We’ve got the details on where to ride steam-powered trains and see dinosaur fossils with the kids on a shoestring budget in the Scranton area.
Northeastern Pennsylvania is a region filled with natural beauty and American history, and in and around Scranton, you can experience great family-friendly attractions without breaking the bank. Read on to get some Electric City-adjacent entertainment ideas. From inexpensive museum trips to free bike rides, there are numerous ways you can have a great time in the Scranton area on the cheap — or even for free!
Steamtown National Historic Site
This national historic site, a working railyard, is great for kids who love trains (i.e., almost all kids). Steamtown National Historic Site chronicles the steam rail heritage of NEPA, offering exhibits and experiences on the importance of steam locomotives during the Industrial Revolution. You can even experience history up close with a ride on a real steam-powered (or diesel-powered) train! Short train rides depart from the station for 15- or 30-minute tours, though families can also book longer excursions in advance (with varied pricing). Check the national historic site’s website for information on upcoming rides.
Cost: Historic site: Free. Short train rides: Adults and kids 6 and older $6; kids 5 and under $1.
Electric City Trolley Museum
If your little one loves trolley rides, the Electric City Trolley Museum is sure to be a hit. Conveniently located downtown next to the Steamtown National Historic Site, the museum offers another deep dive into the wonders of early industrial transportation. Scranton was the site of the nation’s first all-electric trolley system, and a visit to the museum includes vintage trolleys, a kids’ exhibit that includes an open trolley, and model trolleys both stationary and chugging along. Trolley rides are seasonal, though the museum will host numerous activities, including trolley rides, over Presidents Day weekend.
Cost: Museum admission with a trolley ride: Adults $12; seniors $11; kids ages 3-17 $10; kids 2 and under are free.
Nay Aug Park
Nay Aug Park is the largest park in Scranton, and there are ample kid-friendly attractions including waterfalls, a cool rocky gorge, and a treehouse. There are also two playgrounds for kids to explore. If your kids’ little legs can carry them two miles, you can take a short walk on the Davis Trail and see a 20-foot-tall waterfall; the trail is open year-round and is ideal for a picnic lunch. You can also find and visit the Dave Wenzel Tree House along the trail. The treehouse is set 150 feet above the gorge, offering a great view of the scenery below. When you’d like to head indoors, the Everhart Museum is also located within the park.
This museum, located inside Nay Aug Park, is the only art, natural history, and science museum in the entire region. The Everhart Museum has permanent natural history exhibits that are certain to excite kids, like the fossil gallery that includes a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaurus rex skull. Many of the fossils are even from the NEPA area, as anthracite coal (a fossil fuel) was formed from fossils. While the museum is a treasure trove of objects and experiences, it’s also affordable. Adults pay just $5 to enter while kids under 12 are completely free. Note the museum is closed until February for maintenance.
Cost: Adults $5; seniors and students $3; kids 12 and under are free.
Lackawanna River Heritage Trail
Best experienced in the warmer months, the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail is a beautiful trek alongside the Lackawanna River that’s perfect for biking. Because the trail is relatively flat, kids are likely to find the bike ride easy and fun. If you and your family don’t have bikes, consider wandering part of the trail on foot, which will still allow you to get outside and admire the river. Or, would-be cyclists ages 16 and older can participate in Lackawanna Heritage Valley’s free bike-share program. Simply present a license or state ID to rent a bike for free from one of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley BikeShare locations.
Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour
The education on anthracite coal mining via the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour is certainly experiential. Visitors take a ride in a mine car 300 feet below the surface of the earth to visit a real coal mine. Inside, the temperature is a little chilly — always 53 degrees — so you’re encouraged to bring a light jacket. A miner will guide your group during a one-hour walking tour, explaining the ins and outs of anthracite coal mining so you can return to the surface with the knowledge of how NEPA helped first power the country. Note: Tours are seasonal and operate from April through November.
Cost: Adults $10; kids ages 3-12 $7.50; kids 2 and under are free.
Anthracite Museum Complex
The complex is made up of three attractions, the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum, the Scranton Iron Furnaces, and Eckley Miners’ Village where your family can learn the history of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal industry and the immigrants who worked in the mines. Exhibits recreate miner living conditions and allow visitors to imagine what it was like to leave behind everything you know to create a new life among the mines of NEPA. You can also explore — or picnic near — the Scranton Iron Furnaces, which are blast furnace remains of the Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company. Finally, Eckley Miners’ Village is less than one hour from Scranton and is a living history museum of an old company mining town.
The heritage museum is open from March through December, though group tours may be arranged in January and February when the museum is otherwise closed. The Scranton Iron Furnaces are open during daylight hours year-round. Eckley Miners’ Village is open weekends in January and February before it transitions to regular operating hours.
Cost: Museum: Adults $7; seniors $6; kids ages 3-11 $5; kids 2 and under are free.
Scranton Iron Furnaces: Free.
Eckley Miners’ Village: Adults $8; seniors $7; kids ages 3-12 $6; kids 2 and under are free.
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