Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.
Family Fun in Pennsylvania
If you're looking for family fun in Pennsylvania that is educational as well, consider the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour in Scranton, PA. Located near McDade Park, it is a must-see destination for families wishing to learn more about the area's coal mining history and heritage of the "founding fathers" of the coal mining region. Read this review of the tour to see if it is something you and your family would like to experience!
Coal Mine in Scranton
Photos From the Tour
Details and Planning Ahead
The Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour actually takes you down into what was once an active coal mine. After hopping in a mine car (a much updated version from what they actually used in the late 1800s early 1900s) on Slope #190 with a guide, you are taken down nearly 300 feet into the mines.
It's a fairly slow descent, taking about five minutes to get to the bottom. As you go down, the light from the sky fades away as you are met with the dark conditions of the underground. Thankfully, there are lights going down the tunnel, but you still can get a sense of how dark it is going to be once you are in the mines.
You'll also notice how damp and wet the walls and ground are. This is due to naturally occurring groundwater. When you're in the mines, you'll learn about the groundwater and how it is currently affecting the mines and shafts.
Once at the bottom, your tour guide will ask you to carefully step out and meet him at the first stop before beginning the tour. You'll be shown a map of the mines and the path you'll take on the hour-long tour. You'll also be told of the constant 50° temperature of the mines thanks to the groundwater.
Note: Be mindful that you're underground, in semi-dark, walking over wet ground and over tracks. You may want to consider a light jacket and sturdy shoes. Also, if you are tall, watch out for low-hanging rocks and beams.
As you walk through the mine on the 1/2 mile tour, you'll be shown real coal, real equipment, and a variety of situations coal miners actually experienced when the coal mine was active. Your guide, who will be very knowledgeable about coal mining and that particular coal mine, will tell you stories and show you real-life situations coal miners found themselves in.
Note: If you are bringing small children, be advised: they may need to be carried as strollers cannot be brought down. Children may also become restless, be afraid of the dark, or the life-like statues may scare them. I brought my four-year-old and my two-year-old down. My only problem was having to carry my two-year-old around since she had trouble walking and keeping up. Other parents brought down smaller children who were fussy nearly the entire tour and had to be carried as they cried or whined.
You can see from my photos (taken with my cell phone camera), that it certainly was dark down in the mines. If you intend to take pictures, you'll need a great camera with a great flash to get clear pictures down there.
At the end of the tour, you are brought to a small room where you can pick up a free souvenir copy of a mining certificate that includes the wages of those who worked in the mines. Your guide will call the guys up above who will send the mine car back down for the ride back to the surface.
Pros and Cons of the Tour
For all ages
Small children may be difficult
Rough terrain and tracks to walk over
Damp and chilly
Flash photography encouraged
Dark conditions, tough for those with poor vision
Experience of a real mine
Easy to find
Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour in Scranton, PA
Coal Mining History
If you're really interested in coal mining history besides just going down into the mine, you'll find plenty of information in the gift shop and the Anthracite Heritage Museum. In both areas, you are able to view a video, including information about the Knox Mine Disaster, and examine artifacts or souvenirs representing the coal mining era in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Gift for a History Buff
Anthracite Heritage Museum
The Anthracite Heritage Museum, built on a hill behind Slope #190, is full of coal mining, iron works, and textile machinery that helped Pennsylvania grow and flourish back in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
The museum begins with the area's first known settlers, the Native Americans, and shows how early European settlers began to understand the value of the land, namely from coal deposits above the ground.
The museum then shows how thousands of immigrants flocked to Pennsylvania and worked incredibly hard to make a new living in the new land by working in the coal mines, in the iron factories, or in the textile mills.
Along with the work aspect of these people, there are also artifacts in the museum showing how they lived and worked as a community. There's an old doctor's chair and supplies, a model of a house, a model of a bar, and a model of a church, all built with actual artifacts from the time period.
While the museum was very interesting to me, it didn't interest my two little ones too much since it wasn't very interactive and they weren't able to read all of the plaques and signs. They did enjoy seeing models of trains and animals, but they quickly became bored. Older children might appreciate the museum more, especially those who can read.
Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour
If you're interested in going down into coal mining history and learning about the lives of early Pennsylvania settlers, then a visit to the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour and the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is for you.
© 2012 Marissa
Paul Deitz on October 19, 2019:
My wife and I enjoyed the tour and the museum. Now i know what my Great great Grandfather and uncles done to provide for their family. Rough work it makes you think when you complain about your job today.
Amy from East Coast on October 09, 2016:
Great article. I am not that far away, I live in Long Beach Island NJ. I love the pics in your article. Look forward to reading more of your work!
Sarah L on December 12, 2015:
That would be an interesting place to visit if I'm ever in the area.
Marissa (author) from United States on February 21, 2013:
wilderness, you would really love this then! You should visit if you're ever out this way again. Thanks for reading!
Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on February 21, 2013:
You almost make me want to move back East - this sounds fascinating. I'm always interested in older factories, technology and such and this fits right into that interest.
Marissa (author) from United States on December 11, 2012:
hockey8mn, it is a fun experience, but like you said, I wouldn't want to work in one! Thanks for reading and commenting!
hockey8mn from Pennsylvania on December 10, 2012:
Never been in a coal mine before. Sounds like a fun experience (as long as you aren't the one working). I will have to take a weekend trip there. Voted up and interesting.
Marissa (author) from United States on November 14, 2012:
chrissieklinger, I'm glad you agree with my review! I bet your students loved it. It's a pretty popular field trip for students in this area. All of my siblings and I have been on a field trip there at least twice during our school years. It's a great place for students to learn about the history of our area.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)
chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on November 14, 2012:
When I taught in Allentown we took our students here for a field trip and it was one of the best ones we ever went on. The staff is very nice! Great review!!!!
Marissa (author) from United States on November 13, 2012:
randomcreative, thanks for reading and commenting! :)
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 12, 2012:
This sounds like a fascinating experience! Thanks for sharing this comprehensive review.
Marissa (author) from United States on November 12, 2012:
Brainy Bunny, you'd certainly love this tour then! Our guide was so knowledgeable, and the museum was a great history lesson for me. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)
Brainy Bunny from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on November 12, 2012:
I love historical tours and museums, so if I ever find myself out that way I'll definitely check this out. Thanks for the great info!
Marissa (author) from United States on November 12, 2012:
RTalloni, thanks for reading! It's actually quite spacious in the mine, but I guess the idea of being underground can be unnerving. I hope you're able to enjoy the video later. :)
RTalloni on November 12, 2012:
Thanks for this interesting look at Lackawanna. I'll be coming back to the video when I show it to my husband. It certainly is dark. I couldn't do the tour because of claustrophobia, but when he's here I might make it through the video.