We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Northeast
Level Contributor
469 posts
46 reviews
Save Topic
Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

We just returned from our Pittsburgh area vacation. The trip was planned to celebrate my daughter’s 8th grade graduation. I traveled with my mom, my daughter and my daughter’s friend. My daughter is interested in becoming an architect someday, loves the arts and SHOPPING! I thought this trip would be a great match for her interests. Thanks to everyone on TripAdvisor for all the great recommendations and advice. You all really helped us to have a wonderful vacation!

Day 1 6/28-We left Connecticut at approximately 7:30 a.m. and arrived at the Flt. 93 memorial at approximately 2:30. Along the way we stopped for gas twice and also for lunch at Arby’s. I would highly recommend getting gas before you exit the highway. The memorial is really in the middle of nowhere. The roads are twisty, turny and desolate. There are no signs leading to the site until you are within a mile of it. It is a very eerie drive knowing what the passengers must have been going through during the amount of time it takes you to find the site. Of course, for those who were not aboard the plane, it is fortunate that there was so little built up around the crash site. Although the site consists only of a small outbuilding, a chain link fence, benches and memorials left to the passengers, it is a peaceful, thought provoking place and I would recommend taking the time to seek it out and pay respects in your own way to the victims of the crash. During our visit there was a local resident who is part of a group of volunteers that did an informative presentation about the victims, the crash and the crash site. There is also a book to register your thoughts and visit. As far as facilities, there are portapotties (sp?) but there are no other bathroom facilities, food or items for purchase. If it is raining, there is no shelter except for the little outbuilding.

After we left the site, we headed for Somerset where we had reservations for two rooms at the Holiday Inn. At this point it was raining rather heavily. I reserved the hotel based on reviews here at TripAdvisor and the fact that it had a pool. When I went to check in, I was told they only had smoking rooms available. I am very sensitive to smoke and really didn’t want to stay in a smoking room. Kristina at the desk was very helpful and called around to a few hotels to try to find us non-smoking rooms. A couple of the hotels were booked but the Super 8 motel had rooms available. I must say that I was not too thrilled with the idea of staying at a Super 8 motel. She said she would hold the smoking rooms for us in case we did not like the rooms at the Super 8. The girl at the Super 8 hotel was super nice and was happy to let us check out the rooms. Although the rooms were dark and the furniture had seen better days, they were clean and smoke free so we decided to take them. We had reserved the rooms at the Holiday Inn for a special internet rate of $65.80+tax. The rooms at the Super 8 were $49.99 (AAA rate). However when I was checking in, I noticed that they had a king deluxe room with hot tub at the rate of $105.88+tax. I decided to book this for the girls since this hotel did not have a pool (the one at the Holiday would have been closed anyway since it closes when it rains) and there was absolutely NOTHING to do in Somerset. While researching where to stay, I noticed that an outlet mall was listed. Both hotel clerks told me that there are basically no stores left there. There are no movies, no mini golf, no bowling-nothing for miles around. They did say there was a Wal Mart a few miles away but that was all. There were however a few restaurants. We ate at Eat ‘n Park that night which we all enjoyed. It is not fancy at all but has a wide variety of food and a nice salad bar. The bill came to $39.25+tip for the four of us. Since there was nothing else to do, we headed back to the hotel for the night. The girls had fun watching TV in their own giant hot tub. There was also a microwave and refrigerator in both of the rooms so the girls made some popcorn and enjoyed that too. I was so exhausted from all the driving that sleep wasn’t much of a problem.

Northeast
Level Contributor
469 posts
46 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Day 2 6/29-The next morning we ate the continental breakfast provided by the motel and headed off to Fallingwater. We had made a 10:30 reservation well in advance. I’m not sure if our time slot was full, but they did ask us if we had a reservation before we entered the parking lot. You pay as you enter the lot, the tickets were $16 each (call directly; it is more if you order them online). We walked from the parking lot to where you check in. You are given a buzzer which goes off when your tour is ready. I think there were about 15 people in our group. The walk from the check in to Fallingwater is a bit of a hike. We didn’t realize this and my mom had a hard time walking all the way down. Let them know if you might need a ride to the house. The house is breathtaking and well worth the effort of driving the twisty roads. It truly is gloriously integrated right into the landscape. The details are just amazing and the beautiful soothing sound of the waterfall is of course something that can never come through in pictures or documentaries. Since it had been raining, the tour guide said the falls were even louder than usual. Although it is a little over an hour from Pittsburgh, it is a much deserved side trip. How lucky the original owners were to live in such a tranquil place. Another thing that makes the home so special is the fact that only the original family lived there before their son donated the home and property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Therefore, you see their belongings and the interior of the house as they intended it to be. We had a wonderful enthusiastic tour guide who is currently an architectural student. You are not allowed to take any picture during the tour either inside or outside on the terraces. At the end of the tour (I think it lasted a little over an hour) you are led into a room to watch a brief presentation with the aim of having you donate to the conservancy. You could probably skip this if you wanted to. After that, you are given the option of walking back or taking a van ride. The girls and I walked back. By doing this we were able to walk over near (but not too near) the falls and take some great pictures. My mom took the van and said the driver relayed some additional facts about the property on the way back so she really enjoyed the ride.

