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The Unexpected Pleasures of an Off-Season Vacation in the Poconos

April 23, 2013 By:
Beth D'Addono, Inside Magazine feature
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Sunset at Skytop Lodge. Photo by John Wadsworth.

Once upon a time, the Pocono Mountains were known primarily as a honeymoon destination — World War II servicemen visited in droves with their brides before leaving for active duty. Today, while still a honeymoon choice for more than 200,000 couples a year, the Poconos have more to offer than just the setting for romance. 

This section of the Appalachian Plateau stretches across four counties, encompassing some 13 recreation areas, picturesque villages and dense woodland. Not a single destination, the region is made up of a series of small towns connected by both highways and country roads. 

If you prefer warmth to chill, tranquility to speed and the great outdoors to concrete-and-steel canyons, read on. The Pocono Mountains offer plenty of diversions to keep you entertained, warm and happy.

Got Culture?

If you don’t think museums when you think Poconos, think again. There are several terrific cultural gems located on the other side of the Lehigh Tunnel, all within an easy drive of nearby inns and resorts. 

The Pocono Indian Museum (U.S. Hwy. 209, Bushkill, 570.588.9338; www.poconoindianmuseum.com) Trace the history of Northeastern Pennsylvania from 10,500 BCE until just prior to the American Revolution through artifacts and exhibits at this museum dedicated to the Delaware Indian. A gift shop sells Native American-related items, including clothing, toys, jewelry, pottery and literature. 

Dorflinger Glass Museum (Long Ridge Rd., White Mills, 570.253.1185; www.dorflinger.org) The Dorflinger Glass Company, a favorite of President Lincoln, was established in 1862. Some 600 pieces of the highly etched, gilded and decorated glass are on display, including goblets from the Lincoln White House. 

The Martin Guitar Company (510 Sycamore St., Nazareth, 610.759.2837; www.martinguitar.com) Producing some of the world’s finest acoustic guitars in Nazareth for more than 150 years, Martin guitars are played by the likes of Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. Take a guided tour of the factory to see all aspects of guitar construction and string manufacturing. There is also a museum, which includes a guitar made in 1834 by C.F. Martin, and a ukulele that accompanied Adm. Byrd to the North Pole. 

Asa Packer Mansion (Packer Hill Rd., Jim Thorpe, 570.325.3229; www.asapackermansion.com) A captain of industry responsible for building the Lehigh Railroad and Lehigh University, Asa Packer used some of his millions to build the brooding mansion that looms over the funky town of Jim Thorpe. Tour the Victorian manse (and the one he built next door for his son Harry) to see Robert E. Lee’s desk, a crystal chandelier used in the film Gone with the Wind and one of only two Swiss-made orchestrians (a combination one-man band and player piano built in a wooden case) in the United States. The other one, housed in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., doesn’t work; Packer’s still does. 

Shopping Sprees

The Pocono Mountains offer all kinds of ways to part you from your money. Big outlet stores? Got ’em. Crafty, cutesy country boutiques? Check. Antiques and collectibles? You bet. 

Crossings Premium Outlets (1000 Route 611, Tannersville, 570.629.4650; www.premiumoutlets.com/thecrossings) is the area’s preeminent outlet destination, with more than 100 brand names, from Anne Klein and Jockey to Tommy Hilfiger and J. Crew. 

If it’s more obscure treasures you seek, the Pocono Bazaar (Route 209, Marshalls Creek, 570.223.8640; www.poconobazaar.com) is open every weekend, year ’round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ll find bargains, fads and gadgets — all at negotiable prices. There’s lots of kids’ stuff, along with shirts, jeans, winter coats and brand-name sneakers. The selection changes all the time, which is part of the fun. 

If you’re traveling the backroads, in towns like Stroudsburg, Bangor, Mount Pocono and Jim Thorpe, you’ll come across artist-owned pottery and glass studios, along with candle shops galore. Here are a few picks: 

The American Candle Shop (Pa. Hwy. 611, Bartonsville, 570.629.3388; www.american-candle.com) This 40,000-square foot monster candle shop sells everything in wax, including carved candles, wedding favors and Havdalah candles. Enjoy a cappuccino from the onsite coffee shop while you browse.

