The Poconos -- when people our age hear the name, many immediately think of the champagne tower whirlpools and heart-shaped tubs so heavily advertised in the ’70s as The Honeymoon Capital of the World. These experiences are still available, but the reality is there is so much more for the mature traveler to enjoy in the Pocono Mountains.
The Pocono Mountains are located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The 2,400-square-mile area has long been a popular outdoor recreation area boasting hunting, fishing, skiing, and more. The Pocono Mountains are within a two-hour drive of multiple metropolitan areas such as New York and Philadelphia.
Many interstates and highways connect to the Pocono Region, including PA Route 903, known as the Highway to Adventure due to the numerous resorts and venues along this stretch of highway. Two airports serve the Poconos: the Lehigh Valley International Airport and Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, which is just outside the region.
I enjoy the Pocono Mountain area because there is something for everyone. I've visited twice and I am planning a third trip in the fall. The mountains are beautiful. Some resorts are luxurious. Some are rustic. There are quaint bed and breakfasts, adult-only inns, big-name entertainment venues, and some great wineries and breweries. There is excellent hiking, fishing, skiing, leaf-peeping, waterparks, and the list goes on.
A family-friendly outdoor vacation region, there is much to do for the mature traveler. Here are some of my favorite things the 50+ traveler will enjoy in the Poconos.
1. Take A Hike
The Pocono Mountains region includes 261 miles of hiking trails. With two national and nine state parks, the Appalachian Trail, and Bushkill Falls, you can find a hiking trail for any skill level and you will enjoy breathtaking scenery as you hike.
As with any hiking adventure, be sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes to avoid injury.
Editor’s Note: For other hiking in the area, we recommend these nine hikes in Eastern Pennsylvania.
2. Visit Waterfalls
You will find many impressive cascades in the Pocono Mountains. The "Niagara of Pennsylvania," Bushkill Falls is one of the most impressive.
Bushkill Falls includes eight natural waterfalls inside a privately owned 300-acre park. There is an entrance fee, and you must climb steps for the best view, but it is well worth it. If you want to see a few other waterfalls, take the challenging Red Trail hike that runs almost two miles and provides views of eight falls, including Bridal Veil Falls, Bridesmaid's Falls, Pennell Falls, and the Lower Gorge Falls. The hike takes a minimum of two hours and is open April through October. Other attractions include miniature golf, paddleboats, play areas, and dining spots, including a fudge kitchen with ice cream and a snack bar. They offer free parking.
3. Walk Through A Covered Bridge
Visit Beltzville State Park and walk through the Harrity Covered Bridge. It is one of many covered bridges to experience in Pennsylvania. This bridge, built in 1841, is for pedestrians to enjoy. It is flat and a quick half-hour stop. The park also boasts some beautiful hiking and biking trails if you wish to spend more time.
4. Check Out A Boulder Field
Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park was formed from glacial ice melt and is recognized as a National Natural Landmark. Unchanged for over 20,000 years, some boulders are 26 feet long. This would be a half-hour stop.
5. Enjoy Some Roadside Oddities
From a haunted Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe to a giant gorilla statue and other oddities at Country Junction, the Poconos are full of unique roadside attractions. You can even tour an ice sculpture factory and check out the museum in Lakeville at Sculpted Ice Works.
These stops will take as much time as you want -- a half-hour here and 15 minutes there. I'd plan for a half-day if seeing more than one.
6. Explore Small Towns With Big Charm
Visit some of the small towns nestled in the Pocono Mountains. Jim Thorpe, Stroudsburg, and Milford all offer picturesque splendor, rich histories, and quaint eateries.
Jim Thorpe offers some waterway adventures such as white-water rafting and kayaking on the Lehigh River. If you desire a less strenuous activity, enjoy a train ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
Milford gives you the best of small-town America. They offer cultural vibrancy, heritage attractions, and more.
7. Learn About Mining
Explore the No. 9 Mine and Museum. Take a walking tour of the mine that dates back to 1855. Ride in a mine car into the mountain. Visit the museum that houses the most extensive collection of mining artifacts in the area and is located in the original "wash shanty."
Plan for a half-day visit to this area.
8. View The Lehigh Gorge By Train
Diesel engines pull vintage coaches through picturesque places on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Most times, you can ride from Jim Thorpe into the Lehigh Gorge State Park. The trip follows the majestic Lehigh River and is a narrated trip.
This would be a half-day visit.
9. Visit Steamtown National Historic Site
Learn the history of the people who built and rode the steam trains and the history of railroad transportation at Steamtown National Historic Site. Steamtown works to preserve a special part of America's industrial past. You can even take a steam train passenger excursion! Choo, choo!
Visiting Steamtown would be a half-day event. While the museum and grounds are wheelchair-accessible, the train ride itself is not. You have two steps up to the train.
10. Shoot Some Craps
The Mount Airy Casino Resort offers 1,800 slot machines from penny machines up to the big bets. If you enjoy the thrill of live table games, Mount Airy has you covered. They offer table games including blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker. The length of time for this visit is dependent on how long you wish to stay or if your money runs out.
11. Visit A Waterpark
Before you say No way! remember, waterparks are not just for kids. The Poconos have some gorgeous waterparks that cater to the mature traveler. If you visit mid-week during the school year, you will find lots of peace and quiet and fun. Think lazy river rides, hot tub pools, swim-up bars, wave pools, and more.
My current favorite Pocono waterpark is Kalahari. When we visited, we enjoyed a two-bedroom suite on the ground floor so we were near the waterpark. I loved the large hot tub pool where you could swim in or out.
Another excellent waterpark for the 50+ traveler in the Poconos is the Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark that features the Mystic Springs Spa Lagoon.
If you want an adults-only feel to the entire resort, check out the Mount Airy Casino Resort. While not a waterpark, they have a beautiful pool with lovely amenities.
Anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day at a waterpark is terrific.
12. Go Leaf-Peeping
If you visit in October, take advantage of the most beautiful picturesque fall foliage.
The Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania are a sight to behold in autumn. Be sure to take your camera from the scenic Delaware Water Gap to Bushkill Falls. You will find plenty of photo opportunities for technicolor leaves in this area! Leaves can be viewed by car, and you can spend as much time as you wish driving around seeing Mother Nature's spectacular showcase.
13. Play A Round Of Golf
Enjoy hitting the links at one of eight golf courses in the Pocono Mountains.
14. Enjoy A Stock Car Experience
The Pocono Raceway offers a stock car experience, or maybe catch a NASCAR race while you are in town.
15. Sample Pocono Libations
Taste some brews and wines made in the Poconos. Tour a microbrewery, sample distilled spirits, or stop by a winery at locations across the region. Pocono beer, wine, and spirits are made from local ingredients and are curated for excellence.
However you choose to spend your time in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, you can be sure it will be a vacation to remember.
P.S. If you want to try those heart-shaped tubs I mentioned at the beginning, they still exist at adult-only destinations like Paradise Stream Resort, Cove Haven Resort, and Pocono Palace Resort. Kalahari has added a few to their honeymoon suites as well.