Scranton – Hazleton – Mahanoy City: A Taste of the Coal Regions of PA

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An Unlikely Tourist Itinerary: Scranton – Hazleton – Mahanoy City

Scranton

For someone who was born in Wilkes-Barre (me) you would think they would have visited Scranton at some point.  Nope.  And I figured I may as well hit it on this trip and include some other places that are pretty far removed from any tourism itinerary.

The outside of the Downtown Deli in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The outside of the Downtown Deli in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

This time of the year the autumn colors in the mountains are beautiful and the local convention and visitors bureau is promoting that, rightly so, because it is so worth seeing.  Scranton has at least been advertising and sending a message to prospective visitors to come and visit.

Lots of great little independent shops and restaurants are in Scranton.  Enjoy them - they are treasures to be found.

Lots of great little independent shops and restaurants are in Scranton. Enjoy them – they are treasures to be found.

I could critique the marketing but this isn’t the venue for that.  They’re trying and trying hard.  There is a shopping mall downtown and the city really was quite lively – something I didn’t expect. We ate at the Downtown Deli & Eatery which is in the heart of downtown.

Loads of interesting historic buildings can be found in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Loads of interesting historic buildings can be found in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The city positions itself as The City Electric but after visiting I could relate its historical past to the current experience.  But what a great place to visit and explore.  I wish we had eaten at Sal’s, which is a little local pizza joint that I’m positive has incredible pizza even though I didn’t go in.  It’s the type of place you travel to find.

Downtown Scranton has a mix of old and new in the downtown and it is very pleasant and walkable.

Downtown Scranton has a mix of old and new in the downtown and it is very pleasant and walkable.

Hazleton

the next stop down the line was Hazleton.  This is a city I’ve been to many times. My grandparents are buried here and lived here.  I remember it as a child as being a bit worn but with incredible people.  The one thing I was desperate to do was to eat a piece of Hazleton cold pizza.  It’s something you can’t find anywhere else.   We rode our bicycles from West Hazleton into the city and around.  Couldn’t find a pizza place really and the town was even more beat down than I remembered.

It is great just meandering downtown streets anywhere, but this was a scene in downtown Hazleton, Pennylvania that was really cool.

It is great just meandering downtown streets anywhere, but this was a scene in downtown Hazleton, Pennylvania that was really cool.

The city has attracted a lot of Hispanic immigrants and there was a lot of controversy about it.  I always thought it strange since the city was built by mostly German immigrants, my great grandparents included.  The appearance of the downtown area was very run down and almost seedy in spots.  I felt safe though.  It’s the kind of city you would love to help. It has great history and was once a great Pennsylvania city and a stop here is worth seeing what it has become and what it continues to do to stay alive.

Downtown Hazleton is a bit rough and worn but there are plenty of places to explore for anyone but particularly urban explorers.

Downtown Hazleton is a bit rough and worn but there are plenty of places to explore for anyone but particularly urban explorers.

There appeared to be some great Hispanic restaurants but we didn’t stay for lunch. I never got my pizza – partially because it was so surprising to see what Hazleton has become.  It will continue to evolve and I hope at some point will work on its visual blight and lack of retail and entertainment downtown.  It is a great American story as a melting pot and that story could be told just by walking around if it was done right.

The region itself, as promoted by the Luzerne County convention and visitors bureau, is well presented for what there is.  So, if you’re more interested in what is really on the tourist track, you can find a lot more here.  Most people don’t visit downtown Hazleton when coming to the area.

Mahanoy City

a bit further south of Hazleton off the expressway is a small town called Mahanoy City.  It is part of Schuylkill County where there are plenty of other things to do and see though this is what we chose.  There isn’t anything here in Mahanoy City to draw tourists other than seeing an authentic coal mining town that has seen a population decline for a while.  My great great grandparents lived here and so I had to stop and visit the historical society.  The people couldn’t have been more helpful – something about the people in this part of the country makes them very honest and friendly and helpful I think.

Mahanoy City has seen better days but is still a great place to pull off the expressway and explore.  This is the main street (Centre Street)  in downtown Mahanoy City.

Mahanoy City has seen better days but is still a great place to pull off the expressway and explore. This is the main street (Centre Street) in downtown Mahanoy City.

Mahanoy City at one time, in the early part of the 19th century, had more bats per capita than any other town in America.  So why not capitalize on it with an authentic bar crawl?  Or historical markers on the oldest bars?   The town is well kept and has quite a bit of residential housing still in it but in need of upgrading.  It really could be a tourist destination if done right. At the moment, it’s a nice town to visit to experience what it once was though there isn’t much in terms of shopping but it is real and authentic with wonderful people.