House of Candles (Pa. Hwy. 715, Henryville; 570.629.1953; www.houseofcandles.com) Watch the candle-making process and see carvers at work at this busy shop, known for its custom candles for weddings, anniversaries and other commemorative occasions. 

After Dark

The Poconos is not the nightlife capital of the state. That said, you can catch live music and jazz on most weekends, and do some dancing at many of the larger mountain resorts just about any night of the week. 

Waterwheel Café (150 Water St., Milford, 570.296.2383; www.waterwheelcafe.com) Located in the sweet town of Milford on the Delaware River, this intimate spot offers American and Vietnamese specialties and live blues every Thursday night and jams most weekends. 

Deer Head Inn (5 Main St., Delaware Water Gap, 570.424.2000; www.deerheadinn.com) The Deer Head is the place to go for live jazz. A local hot spot for more than 50 years, the club attracts musicians from Manhattan for late-night jam sessions along with local talent. Go early and have dinner — the food is great. 

Bar Louis at the Hotel Fauchère (401 Broad St., Milford, 570.409.1212; hotelfauchere.com) This hipster lounge scene in Milford is almost indistinguishable from a bar crowd on East Passyunk Ave. Eclectic American fare and well-shaken cocktails set the tone. Collaborative art photography by the Hilton Brothers creates a stunning backdrop, and a portrait of Andy Warhol kissing John Lennon hangs over the bar. 

Legendary Tannersville Inn (Pa. Hwy. 611, Tannersville, 570.629.3131; www.tannersvilleinn.com) Play whodunit at the Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre every Friday, with live music, ranging from bluegrass to rock and Dixieland, rounding out the weekend’s entertainment. 

On the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Stabler Arena is used mainly as a basketball court, but well-known bands perform there as well. Concerts are held throughout the year. (610.758.3770; www.stablerarena.com.) 

Also in Bethlehem, check out the legendary folk venue Godfrey Daniels (7 E. Fourth St., 610.867.2390; www.godfreydaniels.org), where big names in blues and folk share the stage with old-time country jams and bluegrass bands.

Time to Eat

Always a favorite indoor sport, dining out in the Poconos delivers experiences from down-home comfort food to white-tablecloth cuisine.

Delmonico Room (Hotel Fauchère, 401 Broad St., MIlford, 570.409.1212; hotelfauchere.com) Chef Michael Glatz brings modern American cuisine to the table using fresh, organic produce, some of which comes from co-owner Dick Snyder’s nearby 70-acre farm. Try the gravlax, cured with Lapsang Souchong tea, or the Delmonico steak.

The French Manor Inn and Spa (50 Huntingdon Dr.,
South Sterling, 570.676.3244; www.thefrenchmanor.com) This enchanting, AAA-rated four-diamond stone chateau and French restaurant was built as a private retreat in 1932. The spa is divine and the inn is spacious, with cozy fireplaces and oversized tubs perfect for canoodling.

Woody’s Country House (Rte. 115, south of Rte. 903, Blakeslee, 570.646.9932; woodyscountryhouse.com) Chilis, soups and sandwiches fill the bill at the moderately priced eatery, which also features steaks, chops, ribs and pasta.

Here’s the Rub

The Lodge at Woodloch (109 River Birch Ln., Hawley, 866.953.8500; www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com) A retreat for the mind, body and spirit, the Lodge offers a well-appointed spa showcasing the usual body and beauty treatments, along with reiki, shiatsu and Thai massage. Therapists incorporate natural essences like lavender, green tea and lemongrass into blissful sessions of rejuvenation. 

The Deerfield Spa (50 Resica Falls Rd., East Stroudsburg, 570.223.0160; www.deerfieldspa.com) is a serious destination spa and bodyworks facility with an emphasis on fitness, exercise and spa cuisine. Facilities include a heated outdoor pool, aerobic gym, gym, sport court and treatment rooms, where a range of massage and other wellness services are offered. 

Staying Inn

Get cozy. Read a book. Take a walk. From Victorian B&Bs to full-service resorts, the Pocono Mountains give good sleep. 

Gilded Cupid B&B (40 West Broadway, Jim Thorpe, 570.325.5453; www.gildedcupid.com) Hike, bike, ski and explore in and around Jim Thorpe, then settle in at this centrally located Victorian B&B. Friendly innkeepers Sheila and Bob make you feel at home and serve a delicious gourmet breakfast. 

