With a population of just over 46,000, Altoona, PA is nestled deep in the Alleghany Mountains. It is located about halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Because it was built around the railroad, Altoona suffered a small industrial decline. However, the city is building, renovating, and shining with culture as it brings Altoona back to the Pennsylvania economy. Visitors to the area can take in historical sites, a rich heritage of cuisine, and entertaining shows.
1.Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark
Horseshoe Curve was designated a national historic landmark in 1966. Since its designation, it has become a point of interest in Altoona. Today, over 50 freight trains still pass through this curve daily. At 2,375 feet in length, Horseshoe Curve is a marvel that allowed travelers and freight to move through the Alleghany Mountains.
Today’s guests can enter the visitor’s center for more information on Horseshoe Curve’s construction and history, as well as purchase souvenirs. The “Funicular” and a nature walk take guests up to the top of the curve, where they can watch one of the daily trains pass by.
1300 Ninth Avenue, Altoona, PA 16602, Phone: 814-946-0834
2.Railroaders Memorial Museum
© Railroaders Memorial Museum
Guests can connect their trip by visiting Horseshoe Curve and then the Railroaders Memorial Museum. The American Railroad is considered one of the great contributions of the industrial revolution and employed thousands of workers in Altoona alone.
Housing three floors of exhibits, the museum has exhibits that look at life on the railroad, traveling by train, how to run the railroads, and a special look at how Nazi saboteurs targeted the Altoona railroad area. Guests look at past ethnic neighborhoods and how all ethnicities came together to work and live the railroad life. A special exhibit about railroad worker’s wives showcases how hard the women worked at home.
1300 Ninth Avenue, Altoona, PA 16602, Phone: 814-946-0834
3.Peoples Natural Gas Field
© Danny Hooks/stock.adobe.com
Seating 7,210 people, Peoples Natural Gas Field was originally named the Blair County Ballpark. This baseball-only stadium is used today by the minor league baseball team the Altoona Curve. This park has been named one of the Best Views in the Minors because it overlooks the Allegheny Mountains and the “Skyliner” rollercoaster in nearby Lakemont Park. Attendees have a wide range of seating and expense choices, including Skybox seats, first base bleachers, and a picnic pavilion. Visitors that select one of the picnic areas will enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet without the hassle of bringing their own food or clean-up.
1000 Park Ave, Altoona, PA 16602, Phone: 877-992-8783
Around the corner from the Peoples Natural Gas Field, Lakemont Park has been pleasing visitors since 1894. Lakemont Park houses 30 attractions; three are roller coasters and three are water rides. The rest of the rides are popular attractions throughout amusement parks, like the swings, the Tilt-A-Whirl, and a Ferris wheel. For an extra fee, visitors can tackle the Go-Karts tracks, an inflatable bounce house, paddle boats and a miniature golf course. Living up to its name, Lakemont Park also has plenty of green space for visitors to relax in nature and walk trails as a family.
700 Park Avenue, Altoona, PA 16602, Phone: 814-949-7275
5.Altoona Community Theatre
Altoona Community Theatre has a subscription listing of over 1,300. Since 1993, Altoona Community Theatre (ACT) has won several awards at state and regional competitions for outstanding acting, outstanding original script, stage managers’ award, and best production.
Over the years, ACT has performed musicals (Mamma Mia!, ), classic plays (My Fair Lady), classics (Romeo and Juliet), and children’s shows (Bunnicula). Between four and six shows are produced each season, so guests should plan accordingly. ACT also holds seminars for training and education. For those spending the summer in Altoona, ACT offers a children and teen’s summer program.
1213 12th Street, Altoona, PA 16603, Phone: 814-943-4357
6.Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
© Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) is a sweeping museum that now encompasses five satellite locations. Along with traveling exhibits, the SAMA houses over 4,000 permanent works of art. The collections include painting, drawings, sculptures, and prints from local and international artists. SAMA houses art from some renowned artists, as well, such as Andy Warhol and Mary Cassatt.
Depending on when they visit, guests can attend one of the many annual fundraising and professional development events. These events combine food, wine, music, and art into a unique experience, such as during The Art of Wine and Fashion and Blue Monday.
1210 Eleventh Avenue Altoona, PA 16601, Phone: 814-945-4464
7.Blair Country Historical Society, Inc.
