Summer is fast approaching, and with most COVID-19 restrictions lifted in Pennsylvania, that means one thing: It’s time for a vacation.
But if you’re still looking to stay a little closer to home this year, there’s no shortage of fun to be had just two hours north of Philadelphia.
The Poconos have long been a classic, easy getaway for many folks in the Philadelphia area. There’s nothing like a little fresh air and nature to help you reset after months on the grind in the city and suburbs.
And while we’ve already run down where to stay in the Poconos, what is there to do while you’re up there? Well, plenty — whether you’re looking for a good hike, some art and history, or just something for the kids to do.
Here’s your complete activities guide for your next Poconos getaway, including outdoor attractions, kids’ activities, museums, and more.
Things to do outdoors
From hiking to boating to car racing, there are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy the mountains.
Set on 500 acres in the beautiful Pinchot State Forest, Seven Tubs is a must-see for nature lovers, thanks to its series of massive, water-filled potholes (or “tubs,” hence the name), carved out by glacial meltwater, and its great hiking trails. For some great views of the tubs, check out the areas along Wheelbarrow Run and Laurel Run that flow along the area’s Audubon Loop Trail.
For something a little more structured (but still plenty outdoorsy), check out the so-called “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” At Bushkill Falls, you’ll find scenic views of eight waterfalls that are accessible thanks to a well-maintained system of bridges and hiking trails (tickets are required). And if you’re after the biggest waterfall there, head straight for the Main Falls — a 100-foot-tall cascade that will take your breath away.
At 70,000 acres spanning Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap has an almost endless amount of nature to take in — including about 100 miles of hiking trails and scenic roadways. There are dozens of trails to choose from, but one favorite is the Raymondskill Creek Trail, which will give you a great view of Raymondskill Falls, which, at three tiers and 178 feet, is the tallest waterfall in the state.
» READ MORE: Where to stay in the Poconos
This park’s 16,000 acres have tons to offer, but the big highlights here are the gorgeous, 25-foot Hawk Falls, and the oddly enticing Boulder Field (which, yes, is exactly what it sounds like). But if you’re looking for a pretty, not-too-strenuous hike, check out the Shades of Death Trail — and don’t let the name fool you, this two-mile out-and-back trail is more delightful than deadly.
📍3613 PA-534, White Haven, 📞 272-808-6189, ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks/findapark/hickoryrunstatepark
If kayaking and tubing aren’t exciting enough and you still want to spend a day out on the water, whitewater rafting might be your next hobby. You can start slow and steady with Pocono Whitewater’s family package, which takes you down an eight-mile stretch of water on the Lehigh River, where you’ll find Class I and Class II rapids. Or, if you’re more experienced, check out their Dam Release package, which ups the difficulty to Class II and Class III rapids on 12 miles of water through Lehigh Gorge State Park.
NASCAR fans, this one’s for you — and it’s technically still outdoors, right? Here, you’ll be able to hit the track at the famed Pocono Raceway, either driving a stock car or riding along in one. Or, if you’ve got a race car of your own, you can bring your baby on select dates and really open it up (note, though, that you must have completed a Stock Car Driving Experience within the last three years to be eligible).
Aspiring or experienced equestrians on vacation in the Poconos are in luck at this Monroe County spot, which focuses on beginner and intermediate horseback riding. No experience is necessary to book a ride, which you’ll take on a wooded trail alongside an experienced, professional guide. And if you’ve got young ‘uns with you (as in under 7), fear not — they’ve also got pony rides.
Things to do with kids in the Poconos
These aren’t all exclusively for kids, but there’s plenty to keep smaller humans who are hungry for adventure busy.
In the winter, Camelback Resort is great for skiing — but come summer, it’s all about the water park. Camelbeach is their outdoor water park, and, as Pennsylvania’s largest, it has 37 rides, slides, and attractions to choose from — including the massive Titan, an eight-story tube ride that stretches almost three football fields in length. And if indoors is your thing, their Aquatopia water park is open, too.
If your kid idolizes Katniss Everdeen, Skytop’s Archery Tag attraction is their thing. Described as “dodgeball with bows and arrows,” this one will have your budding archer picking off opposing players with marshmallowy, foam-tipped arrows in an open field dotted with inflatable obstacles. Kids aged 8 and older can play, and it’s fun for the whole family.
Skirmish is the spot for your lil’ John Wick (or Sofia Al-Azwar) in training. Here, you’ll find about 750 acres of land that is home to more than 50 paintball “maps” with just about every kind of topography and feature you could imagine — from castles and arenas to cargo containers and tanks, they’ve got it. Plus, no experience is necessary to play, they provide all the paintball equipment, and the fields are open to anyone age 10 or older.
Artsy tykes are in for a treat at Easton’s Crayola Experience, which has about two dozen colorful, kid-friendly activities on offer to help get their creative juices flowing. One favorite is a station where you can name and wrap your own custom crayon, so start thinking of names now — and don’t miss “Big Blue,” their massive, 1,500-pound crayon made from 123,000 crayons from around the world.
At it since 1994, Pocono Go-Karts is home to the first full-size go-kart track in the Northeast, and it’s a great place to let your kids satisfy their need to speed thanks to their Kiddie Karting track. And yes, there is an adult track, too. But if you’re all raced out, check out the 18-hole mini golf course or paintball target shooting area.
Young entomologists can get a hands-on education at the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary, which plans to reopen its indoor exhibits in early July. Here, you’ll be able to meet all kinds of live butterflies in their “Flutterarium,” get amphibious in a live exotic frog room, and check out some native caterpillars at a special exhibit. And there’s even an outdoor picnic area for when you get peckish.
If your kids have had their fill of the local fauna, head to Claws ‘N’ Paws for something a little more far-flung. This open-air zoo lets you get up close with tons of different animals, from African lions named George and Henry to a giraffe called Jethro (the coatimundis, Cookie and Peaches, are pretty cute, too). Or, for something a little more avian, try feeding their flock of colorful lory parrots.
Museums in the Poconos
Formerly known as Carbon County Jail, the Old Jail Museum today serves as a historical glimpse into the inner workings of prison life in the 1800s. But it’s perhaps best known as the jail where seven Irish coal miners who were accused of being Molly Maguires were hanged in the late 1870s. Legend has it that in cell 17, one of the men’s handprints is still visible on a wall, despite washing, painting, and plastering over it.
Built in 1861 for railroad mogul and Lehigh University founder Asa Packer, this is a great place to get an up-close look at Victorian Italianate architecture. Due to the pandemic, the mansion is currently offering “walk-through” tours (for $6, no less) during which you can see the home’s original contents and learn about the history of the Packer family.
This one is great for train buffs — but it’s also a great way to see the Poconos’ natural beauty without breaking a sweat. Operated by the Reading & Northern Railroad, rides here start in Jim Thorpe and take you on a 16-mile trip down a track next to the Lehigh River into Lehigh Gorge State Park and back, all on vintage coaches that date back as far as 1917.
Carbon County is in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Coal Region, and the No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum offers a great look at how the area’s mines used to work. Run from 1855 to 1972, the mine itself is considered the longest continually operated anthracite coal mine in the world — and today, a tour will take you 1,600 feet down into its depths, where you’ll find out just how dark a mine can be.
If you’re a fan of classic sci-fi books like Conan the Adventurer, metal bands like Molly Hatchet, or comic books like Buck Rogers, you know Frank Frazetta’s art. After all, he’s considered by many to be the godfather of fantasy art. But we bet you didn’t know that East Stroudsburg has a whole museum dedicated to his art, or that it’s the largest collection of Frazetta work anywhere, and that you can have a guided tour led by his family.
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