At the welcome center, there are a bunch of menus to help you decide on a restaurant. There is also a little café on site. At the recommendation of the staff, we ended up eating lunch at Firefly Grill on the way to Kentuck Knob. The food was very good and the fresh squeezed lemonade was delicious. There is a lot of outdoor seating in a bustling area of bikers, kayakers etc. After this we headed to Kentuck Knob.

Although it is not very far mileage wise, the roads are very hilly and very very curvy. Again, you are in the middle of nowhere so there are no stores, gas stations, etc. if you get lost. We had the GPS and directions, but both told us to turn on a road that didn’t exist. We finally were able to find Kentuck Knob, but I’m not sure if it was worth all the effort. We had a 2:00 reservation which we barely met. The fee is $16.00 here also. We bought our tickets and waited for the van that takes you out to the house. Strangely, he didn’t even check for tickets as we got on. We had a larger than normal group and everyone didn’t even have a seat on the van. I think perhaps some people from the next group accidentally ended up with our group. Even the tour guide remarked on the size of our group but did not check the tickets. Kentuck Knob is a relatively small home especially in comparison to Fallingwater, actually even in comparison to my house. I would advise visiting this house first and maybe then it wouldn’t seem as disappointing. Kentuck Knob is privately owned so a lot of the current owner’s private belongings are displayed in the home. For whatever reason, I found this distracted from my appreciation of the property. We also visited on a drizzly cloudy day. I believe some of the homes beauty and uniqueness comes from the play of light through the home which was of course lacking on the day we visited. Also, our tour guide just didn’t seem to have a lot of energy or enthusiasm, perhaps because it was later in the day. I think the quality of the tour guide makes a big difference. If the fee wasn’t so high and the drive so difficult, I would be able to more enthusiastically endorse visiting the house. If you enjoy driving on back country roads, the house does have some interesting architectural and design elements, but again, I would recommend visiting prior to a visit at Fallingwater.

After our visit, it was time to head to Pittsburgh. It was very confusing finding our way to the highway even with the GPS. We also ran into rush hour traffic and baseball traffic. We finally arrived at Springhill Suites by Marriott- Pittsburgh Airport. The hotel is really lovely. It is bright and cheery in both the public areas and in the guest rooms. We had two queen beds and a pull out sofa. There was a refrigerator and microwave in the room with a small sink and a separate closed bathroom with toilet and shower and an unenclosed second sink area. The sofa/kitchen area was separated from the beds by a wall that extended half way across the opening. There was no safe in the room (that we could find anyway). We did have small little ants in the bathroom which the hotel sprayed while we were out. There was a nice indoor pool and exercise area. We had booked through Roomrate.com and paid $104+tax per night. In retrospect, we would have been much better off getting two separate rooms instead of the suite. This is how we travel with our teenagers now, but I thought it would be fun to have us all stay in the same room. The girls missed their privacy and it was just too difficult to only have one shower for four women. Since my mom had been snoring loudly, she said she wanted to get her own room for the second night of our stay, but they were all sold out. They did have lots of extra pillows which helped me a bit with her snoring and the beds were super comfy. My daughter’s friend said the sofa bed wasn’t quite so comfortable and my daughter actually ended up sleeping on the floor on the cushions which she thought was great (go figure!).

The first night we ended up ordering pizza, etc. from Pizza Palermo. We ordered two of their smallest sized pizzas, a small salad, breadsticks, and mushrooms for $25.84 plus tip. We ended up with a bunch of food left over. They delivered right to our room and the food was pretty good.

For two teenage girls the hotel location was perfect. They were in shopping heaven; the hotel is actually nestled right near a bunch of stores in a very busy location (although it was very quiet in our room, except for the snoring of course!). After dinner we decided to walk across the street to Old Navy. This was not a smart idea. The road was crazy busy and there were no sidewalks to get up to the strip of stores. Obviously we made it across alive and they shopped away. Next we walked over to a Target which again was not so smart. On the way back, we did go to a crosswalk which was a bit safer. At the hotel, the girls went for a swim to end the night. As a side note, the hotel provided lollipops and peaches throughout our stay. My mom was already asleep and snoring when we returned from shopping. If it weren’t for the ants, I would have considered sleeping in the bathtub with the bathroom door closed. This night sleep was very hard to come by.

