Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in St. Marys, PA

  • Published 2023/03/24

Experience the best things to do in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, a quaint city with a rich German Catholic history.

Are you looking for antiques, historic sites, and local breweries?

Then you’ve come to the right spot.

It seems like you’d benefit from a visit to St Marys, a small town in Elk County.

In 1842, a group of German immigrants established the town and named it Marienstadt (Mary’s City).

These immigrants were Bavarian Catholics who fled persecution in East Coast towns.

The National Register of Historic Places has listed several buildings in the St. Marys Historic District on its record.

Beer, a commodity commonly associated with Germany, has become a household fixture in the area.

Get free beer every weekday at the Straub Brewery’s Eternal Tap, which is open to the public.

Read on if you want to discover the best things to do in St. Marys, PA.

Take Photos by the Quaint Decker Chapel

Exterior of the small Decker Chapel

Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Decker’s Chapel is one of the world’s tiniest chapels.

It tells the tale of German Catholic immigrants who arrived in North America in the early 19th century.

These immigrants established a settlement in the wilderness of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

About 1856, they completed the building’s original structure.

It has since been transformed into a beautiful chapel.

In 1928, the community built a memorial in honor of Monsignor Michael Joseph Decker, son of the Chapel’s first architect.

In 2016, Decker’s Chapel got a thorough refurbishment.

When it became necessary to accommodate guests in wheelchairs, they rebuilt the ancient piled stone foundation and strengthened the floor.

This St. Marys landmark is open to the public year-round.

The chapel invites visitors to sign the guest book in this peaceful spot of meditation and reflection.

Try Various Activities at State Game Lands Number 25

Explore the 24,117 acres of State Game Lands No. 25 in Elk County.

The city of St. Marys and the towns of Jones and Ridgway in Elk County share this recreational area.

A dense forest covers the landscape, with long valleys and flat mountain summits.

Bears, deer, turkey, and elk are the most common animal species here.

Try sport hunting throughout the over 1.5 million acres of State Game Lands, which the County has acquired, managed, and maintained.

Nature studies and boating are popular pastimes in the area, as are fishing, hiking, and birding.

Taste German Beer at Straub Brewery

In business for more than a century, the Straub Brewery has produced handcrafted beer for the St. Marys community.

If you’re looking for a spot to sample some of the best brews in St. Mary’s, the Straub Brewery is a fantastic place to begin your explorations.

You can join an hour-long brewery tour and a beer from the ever-flowing immortal tap.

Every Thursday, stop over for some BBQ and a drink.

The Straub Brewery is a terrific place to bring all your friends and enjoy the excellent atmosphere, delicious cuisine, and even better beer.

Spot Historic Structures in the St. Marys Historic District

The St. Marys Historic District is filled with historical buildings in various architectural styles.

Additionally, there are several historic churches in the area.

The oldest standing structure in the area is a stone building, constructed in 1845.

William P. Ginther also designed the Sacred Heart Church and the expansion to the St. Joseph’s Convent.

These buildings are the earliest structures in the district, built in 1907.

The St. Marys Historic District features a mix of architectural styles, including Italianate, Greek Revival, Romanesque Revival, and the French Second Empire.

You can also find buildings in the Queen Anne style, Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical Reconstructionist, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival, and Bungalow.

Many buildings are also early examples of locally produced “artificial stone.”

In 1998, the National Register of Historic Places added the district to its record.

Cool Off and Have Fun at the Memorial Park

When Charles Houston, H.J. Brock, and R.E. Smith served on the Saint Marys Service Men’s Club Board of Trustees in 1945, it was a watershed moment.

They were the first to express an interest in Memorial Park’s development.

As a monument to World War II soldiers, the park contains a vast woodland playground large enough and well-built so that parents may join the fun.

You may play baseball, or tennis, or just run around in this scenic park.

The St. Marys community pool is also in the park, so you and your children may cool off on a hot day.

Go Fishing at Laurel Run Reservoir

The 150-acre Laurel Run Reservoir is heaven for anglers.

The lake’s two-story nature means that, barring seasonal closure, fishing possibilities are open year-round for both cold water and warm water fish.

For fishing enthusiasts looking to catch trout, Laurel Run Reservoir is a great place to go.

You can catch a wide range of stocked trout species.

On the other hand, some fishermen may try catching the lake’s abundant bass and small panfish concentrations.

It’s possible to catch yellow perch in this area as well.

If fishing isn’t your thing, this is a great place to go for a walk or take in nature’s sounds.

