17 Super-Fun Things to Do in Scranton, PA
As one final hurrah before the start of school, my kids and I pointed the minivan north and headed for Scranton, Pennsylvania.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Scranton, and what little I did know came from The Office (which isn’t actually even filmed in Northeastern Pennsylvania).
Things to Do in Scranton, PA
Naturally, I was excited to learn that there are so many things to do with kids in Scranton, PA. Even better, it’s all so close in proximity. Here are 17 of our favorite, super-fun things to do in Scranton, PA and Lackawanna County.
#1: See Fish at Electric City Aquarium & Reptile Den
The Electric City Aquarium & Reptile Den isn’t huge, but it is a good way to entertain the kids for an hour or so thanks to a touch tank, keeper-led educational shows and animal feedings.
The aquarium is located inside The Marketplace at Steamtown, a small two-story mall in downtown Scranton with a Starbucks, an Auntie Anne’s, even a dollar store.
Outside the aquarium entrance, let the kids pose inside a shark cage or with a (fake) shark that’s just been reeled in from the sea. We also really liked seeing the frogs, snakes and lizards that were thankfully behind a pane of glass.
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#2: Snap Photos of Colorful Murals
I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of street art in Scranton, but there are a couple of colorful murals worth checking out while in town. From what I hear, more murals are in the works too thanks to the Northeast Art Project.
The first is the SCRANTON mural. You’ll find this one at Courthouse Square, on the side of Levels Bar and Grill on Linden Street.
The second can’t-miss mural is the pastel-colored one that reads “The Electric City.” You can see it as you drive by or park (briefly) at the historic Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel.
Park near the chain link fence for a good photo of this one. It’s a lot safer than trying to take a picture as you drive by on the road below.
#3: Watch a Minor League Baseball Game at PNC Field
Between April and early-September, catch a minor league baseball game at PNC Field, home to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. It’s a top-notch stadium. Every seat is a good one.
Bring a glove. You never know when one of the players will toss a ball into the stands.
We had the chance to see the team play two nights in a row thanks to a kind woman who gave us tickets she couldn’t use while we were at dinner.
The second night, we sat behind second base and my 12 y.o. was lucky enough to catch a ball for keeps. Also, pose with Champ, the team’s lovable big, blue and furry official mascot.
#4: Go Underground at the Lackawanna Coal Mine
Back in the day – like from the mid-1800’s to the mid-1900’s – Scranton was considered the Anthracite Capital of the World. This hard coal has since fallen out of favor and the last anthracite coal mine in the area shuttered in the late 1960’s.
We donned hard hats for safety and descended 300 feet below the earth’s surface into a dark mine that’s a constant 53 degrees year-round. It was so interesting to learn about the workings of the former mine from our tour guide.
I can only hope my kids left feeling fortunate for being able to go to school and play with friends (i.e., not work in a dark mine six days a week). The mine is open for tours from April 1 through November 30.
#5: Burn Off Energy at McDade Park
Once you finish up underground at the Lackawanna Coal Mine, head back above ground for swings, slides, monkey bars and climbing structures at McDade Park.
This was literally just down the road (like not even a mile) from the coal mine. It was the perfect spot to run around in the sunshine after an hour or so in a damp, dark mine.
McDade Park is huge (200 acres of green space) and free. There’s also a children’s fishing pond, basketball courts, a two-mile cross country running course and large, open fields for kicking the soccer ball or tossing around a Frisbee. Pack a picnic lunch and stay awhile.
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#6: See a Giant’s Cauldron at Archbald Pothole State Park
Few get their kicks from potholes, but when a massive one is the main attraction of a nearby state park, that’s another story. Archbald Pothole State Park is 20 minutes northeast of Scranton.
It’s home to one of the world’s largest glacial potholes. This makes a nice side trip if you’re looking for things to do near Scranton, PA.
Also known as a giant’s cauldron, the Archbald Pothole was discovered in 1884 by local coal miners. Shortly thereafter, this glacial pothole was fenced off (for good reason) and became more or less a tourist attraction.
