Pennsylvania's Coal Region has a rich heritage of coal mining and is, in fact, home to the largest deposits of anthracite coal in North and South America. Once a region full of mining towns, the area has since become a tourist destination (primarily anchored by Centralia). The Coal Region has strong blue-collar ties and keeps them to this day. Some of the hardest working people in Pennsylvania have come from here and live in this region.
Although most of the Coal Region is in the Poconos area of the state, the easternmost counties in the Alleghenies and Susquehanna Valley region are often included as well.
- Centralia - Famous for an underground coal mine fire that, in fifty years, is still burning. The entire town has been abandoned except for a small few who refuse to leave their native town. The area is a dangerous, burning ghost town and the most famous such town in Pennsylvania.
- Girardville. This small coal town is famous for not only its most famous resident, John "Black Jack" Kehoe, charasmatic leader in the fight for coal miner's rights, but for its rapidly growing annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. The 2008 parade will be held, rain or shine, 12 noon sharp, on Saturday March 29th. Sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Jack Kehoe Division 1, this year's parade honors present and past sports figures.
- Jim Thorpe Lovely town with lots of history... known as the Switzerland of Pennsylvania. Go to the Jim Thorpe (formerly Mauch Chunk) courthouse for some interesting Molly Maguire history.
- Pottsville - the county seat of Schuylkill County. This is the home to the Yuengling Brewery. Also, an interesting landmark is a large statue erected of the famous 19th century statesman, Henry Clay.
Pennsylvania's Coal Region is rich in Irish and Polish/Eastern European heritage, as well as the culture of the early mining industry itself. While the industry has long since left the state, the cultural roots are still there. Local dialect hearkens back to the days of the mines and local culture reflects that heritage. A visit to the coal region is an opportunity to look at one of Pennsylvania's oldest and first major industries; mine tours show 200-year-old mines and working conditions that today would never be accepted. The historical sites evoke a time when millions of immigrants were trying to get a foothold in American society. Pennsylvania's coal mines aided in that effort and today teach us of the determination and persistence that is essential in life as a Pennsylvanian and an American.
Regional dialect in the Coal Region is a mixture of upstate New York, New York City, German, and Polish accents due to historical immigration to work in the mines. Local oddities include the use of a "trailing G." For example "coming up" is pronounced "comin gup". People call each other "butt", as in an abbreviated form of "buddy" or "bud". "Ho, butt!" is a common greeting and not to be meant as an insult.
The above is not true for all of the coal region. For instance, growing up in Schuylkill County, I had never once heard anyone use that greeting (Ho, butt). However, a good resource for some coal region dialect (which is more common to hear from older residents) is found at http://www.coalregion.com/. The region is not only composed of descendants from German and Polish immigrants, but there are also many English, Welsh, Irish, and Eastern Europeans (i.e. Lithuanians, Slovakians, Ukranians).
The Coal Region is served by Interstates 80 & 81 and the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Wilkes-Barre - Scranton International Airport provides air travel.
There is little to nothing in regards to public transportation. Bring your car! Some roads tend to be very winding.
The best local routes are PA 309, PA 115, PA 315 (north-south), US 209, PA 54, (east-west)
- Steamtown National Historic Site. in Scranton is a working museum of steam railroading operated by the National Park Service, on the site of the old Lackawanna Railroad yards. A shopping mall and trolley museum are adjacent to the site.
- Number 9 Mine and Museum. in Lansford offers a coal mining museum and an underground mine tour.
- Knoebel's Amusement Resort, Elysburg, PA, . Fun, food, and fantasy -- Knoebel's Amusement Resort! A nice amusement park to take the kids. Along with amusement rides, there is an extensive picnic grove. This place is a local staple and has been owned and operated by the Knoebel's family since 1929. FREE.
- Eckley Miner's Village, Weatherly, PA, . 9am-5pm. Eckley Miners' Village was an original anthracite mining town that is now a museum devoted to the everyday lives of the anthracite miners and their families. It is located nine miles east of Hazleton, Pa., off Route 940. Sean Connery was here to film part of the Molly Maguires movie. 4.00.
- Centralia Mine Fire in Centralia is famous due to it's long duration (nearly half a century) and persistence.
- Pioneer Coal Mine Tunnel in Ashland is a very well-maintained museum which includes an actual tour of a coal mine shaft.
- The Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville offers free tours with free samples of beer afterwards (birch beer for those under 21). This is America's oldest Brewery.
- The Hometown Farmer's Market in Hometown is open from 8 AM to 8 PM on Wednesday only, offering award-winning food, fresh vegetables, and bootleg t-shirts.
- Schuylkill Mall alongside I-81 is one of Pennsylvania's first shopping malls. It is home to a K-Mart, Sears, Bon-Ton, and Chick-fil-A.
- White Haven Cemetery in White Haven is one of the oldest United States cemeteries.
- Cinemark Movie Theater in Moosic is the Coal Region's largest movie theater.
- Lackawanna County Stadium in Moosic is currently home to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees Major League Baseball team.
- The A-Hole in Girardville is popular for swimming.
- Shenandoah is a popular place to drive your car around in circles, a common coal-region activity known as "cruising".
- Drinking alcohol is popular in the coal region.
- The Clover Irish Weekend Festival in Heckschersville. Schuylkill County, is an annual celebration of blended Irish and coal cracker culture held the last weekend in July, filled with music, dance, food, genealogy, games, crafts, and more. New this year is an Irish Fiddle Contest to be held on Sunday, July 27th. Festival 2008 runs from Friday to Sunday, July 25 - 27.
- Mrs. T's Peirogies, Tamaqua. No trip to the coal region is complete without peirogies! This tasty Eastern European food (similar to a ravioli only with a potato and cheese filling, typically) can be found in most area restaurants, even local pizza shops. For a real treat, look for block parties and church picnics which might have homemade peirogies.
- Heisler's Cloverleaf Dairy, Tamaqua, PA, . A great place to go for Heisler's homemade ice cream, mini golf, or a driving range. Part of the fun is the drive through farms and the PA countryside.
- Tony's Lunch in Girardville is a very famous restaurant which serves "Screamers" and "Growlers", hamburgers and hot dogs (respectively) with its signature hot sauce. Tony's is open from 8:00 PM until the last customer leaves. Has to be experienced to be understood.
- Pottsville Pizzeria in Pottsville is one of the region's best pizza places, served deli-style.
- Senape's Pizza in Hazleton is a bakery that makes its widely-respected pizza both hot and cold.
- Maurer's Dairy in Shamokin makes great food and created its own "bittersweet" ice cream, and also makes other varieties of its own homemade ice cream.
- Centiole's Pizza, East Main Street, Girardville has the region's best pizza. No kidding - this pizza is famous. The Centiole's clan only makes so many each night, so get a phone book and call early.