One of the residential streets in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

One of the residential streets in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

There are plenty of towns in this region worth visiting.  I would love to see them all. But even more, I would love to see one or two of them work on attracting tourists by developing a scene and “product” that would attract people.  All the elements are there for some of these towns and cities to become a great tourism draw.  These towns are in three different counties with different tourism promotion oversight: Lackawana, Luzerne and Schuylkill Counties.  All three counties have attractions worth seeing and spending time exploring those counties.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled here from the Poconos and came down the expressway to Scranton, then Hazleton and then Mahanoy City before making our way to Gettysburg.

US Highway 6: Milford – Lake Wallenpaupack – Honesdale – Waymart in the Poconos

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US Highway 6 in the Poconos

If you’re looking for a great, off-the-beaten-track road trip, look no further than US 6 in the Poconos.  This throwback in time is authentic, explore-worthy and scenic.  Surely over the years loads of tourists have used the highway as a transportation link.  Today, this forgotten highway is worth exploring as it represents a bit of a trip to the past and the highway itself has become the destination.

Bushkill Fals is our starting point on this section of our road trip.  It is an excellent place to visit if you have no problems walking.

Bushkill Fals is our starting point on this section of our road trip. It is an excellent place to visit if you have no problems walking.

We were coming up Route 209 from Bushkill Falls (something you can’t miss if in the area) and linked up with US Highway 6 at Milford.  Milford is a great little town and one that was surprisingly well kept and pleasant.  It did have some odd parking restrictions that I now recall as I write this but nothing that prevented us from parking and walking the town.

Fretta's is a great little Italian Deli in Milford, PA

Fretta’s is a great little Italian Deli in Milford, PA

Where can you find a great Italian market in the Poconos?  Well, don’t let the chain coffee store or auto parts store on the main road try to fool you – the town of Milford is well worth exploring despite not having unique shops on the Highway 6 through town.  We eventually found a great Italian market with Fretta’s, a small but excellent place to shop for food on the main side street in the town.  We definitely bought our share.  Don’t expect a large market – this place is small, neighborhood or small town scale and is incredible for being just what it is.  This is the type of place that, when you find it in your travels, makes the journey that much better simply because it exists.

One of the pleasures of travelling the back roads is that the most random stuff pops up like this art and abandoned building together.

One of the pleasures of travelling the back roads is that the most random stuff pops up like this art and abandoned building together.

This is the county seat of Pike County.  I felt immediately comfortable here for some reason that later when I started looking in my family tree, I realized my great grandparents were here at some point as one of their children was born in Milford.  I am not sure how these feelings work or what science they are based on, if any, but I do think there is something to genetic memory whether it is tied to DNA or an aura or something else we haven’t discovered yet.

This historic small town in Pennsylvania is really a great place to stop along US 6.

This historic small town in Pennsylvania is really a great place to stop along US 6.

Anyway, back to traveling.  Route 6 continues through beautiful country and past a lot of interesting places.  You’re exploring so stop and do some exploring wherever you want.  There’s no shortage of scenery, shops and interesting places.  The next major area you get to is going to be Lake Wallenpaupack.  There’s lots to do here and plenty to see.  There’s camping as well.  It is a well-developed area for tourists and, like much of the area, a bit of a throw back to a different time – which is why it is so appealing!

Yet another random finding along the back road of US 6 in Pennsylvania was this field with deer.

Yet another random finding along the back road of US 6 in Pennsylvania was this field with deer.

Past this is Hawley, another small town well worth experiencing.  It has a diner and a general store and is the kind of place you wish you could just land and spend a few days relaxing.  You’ll come up to White Mills and eventually to Honesdale.  Honesdale itself is a small town but compared to the ones you’ve just driven through it is the big town of the region.

The town of Waymart is along US 6 and you can stop in at this general store for a real taste of local.

The town of Waymart is along US 6 and you can stop in at the Waymart Deli for a real taste of local.

Honesdale is one of those towns that is loaded with potential and opportunity from a tourism perspective.  On the northbound trip through the town, you don’t pass through the best of shops and urban scenery.  But the potential is there.  The town’s southbound section of US 6 is a bit better and has much more in terms of shops so be sure to circle down the southbound part of US 6 in Honesdale.  Hopefully one day the town will figure out how to attract more tourists and really become a destination as it has a good foundation already.

You can take US 6 into Carbondale or bypass it and enjoy this lovely view of the town in the distance.

You can take US 6 into Carbondale or bypass it and enjoy this lovely view of the town in the distance.

Continue your journey along US 6 and you’ll pass through Waymart.  Unfortunately, the route mostly by-passes the small town so you can deviate here and do a quick tour around or get out and explore some more.  You have the option to visit Carbondale or join up with the Lackawana Valley Highway which we did and headed toward Scranton.  You could also take Business Route 6 and really explore your way down to Scranton which is what I would have preferred to do but we didn’t have the time.

There are plenty of campgrounds in this area so you are well set.  We stayed at the Ponderosa Pines Campground near Honesdale and found it wonderful.  So happy travels and enjoy the journey like we did.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled up here from Delaware Water Gap and were headed out on US Route 6 to visit the Poconos with our destinations being Scranton and Hazleton.  

