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The Pocono Mountains region—informally and more commonly known as “the Poconos”—is an area of immense natural beauty located within two hours of New York City and Philadelphia. The Poconos was the honeymoon capital of the world in the 1960s to 1980s. It might be hard to find a heart-shaped bed there today but I found a few amazing resorts that can host weddings, reunions, corporate meetings, or events of any size and price range.
The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau recently hosted writers and bloggers from the Washington, D.C. area (including me) and I created this curated list of 8 great Poconos summer activities.
8 Great Poconos Summer Activities
1. Water Parks. The recently opened Camelback Resort and Kalahari water parks—along with existing Great Wolf Lodge and H20ooohh!!—help establish the Pocono Mountain region as “thee” fun, water park destination in the Northeastern United States. I toured Camelback and Kalahari; both are magnificent resorts that would be really, really hard to leave after a couple of days of fun—or even a conference, family reunion, or wedding. Each resort also has on-site spas, cabanas, and for pampering and relaxation.
2. Farmers Markets. An overall sense of health and sustainability permeates the soul while visiting the Poconos. While visiting the ShawneeCraft Brewery, I met owners of farmers markets in Monroe and Easton. In fact, The Shawnee Inn hosts their own farmers market every Tuesday afternoon in June, July, and August. There are many other Poconos farmers markets, farm stands, and country markets.
3. Whitewater Rafting. Rafting through the Lehigh Gorge is exhilarating. Yes, I fell in the water in a treacherous spot. Yes, our raft got stuck on more rocks than any other raft. Both are signs that we had more adventure than a simple lazy river experience. Whitewater Challengers offers various whitewater raft experiences, along with zip lining, mountain biking, camping, paintball, and more.
4. Parks. Speaking of parks, Pocono Mountains has two National Parks and nine state parks to enjoy hiking, fishing, biking, and other outdoor activities. 45 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through the Poconos. Take time to visit waterfalls, like Bushkill Falls, the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” On drives between Virginia and Massachusetts, Tobyhanna State Park is a great pit stop for a picnic lunch. More than once I have strayed from my intended scenic drive route and freelanced a detour through the uber-scenic Delaware Water Gap.
5. Camping. The Poconos are a camper’s dream. Besides those 11 National and state parks, there are dozens of local parks, forests, wilderness areas, and private campgrounds in the Pocono Mountains. Want to try something glorious? The Shawnee Inn will soon be opening its two private islands, in the middle of the Delaware River, for catered camping and glamping. That, my friends, will be a magnificent setting.
6. Festivals and Events. While most of us will vacation and enjoy Poconos summer activities, Pocono Mountains is also a collection of thriving communities. Check for upcoming Poconos summer activities, including music and theater performances, tours, and festivals at 800poconos.com and ThisWeekinthePoconos.net. The largest annual events are the NASCAR and IndyCar races at the Pocono Raceway, but you can also visit the track when it is empty and learn to drive a race car.
7. History. The first non-Native Ameicans to visit the Pocono Mountains were believed to be Dutch settlers in 1659. Reminders still exist in names such as Bushkill (“kill” means creek in Dutch). The first boarding house hotel established at Delaware Water Gap in 1829 spawned the resort industry. The are plenty of history markers and museums but my favorite historical aspect of the Poconos is the town of Jim Thorpe. The town was originally called Mauch Chunk—”sleeping bear” or “bear place” in the Native language—and nicknamed “the Switzerland of America.” The town later renamed itself to Jim Thorpe to honor the “world’s greatest athlete” who was also Native American.
8. Eating and Drinking. All these activities surely will make you hungry and thirsty. The Pocono Mountains region offers a remarkable variety of cuisine. I had crab-stuffed lobster tail one evening (at Camelback Lodge) and a farm-to-table with craft beer pairing the next (at Shawnee). I also had a ham and cheese sandwich with a bag of chips for lunch on the raft trip. See? Variety!
So many Poconos summer activities. Do you have a favorite on this list? Want to add anything?