Escape From New York: Roadtrip Pennsylvania!

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?

Yuengling Brewery

Picture courtesy Flickr User Team K Online

The brewery is located in Pottsville, a beautiful little town nestled in between the Pennsylvania hills.

1004 Pottsville 040

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.


Photo by Flickr User Douglas Muth

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:


Photo by Flickr User BicycleMark

Keep an eye out and you’ll see veins of anthracite layered in with the rock:

A vein of coal

Photo by Flickr user BicycleMark

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).

Steam on Hammy's Hill

Photo by Flickr user Macwagen

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:


Photo by Flickr user Erin M

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…


Picture by Flickr user BicycleMark

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.

Cabela's - Lacey, WA

Photo by Flickr user E53

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!!


My advice:

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.


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  1. Been to brewery, your right well worth the drive. Lots of old coal mines in the area too.

  2. Never suggest a visit to Cabelas without recommending Roadside America miniature village. Stay for the show ever 20 minutes. Nothing like it anywhere.

  3. I will second the Roadside America visit but will add that if you get hungry on your trip you should stop at Yocco’s ( just off Rt 78 for some of the best Hot Dogs you’ll ever have. Get them with an order of pierogies and enjoy! If you want to eat before or after your tour at the brewery then try Sarge’s Soup N Sandwiches on Centre St. Get Sarge’s Taco Sub and you won’t have to worry about driving after those two samples at Yuengling.

  4. take a little detour on 222 (off of 78) you can hit Crystal Cave as well. Seems to fit in with the sights already on the list (seasonal).

  5. During Nov/Dec the town of Hawley has a 1930’s-1940’s train that they take out and you get to go for a ride through the Pennsylvania mountains.

  6. Was Valkenvania in the 1991 movie, “Nothing but Trouble” based on Centralia?

  7. Nick, I probably wouldn’t make it much past Yuengling. Take tour, visit tasting room, share, sounds like a plan to me. Not sure if I could whistle at someones mother after that.

  8. how much of Centralia are you allowed to walk around/explore? Do you just drive to edge of town and walk as much as you dare, or are there barriers or anything to keep you out? I live in Southeastern PA and that looks like an interesting trip

    • All of Centralia is open for you to explore, there is literally nothing stopping you from walking/driving/whatever wherever you want to go.

  9. Lysa, Anthony, let me triple your Roadside America recommendation. A true gem.

    Scout, fyi Pottsville is also the birthplace of the great John O’Hara, and many of his novels and short stories are set in and around Gibbsville, his closely fictionalized version of Pottsville.

  10. Had I know you we’re making this trip, I would have suggested you try to find the lost tunnels of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But then again, that would have been too common a location for a film guy like you! Sounds like you had a fun road trip.

    • Those tunnels are in the movie “The Road,” mainly in the scene where the group with the truck confronts the two main characters.

  11. What a wonderful entry – I was just thinking about this part of the country, earlier today. While I never (alas!) made it to Juengling’s factory, I have ventured through this region on many occasions. Centralia in particular is well worth a visit, although at this point, I’m pretty sure the remaining houses have been demolished. Explore the abandoned highway and steaming hillsides for full effect – also watch “The Town That Was”, a great documentary on the town’s history and present state.

    Roadside America is unbelievably impressive – the sheer magnitude of the place catches you off-guard, and the history behind it is remarkable. Also, please visit Knoebel’s, one of the country’s finest historic amusement parks – it’s just outside of Centralia, in Elysburg. If I could have my ashes split, half strewn at Coney Island and half at Knoebel’s, I’d be a very happy soul. Fantastic post!

  12. The actress Mariska Hargity was Jayne Mansfield’s daughter, and was actually asleep in the car (with her two siblings) when Jayne Mansfield was killed in an accident.

  13. You should have visited the Poconos.. Such a weird place. I grew up there. Lots of abandoned resorts, abandoned mansions and houses….

  14. I can see how Cabelas would be cool if you live in the city, but I was so shocked to see it on this list because in Utah, Cabelas are everywhere! I don’t even hunt and I’ve probably been to five different Cabelas haha.

  15. As mentioned above, Roadside America rocks. Crystal Cave too, but I’m not sure my memory of it as a 12-year old stands for an adult. I’ve been to Centralia a half-dozen times, beginning in the days when most of the town was still there, but mostly abandoned, and the main highway had not yet collapsed. On my next visit every empty home had been torn down, but some had refused to leave, so the occupied row houses on main street no longer had any row for support, just standing alone, narrow and windowless on each side, where the walls used to be shared were still covered in the paint or wall paper of each missing interior. Flying buttresses had been put up to support those weird walls.