My last two posts were basically an extended lament about leaving Lancaster and returning to the NEPA motherland. I hope you didn’t get the wrong idea. While I am genuinely sad about leaving Lancaster, I’m not necessarily upset to be returning home.
Sure, Lancaster has a lot of things Northeastern PA doesn’t. For one thing, it’s not a whole trip just to go to Walmart and grab some toiletries. Culturally, there’s a lot more going on. There’s more music, more interesting restaurants, and more craft beer. I could walk places in Lancaster. Cities like Philly and Harrisburg were easily accessible by both car and train. NEPA has none of those things.
But, NEPA is home. NEPA is where my family lives. NEPA is where I’ve experienced most of my major life milestones. It’s where the house I grew up in is. It’s home-base for my family and friends. I’m comfortable here and I’ve always envisioned myself settling down here for good someday. I just didn’t think the someday would be 28 years old.
Regardless, now that I am home, I’.m excited for all the things I could do here, that I couldn’t do in Lancaster. Some are old favorites, while others will be completely new experiences.
I always say that NEPA is underrated and a very off-the-radar, as a weekend or day-trip destination. Hopefully some of the things about NEPA that excite me, may get some of you ansty to head north. Without further ado, and in no particular order (and by no means is this list all inclusive), here are some things I’m excited to do/experience now that I’m back home:
Sunday Fundaying at Arlo’s-
Arlo’s is one of my favorite overlooked bars, on what we’ve dubbed the “northern tier tour.” I actually gave it it’s own post back in the day, because you could literally do anything there. They have a bar, live music, mini golf, ice cream, a general store, bed and breakfast and gas station (and I’m sure I’m missing some things!). They also have live music with no cover every Sunday.
The older I get, the more I enjoy a good Sunday outing. You usually start around 2, you’re done by 8 or 9 and you don’t have to spend all my Monday recuperating in bed. While, the music they get, isn’t exactly my cup of tea, they do get a fun, happy crowd. I went over Labor Day Weekend, and it was a nice, relaxing way to end the weekend.
Hike the Nicholson Bridge–
Last Columbus day, when I was at Elk Mountain’s fall festival my mom, brother and I ended up really liking the work of a local photographer. Being we were at Elk Mountain, a number of the shots were of it (my mom ended up getting me a really nice one for Christmas), but there were also a number of other Susquehanna County landmarks, most notably the Nicholson Bridge, featured. I was always aware this bridge existed, but seeing the photos that day put it back on my radar.
The Nicholson Bridge, also known as the Tunkhannock Viaduct, is an old concrete railroad bridge, that for 50 years, was the largest concrete structure in the United States, and when it was built, was the largest concrete structure in the world.
While the bridge is actually still in daily use, I think it’d be fun to hike up to the top and take some pictures (I’m actually happy it’s still functioning because that gives me an excuse to not walk out on it). Maybe one of them could make it to the Penn Live greatest views in PA photo series I’m currently obsessed with.
Easy Access Cross Country Skiing-
This is what I’m probably most excited about moving home for. I love cross-country skiing. I think it’s probably my favorite athletic activity and my favorite thing to do outdoors. It’s also the reason I could never live below the Mason Dixon line full-time. After four years, I finally did find somewhere to ski in Lancaster (Central Park), but there was only a handful of days where there was near enough snow. Luckily for me, NEPA could sometimes be a whole different climate from southern PA (the Lehigh Tunnel is the magical changing point) and Forest City is even its own climate some days, seperate from NEPA. We still get a lot of snow that’ll stick around for a while, and since my home is connected to the local rail trail, I don’t even need to load up the car (unless I want to, of course). to XC ski. When it snows, my goal is to XC ski at least three or four times a week.
I’m also excited that I might have gotten a few of my friends onto the XC ski train and am excited to get a group together for an XC ski bar crawl. There’s a section of the old D&H railtrail, where one could ski from The Beacon to The Candlelight to the newly opened Herrick Lodge to the aforementioned Arlo’s, without straining yourself too much.
Hiking Elk Mountain-
Elk Mountain Ski Resort is only about 15 minutes from where I grew up, and if you also were lucky enough to live near a ski resort (I don’t actually downhill ski myself), you probably know they are great places to go hiking in the spring, summer, and fall. What I like best about hiking Elk is that unlike some hikes, you could go up and down (maybe even twice) in under an hour, so if you want a hike but don’t want to spend all afternoon doing it, it’s a great pick. It’s also straight uphill the entire way and makes for a great workout and because there’s so many trails to choose from, you don’t get bored doing the same hike over and over and over. The top is a great view as well.
