Winter Wonderland: The Poconos
A fast, fun family getaway, not far from Philadelphia
Playing in the snow brings out the kid in all of us. Good thing one of the biggest snow playgrounds on the East Coast is just a two-hour drive away. The Poconos offers family-friendly winter attractions to rival those of any of the country’s flashier resort towns, no matter how much powder Mother Nature provides naturally.
When it’s 35 or 40 degrees in Philadelphia, it’s 10 to 15 degrees colder in the Poconos, with snowmaking machines working overtime. “The ski resorts are experts at making snow,” says David West, VP of marketing at the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, granting an almost-guaranteed winter wonderland to guests.
On the Poconos snow
Whatever your snow activity of choice, you’ll find an outlet in the Poconos.
Skiing & snowboarding in the Poconos
You’d be hard-pressed to come across a Poconos slope that doesn’t offer children’s lessons in the two prominent downhill endeavors, generally organized by age and ability. At Shawnee Mountain Ski Area in East Stroudsburg, kids’ classes strictly adhere to low student/teacher ratios and are held in a specialarea, far from schussing crowds and black-diamond seekers.
The richness of the mountains is evident in the number of major ski resorts packed into just 2,394 square miles. Along with Shawnee, there are Big Boulder Ski Area in Lake Harmony, Blue Mountain Ski Area in Palmerton, Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville, Jack Frost Big Boulder Ski Area in Blakeslee and Ski Big Bear in Lackawaxen.
Tubing in the Poconos
Snow tubing is a low-entry way to experience the downhill thrills of skiing and snowboarding. Camelback fields the largest tubing park in the country, with 18 chutes and two “magic carpet” walkways that take you effortlessly from mountain’s bottom back to the top.
Blue Mountain hosts the only natural snow-packed USA Luge track on the East Coast, and it’s open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Opt to speed down the twisty 2,000-foot-long course on a tube, mini-bobsled or luge sled.
Bonus snow activities
Opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, horseback riding and sleigh rides are abundant in the Poconos, at the individual resorts, private stables and various state parks.
Indoor fun in the Poconos
The proportion of outdoor-to-indoor fun is surprisingly balanced in the Poconos. Destinations unto themselves, the elaborate indoor water parks at both the Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony and the Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun encourage kids to ditch the snowsuit for a bathing suit. Resorts throughout the area are equipped for all sorts of all-weather activities, with arcades and movie theaters, basketball courts and bowling alleys.
Even Jack Frost leaves the cold to play inside during the annual Crystal Cabin Fever Ice Festival (Feb. 7- 23), which takes place in a large Lakeville barn whose knotty-pine walls and 20-foot ceilings act on the ice sculptures like a large refrigerator. Mounted by Sculpted Ice Works, the elaborate ice-sculpting attraction features a 50-foot dual-run ice slide carved to fit the festival’s current theme. (February’s theme is “Around the World”; the 2013 iteration took the form of a giant dinosaur.)
Winter holidays in the Poconos
Most Poconos resorts throw elaborate family-oriented New Year’s Eve celebrations. If you are heading out for the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s, make sure you’ve got reservations so you don’t get frozen out.
Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.
The Poconos are also an ideal choice for a quick romantic Valentine's getaway. Click here for our tips on where to rendezvous.