I used to begin every year with a list of travel/weekend fun related New Year’s Resolutions, and then end the subsequent year going over each one to see if it was a success or a failure. This was stupid for a couple of reasons. I almost always had too lofty of expectations, and realistically was setting myself up for failure.
New Year’s resolutions are overrated. I learned that when I turned 30 last year and inherited all that adult wisdom I’ve been waiting for throughout the duration of my 20’s. First of all they never last. I wanted to be in the best shape of my life in 2017. I just had a pack of Zebra Cakes for breakfast, and have yet to visit a gym (which hopefully will be rectified by the time this is published. It’s currently January 4th). Secondly, it was also a complete waste of good writing on my end, because while a list of 20 places I found interesting enough to want to visit could be an enjoyable and informative read, rehashing that entire list a year later with commentary on if I liked the place or not, or why I didn’t end up going was a futile exercise in self-centered shit diatribe that I’m sure any reader other than me checked out of after a couple of sentences.
So, I’m done with that huge list of overblown resolutions.
I am not done with lists though. I love a good list (see here, here, here, or here for example), both in this blog, and in real life. I’m one of those people who makes a to-do list every morning when I wake up, otherwise I forget everything and my life starts slowly falling apart. I’m also not done with making checklists or potential itineraries or travel wishes. That’s one of my main hobbies and how I got started with blogging in the first place.
So this year I’m not doing a list of New Year’s Resolutions. I am going to do a 2017 checklist. And I’m going to make it realistic. I’m not going to include possible trips to Denmark, Toronto, Key West, Glacier National Park, or the Twin Cities, even though all of those are places I’d love to visit in 2017 in an ideal world. This is a checklist of places, hikes, and activities I think I can feasibly manage to whittle away at over the course of this year.
I’m also giving myself the caveat that all of these must be in Pennsylvania. When I created this blog, the rationale was that while it’s Pennsylvania-centric, I’m absolutely going to talk about anywhere you can travel easily FROM PA, as well as some trips I just happen to take that are a little more involved. It’s why you see a lot of upstate New York, New England, and Maryland represented. However, I always wanted celebrating Pennsylvania to be the main focus, as I do believe it’s such an underrated place to both live and visit, and sometimes forget that. This checklist will both force me to focus a bit more on what I wanted to focus on originally, and also will hopefully force me to go and experience some of the places and things I’ve written about year after year, however never actually done.
So, without further ado, here’s my 2017 PA Weekend Fun Checklist. If you have any suggestions you think this absolutely needs, by all means, let me know.
Plan a Visit to Cherry Springs State Park:
Cherry Springs State Park is located in Potter County, PA, about 3.5 hours from Browndale (my home town, which I normally refer to as just NEPA or “Scranton” because it’s a tiny blip on the map that even people from 20 miles away have never heard of), and is one of 18 designated “dark sky parks” in the United States, and one of only 2 located east of the Mississippi. Dark sky parks are those that are so removed from artificial lights that they ensure maximal astronomy potential. I’ve never really been super into space. Don’t judge, but it actually freaks me out when I think about it too existentially, in regards to how small we are in relationship to the universe, and what if we are just marbles for some giant aliens a la the ending of Men in Black? I’m getting way off track here. Anyway, I do think it’d be cool to go spend the night sleeping under the stars, where the stars are bigger and brighter then what I’m normally used to. Bonus would be if I could stay there during its annual Woodsmen Show.
PA Grand Canyon-
This one is long overdue. I’ve been saying I need to make it hiking/kayking to the PA Grand Canyon for a couple of years now, and need to make it happen. I actually think a combined weekend trip with Cherry Springs might be a good way to kill two birds with one stone, as it does happen to be en route. This is the preferred hike I’m thinking of taking.
Hike the Wissahickon Gorge-
Wissahickon Valley Park, a section of Philadelphia’s famed Fairmount Park, is built around a gorge carved out by a seven mile stretch of stream by the same name in the Northwestern portion of the city, most notably behind Manayunk, which is how I’m personally familiar with it (fun fact, if you take a wrong turn getting off the Manayunk exit on 76 you do get a nice tour of the park). I think what’s really appealing about this park is that you could essentially do some real hiking, within the Philadelphia city limits, as there’s over 57 miles worth of trails. This blog is a great resource for the various hikes throughout the gorge.
Attend an Event in the Laurel Hill Cemetery-
This is again something I’ve written about for a couple of years, yet have never done. The Laurel Hill Cemetery is a historically significant cemetery off Philadelphia’s Kelly Drive, not that far from Wissahickon Valley Park. What makes it unique is that the cemetery holds monthly events that range from tours of its historically significant residents, tours that focus more on urban legend and the occult, to masquerade balls and movie screenings, complete with open bars.
Go Airboarding at Montage Mountain-
Airboarding is essentially adult sleigh riding down a closed (or designated) ski slope, and currently the only mountain in Pennsylvania offering it, Montage Mountain, is literally 10 minutes from where I work. It’s a shame I haven’t done this yet (in all fairness I have attempted twice, and both times been derailed by dinner/local bar).
Again, something I’ve written about extensively, but not yet conquered (the reason for this post is becoming more and more apparent, I hope). The Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Nazareth) is by all accounts a very interesting area, and one of those areas that’s only growing, and becoming more interesting it seems every year. They also have a pretty great beer scene, and I believe were the first of the organized “ale trails” popping up around the state. This particular ale trail is pretty condensed, making completing all stops in a day, or at least a weekend, a feasible option.