The Incredible Bushkill Falls in the Poconos

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Bushkill Falls

This was one of the most pleasant surprises on this 14 day road trip.  If you haven’t been and are within easy shot of this place, do yourself a favor and go see it.  Bushkill Falls will not disappoint you.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect but we arrived and found easy parking for our motor home.  It is advertised as the Niagara of Pennsylvania and while it isn’t like Niagara Falls, it certainly was beautiful and definitely worth a visit.  I mean really, where can you find water falls in Pennsylvania?  I didn’t know until this trip.  There is a collection of buildings that actually makes for an interesting day out.

There are a collection of buildings all offering something to do or to eat at Bushkill Falls.

There are a collection of buildings all offering something to do or to eat at Bushkill Falls.

Our expectation was far less – we thought it was just the falls.  We got to the box office and bought our tickets to go in.  I was a little concerned about the trails and how much time we’d spend there but it is easy enough to spend as little or as much time as you’d like.  This is exploring the Poconos of Pennsylvania at its best.  A totally unplanned stop and see.

This fun creature greeted us in one of the exhibits at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos.

This fun creature greeted us in one of the exhibits at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos.

If you really enjoy hiking, this is a great place.  If you enjoy walking through nature without a whole lot of exerting yourself and still see incredible beauty then this is for you also.  There’s a variety of trails and no matter what you do it is well worth the price of admission.

Here's the way down to the falls at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

Here’s the way down to the falls at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

We walked but I wouldn’t say it was a lot.  I wouldn’t do it with a boot on my foot but if you’re able to walk a few blocks you shouldn’t have any problems if you don’t opt for the longer trails.  There are several options to choose from and you can even venture down some and return without going too far.  There are some excellent photo opps and it was fun at one watching everyone taking their selfie at the falls.

There are a lot of paths along the water at Bushkill Falls and so much beauty to soak up.

There are a lot of paths along the water at Bushkill Falls and so much beauty to soak up.

After experiencing the falls, you walk back and the collection of buildings offers food, mini golf, mining activities for kids, an Indian museum, a taxidermy collection and more.  This is far from high brow entertainment but it was good clean fun and we really enjoyed it.

The actual falls are incredibly beautiful and surrounded by nature itself.  Bushkill Falls is really breathtaking.

The actual falls are incredibly beautiful and surrounded by nature itself. Bushkill Falls is really breathtaking.

There are also pavilions, paddle boats and a small lake and there’s lodging nearby.  It would make a fun weekend trip.  The web site for Bushkill Falls is very well done and has a lot of information on it should you want more information to visit.

One of the pedestrian bridges at Bushkill Falls, Poconos, Pennsylvania.

One of the pedestrian bridges at Bushkill Falls, Poconos, Pennsylvania.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled up here from Delaware Water Gap and were headed out on US Route 6 to visit the Poconos even more.

 

Intercourse PA

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Intercourse PA

Having lived in the Harrisburg area and left when I was going into graduate school, I never really got the opportunity to play tourist in Lancaster County much and do the whole Amish Country scene.

Well let me tell you it is a wonderful experience and such fun.  Sure there is some commercialization of the scene but overall it is a great experience and appeals to all ages.  There are ample hotel rooms and campgrounds in the area and no shortage of things to do for all ages.

We ended up driving our RV up to Intercourse from Coatesville, PA and spent the day there.  We easily parked in a free parking lot and unloaded our bicycles and rode around exploring the town.  It is fairly compact and well suited to visitors with amenities.

Intercourse is a village that is easily done on foot or bicycle.

Intercourse is a village that is easily done on foot or bicycle.

You never really know what the prime attraction is for an area until you experience it for yourself.  For me, the tourist attraction in Intercourse PA that I couldn’t find anywhere else but here was a market called Stoltzfus Meat and Deli.  The store is a treasure for anyone who enjoys food.  There are things you won’t find anywhere else and they are all fresh and delicious.  If you’re in the area, you owe it to yourself to stop in here.

The meats at Stoltzfus Meat and Deli in Intercourse PA are simply incredible.

The meats at Stoltzfus Meat and Deli in Intercourse PA are simply incredible.

It is on one of the side streets and not on the main street of Intercourse but it is well sign posted.  We bought bacon and sausages as well as cheese and other things.  I can’t imagine having this place within driving distance of my home – I’d be as large as a house.  They also do the New Castle, Delaware Farmers Market for anyone who lives within easier range of that town.  And to make this even better, it is across the street from the Intercourse Canning Company - another thing to not miss when in town!

The baby goats were adorable at the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse PA.

The baby goats were adorable at the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse PA.

Kitchen Kettle Village is another place we visited.  It is loads of fun and we actually spent some time at the little petting zoo they have there with some of the most adorable baby goats.  And it was free.  There are horse and buggy rides that are conducted from here though we didn’t do it.  We saw plenty of them coming and going interspersed with the Amish people and their buggy’s.  The merchants are well worth exploring too.

