A single person can traverse the sites in the Eastern half of Pennsylvania in one to five days and get a feel for the enormity and variety of America as a whole.
A single traveler can start their journey in the heart of one of America’s greatest cities, Philadelphia. The Vine and Race street area of the city is our starting point. There are many fine hotels in the area for the overnight visitor. The Four Seasons hotel is one of my particular favorites. Sister Cities Park is the heart of the area. One the southern side of this park is the Academy of Natural Sciences, one of the oldest and most storied museums in the country with beautiful natural displays of all earth history. On the west side of the park is the Franklin Institute, another beautiful set of scientific exhibits and a great IMAX theater. Within walking distance there is also the Mutter museum, Philadelphia Library, and the PA historical society. One can easily spend a day or two in this area of the city.
After seeing the exhibits a traveler can drive west on route 676 to 76 west to 476 north. The Quakertown exit is a fine rest stop with local hotels, diners, and some eating options right off the highway. Eventually you can exit 476 onto route 78 west, and then take exit 29B onto route 61 north. The route 78/61 interchange is another great place to stop, with restaurants, some shopping and a large Cabela’s store. Continuing on 61 winds the traveler through several small towns and beautiful scenery. After a total drive of two hours since leaving Philadelphia you will be in the infamous town of Centralia.
Centralia is utterly unlike any place in the country, a living ruin due to a coal mine fire, only one lonely house stands left in town. The streets are all still in place and you’re free to stop anywhere and survey the giant rifts in the ground and see the steam and smoke rising out of the ground due to the fire below you, it’s a moving and unique experience.
Traveling northeast down main street in Centralia, the traveler will come to rout 2006 to route 924. Staying on 924 not only affords beautiful scenery but you’ll be driving around huge, 100 meter tall modern windmills. You’ll come upon the quaint city of Hazelton, which is another great place to stop for a break. In the center of Hazelton you’ll come upon route 309, taking it north you will make a right onto route 940 for about ten kilometers and will see signs for Eckley Miner’s Village.
Eckley is another unique destination; it is a reconstruction of an old Pennsylvania company mining town that was built as a set for the movie “The Molly Maguire’s.” It turns out the set was such an accurate reconstruction of the company town experience that some of the cast stay and live there now, and there’s a mining museum at the town entrance. The main street is about a Kilometer long and walking down it will give you the mining town experience.
Continuing down Eckley road you’ll eventually come to route 93 South to 209 South and come to the beautiful town of Jim Thorpe, which has a vibrant downtown shopping district. Continuing down 209 for a few miles will bring you to the Pennsylvania turnpike, route 476 south, which is a direct route back to Philadelphia.
The full round trip will take five hours of driving time and land you back in Philadelphia. Once you return, it’s worth driving over to the other side of the city, Old City, and seeing the Liberty Bell and colonial sites. This trip around the state is a two- to five-day excursion, depending on how in-depth you make your tour. Whatever time you choose to spend, you’ll see some of the best of Pennsylvania, and the best of America