Looking to get out of the city, but not sure where to go? I’m a big fan of mini-roadtripping outside of New York, and this day-long excursion to Pennsylvania is one of my all-time favorites. Here’s the itinerary.
Destination #1: Yuengling Brewery – 501 Mahantongo Street, Pottsville, PA
First stop on the agenda is the Yuengling Brewery, the oldest continually-operating brewery in the United States. After all, is there a better way to spend the morning than drinking free beer?
The brewery is located in Pottsville, a beautiful little town nestled in between the Pennsylvania hills.
In fact, the hillsides rise pretty dramatically, and many of the 19th century Yuengling buildings are built into the ground at an incredible angle:
German immigrant David Jungling opened the Eagle Brewery in 1829 on Centre Street; it was relocated to its current address following a fire in 1831. The “Yuengling” name was adopted in 1873, though the eagle remains the company’s symbol to this day.
The tour through the ancient brick factory buildings is free and runs every day except Sunday (check the website for details). You’ll learn the history of the company, hear about how they survived prohibition (brewing “near beers” and ice cream), take a walk through the bottling plant (running on weekdays), and even visit the underground caves where the brewery used to store their kegged beers.
Probably best to have something to eat on your drive out to the brewery, as your final stop will be the tap room, where you can try two generous samples of the various Yuengling products (helpful hint: have everyone in your group agree to get a different beer, then share).
As you head back down the steep hills of Pottsville to your car, try and figure out who’s the most sober, because it’s time for the next stop…
Destination #2: Whistler’s Mother – Hoffman Blvd, Ashland, Pennsylvania
As you’re heading to destination #3, take a swing through Ashland, PA, and you’ll come across an odd structure overlooking the quaint valley town: an eight-foot monument featuring an oversized Whistler’s Mother.
How did this come to be? In 1937, the town decided to build a monument honoring local mothers. The WPA stepped in, and this large bronze scuplture was the result. Not exactly the warmest mother you could depict for such a purpose, but she’s been keeping a glaring eye over the town ever since.
Destination #3: Pioneer Mine – 19th & Oak Streets, Ashland, PA
About ten blocks away is our next major stop: the Pioneer Mine, which takes you 1,800 feet into the mountainside on an historic mine car to visit a defunct anthracite mine.
In operation from 1911 to 1930, during which time millions of tons of coal were hauled out, exploring the mine is really interesting – and eerie. Once you’re deep within the Earth, the only sound you’ll hear is dripping water; when you come across the cave-in display, you’ll suddenly realize how screwed you’d be if such a thing were to suddenly happen. Below, the escape hatch:
Keep an eye out and you’ll see veins of anthracite layered in with the rock:
Unfortunately, the mine tour is only open from April through October, so you’ll have to wait a few months to include this in your itinerary. But it’s absolutely worth it, if only to wear the stylish jackets offered for free to combat the perpetual 52-degree temperature in the mine:
Destination #4: Centralia, Pennsylvania
The next stop is probably one of the strangest places I’ve ever been in my life: Centralia, PA.
In 1962, a burning trash pit started an underground fire in the coal veins snaking beneath Centralia, and over 50 years later, it continues to burn as hot as ever (estimated at 1,000 degrees at its core).
Since 1962, most of Centralia’s 1,200 residents have left, primarily due to the dangerous toxic gas leaks that could occur at any time (be careful what you breathe when you visit). Today, the abandoned houses have all been razed, leaving behind an eerily empty grid of streets.
It’s not hard to find evidence of the fire. Depending on how hot it’s burning the day you visit, chances are pretty good you’ll see smoke rising up through the cracked pavement of the abandoned streets:
Be sure to visit one of the cemeteries on the outskirts of town. On the day we visited, the ground was incredibly hot to the touch, and there was something distinctly unsettling about the thought of all those bodies roasting a few feet below us…
Destination #5: Cabela’s – 100 Cabela Drive, Hamburg, PA
If your goal is to feel as far from NYC as possible, it’s definitely worth a stop into the Costco of hunting stores, Cabela’s – er, unless you’re not a fan of dead animals.
This hunting mecca is dominated by a fake mountain covered in taxidermied animals. Surrounding it on all sides are guns, guns, and more guns, which you can pretty much pick up and play around with as you’d like. Also, there are a bunch of delightfully tacky mini-rooms set up to inspire your decor.
At this point, you’ve been to a brewery, a monument to motherhood, an old coal mine, a ghost town, and a hunting store. Chances are, you’ll want to start heading back to New York.
But! If you’ve got it in you for one more destination, I recommend stopping by the final resting place of one of Hollywood’s most famous starlets…
Destination #6: Jayne Mansfield’s Grave – Fairview Cemetery – Middletown Road, Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania:
A sex icon of the 1950s and 60s, Jayne Mansfield hailed from the little town of Pen Argyl, and it’s here that she’ll be spending eternity.
It’s not hard to find Mansfield’s grave – it’s exactly what you’d expect (yes, that says “We live to love you more each day”) (and no, contrary to urban legend, she was not decapitated in the car crash, nor was her head buried separately under her Hollywood Forever Cemetery cenotaph):
I did this trip a few years ago and had a great time. Even better, there are plenty of interesting things to see along the way outside of the itinerary, and I guarantee you’ll have a memorable day. I’ve plotted the route on Google maps here – just add or remove what you want to visit. And be sure to check schedules!!
1) Leave NYC around 9-9:30
2) Yuengling factory tour around 12 (be sure to check schedule!)
3) Whistler’s Mother/Mine tour around 2 (be sure to check schedule!)
4) Centralia around 3:30
5) Cabela’s around 5
6) Jayne Mansfield grave around 6
7) Head back to NYC.
Enjoy! And if you have a favorite roadtrip itinerary outside of New York, definitely let me know.