Don't miss  going into the smaller shops in Intercourse.  Every place has something worth looking at and eventually buying.

Don’t miss going into the smaller shops in Intercourse. Every place has something worth looking at and eventually buying.

Kling House Restaurant is at the Kitchen Kettle Village and is a great restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.  It is popular and for good reason.  The food and service is excellent.  I can highly suggest the pretzels and mustard on the appetizers menu.  Soft and delicious with excellent mustards.   The sweet bolgna sandwich really took me back to childhood and I wish I could have one every week!  The salads are beautiful and everything is fresh and delicious with a taste that is unique to Lancaster County.

The pretzels at the Kling House Restaurant in Intercourse PA are absolutely delicious.

The pretzels at the Kling House Restaurant in Intercourse PA are absolutely delicious.

There are other smaller shops up and down the main boulevard with homemade Amish or otherwise items and they are at very reasonable prices.  So anyone interested in furniture or linens would also find plenty of interest here.  And of course you can buy coffee cups, magnets and lighters that say Intercourse.  Those are made in China.

Shops along the main street carry something for everyone.  This shop was an interior decorator's dream in Intercourse PA.

Shops along the main street carry something for everyone. This shop was an interior decorator’s dream in Intercourse PA.

There is a merchants association in Intercourse with a good web site to give you a further idea of what there is here.  It is a small town but you can base yourself here and spend as much time as you’d like exploring the towns of Lancaster County PA and really enjoy it.  As with all tourist destinations that are well developed, there are outlet malls should you tire of the more authentic experiences.

You will see Amish buggy's along the streets of Intercourse PA.

You will see Amish buggy’s along the streets of Intercourse PA.

Nearby are the villages of Gap, Blue Ball, Paradise, Mount Joy and of course the City of Lancaster.  If you live within several hours of this destination and haven’t been lately, you owe it to yourself to get away to the Lancaster area.  It really is a joy.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Intercourse, Pennsylvania from Coatesville and from there we went to Dillsburg which is near Harrisburg. 

 

The Incredible Beauty and History of the Delaware Water Gap

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Delaware Water Gap

This wasn’t something that was on our list of things to do on its own.  But the region ranked up there and it was part of our circle tour of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  Being in the tourism industry, I found it particularly fascinating from that aspect as it was once one of the greatest inland tourist destinations in the United States.

The Deerhead Inn, home of Jazz in the Poconos.

The Deerhead Inn, home of Jazz in the Poconos.

It is easy to see why it was so popular in the earlier 20th century for it is a place of incredible beauty and the small town is charming.  From here it is easy to see much of the Poconos in day trips.  The town didn’t have a railway station until 1903 though it did have excellent hotels for visitors during the Victorian era when it first became quite popular.

The Shawnee General Store is just one of the many charming places you'll encounter in the Delaware Water Gap region of the Poconos.

The Shawnee General Store is just one of the many charming places you’ll encounter in the Delaware Water Gap region of the Poconos.

Don’t expect grand hotels that you might find in the old Victorian spa town of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) in the Czech Republic.  This is still a fairly rural feeling place and it is hard to imagine the town with thousands of tourists in another century. Nearby in Minisink there is the Minisink Hotel which I believe is more of a pub and restaurant and has a great reputation – another reason to return!

Lots of history in the Delaware Water Gap including this structure which is one of the old inns and still operating in the area.

Lots of history in the Delaware Water Gap including this structure.  The area is home to an incredible amount of historic tourism infrastructure.

The Historic Castle Inn is located right in the heart of the small town and, while it isn’t operating as an inn these days, you should see it.  Built in 1906, it is now home to antiques and ice cream and a whole lot more.   The Deer Head Inn is the oldest continuously running jazz club in the United States and also offers accommodations.

The Minisink Hotel is one of the many places you pass while on the Delaware Water Gap trolley tour.

The Minisink Hotel is one of the many places you pass while on the Delaware Water Gap trolley tour.

Despite all this the borough of Delaware Water Gap has less than 1,000 residents.  So don’t expect a big town when you visit.  I would have loved to learn more about where these hotels once were and a bit more about the history of the area.  The first hotel dated to 1829 and was built by Antoine Dutot, the town’s founder.

Water Gap Trolley

So wanting to learn more we boarded the Water Gap Trolley which is conveniently located and includes a small gift shop, snacks and waiting area grounds.  We easily pulled our RV into the parking lot and bought our tickets.  The trolley tour was interesting and took you out to some of the scenic vistas for which the area is so well known.

The Delaware Water Gap trolley terminus where it is very comfortable to wait for the next tour.

The Delaware Water Gap trolley terminus where it is very comfortable to wait for the next tour.

Our tour guide gave us a lot of information about various celebrities who once lived in the area and plenty of history.  People seemed to enjoy the leisurely ride and information.  It is an easy way to relax and get an orientation to the area so I would suggest the trolley if you have the time.  There is an information center nearby off the I-80 expressway which we didn’t visit but would be a good place to collect information on the Poconos or anywhere else in Pennsylvania for that matter before starting out on your own tour of the area.

