corutesy Lackawanna Co. VB
Katherine Tandy Brown
Published November 15, 2018
In the upper northeastern portion of the Keystone State, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is an accessible meetings locale that provides groups with a balanced blend of rural and urban flavors. The community of nearly 80,000 residents offers ample outdoor opportunities for attendees while also providing cost-effective cosmopolitan comfort and culture.
“It’s the city-meets-country,” said Alexa Peregrim, sales manager with the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau. “You could go to a Broadway show at night and, the next day, wake up and you’re a 10-minute drive from the country and enjoying hiking trails.”
These outdoor options are boosted by the city’s locale in the heart of the Lackawanna River Valley, which includes the 70-mile Lackawanna Heritage Valley Trail that follows beside the river.
“There’s kayaking, there’s hiking, there’s canoeing, there’s tons of fishing and lots of outdoor activities that take place in our area,” Peregrim said, adding that Scranton proper has plenty of worthwhile green spaces as well. These include Nay Aug Park, a sprawling enclave, home to an eye-catching waterfall, a gorgeous gorge and even the Everhart Museum, which showcases natural history, science and art.
Another strong point is the city’s history, and numerous landmarks and venues pay tribute to its industrial past that focused on coal and electricity. Group opportunities here can include an outing to Steamtown National Historic Site for a train or trolley ride, or a museum tour. Similarly, McDade Park offers a historic coal mine tour 300 feet below ground.
This emphasis on local heritage even carries over into one of the city’s main meeting venues, the Radisson Lackawanna Station. Set in a former French Renaissance-style train station that opened in 1908, this property offers 17,444 square feet of function space and 146 guest rooms.
Scranton’s easy accessibility is another plus, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport just 15 to 20 minutes from downtown and numerous main thoroughfares, making it a drive magnet.
“We’re really a central hub,” said Peregrim. “We like to say all roads lead to Scranton.”
A pair of hotels compose the city’s main meeting spots, led by the Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, with 19,000 square feet of meeting space, 193 rooms and current property renovations set to be completed by the end of November. The hotel is also home to an indoor pool, a few dining options and a fitness room, and its flexible meeting areas include a boardroom, large meeting rooms and exhibition space.
The other big meetings player in town is the Radisson Lackawanna Station, which takes pride in some elegant meeting areas that include a ballroom and a spacious lobby.
Yet another option is the Four Points by Sheraton Scranton, a solid choice for smaller functions, with 3,175 square feet of meeting space and 135 guest rooms.
Planners looking to put together programs away from the main venue should find plenty of promising possibilities in Scranton.
These include PNC Field, home ballpark to the New York Yankees Triple-A affiliate Scranton RailRiders. The stadium’s two party decks make for fun event spaces during a ballgame. Group menus showcase down-home barbecue items. Meeting planners can arrange to have a special message for their group posted on the stadium scoreboard.
Another popular spot, according to Peregrim, is the Montdale Country Club, with fine dining and indoor and outdoor spaces with views of a 22-acre lake. Its nicely manicured estate features a range of alfresco spaces that include a lakeside ceremony pavilion, handsome gazebos and an attractive grove.
Attractions and Activities
When attendees are seeking to fill some free time, Scranton serves up a few offbeat experiences that are likely to leave an impression. These include the Electric City Aquarium and Reptile Den, home to a wide variety of swimming sea creatures from reef sharks to stingrays; reptiles from rattlesnakes to geckos are also exhibited. Visitors can grab a keepsake at a cozy gift shop, and the venue can also host small events.
Equally captivating is the Harry Houdini Museum, home to a wealth of curios and artifacts tied to the legendary magician and escape artist. For the full experience, visitors should arrive by 1 p.m. to partake in the daily trio of a movie, magic show and museum tour.
For groups striving to build a better bond, Scranton has a few choices worth considering.
Electric City Escapes is all about team building, host to a varied offering of “escape rooms” that will test teams’ reasoning, communication skills and ability to thrive under pressure. Challenges include an art heist endeavor and a mine escape, and the venue can host teams of up to 16.
The CVB’s Peregrim says the nearby Montage Mountain Resort, home to activities like a waterpark, a ski resort and zip lining, is another popular group bonding destination. And for something low key but out of the ordinary, groups can plan a self-guided tour of locations related to the popular TV series “The Office,” which was set in Scranton.
Location: Upper northeastern corner of Pennsylvania
Access: Highways 81, 84, 80 and 380 and Route 6; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport
Major Meeting Spaces: Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, Radisson Lackawanna Station
Hotel Rooms: Approximately 500 citywide
Off-Site Venues: PNC Field, Montdale Country Club, Harry Houdini Museum
Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau