Butler County, PA, less than an hour north of Pittsburgh, is a Pennsylvania hidden gem. It offers beautiful, outdoorsy places to relax, unique places to visit and shop, and amazing foodie finds. From alien homages to views that will make your mouth gape, here are my picks for fun things to do in Butler County, PA.
When I was younger, I lived in Butler County, PA. But sadly, I never took advantage of all of the fun things it has to offer its residents and guests. Chalk it up to being young, but I wanted to head straight to big city Pittsburgh. What I now realize is that it has a little bit of everything that’s right up my alley. And, thanks to the folks at Visit butler County, PA, The kid and I headed to my old proverbial stomping grounds to really checkout the fun. Here are my picks for the coolest, funnest things to do when you visit.
Disclosure: We were graciously hosted by the folks at Visit Butler county, PA, to give you the scoop on what makes it a great place to visit! All opinions are my own!
Learn about Mars without Leaving the Planet
The main reason for our visit was centered around the Mars Exploration Celebration in Mars, PA. I mean, with a town name like that, how could you not take advantage, right? Exactly. I’ll try to explain it without too many puns.
In a nutshell, it’s a weekend in May where the entire town goes gaga over Mars and all-things space. NASA experts are onsite, the main drag is blocked off for a block party, and there’s entertainment, food, and an all-around good time.
What we really loved was the way the town rallies around itself and its pride is palpable. The kids hang out on a giant, metal alien spaceship sculpture, and the adults turn the event into a giant family reunion of sorts. If you’re not a local, no worries: we had an out-of-this-world visit. Also worth seeing: the Alien Costume contest. Folks get very creative for it!
I had to write ONE.
Taste Candy from All Over the World
When I lived in Zelienople, PA, a million years ago, there was a sweets shop that I had to visit at least once a month: Baldinger’s! When you visit, you’ll spy the “Foods from all Nations” sign above the door and it’s the truth. There’s candy from all over the world. What we’ll keep going back for: licorice from across the globe and the freshest gummy bears I’ve tasted.
Play Inside a Spaceship
Ever wanted to hang out inside a spaceship and pretend you’re a kid again? Or maybe you have kiddos and are looking for a spot to test drive all the toys. Then, it’s a visit to Playthings Etc. for you! Dubbing itself as the “World’s Coolest Toy Store”, one trip to the parking lot and you can understand the phrase. The Kid and I headed inside – and it was even cooler than its exterior, honestly.
The coolest part about the store is the ability to try out almost any toy in the place. We played on scooters, camped out in a small circus tent for a few moments, and just had a ball.
Skate Where the Pittsburgh Penguins Practice
In Cranberry Twp., the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex is right where the Pens practice. Time it right, and you can actually watch them on the ice. When we visited, we took a tour of the facilities and even laced up our skates for a few spins around the ice. Mr. Locke loved the fact that the Penguins were on a giant screen as we skated, so he didn’t have to miss one second of a game.
Tip: Make sure to check the skating rink’s open times and arrive early – it gets pretty busy. You can also rent skates and lockers for convenience.
Take an Eco-Adventure Via Water
Moraine State Park is a beautiful spot to relax and take in the gorgeous scenery, no matter what time of year. This spring, The Kid and I headed straight to Lake Arthur in Portersville, PA, for a quick lesson on Standup Paddleboarding with SURFSUP Adventures and then hit the lake to see what we could spy in the air and below us.
We found plenty of fish, but the highlight was definitely seeing the Ospreys taking flight from their nests. If you can’t visit right away, there’s an Osprey cam available to watch anytime daily from 7am to 7pm.
Of course, if paddleboarding isn’t your jam, there are plenty of other things to do in the park. We loved taking a leisurely pontoon boat cruise around the lake, and there’s also hiking, walking, biking – you name it.
Wear a Piece of Applachia
If you didn’t know it existed, you’d probably miss it. So instead, I have to give you the heads up about Applachian Rock Shop & Jewelry Emporium. Located in Harmony, PA, the quaint, but still jam-packed, shop offers rocks and gems straight from the ground or beautifully set into jewelry pieces.
You’ll also find geodes that you can actually crack open yourself, gift ware, lamps, sandstone sculptures, and so many additional fun things to buy.
Fun Things to Do in Butler County, PA: Eat Like a Local
Let’s talk about food for a minute or two. Butler County has some AMAZING mom and pop dining spots and I adored every bite. Here are my top picks for the best dining in Butler County, PA.
If you only visit for the backstory alone, it’s worth it. The owner started the company after a getting clean and now hires folks that are rehabbing from drugs to help them improve their lives and makes them better.
If that wasn’t enough, the restaurant has really good tacos (I loved the chicken; The Kid dug the Mahi). Each is wrapped up in a 10-inch tortilla, grilled, and served crispy and warm.
North Country Brewing Company
I’ve been to NCBC twice now, and each time I’m ready to visit as soon as I leave. Homemade bread served in terra cotta posts, great appetizers, and beer flights filled with their own brews are only three reasons why this one’s busy everyday. My personal pick is the chicken and waffles. Yum!
Love craft brew? Here’s why a trip around the Butler County Beer Circuit is a must!
Brown’s Country Kitchen
A definite county-inspired mom and pop joint, Brown’s is a top spot in Portersville, PA, for homemade food. Only a few-minute’s drive from Moraine State Park, it offers everything from meatloaf to buttermilk fried chicken to ham and burgers. What I loved the most? The homemade pies. We couldn’t choose between coconut and the Dutch apple, so we tried both. I’m very happy I did.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned that ice cream is my favorite food, so a visit to The Snowman was a must. The first thing you’ll notice is it’s a giant snowman sitting by the side of the road in Portersville. But the menu is really fun, too. Apart from the usuals (shaved ice and ice cream), they have a creative concoction call The Yeti. It’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream surrounded by the shaved ice flavor of your liking. I tried it with pineapple shaved ice and it had the flavor of a Dole Whip at Disney World.
Headed to Walt Disney World and want the scoop on its restaurants? Here are the top Quick Service Restaurateurs at Disney World – straight from the experts!