The views of the region aboard the trolley are incredible in the Delaware Water Gap.

The views of the region aboard the trolley are incredible in the Delaware Water Gap.

The Region and Camping

It is easy to base yourself in this area and visit some of the places we’ve visited on this trip.  Jim Thorpe, Split Rock and Lake Harmony, Milford and the US Highway 6 are all nearby.  If you’re camping, we can suggest the KOA at Delaware Water Gap quite well as this is where we stayed.  It is a great campground, has a pool and plenty of amenities to enjoy.  It was a charming natural environment that could easily serve as a base for exploring the region or you can just as easily have a leisurely time camping and doing as little or as much as you’d like.

This charming house is just one of the random sights you will find while touring the area.

This charming house is just one of the random sights you will find while touring the area.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We headed to Delaware Water Gap area after visiting Split Rock and the Jim Thorpe area.

An Indoor Water Park in the Poconos

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Split Rock and Lake Harmony

My parents used to hang out here when they were young.  It was a different era for sure but I wanted to come here to see the area and experience some of the same scenery my parents did.

We drove around Lake Harmony and into Split Rock.  I got an immediate feeling when we first went around a corner and I saw Lake Harmony.  It was a peaceful feeling and one that I can’t describe but I felt like my father, who passed away in 2004, was with me on this trip to see where he used to go boating.  We continued around South Lake Drive and I imagined the late 1950s and how this must have been absolutely exotic back then.

My mom and dad at Split Rock Lake Harmony in this vintage 1959 shot showing what is the front of the lodge near the waterfront.

My mom and dad at Split Rock Lake Harmony in this vintage 1959 shot showing what is the front of the lodge near the waterfront.

We continued into the Split Rock Resort and Golf Club which is a gated community that charges a dollar to access the road through it.  Our destination was the H20ooohh! Indoor Water Park.  This being summertime, it could well have been outdoors but we had to see an indoor water park and could only imagine how spectacular it must be when it is cold and snowing outside.

The Komodo Dragon is a really cool flow rider and its really entertaining to watch people give it a shot.

The Komodo Dragon is a really cool flow rider and its really entertaining to watch people give it a shot.

We had no problem parking our RV in the parking lot of the resort.  It is well in the mountains and affords great views.  It is definitely the type of place you’d want to stay if you were doing a trip to see the fall leaves changing colors.  The ambiance throughout the entire area was great.

The main vista as you enter the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

The main vista as you enter the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

So, having only ever done outdoor water parks, we were curious about this place.  It certainly isn’t like the large Florida water parks – and we certainly didn’t expect it to be.  But we were pleasantly surprised with just how big it is and how relaxing it could be.  It was plenty warm enough to go in and out of the water and there was a snack bar to serve guests a variety of basic snacks and drinks.

One of the pools at the H20ooohh! indoor water park at Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony in the Poconos.

One of the pools at the H20ooohh! indoor water park at Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony in the Poconos.

Watching people try their skill at the Komodo Dragon – which is the only indoor flow rider in the state – was a lot of fun.  I never did try it but enjoyed watching others play on it.  All ages gave it a shot and the staff appeared very good at working with each individual to give them a great experience.  It is the type of experience that you want to be sure your bathing suit is well secured though so if you plan on trying it prepare that in advance so there are no accidental wardrobe malfunctions!

The slides at the water park go outside at the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

The slides at the water park go outside at the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

The attraction also features a wave pool, some hot tubs and some long slides that wind their way in and out of doors which probably are extremely cool to experience in snowy weather.  They were great in the summer.  There’s plenty of splash zones for smaller kids and there were plenty of seats to be able to sit wherever you want.

This historical view of one of the cottages at Lake Harmony at Split Rock was taken in about 1959 and my dad used to spend a lot of time there.  I'd love for someone to identify where it is and what perhaps it looks like today, if it is still there.

This historical view of one of the cottages at Lake Harmony at Split Rock was taken in about 1959 and my dad used to spend a lot of time there. I’d love for someone to identify where it is and what perhaps it looks like today, if it is still there.

In all, it was a great experience and truly is a special attraction in the Poconos.  The area is filled with beauty and it is easy to see why the region has been such a tourist destination for years.  I can’t wait to return some day in the winter and then again in the fall and again in the summer and also in spring.  There is something magical about the Poconos that draws me to it as one of those special places that has a really good feeling.

 

 

 

Historic Small Town of Jim Thorpe in the Poconos

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Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Where can you find an incredible historic town nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania that is a tourism success story?  Look no further than the town of Jim Thorpe located in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

There’s a lot of history here and this historic and charming small town could well be one of many old towns in this part of Pennsylvania that have all the basic infrastructure and potential but no tourists and no local attempt to create a tourist destination.  Jim Thorpe, once known as Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, figured it out long ago and is a success story in tourism thanks in part to active historical preservation and the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.

