We all love vacations - that ‘get away' feeling of exploring new turf or revisiting fond memories.

More recently, ‘stay-cations' have gained popularity and are getting my wheels turning on spending more time exploring my home base, the Laurel Highlands! 

In my opinion, I have it all. Within a quick drive I can enjoy four seasons of adventure, which is what makes me tick. That's right FOUR SEASONS at my finger tips! Depending on the season, I can sneak in a quick hike, a cross-country ski, an overnight camping adventure, a bike ride on the award-winning Great Allegheny Passage Trail or a thrilling taste of whitewater on numerous local rivers and around most turns an awe-inspiring view!

While I've covered a lot of ground and every kind of terrain, I had no clue the wide variety of what was left to discover. Until, my first Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau Backyard Tour.

The day began with greetings from eager LHVB partners ready to connect with each other on a tour of rural Somerset County. With some new faces, and some familiar, many that are born and bred in our fair hills and valleys, everyone was ready for what Ann Nemanic, LHVB Vice President of Partnership Development, had mysteriously prepared for us! That's right; our excitement was fueled by our upcoming adventure being a complete surprise!

With wheels turning we were en route to start the day with a sweet treat at Sweetie Bakery and Cafe in the charming Trail Town of Confluence. I thought I knew Confluence, until it unveiled awesome opportunity of creative initiatives at the Confluence Creative Arts Center, the Town Criers that greet cyclists on the famed Great Allegheny Passage trail - offering town information in the most unique way! A stop at On-Point Outfitters nurtured my love of dogs - working bird dogs at that, and the stop that made it to the top of my ‘bucket list' is Glamping at Campbell Farm! Followed by that; we were en route to view historic Covered Bridges, learn of Barn Stars and local heritage, a local dog park off of the busy Somerset Exit #110 off of the PA Turnpike, and then to the incredible Summer Smiles Honey Farm near Jennerstown. As you can imagine at this point we were all ready for a hardy meal at the captivating Green Gables Restaurant. The day was amazing, and really hit home that we have so many awesome and incredibly passionate business owners in our area that make the Laurel Highlands what it is, and where I am proud to grow my own roots!

Now back to that funny word Glamping. Not sure what Glamping is? "Glamping is short for glamorous camping. It's a way to experience the splendor of the outdoors without forgoing the creature comforts you can't live without" - Glamping.com.

I was thrilled to see this new approach to enjoying the great outdoors - while I am a rare soul that doesn't mind a sleeping bag and a tent, who can resist a bed with a view of our majestic highlands, not to mention a glass of wine in the open air bathtub!

My most recent adventure has inspired me to think outside the box, within the scenic region that I reside.  To help capture my awe and intrigue, I will begin a Backyard Bucket List, and I am encouraging all travelers to explore their immediate surroundings in a new light!

Recently, I saw a Facebook post by a friend exclaiming that SW PA was boring, and I couldn't help but exclaim ‘you're doing it wrong!' Connect with your community, look for the beauty and newness in your most familiar surroundings and you may be surprised with what you discover!