Northeast
Level Contributor
469 posts
46 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Day 3 6/30- The girls went off early in the morning to use the fitness room. I was up bright and early to shower so that we would all get a turn before we left for Station Square. The hotel provided a nice complimentary breakfast with bagels, eggs, sausage, fruit, toast, yogurt, cereal, etc. It was about a 15 minute ride to Station Square with no traffic on a Saturday morning. There is a parking garage right at Station Square. It was $5.00 to park for about 4 ½ hours. Across the street there was a sign for all day parking for $5.00. We arrived at about 9:45 for our 10:30 Duck Tour. We were required to sign in by 10:00 and had made reservations ahead of time at a cost of $19.00 each. At 9:45 only two late afternoon tours were available, everything else was sold out. Two buses left at once for the 10:30 tour. Our tour guides were a lot of fun and informative. The whole tour lasted about one hour. Many of the different buildings and a bit of the history of Pittsburgh were explained. We then took our vehicle into the water for a nice little cruise. All of the young children on board were given a chance to drive which was a nice touch. I ended up tipping the guide but I don’t think too many people did.

Upon our return we went to the Hard Rock Café for lunch. We had an excellent energetic young waitress. The food was yummy and hot and we had fun looking around. My mom wasn’t too thrilled with the music that was playing. Bring a sweater if you’re going to eat here, it was FREEZING. There was some nice outdoor seating where you could watch the dancing fountain but the girls didn’t want to eat outside for some reason. It was $44.22 for all of us +tip.

Next we headed to the Station Square shops. Don’t waste your time here unless you want Pittsburgh sports items. The shops were terrible. The girls actually called us to say they were done before my mom and I had finished walking the length of the building.

Time to continue with our touristy ways. We took the short walk to the Monongahela Incline. The fee is $2.25 for a round trip fare. You need exact change. There is a change machine in the building. The fee is collected after you get off on the top. You have three hours before you must take your trip back down. I was surprised by how built up it was on top. I was picturing a nice open grassy area, not the case at all. There is hardly any grass to be seen and there are houses, buildings and cars everywhere. It’s not very pretty on top, but the view looking out is wonderful. You can see so much and so far. We had a gorgeous day which really helped. There is a nice little ice cream place close by where you exit the car also. If you can get the seats at the very bottom during the incline ride, I think you get the most exciting and interesting ride since you actually have a view of the track and less of a view of your fellow passengers. If my mom was able to walk better, it would have been fun to walk down to the Duquesne Incline (I think it would have been a mile walk but can’t remember if that’s correct) and check that out, but we still enjoyed ourselves.

After this we decided to head back to our hotel. My mom decided to stay back for a rest while I had the pleasure (?) of taking the girls to the mall for a few hours. We went to the Mall at Robinson which was only about 5 minutes from our hotel. The girls were very happy with the stores there. Of course, they were basically the same as the stores here at home with little to no exception.

In trying to complete our objective of being the almost perfect tourists, we went back to pick up my mom to head to Primanti Brothers for dinner. We went to the one at 4501 Steubenville Pike which was only about a 10 minute ride from the hotel. I would have liked to have gone to the original but did not want to drive back to downtown Pittsburgh. I’m glad I tried the sandwich, but it wasn’t quite what I built it up to be in my head. I ordered the “almost famous” cheesesteak sandwich. It has fries and coleslaw right in the sandwich. I made the mistake of thinking the steak would be shaved steak but it was more like a patty and tasted pretty much like a strange meatball. The waitress informed me that that was a pretty popular misconception so be forewarned. She also said that since the shaved steak is associated with Philadelphia, it is a no no at Primanti’s to admit to a shaved steak preference. It’s served on regular bread not a grinder roll so it gets pretty soggy with the coleslaw. It was ok but nothing I would rush back for (my apologies to all you fans). There were plenty of other items on the menu if you’re not a sandwich fan including Italian food and salads. The bill came to $37.68+tax for the four of us.

Of course, we couldn’t end the day without more shopping. We stopped at Ikea for a bit and then dragged ourselves back to the hotel. The girls went for a swim to end our eventful fun filled day. I was so exhausted I actually slept pretty well.