In 1964, Archbald Pothole State Park opened to the public after the land was turned over to the state.
#7: Visit the Houdini Museum
I really enjoyed my visit to the Houdini Museum, which includes a historical tour and magic show, but it’s important to know two things. One, you need to get tickets in advance. Two, plan to be there for at least three hours, which I know can be a long time with kids.
The tour starts at 1 pm and ends by 4:30. You’ll be taken through three rooms filled with historical mementos, then a magic show with one of the top female magicians in the world (Dorothy Dietrich) concludes the tour.
It gets a bit sales-y toward the end, showing off magic products that can be bought on-site, but overall, it was a really interesting experience. It’s definitely one of the most fun things to do in Scranton, PA.
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#8: Ride the Trolley at the Electric City Trolley Museum
As quick background, Scranton is known as “The Electric City” because the first electric trolley system came to life in Scranton in 1886 (and ran continuously until 1954).
To celebrate this heritage, the Electric City Trolley Station & Museum opened in 1999. Inside, you’ll find vintage trolleys and hands-on interactive exhibits for kids.
Kids will especially enjoy the hour-long trolley excursion onboard a vintage streetcar, which goes under bridges and alongside flowing streams. At the mid-way point, the trolley makes a stop at the museum’s extension at Montage for more history on electric trolleys.
#9: See Big Trains at Steamtown National Historic Site
For kids who love trains, the place to go is the Steamtown National Historic Site. It’s across the parking lot from the Electric City Trolley Museum, so it’s easy to do both in an afternoon.
Inside the museum, learn about life on the railroad by way of an exhibits gallery and an 18-minute film called Steel and Steam.
In the museum’s outdoor courtyard, multiple steam engines and rail cars are on display, each restored to their original states of greatness.
On the same platform where you board streetcars, you can enjoy a 30-minute ride on the Scranton Limited through the railyards and on to the University of Scranton before making the return excursion.
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#10: Seek Out the Penn Paper Building
If you’ve ever watched NBC’s The Office, you’ll immediately recognize the iconic Penn Paper building from the show’s opening credits (it’s located at 215 Vine Street, by the way).
My 14 y.o. son loves the show, so we couldn’t come to Scranton and leave without a photo. No way.
There is a self-guided walking tour for fans of the show, but since the show wasn’t actually filmed in Scranton (it was filmed in Van Nuys, California), we didn’t seek out all of the sites.
We were most excited about the Penn Paper building (though I did feel a bit goofy stopping for a photo while a few local Scrantonians lunched on a bench nearby). For fans of The Office, this is one of the best free things to do in Scranton, PA.
#11: Splash Around at Montage Mountain Waterpark
Scranton is home to Montage Mountain Waterpark, a must-visit destination in summer. Here you’ll find multiple water slides, a lazy river and a massive wave pool. I could have spent all day in a tube on the lazy river.
My kids, on the other hand, gravitated toward The Tornado, a two- to four-person swirly, twirly raft ride. I did, however, enjoy watching from the bridge.
It’s easy to spend an afternoon splashing around, but summer at Montage Mountain Waterpark also brings to life the ZipRider.
There’s a separate fee for ZipRider, but it’s well worth it for the views from one of the highest points in Northeast Pennsylvania (as seen while flying at 50 mph on a zipline).
#12: Enjoy Snow Sports Fun at Montage Mountain
Yes, Montage Mountain leads a double life. In summer, it’s all about water slides and ziplines. In winter, it’s all about skiing and snow tubing.
When snow is on the ground, the ski resort boasts 26 trails for all levels, 1,000 vertical feet, even night skiing. One of their trails, “White Lightning,” holds the distinction of second steepest on the east coast.
If snow tubing is more your jam, Montage Mountain has 10 tubing lanes for high-speed winter fun and a magic carpet to get you back to the top in time for another run.
Yes, it gets chilly in Scranton, so warm up with a mug of hot chocolate or a sit by one of multiple fire pits.
