Street lamps draped in garlands and wreaths with red bows, storefronts decorated for the holidays, visitors dressed in Victorian attire, friendly faces greeting you wherever you go — it sounds like a magical town out of a Hallmark movie, doesn’t it?
I’m referring to Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, located in the northeastern part of the Keystone State about 20 miles from Scranton in the Endless Mountains.
I mentioned Tunkhannock in my article on Pennsylvania towns that make you feel like you’re on the set of a Hallmark movie. After visiting during their Christmas in Our Hometown: 2020 Edition festival, I can confirm that they are an extra-special Christmas town. The only thing missing was the snow!
My husband and I enjoyed our weekend in this small town of 7,000 people. We were very impressed with how the whole town seemed to be involved in the festivities. Almost every storefront was decorated for the holidays. Throughout the town, trees of different shapes and sizes were decorated in sparkling white lights.
A Nativity was set up in front of one business. All the street lamps were decorated. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the regular activities were canceled, but there was still plenty going on.
Here are just a few of the magical Christmas experiences we had in charming Tunkhannock.
The Comfort Inn and Suites, Tunkhannock, and the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau hosted our weekend visit. All opinions remain my own.
The first thing we did was visit with the on-site reindeer. Their owners from the Spruce Run Farm in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, were on hand to provide information about the reindeer and their care. Did you know that a reindeer grows an entirely new set of antlers each year? Or that if their hoof itches, they use their antlers to scratch it? Now that requires some serious coordination! (I have video proof that they do this!)
Nearby, Santa sat in a beautifully decorated gazebo. Sadly, due to COVID, children were not permitted to visit with him individually. They could, however, talk with him through plexiglass.
The Ice Sculpture Area
Next, we visited the ice sculpture area. The first sculpture, depicting two gingerbread people, had already been completed. As we approached, the sculptor was working on a deer head with antlers. He later moved to another location and carved a snowman ice sculpture.
Ebb’s Candy Jar
Ebb’s Candy Jar was our next stop. Due to COVID mandates, only a few people were permitted into the small store at one time. There was quite a line to get in, but the experience was worth the wait. Inside, we marveled at the handmade chocolates and the variety of candy from our childhood days.
The winter wonderland outside, with its life-size cartoon characters from Christmas favorites, entertained visitors as they waited in line to get into the store. Snoopy and the gang from Peanuts were there. Alvin and the Chipmunks brought back a lot of memories from yesteryear. The Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, and the Abominable Snowman were all available for photo ops.
On the porch of the store was an area where children could write letters to Santa. There was even a mailbox to drop them in.
Everyone seemed to have festive attire on, even the pets. We met the cutest dog dressed up as Santa.
We also met a couple who visit festivals and other events dressed in period attire. Before COVID, they were part of a group that provided dance entertainment. But this year, they were simply enjoying the event in costume.
Various food and craft vendors had set up colorful stands along the street. Many of the merchants were open for business during the festival. We visited Mercantile 22, where I did some Christmas shopping. Later on, we stopped by the Bridge Street Marketplace, which sells vintage and antique consignment items. I spotted some beautiful new decorations made to look old as well as some charming, lightly used decorations.
The Dietrich Theater
Our final downtown stop was the Dietrich Theaterwith its 12 Movies of Christmas. Twelve beloved Christmas movies were shown on a rotating basis, and several were shown every day from December 4 to December 17.
The art deco theater was decorated beautifully for the season, and we enjoyed viewing the Christmas decorations.
After leaving the celebration, we drove out of town a bit to Bennie’s Nursery, where we picked out a live wreath to bring home with us.
Festival Of Lights At Stone Hedge Golf Course
The entire day was enjoyable, but the evening was absolutely phenomenal. We visited the Festival of Lights at Stone Hedge Golf Course, a 2.5-mile drive-through Christmas light display and one of the nicest we have seen. Open every evening (except Christmas Eve) until December 31, it featured more than four million lights, and all the displays were made in the United States.
My husband isn’t easily impressed by light displays — he goes to them because he knows I love them, and he usually volunteers to be the driver. At Stone Hedge, however, he was more interested than usual. “This is amazing!” he kept saying. And amazing it was.
It takes about an hour to drive through the entire light display, depending on traffic. There are times when you’ll want to stop and take in the beauty! The only thing that would have made this light display better was a blanket of snow — but we can’t control Mother Nature, of course.
There is a per-car fee to view the lights, and when you pay, you’ll receive a coupon for a free s’mores kit. When you complete the light display, you can visit the clubhouse, where there are family-friendly food and craft vendors. That’s where you’ll pick up your s’mores kit, and outside, there are socially distanced fire rings and picnic tables where you can roast your marshmallows and make your s’mores.
Train rides, free pictures with Santa, and additional vendors and indoor seating are typically available, but because of COVID, they weren’t in 2020.
The display opens at 5 p.m., but be prepared to wait about a half hour or longer to get in, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend. We were there when they opened, and the line was about a mile long. When we left, the line was about 3 miles long!
Where To Eat In Tunkhannock
While in Tunkhannock, we had two meals at The Fireplace Restaurant, about 3 miles outside of town. It featured rustic decorations and a down-home atmosphere, and the food was absolutely amazing. It was so good, in fact, that after dinner there, we went back for lunch the next day. I recommend the salmon and Laura’s Salad. My husband loved the steamed clams appetizer. Everything we ordered was scrumptious. The portions were large, and the service was excellent.
We also ate at the Towne and Country Grille/Bakery, a casual place with a fantastic onion ring appetizer. These weren’t your typical onion rings — they were glazed with a thyme honey. Simply delicious! Don’t forget to check out the baked goods, too. The apple crumb pie was a delectable treat.
Other places to eat downtown include the Yearbook Diner and Twigs Cafe.
Where To Stay In Tunkhannock
We stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites, a quiet spot overlooking the Susquehanna River and conveniently located just minutes from downtown. From the time we arrived until we departed, we were treated like royalty. The staff were so friendly and responsive.
When we arrived, the hotel was nicely decorated for Christmas. There was a beautiful tree near the fireplace and plenty of seating available for a cozy chat. Coffee, freshly baked cookies (individually wrapped), and water were available in the lobby for guests to enjoy.
Due to COVID regulations, the hotel served a breakfast of cold, individually packaged items. I can’t wait until we can enjoy fresh waffles and bacon at hotels again! There were tables and chairs and a bar area where we could eat breakfast.
Additional amenities included a heated indoor pool with jets, a business area with two computers, and meeting rooms. The entire hotel was spotless.
Each room had a small refrigerator and microwave and plenty of storage, including a full-size closet. Our room had a king bed and a large corner whirlpool. It was a great place to relax after a day spent outside in the chilly weather.
Other places to stay include the Hampton Inn at the other end of town and the Twin Spruce Tourist Home in neighboring Dushore, Pennsylvania.
I’m looking forward to returning to Tunkhannock for a girlfriends’ getaway next year. I know my friends will love the small-town shopping and the light display.
The surrounding Endless Mountains area is not only a fun place to visit during the holidays, but a year-round destination with lots of outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking.
Spring, summer, fall, or winter — whenever you choose to visit Tunkhannock, you will have a delightful time. It feels especially magical during the Christmas season, however, and with a touch of snow and some Christmas songs playing in the background, you’d feel like you were in a snow globe. It is definitely a Hallmark-type town that exudes the spirit of Christmas and makes your heart happy.
Pro Tip: Most of the activities are in town on paved parking areas or sidewalks. But there is walking involved, so comfortable shoes would be useful — and if it’s snowy, you’ll want to wear boots.