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Famous footsteps in Western Pennsylvania

In Western Pennsylvania, meeting attendees can feel the lake effect, walk in George Washington’s footsteps and enjoy the scenery that inspired architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


Butler County

Jeeps, zombies and George Washington all have ties to Butler County. The first Jeeps rolled off an assembly line there in 1940, and although they’re no long manufactured in Butler, the city plays host annually to the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival.

“We’re only 20 minutes north of downtown Pittsburgh, so we have a great hotel base and the great outdoors,” said Jack Cohen, president at the Butler County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Westinghouse has a nuclear plant, and many different major corporations are headquartered here.”

The area is also rich in history. At the age of 21, George Washington embarked on a dangerous expedition through what would become Butler County, acting on orders from Virginia Gov. Robert Dinwiddie to deliver a diplomatic message to the French ordering them to evacuate the area. Visitors can follow historic markers to retrace his journey.

The worldwide craze for zombies was started in Butler County at the Evans City Cemetery, where the first scene of George Romero’s iconic horror movie, “Night of the Living Dead,” was filmed. To mark the occasion, an annual zombie fest and parade are held on Halloween.

Facilities for meetings include the Regional Learning Alliance and Conference Center in the township of Cranberry and Slippery Rock University, which can accommodate groups of all sizes in various classrooms and auditoriums. Lodging is available in a wide variety of hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns.


Laurel Highlands

“Our region is so large, with so many communities,” said Ronald Virag, president and CEO of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. “We are a four-season destination.”

This scenic, mountainous area accommodates a wide range of outdoor activities such as cross-country and downhill skiing, biking along the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage and white-water rafting on the Younghiogheny River. The topography inspired famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater, a special house that is cantilevered over a waterfall. There are two other Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses in the area: Kentuck Knob and the Duncan House, an overnight guest house with meeting space.

Among the many vibrant communities in the Laurel Highlands is the town of Ligonier, which has 60 specialty shops and restaurants. It’s the site of Fort Ligonier, where a major battle was fought in the French and Indian War. For the past 54 years, a festival commemorating the event has attracted history buffs to the town in October. Another important historic site is the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Among the many meeting venues are Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, SpringHill Suites by Marriott Latrobe, the Barn at Fallingwater and the Inne at Watson’s Choice.

The Pittsburgh Steelers summer training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe attracts thousands of spectators to the campus. For fans of the “Mr. Rogers” television show, there is the Fred Rogers Center, also on campus, which is available to meeting planners for events.



Erie is Pennsylvania’s only Great Lakes port city, situated on the shores of Lake Erie.

Four miles west of the city lies Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre sand formation that reaches out into Lake Erie, forming the largest natural harbor in the Great Lakes. The park offers seven miles of beaches and a variety of outdoor activities. The region is also well known for wineries, with more than 30,000 acres and 23 vineyards.

“Our location on Lake Erie is ideal for growing grapes, especially Concord grapes,” said Chris Pennsy, director of communications, Visit Erie. “It’s cool enough in summer yet warm enough for perfect conditions. In September, you can smell the grapes in the air.”

Many meeting planners hold events at the Bayfront Convention Center, which is connected to the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel and overlooking Presque Isle Bay. The Ambassador Conference Center is another. It’s connected to a Courtyard by Marriott and a Hilton Garden Inn. The Avalon Hotel and Conference Center also hosts meeting groups.



On May 31, 1889, Johnstown was devastated by the worst flood in the nation’s history. More than 2,200 people died, with many more left homeless. The Johnstown Flood Museum downtown features an Academy Award-winning documentary on the flood.

“This summer, we will observe the 125th anniversary of the great flood, but we’d like to use it as an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made since then,” said Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A lively arts district is developing in the neighborhood known as Cambria City, rich in ethnic history. Many central and eastern European immigrants moved to Johnstown to work in the steel mills and coal mines. The Heritage Discovery Center in the old Germania Brewery has an interactive feature that allows visitors to see America through an immigrant’s eyes.

There’s also a growing opportunity for outdoor recreation in the area, including white-water rafting, kayaking and hiking. For the past 17 years, Johnstown has hosted Thunder in the Valley, one of the top 10 motorcycle rallies in the country.

Meeting venues include the Conference Center at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus, the Cambria County Fairgrounds and the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center, located in downtown Johnstown.

“We can provide real value for your dollar,” Rager said. “You can see and do a lot without spending a great deal. We’re something of a bargain.”