Try Various Outdoor Pursuits at St. Marys Sportsmen’s Club

The St. Marys Sportsmen’s Club was formed to promote hunting, fishing, and shooting.

In addition, the club promotes, supports, and participates in the breeding and protection of fish and other animals.

The organization aims to foster cooperation and camaraderie among all sports enthusiasts, advocate regulated rod and gun use, and encourage strict adherence to Pennsylvania’s game and fish regulations.

Also, the club consults and advises the state’s game and fish authorities on crucial problems affecting the future of hunting, fishing, and shooting in the state.

You can join hunting safety training and conservation leadership programs, which are part of the club’s mission.

Otherwise, you can hold events like birthday parties, baby showers, reunions, and wedding receptions in the clubhouse.

The lodge, recreation room, barn, and pavilion are open year-round.

Go Hiking at Benzinger Park

Benzinger Park is a great place to enjoy the outdoors while preserving nature.

Go hiking on its 1.3-mile circular route.

This straightforward route takes about 15 minutes to complete on average.

There are several ways to enjoy this trail, from hiking and walking to biking and rollerblading.

You can enjoy its facilities including basketball courts, baseball fields, and pavilions, as well as a playground.

You may either watch or participate in a soccer match.

The restrooms are likewise in excellent condition.

It also features a concession booth for quick bites.

Swing Your Clubs at Bavarian Hills Golf Course

Elk County’s only 18-hole public golf course is Bavarian Hills Golf Course.

You’ll be challenged by a range of elevation changes, stunning vistas of the Western Pennsylvania mountains, and greens.

This course will make you want to play again and again and again.

Golf Digest has given the course three-and-a-half-stars for “Places to Play,” thanks to its restaurant, bar, and lounge on-site.

Students must dress appropriately for the course.

The course bans golf shoes with ceramic or metal spikes to keep the greens in the best condition possible.

It has a beautiful family-friendly ambiance with a stunning golf course view.

Play a game or practice your swings a the course.

Spend the Night at 316 N. Michael

You can admire the craftsman-style woodwork in this recently rebuilt version of the century-old house.

Today, it’s a holiday rental property.

If you’re spending a few days at St. Marys, stay at 316 N. Michael if you like a cozier atmosphere.

This two-story historic home has five bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms, and a terrace.

Because of its central location in St Marys, you can easily access nearby restaurants and attractions.

Go Antique-Hunting at Shadows of the Past

For those seeking a one-of-a-kind experience in St. Marys, check out the Shadows of the Past antique shop.

Visit Shadows of the Past to see their collection of stunning antiques, from little ceramic displays to large oak furniture.

Visiting this store is a good idea if you’re seeking some inexpensive wall decor for your home.

Shadows of the Past has a great selection of crockery and figurines if you’re into antiques.

This place is one of St Marys’ most popular tourist attractions, for a good reason.

Don’t forget to check out their toy collection.

Bring Home Souvenirs from Morning Glory Hill Greenhouse & Gift Shop

The Morning Glory Hill Greenhouse & Gift Shop is a family-owned store in St. Marys.

This gift shop’s home and garden section are jam-packed with unusual finds.

Browse the shop’s silk and floral arrangements, wreaths, whirlygigs, and wind chimes are just some of the handcrafted silk and floral arrangements.

The shop has essential oils, scented candles, and other potpourri-related products.

It also features a greenhouse where customers may buy fresh food during business hours.

You’ll never know what you’ll discover here, but its rates are always reasonable.

Even if you’re just window shopping, looking around here is a lot of fun.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Goblin Chocolates

Making Goblin Chocolates takes time and effort, but the results are always worth it.

To maintain its high-quality standards, its chocolate maker crafts its products in small batches and packs each item by hand.

Doing it this way allows the maker to contact you if you have any issues with your purchase due to inclement weather.

Goblin Chocolates is an independent chocolate maker and distributor.

Aside from its physical store in St. Marys, you may also buy chocolates from Goblin online.

Play a Short Game at the Leaning Pines Public Golf Course

The Leaning Pines Public Golf Course offers a short round of play at its 9-hole layout off South Michael Street.

This municipal links of St. Marys has been giving local and visiting golfers a quick shot at their passion since 1926.

This public golf course plays par 35 over 2,882 yards from its back tees.

The rating of Leaning Pines Public Golf Course is 34, while its slope rating is 119 on Bent Grass.

A driving range with 20 tee placements is available here for golfers to practice their swing.