The passenger train of the Lehigh Gorge Railway departs Jim Thorpe Station.

The passenger train of the Lehigh Gorge Railway departs Jim Thorpe Station.

Sure, it is surrounded by incredible beauty in the mountains.  Its small streets and mountain views combined with the Lehigh River below remind you in some way of a foreign land though the architecture is purely American.

The railway station at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania is a wonderful structure.

The railway station at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania is a wonderful structure.

What makes Jim Thorpe so special beyond these natural resources?  It has taken advantage of the natural resources and provided visitors plenty of things to do and plenty of reasons to stay here.  Let me start with the river.  There are a number of white water rafting companies operating in the area providing all sorts of options from the very basic and beginner experience right the way through to dam release opportunities for the more experienced.

The Lehigh River and pebble beach at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania where you can see rafters and kayakers going down the river.

The Lehigh River and pebble beach at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania where you can see rafters and kayakers going down the river.

Off the water, there are a lot of bicycle rental options as well and plenty of nature to ride around.  There are shuttles that pick you up as you ride mostly downhill or you can set off on your own through the trails in the area.  The Poconos even has its own website for biking.  You can’t go wrong if you’re up for a bit of exercise and Jim Thorpe is the perfect place to base yourself.

Historical buildings are everywhere in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.  This is directly across from the railway station at a nice green.

Historical buildings are everywhere in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. This is directly across from the railway station at a nice green.

Along with biking and rafting there are plenty of other things to do.  If seeing the regions natural beauty sitting down is your thing, why not pick up the train at the historic train station in the center of the town.  The Lehigh Gorge Railway offers tours of the area by rail.

One thing about Jim Thorpe is you have to look up, down, around and over to really find all the beauty, history and architecture in the town.

One thing about Jim Thorpe is you have to look up, down, around and over to really find all the beauty, history and architecture in the town.

There are no shortages of restaurants, bars and shops in the town and it is easily walked.  You can park your car at the main parking lot by the railway station and there is even room for RVs.  The cost is $5 and from here you can spend the day exploring the town or taking up one of the excursions whether it is cycling or rafting or taking the train.

Do not miss going down Race Street in historic Jim Thorpe, PA.

Do not miss going down Race Street in historic Jim Thorpe, PA.

We ate at an historic restaurant called the Molly Maguires Pub and Restaurant which is part of the Hotel Switzerland and is the town’s oldest pub.  It was easy to imagine the “good old days” in this pub as it is full of character.  We weren’t all that hungry and so I opted for the clam chowder and my partner wanted a kids meal which he wasn’t allowed to get per our waitress.  So he opted for something else.  We noticed a few NO signs around the pub and just figured it was more of a policy and procedures approach to service rather than a customer-focused approach.  It certainly wouldn’t cause us not to return – it was a great place, just not as service-oriented as it could be.

The Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

The Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Looking to camp in the Jim Thorpe area?  We did.  The Jim Thorpe Camping Resort is located a few miles up the hill from the town and had everything we needed including a camp store, laundry facility and even a pool.  It was a nice wooded place and there were some seasonal sites here.  It is easily an area that is attractive to visitors.  We were there in July/August and the temperatures were perfect at night.  In fact, being from Florida, the reason we didn’t go white water rafting is we were too cold!  In our defense, it was unseasonably cold and was a low of 50 the morning we were planning on doing it.

 

The Jim Thorpe Camping Resort is a nice wooded place not far from the town though I wouldn't recommend bicycling it unless you do well on steep grades.

The Jim Thorpe Camping Resort is a nice wooded place not far from the town though I wouldn’t recommend bicycling it unless you do well on steep grades.

Jim Thorpe is called the Switzerland of Pennsylvania.  Having been to Switzerland a number of times, I kind of see how it can be called that.  It is more magical and special in some ways though as it is purely an American story steeped with American history and beauty.  I cannot wait to return!

Going uphill toward the Opera House, you'll pass beautiful restored houses as well as get some great exercise if you haven't got enough from the white water rafting, biking and hiking.

Going uphill toward the Opera House, you’ll pass beautiful restored houses as well as get some great exercise if you haven’t got enough from the white water rafting, biking and hiking.

The State of Pennsylvania offers a free guide to the state and it is very well done.  If you’d like a digital version or a printed version you can go to their website.  Enjoy your travels – you can’t go wrong with Jim Thorpe!

 

Coatesville, PA: Camping and Touring the Countryside

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The Brandywine Valley of PA

There is so much to see and do in this region of Pennsylvania but if you are passing through with an RV or looking for a camping experience and want to get a taste for the region, then do it.  We would like to come back and see the entire area at leisure and give a full report.  Until then, this is a brief look at our visit through the KOA and the countryside surrounding Coatesville.

Fields of corn and other agricultural scenes abound in the area around Coatesville, PA.

