Altoona, Pennsylvania sits east of Pittsburgh by 100 miles, with close proximity to the beauty and lushness of the Allegheny Mountains. The town was originally developed in 1849 as a train switch point for The Pennsylvania Railroad. The idea was that other city locomotives would trade their cargo for stronger, superior locomotives in Altoona, making it easier for imports to get over the mountains.
With the railroad came settlers; mostly workers that toiled their days away in the nearby mines or on the railroad itself. The city became a tester and guiding light for businessmen and builders towards 1864, when the wooden railroads between Altoona and Pittsburgh were replaced with steel. Most of those railroads still stand to this day, as their contribution to national transportation is revered throughout the United States.
Traveler-wise, Altoona offers beautiful sights to see, with the mountains to one side, and lush forests to another. The inner city is rife with amusement parks and lots of entertaining activities for kids and families, while the downtown district bustles with a few nightclubs and bars in the evenings. There’s always something fun and exciting going on in Altoona.
The seasonal festivals celebrate everything from the arrival of springtime, to summertime ball games, to autumn leaf changes, to the wintry holidays. Locals always find a reason to have fun, and those celebrations are mostly held in local parks with big pavilions for live music performances.
The Railroaders Memorial Museum, Allegheny Portage Railroad, and Samuel Lemon House
The railroads, as you read in the first paragraph, are significant points in Altoona history. And the Railroaders Memorial Museum pays tribute to those histories. The museum, separated into exhibit sections, is dedicated to the memories of the ones that worked on and for the railroads, as well as the railroad systems and locomotives themselves.
There are plaques, guided tours, and self-guided tour options, all offering loads of educational info about the railroads and Altoona history. Visit the gift shop on your way out to snag a souvenir dedicated to “cool, old-fashioned train stuff.”
Near the Allegheny Portage Railroad which operated 1834 to 1854, the National Park Service operates not only the museum, but the Samuel Lemon House. Located alongside the railroad in nearby Cresson, the house was once a popular tavern and stop for railroad passengers. The NPS also maintains a portion of reconstructed track, exhibits in an engine house, hiking trails and a picnic area.
Lakemont Park is an amusement park that was founded in 1894 and settled on 51 acres of well-kept grounds. Located on Park Avenue, Lakemont features on the world’s oldest rollercoasters, named the Leap-the-Dips. It’s been restored on several occasions and still runs great. There are also 3 other big coasters, 3 water rides, and a number of fun, pay-as-you-play carnival games.
The amusement park plays hosts to several events and festivals, especially during the holidays. Their lights display is one of the best in Altoona, where car-loads of people drive through the park to see thousands upon thousands of twinkling Christmas lights to the tune of old-fashioned Christmas carols.
At the gift shop, you can snag a few holiday-themed souvenirs, and indulge in a cup of homemade hot chocolate.
Altoona is home to over 130 restaurants, all featuring different cuisines and delicious dishes
However, the top-ranked, number-one restaurant in the city is Finelli’s Italian Villa—an Italian restaurant that serves authentic Italian cuisine with an upscale feel. All of their meals, sauces and desserts included, are homemade. The restaurant is family-owned and operated, so all of the recipes come from long lines of hand-me-downs in the Finelli families.
Some of the best menu items include drunken mushrooms, fettuccine Alfredo, gnocchi with meatballs, lasagna with hot sausage, manicotti, and ravioli. The desserts and pastries are ever-changing on the menu, with a list of cappuccinos and espressos that make perfect pairs to whatever sweet treat you sample.
If you prefer a nostalgic dining atmosphere, look no further than Tom and Joe's Restaurant. Serving up great eats for 75 years, the restaurant has the look and feel of a diner. Come dine for breakfast and order up a made-to-order omelet or chow down on sp,e hotcakes or steak and eggs. Daily lunch specials are offered and include several entrees as full plated meals or sandwiches and sides. Don't miss the shakes and pies . . . they're outta this word and prices here are quite reasonable!
In the mood for some fresh brick oven baked pizza and something from the tap? Head over to Marzoni's Brick Oven and Brewing Company. Whether you are looking for appetizers like soups, nachos, or wings, sandwiches, salads, large entrees, (steak fish, crab cakes, pasta, etc) or a hand-crafted pizza, the food and atmosphere are excellent. Plus, try one of the seven local beers brewed on site, order a cocktail or enjoy a glass of wine. A full children's menu is available as well. TripAdvisor locals and guests love Marzoni's and rank it among the top 5 restaurants in Altoona.
Stay at one of best hotels in Altoona, PA!
There are dozens of places to stay in Altoona, Pennsylvania, but only a select few are top-rated as the best in the city. Four of those top-ranked Altoona hotels include Microtel Inn & Suites, Quality Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn Altoona, and Super 8.
Microtel Inn & Suites
Microtel Inn & Suites on Valley View Boulevard is a high-ranked hotel with a gorgeous, well-kept exterior and a renovated, beautifully furnished interior. All-modern and super-cozy, the hotel offers a slew of accommodations for all kinds of guests. For instance, there’s free high-speed internet, free daily breakfasts, free parking for guests, room service, self-serve laundry facilities, a business center with internet access, dry-cleaning services, and a fitness center. For fun, take a dive in the heated, indoor swimming pool. Or, relax with a good book in the well-furnished, super-peaceful hotel lobby.
Quality Inn & Suites
Quality Inn & Suites on Pleasant Valley Boulevard is a go-to for families, singles, couples, and basically any kind of traveler. They even cater to business professionals, with a business center, meeting rooms, and conference facilities.
For everyday guests, accommodations include a fitness room, free daily breakfasts, free parking spaces, and self-serve laundry facilities, free high-speed internet, and free basic cable with movie channels. This is a basic, no-frills hotel that offers you simple, comfortable features to make you feel at home.
Fun-wise, take a tour of the Boyer Candy Factory, less than 2 miles from the Quality Inn, for samples of homemade chocolates, fudges, hard candies, and other indulgent treats.
Hampton Inn Altoona
Just off of Charlotte Drive sits the Hampton Inn Altoona—which is ranked THE best hotel in the city. Where other hotels feature studio set-ups, the Hampton features suites, with separate seating areas, two queen-sized beds, a spacious bathroom, and a kitchenette. In other words, all of the homey luxuries you would need for a fantastic, comfortable stay.
Other notable hotel features include access to a fitness center, a heated, indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, free high-speed internet, free basic cable, free parking for guests, and laundry services.
Guests also love the free daily breakfasts with grab-and-go favorites, like yogurts, bagels, muffins, fresh fruit, and juice, coffee, or milk. For fun that requires balance, patience, and a sweater, hit up Galactic Ice to hone your ice-skating skills on a community rink.
Located on Fairway Drive, the Super 8 is a nice, decent, clean hotel that offers simple, comfortable accommodations with no frills, no nonsense, and homey vibes. Feature-wise, you can expect clean rooms, plush beds, complimentary toiletries, fluffed towels, fresh linens, and close proximity to shops, restaurants, and attractions in Altoona. Guests love the complimentary daily breakfasts, which feature grab-and-go favorites, as well as a DIY waffle maker. Love sports? Check the schedule for the Peoples Natural Gas Field for baseball games by local minor leagues.
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