I fell in love with this adorable town east of Pittsburgh from the minute I stepped foot in it. Ligonier, set in the beautiful Laurel Highlands, has long been known as a getaway destination for those in the Pittsburgh area. (This dates back to when the Mellons and Carnegies had summer homes in Ligonier.) From it’s historic roots to it’s charming Diamond and gazebo at the town center, there’s so much more to Ligonier, PA than I ever anticipated.
Between the local shops and restaurants, the amazing farmer’s market and easy access to outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone in Ligonier. Plus, if you’re visiting Ligonier with kids, Idlewild & Soak Zone is just outside of town, making this Western Pennsylvania destination a perfect getaway for families.
Sponsored Post: We were hosted in Ligonier by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. As always, all opinions are our own.
How to Get to Ligonier
By car, Ligonier is typically 1 1/2 hours or less from the center of Pittsburgh. It’s also easily accessible within a few hours from other major cities including Cleveland, Baltimore, DC and Philadelphia. While we came from Pittsburgh, we had family join us from Lebanon, PA, which was an easy 3 hour drive.
If you’re flying into the area, Latrobe airport is just over 10 miles from Ligonier. Pittsburgh International Airport is the closest international airport to Ligonier, and it’s 70 miles away. When we were there, several families in the cottages next to us were in town for a family reunion in Ligonier. They were coming from all over the US, including the Carolinas, Florida and California. (Which just goes to show you that a family vacation in Ligonier is worth flying across the country for!)
Where to Stay in Ligonier
The best way to experience this small town is in one of many quaint cottages available. We had an opportunity to stay at the Sunset Cottages in Ligonier, thanks to the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. It was the perfect place for a family or two couples visiting the area. The two bedroom cottages are spacious with an open concept living room. The cottages were recently rebuilt the decor is modern and updated as well. (And seriously, they’re impeccably clean, which you don’t always get with a cottage!) The check-in and check-out process is also super easy. There’s a key code provided to you a day or two before check-in, and the manager is always available if you have questions.
The Sunset Cottages are perfectly located right off Route 30. They’re only a 2 minute drive from town and a little over 5 minutes to Idlewild. The cottages are two bedrooms with a shared bathroom. There’s a spacious living room and connected kitchen that’s appointed with everything you need for a home away from home. Between the provided linens, the well equipped kitchen, coffee and toiletries, they have you covered. There’s also a large porch out front, making it a great place to unwind after a busy day. If you’re looking for a smaller room, Sunset Cottages also has motel style rooms next door.
Additional Information on Sunset Cottages in Ligonier
One thing to note is that with the proximity of Route 30, there is quite a bit of traffic going by. The cottages are set far enough back that there’s still ample room for kids to play. And honestly the trucks driving by were probably my 2 year old’s favorite part about the place. The bedrooms are also set in the back, so the noise from traffic wasn’t an issue late at night.
I can’t say enough good things about the Sunset Cottages in Ligonier. I highly recommend them whether you’re visiting Ligonier with kids or without! You can book directly by calling 724-261-9040, or you can book it on AirBnB or HomeAway. If you aren’t currently signed up for AirBnB, register here using my referral code for a credit toward your first stay.
Things to Do in Ligonier with Kids
One of our favorite things about Ligonier is that every experience offers something for kids. The museums we visited were easily tailored for visitors of all ages. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a place that boasts the “Best Children’s Park” in the world.
Lincoln Highway Experience
Just outside of Ligonier, the Lincoln Highway Experience was a great stop on our drive from Pittsburgh to Ligonier. Route 30 is the original Lincoln Highway and one of the first transcontinental highways running across the US. The museum is held in an original carriage house from the late 1800s called the Johnston house. It’s packed with images, artifacts and interactive displays from the highway’s prime in the early 1900s.
There’s a new building with the museum that was recently completed in 2018. It houses several large artifacts from the Lincoln Highway route, including fuel pumps, an antique car, a historic summer cottage. The focal point is a real, antique diner where guests are served locally made pie and coffee.
Keep in mind your ticket into the museum includes more than just an entrance fee. It also includes a post card stamped and mailed. (My son loved getting to fill out a post card for his Dad, who couldn’t join us.) Pie and coffee, as well as other snack options for kids, is also included with your entrance fee.
Visiting the Lincoln Highway Experience with kids?
In addition to the snacks and postcard, kids are also given a bag of pennies for their museum visit. Those pennies are used at the “Penny for your Tots” room and serve as tolls for each activity they complete. Below are some of the highlights of the kids room at the Lincoln Highway Experience:
- Toy cars for kids to ride around in, including a convertible, firetruck and tractor. All of which are complete with matching accessories.
- A station to etch a license plate replica with crayons.
- A mini stationary bike for kids to peddle their way through the Lincoln Highway. (There’s a display with a real bike for adults and bigger kids to do this too.)