Fields of corn and other agricultural scenes abound in the area around Coatesville, PA.

Coatesville PA

The Coatesville area is a nice place to explore and is near West Chester and Downingtown.  It is north of Kennett Square which was one of the places we stopped at on the way.  The attraction here is the countryside to me though downtown West Chester most likely (didn’t visit) is well worth a visit.  We unfortunately we had just enough time to explore the back roads surrounding the town which has the Lincoln Highway going right through it so it should be easy to find.

This gorgeous historic structure is one of the many you'll see while driving around the Coatesville, PA area.

This gorgeous historic structure is one of the many you’ll see while driving around the Coatesville, PA area.

KOA West Chester

Located conveniently to Philadelphia and the Brandywine Valley, this KOA campground is perfect if you have a vehicle and can travel to the wonderful scenic countryside.  Another option is to get to the railway station in Thorndale  and catch a SEPTA or AMTRAK train into Philadelphia (the Paoli line) for a great urban experience or hop off at another destination and explore! Chester County’s towns have very good public transport though the campground is in the countryside.

One of the roads in the KOA Coatesville (West Chester/Philadelphia) with cabins in the distance.

One of the roads in the KOA Coatesville (West Chester/Philadelphia) with cabins in the distance.

The KOA has camping cabins and all the amenities you’d expect at a KOA.  The store was well equipped with all sorts of things and the pool looked inviting.  The campground was really hilly and gave you the feeling of being in the middle of nature.

The KOA in Coatesville has a wonderful camp store and terrific amenities for visitors including the pool at the Liberty Lodge.

The KOA in Coatesville has a wonderful camp store and terrific amenities for visitors including the pool at the Liberty Lodge.

Countryside of the Brandywine Valley

This is the area that shines around here in my opinion.  You can roam the back roads of this region and just take in the sights.  There’s small bridges, little creeks, historic homes, small towns, old mills, fields and fields of corn, farmhouses, stone houses, hills, flowers, and just magical scenery.

One of the many creeks and rivers we saw while prowling around the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania.

One of the many creeks and rivers we saw while prowling around the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania.

It is wonderful to drive over the hilly small roads in the area.  It seems that around every corner there is something historic and something interesting.  We stopped at one local market in one of the smaller towns (pretty much a cross roads) and found some incredible food.

The backroads of the Brandywine area are filled with amazing small towns and historic structures.  This is the Embryville Mill.

The backroads of the Brandywine area are filled with amazing small towns and historic structures. This is the Embryville Mill.

The Route 82, Doe Run Drive, is a scenic road that takes you through most of what we saw including the Triple Fresh Market which was at a junction that was just shy of a village.  It connects Unionville with Coatesville.  Alternatively, the Strasburg Road is another great road through the countryside.  The KOA is located off Embryville Road/Route 162 and that is also a pleasant back road – don’t miss the Embryville Mill which is on this road.

There were plenty of fascinating historic structures including this home in the countryside surrounding Coatesville, PA.

There were plenty of fascinating historic structures including this home in the countryside surrounding Coatesville, PA.

This is the type of area that you would like to get lost in knowing that you could find your way to wherever you need to be all in good time.  It is the idyllic Pennsylvania that I completely forgot existed.  I was happy to be reminded of it.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Coatesville, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia from Assateague Island in Maryland.  We drove through Delaware and made a stop in New Castle, Delaware as well as Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

 

Kennett Square: Mushrooms, Hills and History

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Kennett Square PA

This is a charming little town I remembered as a young kid.  We used to come through here on our way to the Jersey Shore (Sea Isle City) from near Harrisburg, PA.  The one thing I did remember was stopping for mushrooms here.  Phillips Mushroom Farms is still there and you can still stop and buy mushrooms there.  And remember the smell of them from when I was a kid.

It was easy to park along the side of the road in Kennett Square, PA with our motor home.

It was easy to park along the side of the road in Kennett Square, PA with our motor home.

This time, I didn’t smell them. but it was nice to know you could still buy mushrooms at the same place we used to pull into when I was a kid.  I was tempted to stop and get my mother some to see if they were sold in the same cartons that I remembered.  My treat was getting the box once the mushrooms were gone so I could put toy soldiers and things in it.

I thought this tree on the side of a house was so interesting at Kennett Square, PA.

I thought this tree on the side of a house was so interesting at Kennett Square, PA.

Today, Kennett Square is a charming historic town that has plenty to see and do.  I can’t imagine driving through it without stopping.  There’s plenty of parking in the town if you don’t mind walking a few blocks.  We had no trouble parking our thirty foot motor home and taking the bicycles off and riding around.  And you can buy mushrooms in the town!

More shops and sidewalk cafes occupy the streets of Kennett Square, PA.

More shops and sidewalk cafes occupy the streets of Kennett Square, PA.

It is very hilly with the main “square” of the town at the peak of all the hills.  So you want to be select about where you go with your bicycle because if you go down, you eventually got to go up.  But it isn’t all that bad and you can stay on mostly level ground and still see much of the town.