Tackle the West Creek Rails to Trails

The West Creek Rails to Trails extends over 18 miles and connects St. Marys to Emporium, the seat of Cameron County.

This is a four-season pathway where you can go not only hiking, running, and biking but also snowmobiling and cross-country country skiing.

The crushed-stone trails follow the former tracks of the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad that served the St. Marys area starting in the 1860s.

It’s easier to tackle the West Creek Rails to Trails from St. Marys, as the route goes downhill.

Along the way, you’ll likely chance upon wildlife, such as elk, deer, and wild turkeys, especially when you cross the northern boundary of State Game Land No. 293.

Catch a Tour of the Hoffman Appalachian Farm

The Hoffman Appalachian Farm and its sprawling acreage off Taft Road, is an interesting place to visit.

This farm grows the barley and hops used to brew the quality beers of St. Mary’s famed Straub Brewery.

The Hoffman Appalachian Farm is a staunch advocate of organic agriculture.

Over the years, it has worked to become a certified naturally grown farm.

You can join an Agriculture Bus Tour of this farm which the Elk County Conservation District organizes or contact the farm directly for a visit.

Enjoy the Local Vibe at the Wildwoods Bar & Grill

The Wildwoods Bar & Grill is a family friendly restaurant where you’ll feel the vibe of local history.

This dining venue is located in the former building of the Elk Casino on Washington Road in the former site of the Elk County fairgrounds.

You’ll see charming local art displayed in the dining area of Wildwoods Bar & Grill.

Among the favorites of diners here are rib steak and fish fry.

Onward the evening, this restaurant focuses more on the bar scene and hosts live music performances.

Shop Local Goodies at the St. Marys Farmers and Artisans Market

The St. Marys Farmers and Artisans Market offers the wares of some 18 local vendors.

This market for locally grown and produced items is held every Saturday morning from early July to mid-September.

You’ll find the tents and tables of the St. Marys Farmers and Artisans Market set up at the municipal parking lot on Market Street in the city’s downtown district.

Shoppers’ choices in this market include corn, tomatoes, onions, flowers, baked goods, artisan wares, and more.

Educational and fun activities for kids are also part of the attractions in the St. Marys Farmers and Artisans Market.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Enjoy a Family Retreat at Bendigo State Park

River surrounded with trees at Bendigo State Park

Clint, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you looking for a spot for a fun family outing?

Take a 21-minute drive from St. Marys to Jones Township, Pennsylvania, to reach the Bendigo State Park, a picturesque valley surrounded by hills.

The 100-acre Bendigo State Park is a great place to get away from it all.

Half of the park is a vast picnic area with plenty of shaded areas, while the other half is more developed.

Visiting Bendigo State Park with children is one of the best things you can do with your family during your St. Marys trip.

The forest comprises northern hardwoods like maple, birch, cherry, and beech, making it a great place to go tree-spotting with your kids.

Did you know that the park’s river is a great place to fish?

Grab your fishing gear, and have a great day fishing with your kids.

Tour the Bucksgahuda and Western Railroad Headquarters

The Bauer brothers acquired a German-built steam locomotive from Trains magazine and brought it to St. Marys through Philadelphia.

The first engine house had to be constructed around the locomotive since the first 15 feet of rail were installed here shortly before it arrived.

They purchased additional equipment, rails, ties, and supplies as time passed.

In 1981, Joyce National Powder Co. of Eldred (PA) donated the whole plant railroad.

Since then, the project’s popularity has grown even further, adding equipment every year.

Most pieces of machinery are used to help transport gunpowder, tanning skins, dry paint pigments, pulpwood, or other commodities during processing.

Initially, “Otto” was used in road repair and dockside switching projects.

This locomotive is used in a few industrial plants today.

However, the adaptability of forklifts and trucks has allowed rubber-tired vehicles to undertake many of the roles traditionally performed by plant railways.

As of today, this family-owned railroad is open to the public for a few weeks each summer.

It’s always a good idea to stop by during an open house.

All of the volunteers are kind and well-versed in their respective fields.

You can find this place in Kersey, Pennsylvania, seven minutes from St. Marys.

Final Thoughts

The city of St. Marys, in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds region, is an excellent starting point for exploring the area’s parks, woods, rivers, lakes, and mountains.

However, don’t overlook St. Marys because it is also a fantastic vacation spot for the whole family.

Make the most of your time in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, by exploring the attractions on our list of the best things to see and do in the city.

Book your trip today!

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