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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!