I’ve decided to expand my “10 Easy and Cheap Things to Do in Philadelphia” post to some other places in PA. If you read that, the philosophy behind it was giving you some quick, easy, and cheap ideas for exploring a city a little bit more, even if your main intent is social (aka you’re there to visit friends).
I’ve decided to make this next post about Scranton and will be doing Pittsburgh next week. It always amazes me how many people I run into who have been to Scranton. I’m not saying it’s not a great tourist destination (because it is and it should be bigger) but it’s just that a lot of people simply know it as the location of The Office and as somewhere lampooned on SNL due it’s economic depression.
While I’d hazard to guess that some main draws would be parade day or nearby skiing at Elk or Montage Mountain, it seems like a lot of people have been to Scranton to visit friends. This makes sense as The University of Scranton (the best of the group), Marywood, Keystone, Lackawanna, and Penn State Worthington are all either in or very close to the city and if you’re visiting someone in the general NEPA region, chances are that you’ll find yourself in Scranton as it is the epicenter of development here (unless you visit me, then we’re heading in the opposite direction for the northern tier bar tour).
This list was admittedly much harder than I would have liked it to have been and some of these things will require a drive out of town. This is a summer/fall/spring list. I’ll do another one in the winter and probably have less trouble. Here we go:
1) Hike Nay Aug Park:
I’m a big Nay Aug Park fan, mostly because in college we used to schlep a cooler up here and drink in the gorge when we felt like we wanted a “naturey” day, just thinking of it has me getting all nostalgic. The gorge is definitely the highlight of the park. There are marked hiking trails and viewing platforms, but there’s also a network of trails that go to the bottom of the gorge and offer a more strenuous workout and better scenery.
Bring a bathingsuit as you could definitely swim in some spots but use common sense and don’t try jumping off any of the waterfalls. People legitimately have died here in the past.
Lake Scranton is also a popular hiking spot but I’ve somehow never been.
2) Explore the University of Scranton and Stop by Kegs and Eggs (seasonal):
You might actually hate this if you’re not a University of Scranton alumni (or you might end up loving it) but I had to include it as it’s legitimately the only thing I ever want to do in Scranton on a Saturday. For real though, the University of Scranton (or “The U” as us locals call it) sits on a hilltop overlooking Scranton is has a really gorgeous (and recently renovated) campus that easily warrants a walk through. Then, there’s “Kegs and Eggs.” When school is in session Oscar’s, one of the two school bars located on the corner of Taylor and Mulberry, opens at noon. My friends and I discovered this our senior year and became staunch disciples of spending gorgeous NEPA afternoons in a dark and smoky bar. It’s a good time, they play excellent music, and there’s generally a good deal of alumni there lest you’re scared of feeling old. It’s the best.
The Mall at Steamtown (where families shop!) wasn’t just named that arbitrarily, The Steamtown National Historic Site and new (it’s probably over 10 years old but in NEPA we have a tradition of labeling anything built after the 90’s as new. See: The Casey Highway) Electric Trolley Museum are directly behind the mall (you could reach them via a bridge from the food court). They’re not a bad way to spend an hour or two if you’re interested in the history of NEPA, trains, and/or trolleys are if you just want some new facebook photos posing in some trains and trolleys.
4) Coal Mine Tour:
I’m a big fan of the Lackawanna County Coal Mine Tour. Located in McDade Park, this will actually take you down inside a refurbished coal mine. I’ve been on this several times (we used to go every summer at the day camp I worked at in college) and it never failed to impress me.
5) Day-drink Downtown:
Downtown Scranton has a pretty good bar scene and downtown Scranton during the summer is pretty great because of all the bars with outdoor seating options (which is rare in NEPA). Trax, Coopers, and Kildares all have decks but the most fun is probably the Backyard Alehouse which has it’s own backyard you could hang out in. Whiskey Dicks does not have outdoor seating but is where you should probably head once things start getting rowdy.
6) Day-drink in a Nearby Town:
Too many drinking options? Welcome to NEPA. It was always the joke growing up that every town in NEPA had to have at least two bars, funeral parlors, and pizza places which isn’t all the inaccurate (unless you grew up in Browndale which only has houses and an ice cream shop). Even some of the smallest town’s in NEPA are able to host legitimate bar crawls (including my favorite bar town Simpson which has a population of 2,178), so pick a town off the map (Throop, Old Forge, Jessup, Jermyn, the possibilities are endless) take a drive there an spend your day dive bar hopping.
7) Jet Ski Lake Wallenpaupack:
This will require a half hour drive and will cost you $50 (if you put two on a jetski), but I think there’s something funny about telling people you were jetskiing on your weekend in Scranton.
8) Lion Brewery Tour:
The Lion Brewery produces Lion’s Head and Stegmaier, the local beer of the Lackawanna Valley and is the 2nd largest brewery in the state (after Yuengling). The Brewery is just outside WIlkes Barre and while it doesn’t run a tour anymore, there is a restaurant and bottle shop on the premises for you to check out all the local brews.
9) Drive to Carbondale and go to Lunch at the Carawanna:
There’s not a lot to explain here. The Carawanna has amazing greasy diner food (although it’s not a diner) and worth the twenty minute drive (it’s an easy drive). If you want to be like me order two plain hot dogs, two chocolate milks, and split fries with whoever you’re with. If you’re a chilli fan, go nuts.
10) Lahey Fun Park:
Lahey Family Fun Park is not somewhere that’s necessarily going to give you a feel for Scranton but it was where we used to spend “sober fun days” in college playing mini golf and riding go carts so I’m going to use it to finish up this list.