If you appreciate natural beauty in all its forms, you’re going to love the Poconos. With wooded hills, dramatic valleys, and gorgeous glades, the region has long been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for thrilling adventure on the ski slopes, peaceful hiking on the trails, or gentle fishing in the Delaware River, you’ll find no shortage of things to do, see, and experience. If you’re visiting for the first time and wondering where to start, take some inspiration from our roundup of the ‘20 Best Things to do in the Poconos for First Timers’. We promise that whichever one you chose, you won't be disappointed.
20. Get on Your Bike
With two national parks and nine state parks to its name, the Poconos is the ideal destination for anyone who enjoys a scenic bike ride. The region offers a score of gorgeous trails, all of varying lengths and difficulty levels, but all offering the same combination of stunning views and gorgeous terrains. Although you can’t really go wrong with whatever trail you choose, riding along the Lehigh River in the Lehigh Gorge State Park on a warm summer’s day is an unforgettable experience. If you forget to bring your own bike, you’ll find no shortage of bike rental outfits around. Depending on where you're staying, you may also find your hotel or resort has a few bikes hanging around for guest's use.
19. Experience City Life in Wilkes-Barre
Admittedly, most visitors to the Poconos are there for the natural beauty. But it’s not all mountains and wildlife. If you fancy indulging in a little urban recreation, head to Wilkes- Barre, an exciting, vibrant little city that’s the perfect place to indulge in some retail therapy, cultural sightseeing, sports event, or show.
18. Indulge in Some Bird Spotting
If you’re happy to spend all day with a pair of binoculars clamped to your face, you won’t be disappointed with the bird watching opportunities on offer in the Poconos. Try to fit in at least a few hours at both the Pocono Environmental Education Center – a fabulous place to check out the migrating birds in spring – and the Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary, a stunning reserve littered with nature trails and all manners and varieties of local wildlife. If you fancy a real hands-on experience, meanwhile, the guided tours and interactive events at the wonderful Kettle Creek Environmental Education Center won’t disappoint.
17. Entertain the Kids at the Split Rock Resort Indoor Waterpark
If you’re traveling with the kids in tow, treat them to a visit to the Split Rock Resort Indoor Waterpark. Consisting of 60,000-feet of water-based fun, the park offers a huge range of activities, including a score of exciting slides for the adrenaline junkies, a wave pool for the fun seekers, a lazy river and several hot tub for the weary, and a snack bar for the hungry.
16. Feed the Parrots at Claws 'N' Paws
As the name suggests, Claws 'N' Paws has animals… lots and lots of animals. One-part petting zoo and one-part animal park, the venue gives visitors the chance to combine the awe-inspiring sight of over 120 wild animal species with the chance of petting some very cute deer, lambs, sheep, and goats. The emphasis here is very much on getting everyone involved, so be prepared to be called on to feed the parrots or hunt some fossils in the interactive dig.
15. Travel the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
If you want to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Poconos without having to work up a sweat as you do it, take the leisurely route by grabbing a seat on the 1917 train car that winds up and down the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Lasting 70 minutes each way, the train trip will take you through some of the most awe-inspiring natural beauty of the region, offering unparalleled glimpses of the ravines, cliffs, waterfalls, and valleys that make the area famous.
14. Sup Some Beer at the Susquehanna Brewing Company
If all your sightseeing has given you a thirst, there’s only one place to head: Susquehanna Brewing Company. The family-owned brewery generously offers visitors the opportunity to take a free, guided tour of the premises every Saturday at 2 PM, while the tasting room is the perfect place to sample some unique flavors and brews. If you want to pick up a memento of your visit, the gift shop is crammed with a huge range of merchandise, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, bottle openers, baseball caps, keyrings, and glasses.
13. Take a Walk in Nature
If you like nothing more than strapping a pair of hiking boots to your feet and setting off into nature, the abundance and variety of trails on offer in the Poconos won’t disappoint. A staggering 126 hiking trails stretching over 261 miles litter the landscape of the Pocono Mountains, giving you every opportunity to enjoy some fresh air, glorious views, and challenging terrains.
12. Visit the Waterfalls
As your enjoying the scenery on one of your walks or rides across the stunning terrain of the Poconos, don’t miss checking out some of the fabulous waterfalls. In total, there are 18 waterfalls scattered throughout the region’s parks and hiking trails – while all are worth a visit in their own right, you’ll kick yourself if you miss the breathtaking beauty of "The Niagara of Pennsylvania", Bushkill Falls.
11. Tube the Delaware River
If you’re looking to dial the adventure up a notch, the Delaware River will give you the perfect opportunity to do just that. Whether you raft it, kayak it, canoe it, or simply lie back and tube it, the Delaware River’s pristine waters and breathtaking backdrops will delight everyone and anyone that visits.
