Best Things To Do in The Poconos
Nearly every aspect of the Poconos integrates the area's stunning natural landscape. So, whether you spend a day taking advantage of elevation... READ MORE
Nearly every aspect of the Poconos integrates the area's stunning natural landscape. So, whether you spend a day taking advantage of elevation changes while golfing, barreling down the Delaware River on a raft or taking in the fall foliage from the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, you have the Pocono Mountains to thank for your vacation. Outdoors enthusiasts appreciate the region's selection of state parks, including Hickory Run State Park and Lehigh Gorge State Park, as well as the massive Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. While the parks attract hikers in the warmer months, winter means they become destinations for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as excellent complements to the Poconos' downhill ski and snowboarding areas.
Updated September 24, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in The PoconosEntertainment and NightlifeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and NightlifeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Known as the "Tricky Triangle" for its three distinct turns, the Pocono Raceway began welcoming fans in 1968. Nowadays, Pocono Raceway hosts a handful of NASCAR races every summer, while a variety of other car-related experiences are available when races are not taking place. Visitors can ride in or drive a stock car, bring their own car for a spin on the famous track, choose from a selection of exotic cars to take for a test drive and more.
Past travelers praised the stock car ride-along experience, saying that the G-force going around the track's iconic corners provides an adrenaline rush. The park's clean atmosphere, from the restrooms to the vendors, also impresses most recent visitors. Still, those who are not racing fans expressed disappointment with NASCAR in general, and diehard NASCAR fans couldn't help comparing the Pocono Raceway to its more impressive counterparts.
- #2View all Photos#2 in The PoconosMuseums, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This luxurious mansion was constructed in 1861 for Asa Packer, a railroad magnate who founded Lehigh University. Construction of the three-story, 18-room home took two years and cost $14,000. The roughly 11,000-square-foot mansion has served as a museum since 1956 and holds the distinction of a National Historic Landmark. Tours showcase the mansion and an assortment of artifacts, as well as cover the interesting history of Packer and his family.
Past visitors raved about the excellent tour guides and interesting historical facts shared. They also praised the opulent mansion's original furnishings and period-specific details, claiming that walking across the porch feels like stepping into a time capsule. Despite all of its appeal, reviewers also warned that the mansion's location at an exceptionally steep hill makes accessing it particularly arduous, but they insisted it is worth the climb.
- #3View all Photos#3 in The PoconosAmusement Parks, Swimming/PoolsTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDAmusement Parks, Swimming/PoolsTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Poconos' assortment of water parks provide the sense of a tropical escape in all four seasons. There are four water park resorts in the Pocono Mountains region, each offering their own slides and pool, plus a relatively unique atmosphere. For example, Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark boasts a transparent roof, while Kalahari Resorts and Conventions offers African decor. Great Wolf Lodge and Split Rock Resort & Golf Club round out the area's water park offerings.
While advice from past travelers varies depending on which water park you choose to visit, a handful of suggestions apply to all of the parks. First, exercise caution with the on-site eateries, which run the gamut from overly expensive to downright unappetizing, according to past guests. Also, keep an eye on your kids, as many reviewers expressed disappointment with the lifeguards across all four resorts. Finally, adult guests should take into account what they want to do on vacation, as many of the resorts' amenities appeal to specific age groups and traveler types.
- #4View all Photos#4 in The PoconosRecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
After you've gotten your fill of the Poconos' ground- and water-based activities, head to one of the area's numerous adventure parks. Adventure parks take the excitement into the air, with elevated obstacle courses for adventurous children and adults to challenge themselves on. The courses often weave their way through picturesque forest settings with rope, wood and cable configurations that create balance beams, rickety bridges and monkey bars. Each park offers an assortment of difficulty levels, each with its own challenging elements.
Past travelers praised the adventure parks as entertaining options for the whole family. A handful of the adventure parks also offer zip lines, which impressed adrenaline junkies. Despite all the accolades adventure parks received, travelers who are afraid of heights or are not physically fit did not enjoy the higher and more challenging courses. Be sure to research the difficulty and elevation of each course before making a reservation.
- #5View all Photos#5 in The PoconosRecreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Both the Lehigh River and Delaware River are controlled by a dam, which makes the water level and current (and subsequent rapids) controlled throughout the summer. Consequently, a variety of whitewater rafting companies are available to take groups through the rapids and down the river. These companies often run trips on different parts of the river, so that travelers can choose between adrenaline-pumping challenges and family-friendly floats.
Past travelers suggested thrill-seekers visit on a dam release weekend when the water is at its most chaotic; otherwise, the trip may be a bit boring. Most reviewers were impressed regardless of when they visited, and the trips earned especially high marks from families. Anyone worried about safety will be comforted that safety measures played a part in every trip, from rule presentations to required life jackets, according to past rafters.
- #6View all Photos#6 in The PoconosFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Past travelers warned that the rewarding trails that take you near the Glen Onoko Falls can be extremely difficult. In comparison, other trails in the park are paved and can even be biked, which past travelers said makes them an excellent choice for families. In fact, several past travelers said the park can be a bit boring for walking, and is instead best enjoyed on two wheels.