Kennett Square's streets have some charming scenes with sidewalk cafes and boutiques.

Kennett Square’s streets have some charming scenes with sidewalk cafes and boutiques.

In the town there are lots of shops and plenty of great places to grab a bite to eat or something to drink – anything from beer and wine to coffee.  There is at the one end of the town a small supermarket at Liberty Square.  It is actually a number of vendors that together make for a nice market.  There’s ample parking and this is a good place to start a walking tour of the downtown if you were interested in doing that.

This wine shop with tastings is just one of the charming places that are visually appealing as well as tasty in downtown Kennett Square, PA.

This wine shop with tastings is just one of the charming places that are visually appealing as well as tasty in downtown Kennett Square, PA.

We stopped in and grabbed some soda and went on our way but there is a lot to tempt you here.  It isn’t a big store but there is ice cream and some gourmet foods.  We toured around the downtown – again, mostly the two main streets – Union and State Streets.  There’s all sorts of activities downtown too in addition to it just being charming there are events such as art walks and festivals.  It would be nice to time a visit with one of these.

There are plenty of interesting historic homes surrounding the main commercial streets in Kennett Square, PA.

There are plenty of interesting historic homes surrounding the main commercial streets in Kennett Square, PA.

Nearby is Longwood Gardens and if you have time, this would be a great place to stop in addition to the town visit.  We didn’t have time this trip but it is perfect for a several hour stop if you have the time.  For us, its just another reason to visit this quaint town and explore some more!

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Kennett Square from Assateague Island near Ocean City, Maryland.  We first stopped at New Castle, Delaware before Kennett Square.  We eventually continued on to West Chester, PA where we stayed at the KOA.  All in it made for a fun day of travel between bases.

 

Real Colonial History: New Castle, Delaware

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Historic New Castle, Delaware

I suppose you don’t always appreciate what you have when you live somewhere.  I had never thought of visiting New Castle, Delaware until I started reading about what to see and do in the northeast.  And I lived there for many years up through graduate school.

Historic homes on the Green in New Castle, Delaware.

Historic homes on the Green in New Castle, Delaware.

I have to tell you that I’ve visited Williamsburg and, while it is fantastic, New Castle is more real.  It is rich in colonial architecture and feel and doesn’t feel made up for tourists.  It feels like a real working town that happens to be every bit as rich in history as Williamsburg.

The historic court house in New Castle, Delaware.

The historic court house in New Castle, Delaware.

And I can’t believe how convenient it is to just about everything in the region.  If you live within an hour of here and have never gone, you owe it to yourself to visit.  We parked our motorhome at the end of the main street where there is a circle on the water for easy turnaround.   There were other areas along the waterfront where parking would be pretty easy too should this area be taken.

The old Dutch house in historic New Castle, Delaware.

The old Dutch house in historic New Castle, Delaware.

We pulled our bicycles off the motor home and toured around the fairly compact town on our bicycles.  What a pleasure it is to see this town.  The architecture and feel of it is completely colonial.  The cobblestones on some of the streets seemed like they were during the colonial era.

The historic Amstel house in New Castle, Delaware.

The historic Amstel house in New Castle, Delaware.

We happened on a statue of William Penn and soon learned this is where he landed.  And the statue is on the cutest little green, or common, with stunning homes on both sides of it.  There are tours of some of the homes, such as the Read House Museum, which we didn’t do.  We wanted to really soak up the atmosphere and grab a bite to eat on our way to Pennsylvania from Maryland and this was the perfect timed stop for that day of travel.

This statue of William Penn stands at the Common (or Green as it's called here) in New Castle, Delaware near where he landed in the Colonies.

This statue of William Penn stands at the Common (or Green as it’s called here) in New Castle, Delaware near where he landed in the Colonies.

Lunch was at Jessop’s Tavern on the main road and just down from the square.  It is a cozy place with a fireplace and low ceilings.  The food is English pub food with a bit of Dutch and Swedish thrown in to represent the area’s history.  The Clam Chower I can attest to is excellent.  There is some nice history to the tavern and you can just imagine what it must have been like all those years ago.

Jessop's Tavern in historic New Castle, Delaware.

Jessop’s Tavern in historic New Castle, Delaware.

It would be nice to spend a leisurely weekend in the town – not possible in an RV I don’t think but we didn’t inquire about overnight parking.  There’s plenty to see and do and it is probably spectacular in the fall when the leaves are changing color and a sweater is required to wear.  But that might be the Florida in me speaking.  Still, I’d love to experience it so if you have the opportunity, definitely do it.

On the square in the town of New Castle, Delaware you encounter the most incredible colonial architecture.

On the square in the town of New Castle, Delaware you encounter the most incredible colonial architecture.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled New Castle, Delaware from Assateague Island in Maryland, near Ocean City.  It was one of two stops we would make enroute to West Chester/Coatesville Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.  

 

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