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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oddball Vacations

Okay, maybe not terribly oddball, but indeed places you don't often think of in relation to the word vacation.
The first destination of this series is Scranton, PA. A small city in northern Pennsylvania which until recently lived in mild obscurity to anyone who did not live in the area or those who had never played Sam and Max Hit the Road.
Nowadays Scranton's limelight shines as the birthplace of Vice President Joe Biden, and the setting of NBC's The Office.
I admit, I've never seen The Office, at least not the version set in the states, but I did happen upon this Trip Advisor review that didn't make a lot of sense to me until I wiki'd the place and discovered the connection to the show.
So what would make Scranton a great place to visit?
Well, you are asking the wrong person if you want historiinfmous PAcal sites, museums, area attractions and the typical touristy stuff. For that I suggest the Scranton Wiki Page.
As a native of Binghamton, NY, a city 60 miles north of Scranton, I'm going to tell you about the fun that can be had off the radar.
First of all, lets figure out how you are going to get there. If you are flying, you will fly into Scranton Wilkes-Barre airport, which has one of the coolest airport codes I've ever had the pleasure of plugging into a GDS: AVP. Yep, Scranton's got Alien fanboy cred.
If you're driving in, chances are you will get to see some of the more infamous PA town names like Intercourse and Blue Balls. Personally I like the sign on I-81 that says "JIM THORPE EXIT 1 MILE." Poor Jim, he can't go any farther along the interstate.
There was a great sign a while back, but from what I understand, when they renamed the exits they changed it. It was for two towns and read: Shamokin Pottsville. Yes! The internets win again! Someone posted a picture of the sign HERE.
Lodging in Scranton is not 5 star, or even 4 star, but the econo-class hotels tend to run in the $40-100 range so you still get a bargain.
So what do we do now that we're here?
I suggest shopping. Pennsylvania does not have sales tax on clothing, and Scranton has some of the most fabulous Goodwill and Salvation Army stores around.
Ok, so that was my 18 year old self talking. They also have many malls and Carbondale, a suburb, is one giant strip mall.
Scranton is a very Catholic town, much like New Orleans. But Scranton, and many other Pennsylvania cities, like Eerie, has a who different aesthetic. There are crosses everywhere. Think Verona in the 1996 Romeo + Juliet, or Ozzy's living room. Photography enthusiasts will love this.
Scranton is also rife with urban legends. As a former mining town there are ghost stories galore.
What? You thought I would pick a town without supernatural underpinnings?
Just wait, I'm sending you on a road trip now.
Like I said, Binghamton, NY is 60 miles north. Take a drive up to the town that is not only the Carousal Capital, but also The former home of Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling. And say hi to my folks while you are there :)
I suppose I could also tell you that this part of the country has great skiing in the winter, and tons of festivals and farmers markets as well.
But just for kicks, I'll tell you to stop at the Pump and Pantry for gas and hot dogs. Because that's what I do.

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