Poconos: Lehigh River rafting

8 Great Poconos Summer Activities

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.

Kalahari Resort: swim up bar

Kalahari Resort: swim up bar

Camelback Lodge: main meeting room

Camelback Lodge: main meeting room

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.

Poconos: Lehigh River rafting

Poconos: Lehigh River rafting

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.

Delaware Water Gap

Delaware Water Gap, photo via NYDailyNews.com

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!

Camelback Lodge: lobster tail

Camelback Lodge: lobster tail

Shawnee craft beer

Shawnee Craft Brewing Company

I did not even mention golfing, wine trails (Lehigh Valley and Pocono), outlet shopping, and the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.

So many Poconos summer activities. Do you have a favorite on this list? Want to add anything?

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32 Responses to “8 Great Poconos Summer Activities”

  1. Jolanta aka Casual Traveler July 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    I think we’ve been to one of the water parks in the past, but what I really would like to do is white water rafting! And I do agree, the Poconos are beautiful!

    • McCool Travel July 14, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      Thank you for the note, Jolanta. Rafting was much fun.

  2. Elaine J. Masters July 13, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    It all looks like so much fun and tasty too. Had no idea what was available to do in the Poconos.

    • McCool Travel July 13, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

      And the Poconos are so close to much of the East coast population. A great respite from the hectic every day life and the heat.

  3. Holly July 12, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    I go there often because I have family there. Great place. Would love to check out these islands and go glamping.

    • McCool Travel July 13, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

      Yes, the glamp experience seems like it will be excellent.

  4. alexa July 12, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Crab stuffed lobster? Yes please! Looks amazing and like an awesome place to explore. Need to add it to my travel list!

  5. adventureinyouanna July 12, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

    Lots of great activities-the food looks amazing too!

  6. Melody Pittman July 12, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    I always thought about visiting the Poconos back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s but to be honest, I had forgotten all about it. Thanks for reminding me of all the great things it has to offer. 😉

    • McCool Travel July 13, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

      Poconos has so many new resorts and restaurants you will hardly recognize the place. Well, all of the nature is still there!

  7. Carole Terwilliger Meyers July 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    I’ve never been to the Poconos before, but now that I’ve been with you I’d like to go back to the Kalahari and have a drink at the bar under that thirsty turtle!

  8. travelwithmarilyn July 11, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    The Poconos are so beautiful and you showcased so much of what makes it a great family destination!!

  9. diningtraveler July 8, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    This brought great memories of our trip! Great post!

  10. Johanna July 8, 2015 at 4:48 am #

    The Poconos looks like a marvellous place to visit and I’d definitely go for the walking and camping.

    • McCool Travel July 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

      Wonderful nature, Johanna. I definitely recommend exploring the outdoors in the Pocono Mountains.

  11. Josie July 7, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    Hi Charles,
    Having spent part of my growing up years in New York, talk of the Poconos was often present in our home. My Boy Scouting brother went for weekend camping and my Girl Scout troop had a summer camp there.
    Conrad and I keep saying we’re going back there for some good summer fun. Thanks for the nudge to do so. Looks like you can’t go wrong!

    • McCool Travel July 8, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

      Thank you for the note, Josie. When you visit the Poconos next, let me know.

  12. MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel) July 6, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    The Poconos are a great destination for people in the tri-state region because it’s so close and yet a world away!

    • McCool Travel July 6, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

      It is a wonderful respite from the busy Northeast, especially during the sweltering heat.

  13. brmsimmons July 6, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    I grew up in Easton and learned to ski at Camelback. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    • McCool Travel July 6, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

      Thank YOU for the note. So cool to learn that about you.

  14. betsywuebker July 6, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    The Poconos’ iconic connotation is regional kitsch and heart-shaped bathtubs, and you’ve proved they’ve come a long, long way from that. We love Western Pennsylvania. Must get more acquainted with this region.

  15. contentedtraveller July 6, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    I would have liked to have seen some of the weddings of the ’60’s in Poconos, could have been quite interesting. Looks a pleasant place

    • McCool Travel July 6, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      Indeed, would have been fun. When I was there, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a massive weeding with half the attendees wearing traditional African garb. Very colorful and so un-60s.


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