Northeast
Level Contributor
469 posts
46 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Day 4 7/1- Sadly our last day of vacation was now upon us. We followed the same routine as the morning before and after breakfast left for Phipps Conservatory. While researching our vacation, I had found that there would be a Chihuly display at the conservatory during our visit. Dale Chihuly is a world renowned glass artist based in Washington. I was so excited since I hadn’t been able to make the exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens last year. The Bushnell Theater for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut where I am a tour guide has a Chihuly “chandelier” (technically a sculpture since it is not lit from within) and I was excited to view more of his work. The Bushnell piece was purchased in 2001 for $500,000. It is 8ft. wide and 12 ft. long and consists of 600 pieces. I cannot begin to imagine the value of the display in Pittsburgh. There were many pieces throughout the gardens both on ground and suspended. It was absolutely breathtaking and mesmerizing. The integration of the glass with the plants was amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. We had reserved a 9:30 slot ahead of time which coincided with their opening time. I was able to borrow a wheelchair for my mom by leaving my driver’s license. This worked out great since there was a great deal of walking. We ended up being the first ones in which was worked out well since we could view the pieces without people in view to distract us from the artwork. I would highly recommend going first thing in the morning. There is also a night display which I regret not having seen. I know the Chihuly in Hartford takes on a whole new appearance when lit from above at night. Don’t miss this if you’re in the Pittsburgh area. It was a very peaceful experience to be surrounded with such beauty. Even the girls really were impressed and amazed.

After we spent a couple of hours viewing everything we had lunch on site. They offer a variety of gourmet sandwiches and salads which were really very good and reasonably priced. Now it was time to say goodbye to Pittsburgh and begin our LONG drive home. We stopped for gas twice and dinner at Wendy’s and it took us about 9 hours to get home. We spent about $200. for gas for the whole trip. I had to fill up the mini van 5 times. Gas in Pennsylvania was about $2.99 per gallon which is better than the $3.19 here. Although we passed a lot of construction areas on our way home, we were fortunate that since it was Sunday, work wasn’t going on. Because of this, our delays were minimal on the ride home. I imagine it must be a nightmare during the week.

Beside the driving (and the snoring!) we had a wonderful trip. I regret that there were so many things that we didn’t have time to see, but really enjoyed the things we did get to do, especially Fallingwater and Phipps Conservatory. And of course, a little less shopping would have been ok by me. Thanks again for all the help and advice! If you've actually made it all the way to the end of this thing, I'm sure you're ready to go give your eyes quite a rest!

pittsburgh
Level Contributor
279 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Nice report. thanks for posting

If your daughter wants to be an architect there are some really cool worksheets on landmarks and description about houses in Pittsburgh and its buildings.

I do the geometry with my students in Math class and they love it.

http://www.phlf.org/education/worksheets.html

Northeast
Level Contributor
469 posts
46 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Thanks for the information. I'll have her look into it, it'll will help keep her brain busy over the summer!

Texas
Level Contributor
242 posts
30 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Thanks for this great report, Jeffygirl. We are going to Fallingwater and Pittsburgh in Sept and your details are very helpful as we also will be doing the "tourist" things. I need to research about the two inclines, not sure the difference. We want to go late afternoon and have dinner there to also take in the night views. Do you think the one you used would be the best one for restaurants?

What a nice graduation present for your daughter, sharing it with a friend made it even nicer. Sounds like they had a great time.

Northeast
Level Contributor
469 posts
46 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

tvlmimi- I think the Duquesne incline might be the better choice for you, I believe there are more restaurants located on that end. The ride up also looked like it would take a bit more time since that incline was longer. We chose the other since my mom has some mobility issues and we were closer to it having been at Station Square. I did notice a big parking lot across from the Duquesne inclince but did not see the parking rates. Be sure to visit the Phipps Conservatory if you can and try to get reservations for the Chihuly at Night program, you won't regret it! Have a great trip!!!

Pittsburgh, PA...
Level Contributor
262 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Great trip report. Glad you enjoyed our city.

tvlmimi,

The Duquesne Incline will take you to closer to "the point" where the three rivers meet. You will get the classic "postcard" view of Pittsburgh from the top of the Duquesne incline. The restaurants are located over a stretch between the two inclines with more of them near the Duquesne incline, but I would recommend making reservations beforehand, and asking the restaurant which incline is closer to the restaurant you choose. Getting reservations ahead of time and asking to get a table with the best views when you call for the reservation will be worthwhile.

Texas
Level Contributor
242 posts
30 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Jeffygirl and ScaldisNoel, thanks to both of you.

Would love to see Chiherly at Night, JG, but afraid we won't have time for it. We're only there 2 nights, the first being when we drive in after the day in Laurel Highlands, including Fallingwater.

Probably after dinner, we'll be ready to call it a night so we can enjoy the next day. That will be a Saturday and I could book Phipps for that night but have my heart set on ending with dinner with the view. Now if I can just find a restaurant that won't break the bank and make reservations per SN's advice. Good to know about parking near the incline also--hubby always wants to know about that.

Vacaville...
Level Contributor
676 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Back from our trip with teens! (sorry, very long!)

Great trip report, nice details that most folks don't write about.