- A race track to race cars on a hilly path.
- An old train game for kids to trace the path of the Lincoln Highway across the US.
- Children’s books as well as fun facts painted on the wall.
The staff at the Lincoln Highway Experience were also so great with my son and tailored the experience perfectly for his age.
- Address: 3435 State Route 30 East, Latrobe, Pennsylvania
- Website: http://www.lhhc.org
Idlewild & Soak Zone
Idlewild is the biggest draw to visiting Ligonier with Kids, and I’m not surprised after just one visit to this gem. In fact, it received the Golden Ticket Award for the “Best Children’s Park” in the world for several years in a row.
Our day at Idlewild started with the Story Book Forest. Between the live characters, the charming photo opportunities and the nursery rhymes woven throughout, it really is a magical place. We were visiting with my 2 year old son and 4 year old niece, and they were the perfect age to really get the most out of Story Book Forest.
After Story Book Forest, we took the train to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This interactive trolley ride engages the audience throughout, while cheerfully singing along the way. If you’re visiting Idlewild with toddlers, the Kiddie Ride area in Raccoon Lagoon has several rides for their height and age. My niece, at 38″ tall, could ride most of the rides with me, and she loved the Ferris Wheel and basically anything that spun around.
We admittedly did not have time for Soak Zone during our day in Idlewild since we took a break in the day for naps. If I went to Ligonier again with family, I would consider 2 days at the parks to allow enough time to experience Soak Zone and all the amazing rides in Idlewild.
Related Post: 8 Reasons to Visit Idlewild with a Toddler
Note: While typical hours at Idlewild are 10:30am to 8:00pm, each area of the park opens and closes at varying times throughout the day. Story Book Forest always opens and closes first. Be sure to check the website for the daily schedule before you visit.
- Address: 2574 U.S. 30, Ligonier, PA
- Website: https://www.idlewild.com
Ligonier Valley Rail Museum
This train museum is located right by Idlewild and it’s housed in Ligonier Valley’s original rail road station. The museum is filled with several pictures and memorabilia from trains in the area, including actual train parts. One of the best things about the Ligonier Valley Rail Museum is how well they catered to our specific interests when visiting. With my son being two, we weren’t necessarily looking for a full history lesson. The docents there did a great job, however, of sharing the history of the trains and the Ligonier station while also weaving in things to keep my son entertained. As a toddler, his favorite things at the Ligoner Valley Rail Road Museum included:
- Listening to the old train bell being run
- Looking at the multitude of pictures throughout the museum
- Playing with the model train track and getting it to speed up, slow down and reverse (while I watched the video of the train’s last run)
- Walking outside to the rail road signal and watching it light up
- Going through the real red caboose from 1905 and learning how they lived and how the train ties worked
There’s also a great gift shop in the museum. It includes a number of train themed toys, shirts and other accessories for the big and little train lovers in your life. Keep in mind that the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum is only open on Saturdays from 11am-3pm, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.
- Address: 3032 Idlewild Hill Ln, Ligonier, PA
- Website: http://www.lvrra.org
Ligonier Country Market
When the Ligonier Country Market was recommended to us as a great place for kids, I just assumed it was like any other farmer’s market I’ve been to. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. The Ligonier Market has one of the best selections of vendors I’ve seen, with so many different foods, drinks, produce and specialty gifts from near and far. It was my 2 year old son’s first time at a farmer’s market, and he absolutely loved the sampling available at pretty much every food vendor. (I’m pretty sure I walked away with way more stuff than I needed, because he convinced me we needed everything he tried.)
The best part about visiting the Ligonier Country Market with kids is the Market Sprouts section. This “kids club” area of the Ligonier Market has kid sized benches and is full of activities for them to do. Each week, there’s a different, themed craft. The staff there were super sweet and helpful with explaining the craft and helping my 2 year old when he needed it. He also loved the huge Jenga style blocks, and we found a shaded area and stayed for a while. There is also a Children’s Community Garden, where kids can learn how to plant seeds and maintain a garden throughout the summer.
- Address: 110 Andi Lane, Ligonier, PA
- Website: http://ligoniercountrymarket.com
We stopped at Friendship Park on the drive into town from Pittsburgh, and it was the perfect place for the kids to stretch their legs after being in the car. My son and niece loved this playground in Ligonier so much that they wouldn’t stop talking about it the whole trip. The playground itself is huge, and there’s a number of different areas for the kids of various ages to climb and play on. (It even has a rock climbing wall!) There are also tons of swings and other fun things for kids to ride on.
There are restrooms available at Friendship Park, as well as a covered area with picnic tables. Plus, the entire playground is mostly closed in by a fence, which makes it much easier to watch the kiddos while they’re playing.
