GTFO of NYC 001: Scranton, PA
NYC is the center of the universe and you’ve had just about about enough of it’s bullshit. This post isn’t for finding cute little Vegan bakeries in Bushwick, this is a plan for catching up with the REST of the world.
Destination: Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Yeah, you read that right. The point of this series is not about doing what you know makes you comfortable, but to catch up with what you’re missing by being inside the vortex.
Scranton is a straight shot out of NYC (makes it easy to get to) on I-80; set the cruise control and in a 120 miles you’ll be there.
Great, so why?
Scranton was founded in 1866 and soon became a major contributor the American industrial revolution, its hills were mined for coal to heat homes and drive steam engines. The Lackawanna Railroad (Scranton is located in Lackawanna County) was the resource super highway that brought the steel, stone and labor to construct the beast that is NYC. Scranton and NYC had symbiosis that is now lost to history. But you can visit to see what the relics of a nation building looks like.
Eating at Carmen’s
Upon arriving, you’re going to be hungry. Scranton is filled with working class heritage that attracted large groups of “ethnic Catholic families”, particularly Italian and Irish. Since the Irish weren’t much for food (hey! I can say that…I’m both), I’ll advise you to focus on some Italian classics starting with Carmen’s. Carmen’s is located in what is currently a hotel, which used to be the old Lackawanna train station (see it fits with the theme!). The interior has grand architectural accents cast in marble, arching wood work, and stained glass. This building is a throwback to the heyday of this city in the roaring 20s when buildings were built to last forever and plastic facades of Las Vegas hadn’t set a new (low standard) for presentation. The food is good too. They are known for a decadent brunch with all sorts of rich features like chocolate fountains, omelet bars, etc. The regular dinner menu has Italian standards.
After lunch don’t bother getting into the car, you can take a stroll down the block to the Steamtown National Historic site. Scranton takes its nickname from its railroading heritage. This train yard was carefully restored in the 90’s to bring back its original luster. You’ll find MASSIVE steam engines that have the sort of raw, muscular mechanical aesthetic that demands a degree of reverence. The Steam Punk aesthetic was born in these yards. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of climbing around these half-million pound machines, that could, in almost literal terms, haul an NYC high-rise across the American countryside.
Check out that coal mine
Once you’re done there, it’s time to “dig” into the impetus for all this machinery. Head over to McDade Park where you can actually board a miniature railroad car and descend deep into the dark earth and explore a real coal mine. If you’ve never had a similar experience it can be both terrifying and fascinating. You’ll get to learn about the intense work environment and fascinating social context of American labor in the early 20th century.
Finally, after all that history, it’s time to tie-one and and take part in the OTHER major cultural influence in Scranton; having a pint at an Irish bar. There are a lot bars in Scranton you can check out, but the one that has amaximum kitsch factor is called The Bog and is located on Adam’s Ave in downtown scranton.
Opened in the early 90’s, the bog has a no-nonsense, working man’s approach to a good time. There’s beer, a jukebox and good people.
If you can’t figure how to have fun, it’s ok, just head back to NYC.
700 Lackawanna Ave, Scranton, PA 18503
Steamtown National Historic Site $
350 Cliff St, Scranton, PA 18503
McDade Park $
1 Bald Mountain Rd, Clarks Summit, PA 18411
The Bog $
341 Adams Ave, Scranton, PA 18510