisfying. Needless to say, I’ll be back! And, next time, I will also check out the Harmony Inn and Log Cabin, as both are said to be fantastic restaurants.
3. Hike through Moraine State Park
After all that eating, I had to get moving! Moraine State Park was once – believe it or not – a wasteland; it was used for coal mining, oil, and gas drilling. Thanks to the people who helped restore the park, today Moraine State Park encompasses 16,725 acres and sees more than one million visitors a year. From the rolling green hills to the beautiful lakes and hiking trails, be sure to get out and enjoy the outdoors! As for me, I took in the views and hiked the Glacier Ridge Trail, part of the North Country Trail stretching from New York to North Dakota.
4. Eat a Pie…and other Mom & Pop Shop Favorites!
And if you’re going to be that active, you could totally justify a pie! Or two. Or three. Butler County is filled with local restaurants that have that homemade feel, and you see that particularly at Brown’s Country Kitchen. After I finished a tasty meal, I was told that they had “world famous pies,” so I just wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t indulge in some freshly baked cherry pie too 🙂 Whether you’re looking for typical country food or to get your sweet fix, you’ll certainly enjoy the cozy vibes!
5. Meander the Prairie Ecosystem
Make your way to Jennings Environmental Education Center, named after Pennsylvania’s most renowned botanist – Dr. Jennings – who discovered the prairie in 1905. The 20-acre prairie (more commonly known as a meadow) is home to many distinctive prairie plants and even the endangered massasauga rattlesnake. And, yes, it’s venomous — so stay on the trail! Lucky for me, my visit timed up perfectly with the blooming the Blazing Star, a beautiful purple summer wildflower so it gave the prairie that extra “pop” for me (plus, purple is my favorite color!). Aside from the prairie, you can also find five miles worth of hiking trails beginning from the Education Center.
6. Check out the Microbreweries…all 8 of them!
I hope you like beer! Just before my visit to Butler County, I learned that they have a “Butler County Beer Circuit.” This self-guided tour focuses on the local breweries in the area and their vast array of craft beers. I personally visited Burgh’ers Brewing, Butler Brew Works, Reclamation Brewing Co., Recon Brewing, and North Country Brewing Company. Each was unique in its own way and I tried beers ranging from a blackberry sour to blonde ale with strawberries, chocolate stout, and a watermelon “goze.” I loved how each and every brewery had their own unique twist on all of their beers and excellent menus to pair with the drinks. I had the “Herbivore Steak Salad” with a maple vinaigrette dressing at North Country Brewing Company, and it was truly one of the most delicious salads I’ve ever had.
7. Get Retro in the Chop Shop
With a classic jukebox, road signs, pop icons, and everything in between, there’s nothing quite as unique as the Chop Shop… and I certainly didn’t plan to find it in Butler County, Pennsylvania! They have a completely open kitchen, a variety of food on their menu, and even cater to vegetarians (which I personally loved). While there were a lot of options for me to choose from, I went with a JackFruit Doc — shredded jackfruit, bbq sauce, coleslaw, and cheddar cheese on a kaiser roll — and it was delicious!
8. Wander through historical Saxonburg
To understand the historical significance of Saxonburg, first head to the Saxonburg Museum. You will learn all about John Roebling, the founder of Saxonburg, and why he and his brother fled Germany to establish this little town in Western Pennsylvania in 1832. Within the museum you will find incredibly accurate exhibits displaying the ice cream shop, general store, blacksmith, and laundry shop, as well as an incredible display of old cars, cameras, and work tools. 99% of everything in the museum was donated by people in the area who wanted to preserve their German heritage and history of the area. On site, you can also find Roebling’s workshop. Why did he have a workshop, you might ask? Well Roebling made the first wire cable, that same wire cable that allowed him to go on and build the Brooklyn Bridge! I thought that was quite an interesting fact. His workshop is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and still retains the original wood, square nails, and timber. It’s quite impressive honestly!