Address: 203 Boquet St, Ligonier, PA
If you’re looking for more time outdoors, Linn Run State Park in Ligonier offers hundreds of acres for hiking and picnicking. It’s only about 15 minutes outside of the center of Ligonier.
Walk Around Town
The town of Ligonier is perfect for taking a stroll around the shops, whether you’re with kids or without. The town of Ligonier is shaped like a diamond, surrounding an island with a gazebo. Some family-friendly favorites around the “diamond” of Ligonier include:
- The Treehouse for gifts and clothing for children and moms
- Unique gifts and books for kids and people of all ages at Second Chapter Books
- Post and Rail to see Tye the dog and purchase menswear
- Fun toys and games at the Toy Solider Gallery
- Christmas ornaments all year round at the Holiday Home Store (If you collect ornaments on your travels like us, they have one for the town of Ligonier!)
For a complete listing of addresses and shops in Ligonier, see here.
The Ligonier Valley Library is also located right in town and is seriously amazing. Not only is it beautiful, but the children’s section is huge with a number of fun toys and activities for the library’s younger visitors. Tip: We love checking out libraries when we’re traveling to a new area. They usually have play areas for the kids, and it’s a great way to meet local parents and get a feel for the area.
Where to Eat in Ligonier with Kids
Ligonier has no shortage of adorable shops and restaurants. One of the best things about this small town is that only locally owned establishments are allowed around the Diamond center of town.
Ligonier Creamery was our first introduction to the amazing food in Ligonier. (Thanks to our friends at the Laurel Highlands Visitor’s Bureau!) The ice cream at the Ligonier Creamery is homemade, and you can’t go wrong with any of the flavors. (I had the gobs in vanilla and it was yummy.) There’s also tons of seating inside at the Ligonier creamery, or you can grab a bench to enjoy your ice cream outside.
- Address: 105 E Main St, Ligonier, PA 15658
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/ligoniercreamery
Abigail’s is a local institution in Ligonier. And you can tell from the minute you walk through the door that they’re a part of the community. Abigail’s serves a number of yummy espresso drinks, as well as a variety of freshly brewed coffees. There’s also a handful of baked goods, and the kids loved the chocolate chip scone. In addition to coffee, Abigails has a full service menu offering a variety of sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. They also serve ice cream if you’re looking for a sweet treat later in the day.
- Address: 104 W Main St, Ligonier, PA
- Website: https://abigails-coffeehouse.business.site
The Kitchen on Main
The Kitchen on Main was recommended to us for breakfast and was easily one of the best breakfasts I’ve had to date. We split the kitchen tacos made with chorizo sausage and topped with fresh avocado along with the banana bread french toast. I highly recommend both as yummy savory and sweet options. If you order anything with toast, it’s also served with homemade jams and butter. They also have a kids menu with a variety of options as well as a coloring page and crayons for the kids.
The Kitchen on Main is a BYOB restaurant and only accepts reservations for dinner.
- Address: 136 East Main Street, Ligonier, PA
- Website: https://www.thekitchenonmain.com
Carol & Dave’s Roadhouse
We went to Carol and Dave’s for dinner after walking around the shops in the Diamond of Ligonier. Carol and Dave’s is located right in the town of Ligonier and offers an extensive menu with a large variety. We were craving something fresh and ordered entree salads with grilled chicken, while the kids got a pizza that they loved. The Power Salad was exactly what I was looking for, although the ribs and bbq chicken special that night smelled yummy. There’s ample seating indoors, but we opted to enjoy the nice night and sat outside on the 2nd floor balcony.
If you’re visiting Carol & Dave’s Roadhouse with kids, be sure to check out the bookshelves by the hostess stand. They’re filled with crayons, coloring books and a variety of toys to keep kids entertained during dinner.
- Address: 122 N. Market St, 2nd Floor, Ligonier, PA
- Website: https://www.carolanddavesroadhouse.com
The Road Toad
The Road Toad is another traditional American restaurant located just outside of the main part of Ligonier. We stopped here on our way out of town, and the convenience off of Route 30 and proximity to Idlewild makes it a great spot for families. The menu is varied, with a number of lighter options and entrees for any appetite. We were there for lunch and I ordered the blackened salmon sandwich, which was perfectly cooked and seasoned. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, the Road Toad also has ample outdoor dining with a gorgeous view of the stream next to.
Be sure to check the website before visiting, as the Road Toad is currently closed on Tuesdays and only open for lunch on the weekends.
- Address: 2726 Route 30 W., Ligonier, PA
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheRoadToad
If you’re looking for a fun weekend trip from Pittsburgh or the surrounding areas, I can’t say enough good things about Ligonier, Pennsylvania. We keep hearing how beautiful it is in the Fall, and are already thinking about the next trip back!
Have you been to Ligonier? Please share if you have any favorite places to eat or things to do that we haven’t mentioned here!
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