Hotel Fauchère Named for its original owner, Louis Fauchère, a master chef at New York’s Delmonico’s Restaurant, this 19th-century hotel fell on hard times in the 1970s and closed. Meticulously restored to its former glory by local businessmen Sean Strub and Dick Snyder, the hotel’s elegant public spaces boast clean lines, burnished wood and luxurious finishes. Rockers invite on the front porch, and a collection of Hudson River School paintings are hung throughout the hotel. The 16 luxe guestrooms combine 21st-century technology (WiFi, iPod docking stations, flatscreens) with heavenly comfort (Frette linens, Kiehl’s amenities, wine and chocolate in every room). 

Hillside Lodge & Resort (Rte. 390, Canadensis, 1.800.666.4455; www.hillsidelodgepoconos.com) This comfy lodge offers mountain views and a cottage and suite setting ideal for romance. Typical amenities include king-size canopy beds, stocked wet bars, two-person whirlpools and fireplaces. Yes, they even have heart-shaped tubs. 

The Inn at Pocono Manor (Rte. 314 One Manor Drive,
Pocono Manor, 800.233.8150; www.poconomanor.com) Located in Pocono Manor, a Registered National Historic District, the Inn has 250 guest rooms and suites, each with a distinct architectural style and furnishings. There is also nightly entertainment, tennis, golf, a cross-country trail and a fitness center if you want to move away from the fire. 

Mancation

An outing with the boys starts on the edge of the pristine Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and on the banks of the wild and scenic Delaware River at the historic Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort (100 Shawnee Inn Drive, Shawnee on Delaware, 800.742.9633; www.shawneeinn.com). The mancation begins with the 27-hole championship golf course, which has the distinction of being on an island in the Delaware River. Along with golf, there is a wealth of outdoor recreational activities such as kayaking, biking, hiking and fishing — all offered right from the grounds of the resort. Their full-service spa is great for post-activity rejuvenation that will take away all the aches and pains. Finally, conclude the day with a farm-to-table dinner and a pint of the artisanal craft beer made right on the premises. The ShawneeCraft Brewing Company teaches the art and science behind brewing small-batch craft beer. Ask about the packages, which include overnight accommodations for two nights, welcome reception, breakfast each morning, one lunch and one dinner, workshop, beer tasting and parting gifts. 

Family Fun and Adventure

After you’ve explored the tamer side of nature, why not try a walk on the wilder side? Whatever adventure you are looking for, the Pocono Mountains will help answer nature’s call. Horseback riding, hiking and soaking up the mountain views are other ways to get close to nature. Pocono Biking (poconobiking.com) not only rents bikes for exploring gorges and single-track trails, they offer group biking and paddling adventures and special stay-and-pedal packages. Whitewater rafting is another fun family choice. Whitewater Challengers (800.443.RAFT www.whitewaterchallengers.com) is one popular outfitter, with trips from languid to white-knuckle offered on the Lehigh River. 

A renowned member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America, Skytop Lodge (One Skytop, Skytop, 855.345.7759; www.skytop.com) has been delighting families since 1928 and specializes in multigenerational vacations. With its own lake and adventure center, including a 40-foot climbing wall, paintball, mountain biking and more, the recreational possibilities are endless. The resort also features an array of educational programs for children, including an on-site naturalist and Camp in the Clouds, a day camp featuring varied activities including cooking, dancing, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts and more. Book a room in the grand stone lodge or at the inn that opens right onto the championship golf course. Ask about the family meal plan that includes all meals, plus an enormous array of activities for the whole family, from the supervised children’s program to hiking, boating, biking, rock climbing, ziplining, dog-sledding and tennis. 

From Cub Club to themed suites and daily events to interactive games, everything about Great Wolf Lodge (1 Great Wolf Drive, Scotrun, 800.768.9653; www.greatwolf.com/poconos/waterpark) adds up to family fun. The main attraction is the northeast’s largest indoor waterpark, boasting 78,000 square feet of excitement for every age. Then there’s Scoops, an ice cream-themed exclusive spa for children. And make sure to put on your pajamas and enjoy story time every evening at 8:15 p.m. at the Clock Tower in the lobby, a Great Wolf tradition. o

Beth D’Addono is a frequent contributor to Inside.

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