© Blair Country Historical Society, Inc.
The Blair County Historical Society looks at the significance of Altoona, PA throughout the past century. Highlighting the Baker’s Mansion is one way that the Blair County Historical Society shows the affluence of some of Altoona’s residents, like ironmaster Elias Baker who built the mansion in 1849 for $15,000, during its golden age.
The historical society also sponsors a WWII exhibit, showcasing the reach the war had in a quiet town like Altoona. Visitors can also learn about why Altoona was a Nazi target. Another point of interest may be the Baker Mansion Lecture Series, which is free attendance (though a donation is suggested).
3419 Oak Lane, Altoona, PA 16602, Phone: 814-942-3916
8.Quaint Corner Children’s Museum and Discovery Center
© Quaint Corner Children’s Museum and Discovery Center
For families with little ones, a stop at Quaint Corner Children’s Museum and Discovery Center can provide hours of entertainment and education for children. The Mission of Quaint Corner is to teach children through engaging play, allowing tactile memory to hold better than lecture might.
Built over four floors, each exhibit includes playtime and learning. From the third floor’s stuffed animal hospital to the basement’s climbing wall, children are engaged from the moment they step through the doors. Quaint Corner offers several special events throughout the year, including a visit from Santa and birthday parties.
2000 Union Avenue, Altoona, PA 16601, Phone: 814-944-6830
9.Finelli’s Italian Villa
© Finelli’s Italian Villa
Built from the ashes of the restaraunt Dutch Kitchen, Finell’s Italian Villa opened its doors in 1993. Since its opening, the family has remained the face of the restaurant, with the owners still acting as bartender, host, manager, and chef. The menu combines old-world Italian cuisine with American fine dining featuring fish, veal, beef, and chicken dishes.
Along with soups and salad, appetizers are abundant. Some appetizers include drunken mushrooms, Grandma Gallo meat and cheese board, steamed mussels, and artichoke hearts cooked in garlic, wine, parmesan cheese, lemon, and butter. Enjoy a glass or bottle of wine with your meal.
1808 4th Avenue, Altoona, PA 16602, Phone: 814-943-8510
10.Mama Randazzo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant
© Mama Randazzo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant
This restaurant was founded by a first-generation of two immigrants from different provinces in Italy. Mama Randazzo’s combines authentic Sicilian cuisine with American pizzeria specialties. Hot and cold subs, French fries, burgers, and wings round out normal American fare, while the Italian menu includes fresh pasta dishes, pizza, Stromboli, and calzones.
Mama Randazzo is dedicated to keeping their ingredients fresh. Cheese is sliced and shredded in-house daily. All sauces are made with olive oil, fresh plum tomatoes, and basil. Fresh coffee beans also are ground daily to provide fresh espresso, cappuccino, and lattes. Patrons can order online, on-site, or by phone.
1600 Broadway, Altoona, PA 16601, Phone: 814-943-9011
Eat’n Park restaurants are a chain that was established in 1949. Offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, they aim to offer healthy and fresh food every day. In 2018, Eant’n Park spent $20 million on locally sourced ingredients through the FarmSource program. Each day, vegetables and fruit are cut for meals and the endless fruit & salad bar.
Whether customers visit for breakfast and partake in their bananas foster French toast or a breakfast combo (called a smile), or they prefer to have a freshly hand-breaded fish filet for dinner, there are numerous menu options available.
137 Bowling Lane, Altoona, PA 16601, Phone: 814-943-4070
11 Best Things to Do in Altoona, PA
- Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark, Photo: Michael/stock.adobe.com
- Railroaders Memorial Museum, Photo: Railroaders Memorial Museum
- Peoples Natural Gas Field, Photo: Danny Hooks/stock.adobe.com
- Lakemont Park, Photo: arinahabich/stock.adobe.com
- Altoona Community Theatre, Photo: bellakadife/stock.adobe.com
- Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Photo: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
- Blair Country Historical Society, Inc., Photo: Blair Country Historical Society, Inc.
- Quaint Corner Children’s Museum and Discovery Center, Photo: Quaint Corner Children’s Museum and Discovery Center
- Finelli’s Italian Villa, Photo: Finelli’s Italian Villa
- Mama Randazzo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, Photo: Mama Randazzo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant
- Eat’n Park, Photo: ilolab/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Michael/stock.adobe.com