Fred Rogers' neighborhood just got bigger.
Pennsylvania has honored the creator of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" with a three-day, self-guided trail along 15 sites associated with Rogers' life. The trail begins in Rogers' hometown of Latrobe and its ends in Pittsburgh, the city where he filmed "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
"With the alignment of 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' 50th anniversary and the popularity of trails, we thought we had this unbelievable moment in time," said Carrie Fischer Lepore, deputy secretary for marketing, tourism and film at the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, and reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this summer.
"[It] blends a special anniversary with a quaint small town, a happening city and a human being we all love and admire," she said. "[We] invite neighbors from all across the country to come celebrate Mr. Rogers."
And how appropriate to be thinking about "Mister Rogers" at this time of year. As this Google Doodle explains, Sept. 21 is the day Rogers walked into the television studio at WQED in Pittsburgh to tape the very first episode of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood." You'll love the animation they created to mark the day:
Day 1 on the trail
While folks can start the trail wherever they want, its official beginning is in Latrobe. Here, visitors can scope out Rogers' high school, Latrobe High School, which has memorabilia from both the show and Rogers' own time in high school, and Latrobe Presbyterian Church, the church he and his family attended when he was a child. Other spots include Rogers' burial site at Unity Cemetery and the statue pictured above in James H. Rogers Park.
The highlight of Latrobe, however, is The Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College. Established in 2003, the center houses costumes and props from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as well as information compiled from the extensive archive related to the show and Rogers' life. These materials, numbering more than 16,000 items, include personal letters, drafts for other television programs, awards and viewer mail.
If you have children in tow, or if you're just young at heart, a visit to the Idlewild & SoakZone just outside of Latrobe in Ligoneir may also be required. The well-regarded amusement park long featured a "Mister Rogers Neighborhood"-themed attraction before it was converted a "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" attraction in 2015. It's a fun way to experience a connection to Rogers while also enjoying some carnival rides.
Days two and three on the Fred Rogers Trail will have you exploring Pittsburgh, and at a much slower pace than your whirlwind visit in Latrobe. The big attraction here is the Senator John Heinz History Center. In addition to exhibits dedicated to stunning photos from the Post-Gazette's history and various things invented in Pittsburgh, there's the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood exhibit. If you think the Fred Rogers Center is nifty, this will really scratch your "Mister Rogers" itch. Boasting the largest collection of "Mister Rogers"-related items on display to the public, the exhibit includes a portion of the show's original set, King Friday XIII's castle, Great Oak Tree and plenty of puppets and other show props.
After you're done at the Heinz History Center, you can head across the Ohio River to visit the Tribute to Children. This site, opened in 2009, offers a pleasant view of the river and the Pittsburgh skyline. The reason for Rogers fans to visit, however, is the 10-foot-tall bronze statue of the man sitting on a bench and tying his sneaker.
Other recommended stops on day two include taking a ride on the Duquesne Incline trolley — it's not exactly the show's trolley, but it's close! — and a visit to the outside of WQED, the TV station where "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" was filmed. (Sorry; the station is generally not open to the public.)
There are two final stops on the trail. The first is the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, which includes an exhibit called "Fred Rogers & Us." The exhibit includes original puppets from the show, costumes worn by Rogers and some iconic photographs.
The second stop is the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh. In addition to educating folks about trolleys, the museum was the filming location for some of episode No. 1531 of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood." It's the episode about grandparents, and it's a decidedly sweet one. (It also includes tips on making your own trolley!)