Get to know NEPA! From its quiet, rural villages to its bustling small cities to its historic towns, our little corner of Pennsylvania offers something for everyone — whether it’s all about work, play or just having that place to call home. Follow along as we take a closer look at all of NEPA’s convenient, safe, affordable and family-friendly places to live.
A Cultural, Economic and Historical Center
The heart of the Wyoming Valley.
Wilkes-Barre is well-known as one of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s major population centers. It’s the largest city in Luzerne County and second largest, behind Scranton, in the wider Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area. The “Diamond City,” as it was nicknamed during the anthracite era, enjoys a rich history of progress dating back to its founding in the mid-18th century.
During the height of the anthracite coal boom at the turn of the 20th century, the Wyoming Valley sat on top of the largest subterranean coal field in the world. And Wilkes-Barre found itself directly in the center of it all. It became a hub of economic activity and European migration. By the mid 1930s, the city’s population had peaked at 86,000. Around the same time, it came to be recognized as one of the most prosperous cities in the east. Evidence of Wilkes-Barre’s rise to prominence in the coal era is visible even today through the city’s fascinating industrial and residential architecture.
Today, Wilkes-Barre continues to play a crucial role in the progress and development of Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s central location within the fast-growing Interstate 80 and 81 economic corridor makes it a viable player in local and national business and industry. And the city’s proximity to major cities like New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C offer Wilkes-Barre an edge when it comes to convenience and cost of living in comparable markets.
The city of Wilkes-Barre is home to a wide variety of safe, family-friendly neighborhoods. At its heart, it’s a river town with plenty of activity and history along the Susquehanna River. As the seat of Luzerne County, Wilkes-Barre serves as one of the political, cultural and economic centers of the greater Wyoming Valley. It is home to many local, small businesses and restaurants as well as plenty of national retailers and well-known dining chains.
Square Miles: 7.2
School District: Wilkes-Barre Area School District
Living in Wilkes-Barre
Affordable, convenient and safe.
Life in Wilkes-Barre simply boils down to variety. There’s room here for just about any lifestyle. You’ll find friendly, family-oriented neighborhoods lined with single-family homes and duplexes. The center city area boasts convenient townhouses, high-rise apartments and even luxurious, historic homes. From the famed Public Square, the city branches out into individual, tight-knit neighborhoods and more suburban-styled areas. And it all equates to small town charm meets modern, urban convenience at a cost of living more affordable than the national average.
Wilkes-Barre offers easy, safe commutes with convenient access to all of the region’s major interstates and the PA Turnpike. And the city also serves as the hub of the Luzerne County Transportation Authority. Chances are, if you’re looking to get somewhere in the city, the county or beyond, there’s a bus going your way. The city is also within a 15-minute drive to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
Health and safety are top priorities in Wilkes-Barre. The city is protected by the Wilkes-Barre Police Department and the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department. Both are full-service, career departments. The fire department serves the community from three fire/EMS stations. Geisinger Health Systems and Commonwealth Health operate state-of-the-art hospitals, clinics and outpatient facilities within the city.
Early on, Wilkes-Barre established itself as a driving force in education. From those pre-K days to college graduation, the city covers a lot of ground with a lot of options. The Wilkes-Barre Area School District spreads out into 1 high school, 2 middle schools, 5 elementary schools and 4 specialized academies. You’ll also find private, parochial options for elementary and high school.
Students from all over the country and beyond come to Wilkes-Barre for their higher education. King’s College and Wilkes University offer a vibrant, youthful vitality to the city. Luzerne County Community College also has a satellite center directly on Public Square. Students can also commute with ease to many of NEPA’s nearby colleges, universities and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton.
The city also sits within close proximity to the ever-expanding CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park, Hanover Industrial Estates and Hanover Crossing. These commercial centers are home to major employers such as The Home Depot, Isuzu, Boden and Chewy to name just a few.
Out & About in Wilkes-Barre
Plenty of city fun with room to roam.
From the weekly farmer’s market on Public Square in the summer to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March, there’s always something fun going on in Wilkes-Barre. The city hosts a long list of community events like the annual Fine Arts Fiesta and the Cherry Blossom Festival. Summer is all about church bazaars and celebrating the city’s deep ethnic roots (and potato pancakes). Every season brings a slew of events and celebrations. And you don’t have to go far to experience amazing live concerts and theater.
Downtown’s F.M. Kirby Center regularly brings in major theatrical performances and concerts. Just outside of the center city area, you can catch live national acts and shows at the Mohegan Sun Arena. It’s also home to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the AHL affiliate to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Just up the road a bit, Mohegan Pennsylvania, the city’s popular casino features live harness racing, live music and comedy, several restaurants and plenty of gaming. And if you hop over to Scranton, you can catch the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, AAA affiliate to the NY Yankees, in action all spring and summer.
All throughout the city, unique local shops line neighborhood streets and downtown. You’ll find everything from mom-n-pop shoe stores and antiques to vinyl records, jewelry and more. Wilkes-Barre’s major shopping district near the Mohegan Sun Arena and Wyoming Valley Mall hosts dozens of national retailers and outlet stores.
Of course, if we’re talking Wilkes-Barre, we’re talking pizza. There is no shortage of unique, neighborhood pizza shops. Be sure to try the sweet sauce – a local favorite. Anywhere you go within the city, you’ll find a handful of local restaurants representing the community’s diverse ethnic heritage. And if you’re looking for a night out or a place to catch the game, Wilkes-Barre is home to some of the region’s best nightlife. The city also boasts plenty of popular national chain establishments.
Finally, when it comes to relaxation and recreation, you can leave the city without ever leaving the city. Wilkes-Barre’s many parks and green spaces offer residents plenty of options for picnics, playtime or just getting a little fresh air. Kirby Park is a favorite among locals and beyond for walks along the river, biking, playgrounds, sports and local events. The Luzerne County Levee Trail connects several communities and parks along its 12-mile, riverside route. And the River Common, on the city’s Susquehanna River shoreline, features a 750-seat amphitheater, gardens and fishing pier. The River Common is also home to the widely popular Rockin’ the River summer concert series.
In just about every direction, in only a matter of minutes outside the city, you can be in the mountains, fishing a trout stream, or camping. Wilkes-Barre’s convenient location places the city within short driving distance to many of NEPA’s incredible state parks.
Dining, Shopping & Fun
Bank + Vine
Batty Fang Salon & Spa
A&M Floral Express
Circle Centre for the Arts
eden- a vegan café
Gallery of Sound
Breakout Escape Room
Wilkes-Barre Twp., PA
Seven Tubs Recreation Area
Diamond City Dairy
Malacari’s Ice Cream
Mizu Sushi and Hibachi Restaurant
Chakstone Indoor Climbing
Hollenback Golf Course
Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
Wilkes-Barre Twp., PA
Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
Wilkes-Barre Twp., PA
Around Town Bicycles, Inc.