Immigration Vacation: Lackawanna Coal Mine and Steamtown


One of my favorite family vacation spots is….

Scranton, PA!

Scranton is an old industrial town trying to make a comeback through historic tourism. Unlike many other such endeavors, this one focuses on working people, particularly immigrants.

Your first stop in Scranton should be the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour. This tour does not try to clean up the realities of the miner’s life. Dangerous working conditions, ethnic conflict, child labor, and class warfare are all on view. Riding down into the mine on a coal miners’ rail car, I was struck by the fact that the safety instructions were posted in a half-dozen different languages, reminding us that coal miners of a hundred years ago often spoke accented English, or didn’t speak English at all.

You’ll be led by a guide 300 feet below the surface of the earth. The smell of coal will fill your lungs. The cold, damp mine air will chill you even on a 90-degree day.

This tour is great and should not be missed!

Next door is the Anthracite Heritage Museum which explores the lives of immigrants who came to Scranton to work at some of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Also in Scranton is Steamtown National Historic Site. With live steam engines, this place is a kids’ delight. You can even take a long ride on a steam train out into the countryside.

The museums at Steamtown give kids a good idea of the enormous contribution Irish and Chinese immigrants made in binding the country together by building the Transcontinental Railroad.

You can stay at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, which was once a railroad station. The windows above the atrium are by Tiffany and the benches on each floor by the elevators used to be for passengers.
Lackawanna Station Hotel

For a family meal, try Tom and Jerry’s at the corner of Birch Street and Pittston Avenue.

Map of Steamtown

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Map of Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour

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Image courtesy of wallyg via Flickr.

More Immigration Vacations:

Castle Clinton and Battery Park

Lowell National Historic Site

Lackawanna Coal Mine and Steamtown

Old Croton Aqueduct

Irish Hunger Memorial

The Tenement Museum

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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