10. Take a Horseback Ride
If you’re an experienced horse rider, you’ll find the rugged terrain of the Poconos a thrilling experience. Even if you’re new to the joys of horseback riding, you’ll still find plenty of opportunities to enjoy a relaxing ride on the gentler trails. The area is scattered with various ranches offering guided rides, with The Ranch at Pocono Manor coming particularly recommended thanks to its breathtaking 3000-acre grounds and great entertainment options, which include wagon rides, a petting zoo, kid-friendly pony rides, and in winter, magical sleigh rides through the surrounding countryside.
9. Ride the Slides at Great Wolf Lodge
You don’t have to stay at Great Wolf Lodge to enjoy its facilities. If you’ve got kids, delight them with some day passes: with its 79,000-sq. ft. heated indoor water park remaining a temperate 84 degrees year-round, you can enjoy the slides whatever the weather.
8. Visit the Harrity Covered Bridge
Visiting a bridge might not sound some people’s idea of fun, but those people have clearly never visited the Harrity Covered Bridge. Located in the Beltzville State Park (a breathtakingly beautiful park set along Pohopoco Creek offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and recreational fun), the bridge is one of the state’s most outstanding examples of a covered bridge, and at nearly 180 years old, one of its oldest as well.
7. Browse the Stalls at The Main Street Farmers' Market
Who can resist a visit to a farmer’s market, especially if that farmer’s market happens to be as good as The Main Street Farmers' Market at The Cooperage? Open every other Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m, the market is the perfect place to pick up some fresh local produce, cured meats, artisan cheeses, and homemade breads and pastries. Even if we ignore the great range of regional delicacies on offer, the vibrant, community-led atmosphere is well worth the visit in its own right.
6. Pet the Goats at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm
Pennsylvania has a rich German heritage, and nowhere is this better displayed than at the family-friendly Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm. As you walk around, you’ll be treated to the sight of traditionally garbed guides recreating scenes from the daily life of the farm’s past occupants, as well as divulging little titbits about its founder, Johann Depper. Kids will get a kick from petting the many goats, cows, horses, sheep, chickens, and pigs that call the 114-acre farm their home, while all ages will delight in a tour of the original smokehouse and the charmingly rustic farmhouse.
5. Have Some Fun at Kalahari Waterpark
There are waterparks, and then there’s the Kalahari Waterpark, Poconos. Created around an African theme, the 10,000-square-foot waterpark is fun for the whole family, offering just about every type of water-based fun you can think on. Get your adrenalin pumping by taking on the slides, take it easy by floating along the river, or enjoy some serious relaxation in one of the heated tubs. Once you’ve had your fill of poolside action, retreat to one of the center’s many restaurants for a spot of lunch and a cooling beverage or two.
4. Discover Nature at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
If natural beauty is what you want, natural beauty is what you’ll find at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. As one of the most popular destinations in the area, the 67,000-acre park is a smorgasbord of pristine virgin forest, dramatic valleys, rhododendron filled ravines, breathtaking waterfalls, and deep gorges. Whether you prefer to visit for the superb bird watching, the adrenaline-filled zip lining, the relaxing fishing, or the peaceful hiking, you’ll find no shortage of things to see, do and experience in this delightful slice of nature.
3. Tour the No. 9 Coal Mine & Museum
If you want to understand a little more about the history and significance of coal mining in the Poconos, a tour of the No. 9 Coal Mine & Museum comes highly recommended. As Vacation Idea notes, the mine is the oldest continuously running anthracite coal mine in Lansford, Pennsylvania, having operated all the way from 1855 to 2002. After its closure, it was turned into a tourist attraction, and today serves as a fascinating insight into the hard, grueling lives of the region’s miners. The original 900-foot deep elevator shaft is intriguing, while the miner’s hospital, underground mule-way and huge collection of original artifacts (including the picks, drills, shovels, saws, axes and blasting tools that served as the tools of the trade of the miners, along with their caps, lamps and lunch cans) are strangely emotive.
2. Picnic at the Promised Land State Park
Pack a picnic and head to the Promised Land State Park for a day of relaxing fun in nature. With two pristine lakes and a very well-equipped picnic area, it’s the perfect place to soak up some sun, enjoy some sandwiches, sit back, and take in all that gorgeous natural beauty. If you’ve got the kids with you, they’re sure to have plenty of fun in the playground and sports courts – and if they get bored of that, there are even two sandy beaches for them to build some sandcastles on.
1. Travel Back in Time at Eckley Miners' Village
A hundred years ago, Eckley Miners' Village was a busy hub of activity for the region’s miners. Today, it’s a fascinating museum that offers an intriguing glimpse into the day to day life of the people who once called it home. With a museum, several churches, a sports club, a company store, and numerous houses, there’s enough on offer to keep you entertained for days on end. If you do manage to eventually drag yourself away, don’t miss a quick pitstop at the Eckley Village gift shop on your way out– it’s the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs of your visit.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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