Let go of the notion that the Pocono Mountains are just for honeymooners in heart-shaped tubs. Though newlyweds continue to toast each other with champagne here, there are plenty of activities devoted to what comes next: kids. In fact, this 2,400-square-mile swath of wooded peaks and valleys in northeastern Pennsylvania offers families a bevy of outdoor options, such as low-impact spelunking, go-kart racing and thrilling canoe rides down the Delaware River. Meanwhile, mom-and-pop operations give demos on candle-making, pretzel-baking and more. Here’s the Poconos your family should know.
For an overview of the area, take an hour-long narrated tour on the Water Gap Trolley. Who knew the Poconos was a popular safe haven on the Underground Railroad? If history makes your kids’ eyes glaze over, don’t worry—they’ll perk up when the trolley rolls by the Cold Air Cave, where the temperature’s an attention-grabbing 38 degrees year-round.
The trolley drops you off near the Village Farmer and Bakery. Stop in for apple pie. Or pecan. Or raspberry. Or peach.
At Bushkill Falls, known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” you can see eight spectacular waterfalls on a two-mile hike. All that rushing water and rising mist make for great photo ops. There are dozens of well-marked trails, including four that are mapped. Should you want to make a day of it, head for the paddleboat rides, miniature golf course and playground.
SWEET AND SALTY
Watch bakers roll out and knot pretzel dough before popping it in the oven at Callie’s Pretzel Factory. The dizzying array of fresh offerings includes pizza-flavored pretzels and others filled with peanut butter.
The same homespun charm continues three miles down the road at Callie’s Country Kitchen, a chocolate-lover’s paradise. The staff delights in fashioning chocolate replicas of just about anything: remote controls, golf clubs, cell phones and more.
RIDE 'EM, COWBOY
You can take your pick of horseback riding trails—beginner, intermediate or advanced—at Carson’s Riding Stables. Whatever the trail’s difficulty, you’ll be surrounded by nature in all its glory: the crunch of pebbles beneath horse hooves, the scent of mountain flowers and the sight of deer bounding away in the distance. For any group members averse to horses, there’s a basketball court and pavilion where kids can tap their inner Shaq until the rest of the family rides back from the range.
DO THE ZOO
At Claws ’n’ Paws Wild Animal Park, kids can hand-feed parrots, go on a dino dig or pet an alligator. A printed schedule tells you the times of every animal show and feeding. If you offer food to Twiga, the giraffe, be warned: He gives big, slurpy kisses.
Adventure Sports specializes in guiding newbies down the Delaware River in kayaks, canoes and rafts. Trips range from two-hour river jaunts to multi-day overnight camping trips. Their vans can also take you to most any location within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. If you’re lucky, you might find an arrowhead along the shoreline, a reminder of the region’s rich Native American heritage.
• Play out your NASCAR fantasies at Pocono Go-Karts.
• Scoops is an ice-cream-themed kids’ spa at Great Wolf Lodge.
• At Pocono Candle Works, kids can make their own souvenir candle.
Water Gap Trolley: Exit 310 off I-80; 570.476.9766; watergaptrolley.com
Village Farmer and Bakery: 52 Broad St, Delaware Water Gap; 570.476.9440; villagefarmer.com
Bushkill Falls: 888.287.4545; visitbushkillfalls.com
Callie’s Pretzel Factory: Mountainhome; 570.595.3257; calliescandy.com
Callie’s Country Kitchen: 570.595.2280
Carson’s Riding Stables: 570.839.9841
Claws ’n’ Paws Wild Animal Park: Route 590, four miles east of Hamlin; 570.698.6154; clawsnpaws.com
Adventure Sports: East Stroudsburg; 800.487.2628; adventuresport.com
Pocono Go-Karts: 570.223.6299; poconogokarts.com
Great Wolf Lodge: 570.213.6020; greatwolf.com
Pocono Candle Works: 570.421.1832; poconocandle.com