Daycation Destination: Historic Canonsburg big on chocolate, candy and celebrations

Sep. 3—Satisfy your sweet tooth with a daycation road trip to the unofficial chocolate capital of Western Pennsylvania in historic Canonsburg, located 18 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in Washington County.

Sarris Candies, a family-owned chocolate mecca, has been a sweet tradition for more than 50 years in Canonsburg.

Founded by the late Frank Sarris, Sarris Chocolates continues under the leadership of Frank's son Bill.

From its humble beginnings at the home of Frank Sarris, then from a small chocolate shop in Canonsburg, the factory now commands an entire block that houses the ice cream parlor, candy store and factory. Look for the bright red roof with the Sarris name along Adams Avenue and step inside for a confectionery-­themed experience.

While factory tours are no longer offered, customers line up inside the old-fashioned Sarris Ice Cream Parlour to order specialty ice cream creations like The Chocoholic ($8.95), made with one scoop each of double chocolate, chocolate and chocolate chip ice cream topped with hot fudge, freshly roasted nuts and chocolate sprinkles.

The store features a handmade 1,500-pound chocolate castle — available for selfies and viewing — among chocolate confections, candies, stuffed animals, penny candy and unique gifts.

Susan and Jim Morgan of New Eagle Borough are Sarris regulars.

"We just got hooked on it," Susan Morgan said while enjoying chocolate ice cream after a kayaking excursion.

Sarris Candies is at 511 Adams Ave.

Musician mecca

Canonsburg is a little borough with big musical talent.

It calls itself the "Small Town Musical Capital of the World" and has produced several famous crooners, including Bobby Vinton, Joey Powers, The Four Coins and Perry Como.

A bronze statue in Como's honor stands in front of the borough office in downtown Canonsburg.

Retail rebound

The downtown business district is building back after decades of neglect since coal and other industries faded.

The borough is rich in steel and coal heritage. A trolley operated from Washington County to Pittsburgh until 1953.

A stroll down modern-day Pike Street offers a variety of retail and dining options, including Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop, Linda's Hometown Bakery, The Nook on Pike, Well Oiled, Hidden Treasures City Mission Thrift Store, John's Trading Post, Annabelle's Antiques, Iceburg's Ice Cream, Chicco Baccello, L&M Flower Shop, Malone Flower Shop and Canonsburg Cake Company.

It's wall-to-wall candy at Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop, home of the $5 candy buffet. Stuff a box full of select candies for $5, as long as the lid will close.

Themed after "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," the candy store plays the movie on a loop and offers wall-to-wall candies, novelty gifts and hundreds of glass bottle sodas.

Based in Pittsburgh with multiple locations, Grandpa Joe's offers more than 250 candy bars and more than 100 types of bulk candies.

Rich history

The Roberts House is the last remaining structure from the former Jefferson College in Canonsburg.

A plaque outside the stone home on North Central Avenue details the structure. Fundraising efforts are ongoing by the Washington County Cultural Trust to restore the home.

"It was the bigger and more successful college of the two colleges (Washington College was the other) of the time. But Route 40 went through Washington, and the county seat was there, and the two colleges merged into Washington & Jefferson College in 1865," said Bob SeCaur, president of the Jefferson College Historical Society.

Canonsburg once housed two major pottery factories.

"Canonsburg had a series of claims to fame. It has managed to evolved multiple times. It was the frontier in the beginning, with agriculture and hunting," SeCaur said.

By the early 1800s, Canonsburg was very well-known for its educational offerings. By the late 1850s, the graduating class at Jefferson College topped 50 students.

The Civil War saw a decrease in enrollment and led to the eventual merger with Washington College.

"The railroad came in the middle of the 1800s along the creek, and then Canonsburg prospered with heavy industry — steel and aluminum manufacturing, and mining," SeCaur said.

Canonsburg occupies land that was originally owned by George Washington.

"John Canon was supposed to be the person that collected the taxes, but Washington had so many holdings that he really couldn't keep a good grasp on all of this, so Canon acquired the land," SeCaur said.

The museum houses Canonsburg-curated artifacts and collectibles and offers a monthly open house. The next one is scheduled for 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 23.

Celebratory Canonsburg

The annual Bavarian Oktoberfest celebration, which is nationally ranked, celebrates its 25th season Sept. 15-17.

Sponsored by the Greater Canonsburg Chamber of Commerce, the German-themed beer and food festival is one of several festivals hosted annually by the borough.

The beer bash is touted by as one of the top 10 Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S.

Canonsburg's annual Fourth of July parade is hailed as the second-largest parade (Philadelphia is first) of its kind in Pennsylvania, with nearly 60,000 attendees lining the 2-mile parade route.

Canonsburg's Old Fashioned Christmas is slated for Dec. 1-2 and will include a Christmas parade, food court, gift markets, Santa, a children's performance center and more.

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—Daycation: Go sky high with skydiving in Mercer

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—Palace of Gold in West Virginia on National Register of Historic Places

—Steubenville, Ohio, boasts world's largest display of life-sized nutcrackers

—Smicksburg offers a rural retreat 60 miles from Pittsburgh

—Agritourism farm tours offer rural retreats in Waynesburg

—Coshocton, Ohio, America's canal town


Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joyce by email at or via Twitter .