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Altoona was built on rails. The town has a long history as a railroad center and is still a destination for rail buffs thanks to its fine Railroaders Memorial Museum, which illuminates the lives of rail employees from freight engineers to porters. In addition, the Juniata repair and maintenance shops and locomotive construction facility, plus proximity to Horseshoe Curve National Historic Site make Altoona a rail mecca. The Curve was one of the world’s most remarkable engineering feats of 1854, built entirely by crews with picks and shovels. Its design enabled trains to climb a steep grade over the Allegheny Mountains, a problem that had ...

Altoona was built on rails. The town has a long history as a railroad center and is still a destination for rail buffs thanks to its fine Railroaders Memorial Museum, which illuminates the lives of rail employees from freight engineers to porters. In addition, the Juniata repair and maintenance shops and locomotive construction facility, plus proximity to Horseshoe Curve National Historic Site make Altoona a rail mecca. The Curve was one of the world’s most remarkable engineering feats of 1854, built entirely by crews with picks and shovels. Its design enabled trains to climb a steep grade over the Allegheny Mountains, a problem that had stymied western expansion of the Pennsylvania Railroad for decades.

Two of the interrelated branches of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) are located in the area. The Altoona facility was designed with state-of-the-art exhibition and storage space for quarterly exhibitions and a rare collection of albumen photographic prints by the official photographer for the Pennsylvania Railroad at the turn of the 20th century. The Loretto facility at Saint Francis University serves as headquarters to the SAMA complex and is a repository for the permanent collection of American art.

One of Altoona’s most prized possessions is Lakemont Park, home of the world's oldest roller coaster, Leap-the-Dips. Built at the amusement park in 1902, the historic wooden roller coaster was named a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The eighth oldest amusement park in the United States, Lakemont Park features more than 30 rides and attractions, including Island Waterpark, two rollercoasters, and an 18-hole miniature golf course.

Nearby Fort Roberdeau was constructed during the American Revolution in 1778, to protect workers producing lead for Continental Army bullets during the war. The rural 230-acre tract features a reconstructed Revolutionary War stockade surrounding six log cabins, an 1858 barn with exhibits and a museum shop, an 1860 farmhouse, and three nature trails. Once on the rural frontier, the fort is still beautifully situated for a peaceful day in the country.

Joanne Miller
About the Expert

Joanne Miller is the author of several Moon guidebooks, including Pennsylvania Handbook, Chesapeake Bay Handbook, and Maryland/Delaware Handbook.

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Joanne Miller for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late spring through early autumn — the best weather is in the fall.