If your goal is to live life more fully this year, why not start locally and appreciate what we have right under our noses? This year, instead of crabbing that there's nothing to around here, make a list of the cool and quirky things you actually CAN do, even if just for kicks and giggles. Or make it easier on yourself and just take our suggestions:
• Become a pizza aficionado. Does any other region compare to here? This year, resolve to try every pizza shop up and down Main Street in Old Forge and then make it a point to grab at least a slice from every regional purveyor imaginable. We challenge you to fit them all in in a year! You get bragging rights if you do, and you'll be all the more knowledgeable when you brag to your out-of-town friends who only think they know pizza. On a tomato-related note, you probably should hurl a tomato or two at the Pittston Tomato Festival at least once in your life.
• Swim in Harveys Lake. It's a local rush that can't be beat. Tougher to do these days, with privatization and all, sure, but where there's a will there's a way. (While we're talking swimming, consider a polar-bear plunge somewhere this year. We may not be Minnesota, but we are a still of land o' lakes.)
• Troll the Boscov's basement for bargains and then grab a bite in the iconic down-below restaurant. (Let's keep alive little niceties like a department-store basement restaurant that still makes chicken croquettes, OK?)
• Hike the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen
State Park in Red Rock to see all of the more than 20 named waterfalls. The tumbling water and the old-growth forest surrounding you could make you feel as if you're having a Last of the Mohicans kind of adventure. The entire trail is more than seven miles, so allow yourself several hours.
• Marvel at the Boulder Field. This Ice Age holdover boasting acres of tricky-to-navigate rock can be found at Hickory Run State Park near White Haven, and if you don't want to walk up to it, you can drive. No flip-flops, please. You'll need sturdy shoes for this physical feat.
• Go to the theater – and not just the movies. If you've only gone to cinemas, you might discover you really appreciate live drama. If you've only gone to Broadway, you might be pleasantly surprised at how professionally some amateurs perform. Try local theater this year, and do buy at least one set of tickets to something at the Kirby Center on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. It's a downtown gem.
• Dance, dance, dance. Maybe you've always thought you had two left feet. So what? Dancing is still huge, and here's one good opportunity to learn: The Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock will sponsor three lessons in February, each of them following a film such as Singin' in the Rain or Shall We Dance?
• Raft the Lehigh or paddle the Susquehanna. People who live in landlocked areas are probably quite jealous of these scenic waterways that are ours to explore.
• Descend into the earth. The Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour in Scranton will give you a tiny taste of what anthracite miners faced every day. Tip: Wear a jacket, no matter the season. And for more mining lore, be sure to check out Eckley Miners Village, near Hazleton.
• Ride a horse, perhaps at a stable in the Poconos, where you can saddle up for an hour to see how you like it.
• Take a long bike ride. We recommend the 20-mile rails-to-trails path along the Lehigh River between the Lehigh Tannery and Jim Thorpe. There are places to rent bicycles at both towns, and the view is exquisite.
• Take a leisurely train ride or a flying leap. Visit www.steamtown.org to view all of your chug-a-lug options, then check out your local small airport. Many novices have taken their first parachute jump on a flight leaving from the Hazleton Municipal Airport.
• Visit ‘Gorges' Scranton. OK, so we kind of stole that slogan from Ithaca, N.Y., (Ithaca is Gorges), but we, too, have our own grand geo-vistas. Look no farther than Nay Aug Park in Scranton, and while you're there, do not miss the David Wenzel Treehouse, which overlooks the park's grand gorge.
• Travel to ‘Switzerland.' We really mean the next best thing, which would be Jim Thorpe, a.k.a. the Switzerland of Pennsylvania. The little town in Carbon County is awash in great history, great architecture, great food and great shopping.
• Milk a cow. No, you don't have to be a farmer or a dairy maid. At Hillside Farms in Shavertown, you can learn all kinds of cool, if not necessarily lifetime, skills. Visit www.hillsidefarms.org to ponder your opportunities. And, of course, you shouldn't leave home without a glass bottle of milk in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other.