Find Stone Face-
The Stillwater Cliffs, in Uniondale, PA are another of my favorite local hiking spots. Apparently, somewhere up near there is a carving known as “Stoneface”, which is exactly what it sounds like: a man’s face carved into a rock. I remember hiking to it when I was a cub scout way back in the day but would like to find it again. Here’s a link I found with a very old picture of it.
Visit All the NEPA Craft Breweries-
While NEPA does not have anywhere near the amount of breweries Lancaster did, or its own ale trail, it does have a burgeoning craft beer scene (that I documented earlier this year here). I’m excited to make day trips out to the various breweries in the area.
Barhop Scranton and the Lackawanna Valley-
I’m well acquainted (some may so too acquainted) with the bars in the greater Forest City are (my normal stomping grounds). However, I never really venture much farther south than Carbondale, unless I go to Scranton, and there’s a ton of places in between (mostly divey, corner bars aka my favorite type) I could be exploring. And speaking of Scranton, with the exception of downtown and the U bars, I also have a lot of missed opportunities.
Purchase a Set of Snowshoes-
Two years ago in Lake Placid I went snowshoeing and loved it. I swore I was going to buy a pair afterwards and start doing it on my own, but financially it just didn’t make sense. As I said earlier, Lancaster doesn’t keep snow around that often, plus snow shoeing (in my brief experience) is more fun when you’re on more rugged terrain. Cross-country skiing will always be my first winter time love, but I’m excited to add this to my repertoire. I have several places in mind (Simpson’s “Mechanical Mountain” and the previously mentioned Stillwater Cliffs) to snowshoe.
I’m also into going to Chet’s and renting snowshoes with friends. I’m onboard anytime athletics and drinking could be mixed.
This is one of those things that’s been on my bucket list, but now that I’m in NEPA would be a much easier day trip than from Lancaster (although to be fair, it’s actually not a bad trip from there).
NEPA is not known as a foodie destination. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything organic, farm to table or remotely trendy, and you know what? I like it that way. Most of my favorite, decidedly unhealthy foods come from NEPA and I’m happy I’ll be able to indulge whenever I want, and not simply on weekend visits.
I’ve documented most of these on my post about the “cuisine of NEPA” but some places I’m excited to eat include, DG’s bar in Forest City for wings and the best pizza I’ve ever had, everything at Franks (but mostly the Montreal prime rib, boneless wings, shrimp and garlic white pizza and Pittsburgh burger), Pittsburgh cheese-steak at Steve & Irene’s, and Orson Inn for my all time favorite wings.
*There’s also a number of weekend getaways and day-trips I’ve wanted to take, that will be a lot more manageable now that I’m in the northern part of the state. I love going to Boston, for example, which will be a lot easier now that it’s a 4.5 hours versus 7 (and usually more with traffic).
Lake Placid Winter Fun Trip Part III-
I didn’t get up to Lake Placid this year, which really bummed me out. It’s one of my favorite destinations. Now that the driving has been reduced by 3 hours, I wouldn’t mind tacking a day in Montreal to this trip.
Burlington, Vermont is another place that has been on my radar for a while, but was just such a long drive.
Woodstock Museum in Bethel NY-
I’ve been to Bethel Woods before for concerts. My parents recently took a drive out to the Woodstock Museum though and said they know I’d really like it. Maybe now that we’re roomates they could go for round 2, and treat me!
This is not obscene sex act, but rather a swimming hole in the Catskills that I saw on some list of “the best swimming holes in the northeast,” or some other nonsense. It’s about an hour and a half away and would probably be a nice little stop in conjuncture with a trip to Bethel Woods.
Climb Mt. Washington-
I feel like everyone on my Facebook newsfeed was climbing the northeast’s tallest mountain this summer (aka maybe 3 Facebook friends were). Plus, it would also get me to a new state, and ever since writing about New Hampshire and being extremely impressed by their well organized state tourism website, it’s been added to my places-to-go list.
Anyone else out there love NEPA? Know anything I should be excited over (and please don’t insult me by mentioning Parade Day-that’s penciled in every year no matter where I reside).