There is no doubt the driving force behind most visitors flooding to central Pennsylvania’s Huntingdon County is Raystown Lake, the state’s largest lake and prime destination for water sports and outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Huntingdon County has scenic tours, historic sites and annual festivals, but there is much more to see indoors than most tourists would expect. Billed as a “great first stop on any Raycation” visitors can check out the Raystown Lake Visitor’s Center or any of eight museums during the offseason or when the weather isn’t cooperating.
The Isett Heritage Museum, just outside of Huntingdon borough, is by far the most eclectic collection of Americana assembled in one place. Enter the first of four buildings housing the 40,000-plus items amassed by Melvin and Beulah Isett to preserve the image of everyday living and you will be stunned by the attention to detail placed on each piece. Everything from a complete interior of a 1950s ice cream parlor to the Victrola that used to sit in a corner of grandma’s house are represented in the collection. Groupings detail the history of technology, preserve the occupations of yesteryear and astonish the imagination of young and old. The two most exclaimed phrases at Isett Heritage Museum are “I’ve never seen anything like that” and “we had one of those.” It’s a true trip down memory lane.
Insider tip: Although the thought of spending hours in a museum may seem daunting, mark an entire afternoon on the calendar for enough time to see everything at Isett’s. It’s easy to lose track of time here.
On the other side of Huntingdon borough hides the natural history of Lincoln Caverns. Not your typical brick and mortar museum, the cave was discovered when a piece of heavy equipment disappeared into the mountainside during the construction of Route 22 and is now celebrating its 89th season.
Lincoln Caverns — which is actually two separate caves — is family owned and operated. Manager Ann Dunlavy welcomes everyone to the cave’s newest adventure: blacklight tours. Once each week, tour participants use blacklights as they traverse underground amongst glowing speleothems (stalactites/mites) and calcite crystals. These and other standard cave tours and educational outreach programs are conducted by well-trained, entertaining guides who provide history, science and environmental facts about the cave and its mostly-hidden inhabitants.
Insider tip: As for lodging in the area, keep an eye on the Edgewater Inn — a short drive from Lincoln Caverns — as owners Keith and Sarah continue to renovate this historic property. Straddling the amenities and comfort between a bed and breakfast and a riverfront resort, the Edgewater has hosted everyone from Penn State University fans on their way to a game to Hollywood stars returning for their favorite slice of pie.
The educational epicenter of Huntingdon County is Juniata College, located in the borough of Huntingdon a mere 23-minute walk from the town’s Amtrak station. The Juniata Museum of Art consists primarily of two-dimensional works highlighted by etchings from Rembrandt and James McNeil Whistler, drawings by Thomas and Edward Moran, and Japanese woodblock prints by Kunisada and Hiroshige. Exhibited pieces rotate regularly. Special exhibitions in April include “Rembrandt: The Consummate Etcher and other 17th Century Printmakers” (through April 13) with pieces on loan from Syracuse University and “Face-Time” (through May 18).
Insider tip: If your trip to Huntingdon is longer than a few days and you need to clean some clothes, schedule a morning at Standing Stone Coffee Company near campus. Named after the town’s monolithic monument to its origins, Standing Stone doubles as a laundromat and coffee shop, which roasts a wonderful Yirgacheffe.
On the way out of town no trip to Huntingdon’s collection of museums is complete without a stop at The Swigart Museum. Considered to be the oldest automobile museum in the U.S., the 104-piece collection rotates and displays 32 to 35 vehicles each year. Always on display are the collection’s 1960 Volkswagen “Herbie the Love Bug” Beetle — number nine of an estimated 50 used in TV and film — and the 1947 Tucker prototype known as the Tin Goose. The highlight for Executive Director Marge Cutright is a 1911 Sears Roadster Model K; yes, it was sold through the Sears catalog! The museum is seasonal and will reopen May 2.