Other than the museum and workshop, it’s worth checking out the Presbyterian Church, which was first opened in 1837. Back then it was the highest point in Saxonburg, and it still remains so today. There is still a service there every Sunday morning, and the services were run in German until the early 1900s. Continue down Main Street, keeping an eye out for the green markers that tell the history of most of the buildings. Each is fascinating in its own way.
9. Go Paddleboarding on Lake Arthur
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, hop on a paddleboard! Ian of SurfSUP Adventures leads an absolutely excellent Eco Tour, in addition to Whitewater SUP tours (I have to try this next time) and SUP Yoga (which honestly looks simultaneously challenging and amazing). He has a variety of boards to offer you based on your experience level; don’t worry though, ANYONE can join his paddleboard tours whether it’s your very first time or you’ve taken it up as a hobby. I found our two hours on the lake to be incredibly peaceful and relaxing — honestly, I could have stayed out there for hours. No need to worry about leaving your camera behind either, as Ian will take photos of your adventure and provide you with a download link later in the day too. I highly recommend adding a paddle with SurfSUP Adventures into your plans for Butler County!
10. Have a Yeti at The Snowman
And yes, it is a giant snowman on the side of the road! I drove past it twice before stopping out of intrigue. It’s not everyday that you see a building shaped like a snowman serving ice cream! They have so many sweet treats on their menu, ranging from shaved ice to ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, and – their speciality – the Yeti. What is the Yeti? Well, it’s a cup of shaved ice (with any flavor you choose), topped with a scoop of Hershey’s vanilla or chocolate ice cream. I personally had the “Cookie Dough Yeti,” which consisted of cookie dough shaved ice topped with vanilla ice cream. It was incredibly refreshing on a hot day, and oh so delicious!
So there you have it: 10 fun things to do in Butler County! While I could certainly recommend more hiking trails, outdoor adventures, and incredible restaurants, I suppose that will have to wait until next time. Perhaps I’ll even rent a Jeep for my next road trip, since Butler County IS home to the Jeep after all (who knew?!).
Where to Sleep in Butler County?
After days filled with exploring and eating, it’s always nice to come back to a comfortable hotel. I knew that I’d find exactly that at the Pittsburgh Marriott North. Located directly between Pittsburgh International Airport and Butler County, the Pittsburgh Marriott North made for the perfect place to rest and recharge. Whether you’re looking to relax in your room, eat breakfast in bed, or do a bit of exercise, the Marriott had something for everyone. I stayed in the “two room, one bedroom suite” and certainly enjoyed the amenities provided – especially when someone showed up at my door offering a “sweets amenity,” which consisted of a delicious cheesecake and chocolate-filled donuts. The bed was one of the most comfortable that I’ve slept in throughout my travels, the breakfast was delicious (and filling!), and the fitness center had all of the newest equipment. I genuinely enjoyed my time at the Pittsburgh Marriott North and I will certainly be back!
What To Pack?
If you're wondering what to pack on your next visit to Butler County – whether it's for a week or a weekend – be sure to have a good read of my travel essential guide here. This will walk you through everything that I bring with me from luggage suggestions to carry on essentials, packing essentials, outdoor essentials, and so much more!
Where Are These Places Located?
To give you a visual representation of this trip to Butler County, I have provided a map for you below. Please do feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section below!
Moraine State Park
Brown's Country Kitchen
Jennings Environmental Education Center
North Country Brewing Co.
The Chop Shop
Pittsburgh Marriott North
Do You Have Travel Insurance?
I hope you don’t travel without travel insurance! If you do, you better think again. Travel insurance is arguably the most important thing to have on hand (after your passports and visas). I’ve had to use my travel insurance multiple times on the road, even though I’m healthy. You never know when something might happen; take comfort in knowing that whether your flight gets cancelled or you wind up sick and in the hospital, you will be covered. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for each and every one of you travelers. You can get a free quote here.
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**Big thanks to Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau for showing me a great time! As always, all opinions are my own.**