Lehigh Gorge State Park sits between White Haven and Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, so it is easy to reach via car from most towns within the Poconos. All areas of the park are open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. Access to the park is free, and there are no campsites at Lehigh Gorge State Park. Check Lehigh Gorge State Park's website for the most up-to-date information.
- #7View all Photos#7 in The PoconosParks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The coaches for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway were built as early as 1917, meaning the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is sure to make the day of any ferroequinologist, or a person who studies trains. The trains are most often pulled by diesel engines, but the railroad occasionally uses steam locomotives. The 16-mile, roughly one-hour round trip weaves through the Lehigh Gorge State Park. The exact length of trips varies depending on the season, and the railway offers special excursions for events like fall foliage.
Past travelers suggested splurging the extra couple bucks for an open-air car if the weather is nice. Arrive early, though, as visitors warned that tickets are tricky to get, especially during the fall foliage months and other special excursions. Also, while the beautiful scenery impresses most riders, they advised future passengers to keep in mind that the train takes the same route out and back, so the second half of the trip is a repeat.
- #8View all Photos#8 in The PoconosNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Hickory Run State Park covers more than 15,000 acres and is crisscrossed by more than 40 miles of hiking trails. Still, the park's primary attractions are the Boulder Field and its roughly 6-mile Boulder Field Trail. The field is an 18-acre collection of rocks, which range in size from less than 18 inches to more than 25 feet in length, and scientists suggest the perplexing site is the result of a long-melted glacier. In addition to hiking, Hickory Run State Park welcomes fishers, campers, bird-watchers, swimmers and even disk golfers.
Past travelers particularly enjoyed climbing out on the rocks of Boulder Field, saying that the natural wonder is interesting for visitors of all ages. You'll want to watch your step, though, as the boulder field provides ample opportunity for twisted ankles. Hawks Falls serves as the park's second most popular attraction, and recent travelers said that the large waterfall is worth the short hike along Hawks Falls Trail.
- #9View all Photos#9 in The PoconosParks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area stretches over 40 miles of the Delaware River, covering a total of roughly 67,000 acres. This expansive protected area allows outdoorsy visitors to explore more than 100 miles of hiking trails, including 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Scenic drives complement the hiking options, while motorboats, fishers, kayaks and swimmers can utilize the Delaware River. Come winter, the recreation area also allows cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Past visitors recommended hiking the Red Dot Trail up Mount Tammany, which can be combined with the Blue Blaze Trail to create a loop. The Red Dot Trail is particularly steep and rocky, though the full loop is only 3 miles, so it's recommended to take the Red Dot Trail up and the Blue Blaze Trail down. The recreation areas fall foliage also impresses recent adventurers, meeting their high expectations for the region's autumn colors.
- #10View all Photos#10 in The PoconosSkiingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDSkiingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
While the Pocono Mountains may not pierce the sky like the Rockies, they still provide an excellent destination for skiers and snowboarders from the East Coast. The first ski area opened in 1946, and the area's offerings have kept pace with modern innovations, boasting routes that are well-groomed and lifts that are speedy. Six ski areas are scattered across the region, meaning that there is no shortage of slopes. Whether you're practicing on the bunny hills or bombing double black diamonds, you're sure to find a few runs that suit your skill level.
Past travelers reported flocking to the mountains that offer snow tubing, but there are also numerous complaints that the tubing programs are poorly managed during the peak ski season. Similarly, the ski runs themselves often become crowded during weekends in the peak season, leading to mixed reviews from recent visitors who were frustrated by long lift lines on weekends.
- #11View all Photos#11 in The PoconosGolfTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDGolfTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Poconos' varied terrain makes the area a golf destination for travelers from surrounding cities. The region includes historic courses designed by Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast, as well as more modern courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Rocky Roquemore. Many of the courses also include driving ranges, tee areas and other practice areas, so that travelers can brush up on both their long- and short-game before tackling a full course. Keep in mind that a handful of the courses are owned and maintained by hotels or resorts, so you may get a deal by bedding down where you golf.
Past travelers particularly praised the beautiful courses for their elevation changes and stunning surroundings. Like any courses, recent golfers claimed that the difficulty level varies between courses and holes. Past visitors also appreciate the area's generally cheap price, especially if you look into the various specials when booking a tee time. Prices vary greatly depending on the course, time of day and season that you plan on golfing. In general, the Poconos' golf season runs through spring, summer and fall, only pausing when there is snow on the ground. Additional information on the area's most popular courses is available on the Pocono Mountains website.
- #12View all Photos#12 in The PoconosFree, ShoppingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, ShoppingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Part of the Poconos' appeal is the area's natural beauty. Going hand in hand with natural beauty is natural bounty, and the Poconos certainly don't skimp on ways to enjoy a taste of the region's offerings. Farms dot the area surrounding small Pennsylvania towns like Stroudsburg and Lake Harmony, while farmers markets set up shop in regular intervals to sell flowers, fruits and cheeses. Whether you stop by and stock up, or simply want to stroll, smell and sample, the assorted farmers markets provide a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or morning.
Past visitors recommend bringing cash, as some options like the Lake Harmony farmers market don't accept cards. While shoppers marveled at the array of options, baked goods seemed to be a favorite across all of the markets.
Explore More of The Poconos
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.