Explore the Breweries of Southern York County-
I’ve explored the breweries in York city (I particularly like Liquid Hero), but never in the countryside surrounding it, which happens to be a beautiful area; very pastoral with sweeping views of the Susquehanna River, and an easy day trip from Lancaster, which I try to visit often. I’ve made up a little itinerary for myself, of places I used to check out when I used to live just over the river in Lancaster, combined with some new places my research has yielded. First stop will be Pig Iron Brewing Co., which is actually over in Lancaster County, in Marietta, because I’m assuming I’ll be staying in Lancaster city. The Pig Iron Brewing Co. is a new brewery and smokehouse, which is what’s really drawing me, as well as the nostalgia, as this is located in a little dive bar I’d been too a couple times when living there. Blackcap Brewing is located in a renovated old post office in Red Lion, while the place I really want to visit Wyndridge Farms, is nearby in Dallastown. You may be familiar with Wyndridge Farms due to their popular cider, but they also have a brewery on the premises, as well as a restaurant, and it looks like a plain old cool place to spend the afternoon. Gunpowder Falls has also been around for a while down near the Maryland border in Shrewsbury, and I’d like to actually dip down below the Mason-Dixon line to end this at Falling Branch Brewery in northern Maryland, which is an actual farm brewery located in a barn.
Erie is not only somewhere I’ve written about visiting before, but somewhere I should probably write about more (I really do neglect western PA if it’s not Pittsburgh adjacent). It’s the only city in PA that touches one of the great lakes, Presque Isle State Park is supposedly beautiful, and Erie also has a legit craft beer scene.
Visit both Reading Terminal and Philly’s Italian Market-
One of the things I miss most about living in Lancaster, and one of the places I always make sure to visit when I return, is its Central Market, which happens to be the oldest running farmer’s market in Pennsylvania. As someone who likes to eat, it’s fun to be able to sample an abundance of food, all in one place, for reasonable prices. Reading Terminal Market is probably the most famous farmer’s market in the state, and unlike Lancaster’s in which the focus is on local produce, Reading Terminal has more focus on deli’s, restaurants, and specialty shops. To make matters worse, my sister lived just 4 blocks from this for the past 3 years (in my defense, she did live only 2 blocks from one of my main loves, Wawa). The Italian Market, made famous by Rocky’s running montage, is close to her new apartment, so I hope to be able to explore that sometime soon.
Hike 1000 Stairs-
1000 stairs isn’t a euphemism. It’s a hike in Central PA’s Fulton County that includes 1000+ stone stairs (1036 by one online account) carved into the side of a mountain. The stairs are there because of a now defunct sandstone mining outfit located up the mountain, and while this hike doesn’t look that technically difficult or overwhelming, the stairs, combined with the abandoned mining area on the top sure makes it unique. This blog post was where I got most of my information from.
Footgolf is what happened when soccer and golf had a love child, which is exactly what it sounds like: it’s played on a golf course, and instead of teeing off with a club, you kick a soccer ball towards what I’m presuming is a much larger hole. There’s quite a few places in Pennsylvania with footgolf courses open, and this website illustrates them. If you want to see it in action, this story by WNEP does the trick.
Visit Forest & Main Brewing Company-
I could probably make a post simply of the different breweries I’d like to get to, so I’m going to try and limit it to brewery areas (such as the aforementioned Lehigh Valley Ale Trail), and the one on the top of my list, which is currently Forest & Main Brewing Company outside Philly in Montgomery County’s Ambler. I like the look of this place (it’s essentially in a very picturesque house), I like that their list is constantly rotating and experimenting, and their popcorn game looks strong.
Bowl at Rohman’s Inn-
I recently learned on my Catskill brewery crawl that there’s a divey pub in Shohola, PA that has an old-fashioned, two-late, set up your own pins bowling alley upstairs. I feel like this bar was customized just for me. I love random shit like this.
Cross Country Ski at the Inn at Starlight Lake-
This is another one that I’ve been talking about for years, and is way too close for me to not have experimented with yet. The Inn at Starlight Lake is only about 20 minutes from my home and offers a series of XC Ski trails. Bar + XC Ski = Happy Me.
Visit the Nicholson Viaduct–
I wish I had a better excuse for this one other than being an Instagram whore.
Complete a Philadelphia Rooftop Barcrawl-
Start Checking off the Philadelphia Breweries-
I’m in Philly far too often to have only checked out Yards. There’s a ton of places right in the city confines, and while it doesn’t have to be an entire day (although this post makes a great case of how to do that), I really could start checking these off one by one any time I come down to visit my sister, or friends. Here’s a list of what I’ve been missing.
Attend the Sly Fox Bock Fest & Goat Races-
I will be sorely disappointed if this one doesn’t happen.
Sly Fox is one of my favorite PA beers, whose breweries I’ve never been to, which for the most part I’m ok with, simply because I’ve tried most of their beer, and it’s easy to find/buy when I’m down in Philly. However, I need to make it to their Bock Fest & Goat Race. This annual tradition, which has been going on since 2000, is held every year on the first Sunday in May. Sly Fox celebrates the release of their seasonal beer with an outdoor festival, complete with live German Oompah music, vendors, food, and the titular goat races. I’m going to let their website do the talking, because it does it more justice then I’d be able to. They write, “The first heat begins at 2:00pm and the races generally run for an hour and a half. And to honor the hard work and sacrifice of the Goat Race champion, the name of our Maibock is named after the winning goat and ceremoniously tapped directly after the conclusion of the race. In years past, we’ve had between 40-60 registered goats. It’s intense. And delightfully weird.” They had me at “delightfully weird.” Furthermore, the website informed me,”Afterwards, some of the goats and their owners mingle with the crowd!” I never though mingling with goats would be something on my bucket list.
What about you? What local PA places and attractions do you want to check off in 2017? Anywhere you really think I should add (keep in mind I’m trying to keep this list realistic)?