Fuel is cheaper than it was last year, so maybe it's time to think about the ultimate all-American vacation — the road trip. You could drag out an atlas or a stack of maps, or you could just browse the Web for information on routes such as U.S. 6, meandering through the hills and forests across Pennsylvania's "road less traveled."
This scenic two-lane wiggles for more than 400 miles between the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania's northeast corner and the Erie region in the northwest, according to the PA Route 6 Tourist Association a handy starting place for planning a leisurely drive or serious exploration. Look for "Maps & Transportation" on the left to get a sense of the road's layout and the towns along the way.
If you're coming in from the Midwest, you'll arrive in Pennsylvania's Great Lakes Region by taking Interstate 90 northeast from Cleveland or by going to Pittsburgh and heading north on I-79. They know how you're getting there; one of their featured brochures is titled "Road Trip," with suggestions for itineraries built about family fun, history, outdoor adventure and more. Another online brochure is on the area's fishing, and it has 22 pages of info. (Be patient; those brochures take a minute or three to download. Then click the little gray arrows on the menu bar to turn pages.)
Click on "Adventures" and then "History" at the top of the page for the area's huge selection of museums including the Erie Maritime Museum & Brig Niagara where you can ride a Great Lakes sailing ship. And try "Amusements" for parks, animal farms and the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad which offers three-hour trips.
Get back on Route 6 and continue east into Pennsylvania Wilds where the motto is "the road less traveled." Once you're there, you could easily forget that the heart of this big swath of countryside is just over 200 air miles from the traffic and noise of New York and Washington, or 275 from Detroit. Click on "About the Region" to learn details like the biggest elk herd (elk!) in the Northeast, old-growth forest, more than 2 million acres of public land, hundreds of trails, fishing, camping and a night sky dark enough for seeing more stars than you'll spot from your back yard. It also holds the Pine Creek Gorge called the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania; look for the tiny "Old Growth Home" link for forest information.
Pennsylvania Wilds also touts the region's galleries and craftspeople who make everything from old-fashioned quilts to pottery, and "Roadtrips" with side journeys such as the Bucktail Trail to Longhouse Scenic Byway, and the 96-mile Allegheny National Forest Loop. Dig up more data on the Allegheny National Forest or visit the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau.
Get your car back on Route 6 and resume your trip east into the Northeast Pennsylvania Mountains where attractions include the NEPA Bluegrass Festival coming up on May 29-31 in Tunkhannock. Look under "What to See & Do" for links to that fest and to a directory of the region's covered bridges and scenic sites and overlooks. And one of the things listed under "Historic Sites" is the Steamtown National Historic Site where you can see some of the best examples of steam trains and take a ride. And as long as you're in the Scranton area, Lackawanna County has a visitors guide with things to see and do, including the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour.
Finally, between Scranton and the state line crossing at the Delaware River town of Port Jervis, N.J., you're in the Pocono Mountains full of resorts, bed & breakfast inns, and lakes. Scan their videos for a glimpse of the scenery, and then check out "Things to See & Do" for whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking trails, antique shops, train rides and sightseeing.