#13: Fill Up at Cooper’s Seafood House
Kids love Cooper’s Seafood House for its pirate ship atmosphere. It’s almost like driving up to a theme park when you see the red and white lighthouse (that serves as a dining area).
There’s even a giant octopus on the second-floor outdoor patio. The restaurant has been a family-favorite in Scranton since 1948.
Inside, look for the big fish. Honestly, it’s hard to miss. It’s a massive blue whale that hangs from the ceiling in the Whale Room. When it’s time to order, it’s hard to go wrong with oysters on the half shell and cedar plank salmon.
The kids menu is extensive too, boasting fried shrimp and chicken fingers, plus nutritious sides like steamed broccoli and fresh grapes.
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#14: Bike Along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail
The scenic Lackawanna River Heritage Trail stretches more than 70 miles, connecting upwards of 30 communities and serving as host to various running and biking events throughout the year.
The popular multi-purpose trail stretches from Pittston to Uniondale and runs right through historic Scranton along the way.
The trail is relatively smooth and flat too, making it easy for little legs to pedal along at their own pace. There are plenty of places to stop along the river trail for a snack to take in the delightful views on a warm, sunny day.
#15: Visit with Dinosaurs at the Everhart Museum
Dinosaur-loving littles will appreciate a visit to Scranton’s Everhart Museum. Situated in historic Nay Aug Park, this science, art and natural history museum engages young visitors with imaginative works, weekend art classes for little ones (grades K-6) and, yes, dinosaur fossils.
Once you explore the museum, run around at Nay Aug Park, Scranton’s largest park. Cross a pedestrian footbridge, hike to waterfalls or play on a massive wooden playground. There’s even a tree house that overlooks a rock-strewn gorge from 150 feet above ground.
#16: Watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Scranton is known for having one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country, attracting more than 12,000 participants each year (and even more attendees).
The celebration is truly massive. Look for marching bands, bagpipers, Irish dancers, even buglers. Buy a parade day t-shirt to let your friends know you were there.
Beyond the parade, there’s a mass to kick off the day, a two-mile race and kids craft-making activities at the Lackawanna County Children’s Library. You could easily spend an entire day honoring Irish heritage at this gigantic annual celebration.
#17: Watch a Hockey Game at Mohegan Sun Arena
Scranton may not have an NHL team (you’ll have to travel 4.5 hours to Pittsburgh for that level of play), but the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are real contenders on the minor league level.
The team didn’t qualify for the playoffs last year, but ahead of regular season play, the team won the 2019 Prospects Challenge, so they’re ready to go this season.
The team’s season runs from early-October to mid-April at Mohegan Sun Arena. Kids will love fun promo nights during regular season, as well as collecting post-game autographs.
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One of the great things about Scranton is that nothing is more than 10 minutes away (15 minutes tops). While in town, we stayed at the Hampton Inn Scranton at Montage Mountain (see latest room rates for Scranton hotels).
We were even able to walk to PNC Field for one of the baseball games (though we did have to Uber back to our hotel since it got a bit darker than I was expecting).
The Hampton Inn was so close to everywhere we wanted to go in Scranton and was less than five minutes away from both the ballpark and waterpark, two of our favorite things.
Plus, free breakfast, which is always a plus for us. I can’t recommend the hotel more highly. Check out deals and nightly rates on hotels in Scranton, PA.
As for eats, we ate at Backyard Ale House (twice). What can I say, I loved their loaded pulled pork nachos. Plus, they’ve got a great kids menu, fantastic vegetarian options and first-class Shirley Temple drinks, which of course were a hit with my kids.
For more tips and advice on what to do in Scranton, check in with the Lackawanna Historical Society at the Catlin House in Scranton’s Hill section. Here you’ll find more on the history, architecture and culture of Scranton and Lackawanna County.
Disclaimer: My kids and I were hosted by the Lackawanna County Convention & Visitors Bureau. I was not compensated for this article on places to go in Scranton, PA, as well as Scranton hotels, and all opinions expressed here are my own.