I'm a newbie at keeping leos, but I'll try to answer your questions..
First of all, I want an animal that I can interact with and handle. Are geckos hard to tame? Some websites say they like to climb on you and be stroked but others say not to handle them.
Lizards in general are not really the cuddly, playful animal... but some tolerate holding more than others. Some lizards you can hold, others are mostly watch, but not touch. Leos are the kind that you can hold. Cleo likes to sit on the puter for a while and climb up to my shoulder and sit on my shoulder. She came to me pretty much tame. From what I've heard, hatchlings and very young ones are a bit more jumpy, but if you keep holding them a bit every day, they settle down and are quite tame and easy to handle.
Secondly, I'm confused about what kind of lighting I should use. They're all saying different things. I've never had a reptile before so I don't know what I'm doing, lol.
Leopard geckos don't need UV lightning cause they are nocturnal. Most lizards do need UV to digest their food, but leos being nocturnal don't get much sunlight in their natural environment, which is the one that provide the UV rays, so they don't really need it in captivity. The lightning you need is mostly for photoperiod purposes. You need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of night for your leo to be happy. A normal house bulb can provide this lightning. Make sure that you put it in a room that is dark for 12 hours, though. Another thing bulbs are used for is heating. You need to keep the temperatures right on your leo's warm and cool side (you need termometers on either side to measure it). You could choose to do so using a heatlamp, a undertank heater, or a ceramic heat emitter. I suggest that you get the tank and heating you will be using before the leo, and set it all up, and monitor the temps, and play with it (bulbs of different watts, at different distances, ect.) The colder your house is, the more heat you'll need.
Third, what kind of substrate do you recommend? Is ReptiBark ok? Or should I use newspaper? Also, can paper towels be used? I figured they'd be thicker and more absorbent then just newspaper alone.
I have tiles with paper towels in her corner. A cool thing about leos is that they pick a corner and always go pooping in it, so you can pretty much use anything else on the rest of the tank and it will stay pretty clean... (you still need to clean it, though, crickets poo everywhere).. You can use paper towels also no problem, the only think I don't like about it is that crickets get under it, and you have to take it all out every feeding to get out the leftover crix (you don't want to leave them in cause they can bite your leo). I'm not sure about what reptibark is, but granular substrates are not recomended cause leo's tend to lick the floor, swallowing the substrate, and that causes impactation.
Fourth, where should I get the gecko? There aren't any for adoption and there aren't any breeders around here. Is it ok to buy from a petstore?
I got mine from a pet store, it was the only way I could. I've seen some breeders on the internet that ship (reptiles are legal to ship, and they do so by shipping overnigt I think... not sure... anyway... for some extra $$$ you could get a more interesting morph that what you would get at a pet store... here is a site http://www.crestedgecko.com/crestedg...d%20Geckos.htm
Their leo prices ranges from the $60 up and shipping is $40 per box (they can ship more than 1 animal in a box). Check the blizzards! They have some beautiful midnight blizzards there, I wish I had some money for one of them 8(
In this other site they have some more affordable leos, but not quite as pretty, plus they have some that are cheaper cause they have regrown tails... I would go for the ones that don't. http://lllreptile.com/store/catalog/animals/geckos/
(you have to scroll down a bit to get to the leos, cause they have all the geckos listed together) Also, check that they say CB (captive bred). Their shipping is about $30
Do a search on leopard gecko breeders, you might find the your leo that way. 8)
Here is a good caresheet for you: http://www.herpcenter.com/showthread.php?t=2731