The Pocono Mountains draw families to this scenic corner of Pennsylvania from the New York City area, Philadelphia, and across the country. For families craving adventure, there is a smorgasbord of activities on tap all year. In winter, ski, snowboard, or snow tube. Options are just as plentiful in summer: hiking, swimming, boating, zip lines and adventure ropes courses, plus plenty of nature walks and even famed waterfall hikes.
In case the weather isn’t cooperating, many of the resorts have indoor water parks offering hours of splashy, weatherproof fun, and spas for the grown-ups and kids(!) to unwind and indulge. We've rounded up some of top resorts in the area, so you can see which one best fits your next family vacation.
No matter what the season, Camelback Resort offers fun-filled adventures well suited for active families. Embrace the snow and ski, snowboard, or tube at Camelback Mountain, located just two minutes from the resort. Camelback offers a diverse range of skiable terrain, night skiing, a fine ski school and a giant snow tubing parks with 42 lanes. After your day of outdoor fun, warm up on a cold winter’s night in Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, which we visited when it first opened just a couple of years ago. Enjoy a summer’s day at Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark, one of the largest outdoor water parks in the area, with a whopping 37 slides and attractions. Last summer, it debuted the Mummy's Oasis section of the water park, an area just right for younger kids. Day passes are allowed to the outdoor water park, but not the indoor one, which is reserved for resort guests.
Other active warm weather options include a dual zip line and ropes courses at Camelback Mountain Adventures. Accommodations are modern and some rooms have scenic mountain views. Large families or multi-generational groups could opt for lofts with full kitchens and multiple bedrooms. There are many dining options at the resort. Our favorite is Trails End, serving American pub cuisine like juicy burgers and a large menu of locally brewed craft beer.
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After the water park, hit the kids salon for a little pampering at Great Wolf Lodge.
Great Wolf Lodge
Looking for a family vacation that’s a sure-fire hit with kids of all ages? Great Wolf Lodge is tailor-made. Splash around the 84-degree indoor water park with slides to satisfy everyone from preschoolers to teen thrill-seekers. (Check out the new interactive Slideboarding!) The hot springs are exclusively for guests over age 21, so have one parent stay with the kids while the other takes a break and luxuriates in muscle-relaxing warm water. We've visited multiple times over the years and never been disappointed.
Great Wolf includes a multitude of kid-perfect activities that don’t require you to get wet. Tiny kids should enjoy costumed characters and nightly story time in the lobby. Older kids will like interactive games such as MagiQuest, arcades and the invigorating aerial adventure of Howlers Peak Ropes Course. Innovative extras include a spa just for kids and yoga classes where kids may discover their Zen-side. They offer standard motel-style rooms as well as themed suites that feature tents and cave-like sleeping areas. There are lots of simple food options, but while nobody will go hungry, this is not the place to indulge your culinary whims. With so much to do, many visitors never leave the premises.
Kalahari's toddler area, Tiko's Watering Hole, is filled with fun slides, water interactives, and whimsical animal designs. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala/Mommy Poppins.
Kalahari Resort & Convention Center
This expanding newcomer to the Poconos scene is set to open America's largest indoor water park when it adds on another 110,000-square-feet in March 2017 to its existing park, besting its own record held by its Ohio location, and bringing the total to 220,000 square feet. As it is, the indoor water park, which we visited when it first opened and again this winter, with a retractable roof, dozens of slides, a lazy river, water coaster, whirlpool spas, toddler area, activity pool, surf simulator, and more, is already a huge attraction, especially due to the availability of day passes. The new additions will include an enormous family wave pool, another toddler-focused splash area (Coral Cove), several new thrill slides and rides, a swim-up bar, and more.
The resort itself offers everything you need, include several restaurants onsite, shops, a lovely full-service spa with sauna, steam, and pool, an expansive arcade that includes new VR gaming, and even bowling, plus nearby skiing. Snow tubing is coming to the resort grounds next winter season, and there is also a new ropes and zip line course, Gorilla Grove Treetop Adventure, open in the warmer months. Rooms are comfortable, and also set to double in quantity to over 1,000, come spring, including new luxe multi-room digs for multigenerational families and additional bunk bed rooms that are just too cute but also super useful for parents. Families can also choose from among standard hotel rooms, kids bunk rooms, and one, two, or three-bedroom suites.
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Hit the lake for swimming, kayaking, or fishing at the Silver Birches Resort.
Silver Birches Resort
Silver Birches is a traditional resort that enjoys a serene setting on Lake Wallenpaupack. Thirteen vintage structures face the 700 feet of pristine shoreline, offering top-notch views. Brand-new owners have worked hard to upgrade the property while keeping its original rustic charm in place. All guest rooms were renovated in 2016, plus there are cottages and spacious houses available. The rooms have a cozy feel with extra-comfy beds. Recreation focuses around the lake, so summer is a winning time to visit. Swim or coast along the shore in a kayak or do a bit of fishing. Plan on spending time at the fire-pit, toasting marshmallows for s’mores. The unflashy vibe makes Silver Birches a stellar place to create family memories as you spend quality time in nature.
Skytop is loaded with old-fashioned charm and easy elegance. If you’re searching for a multigenerational getaway with the grandparents or a family reunion spot, you’ve hit the jackpot. We enjoyed modern comforts while noting the yesteryear quality that permeates each nook and cranny with timeless style on our last visit here. Take on the great outdoors as you and the kids engage in a multitude of fresh-air activities in all seasons. Try archery and boating in the summer, or cross country skiing and dog sledding in the winter. Explore the ropes course or ride the zip line at TreeTop Adventure Course. If you’re looking for low-key pleasures, the lake is excellent for swimming and the sprawling grounds are perfect for a stroll before a game of croquet on the lawn. There’s a large indoor pool allowing for a fun dip anytime of year.
Food is excellent and options range from the classic American cuisine at the semi-formal Windsor Dining Room to a light bite at the casual Tea Room, a throwback to a corner drugstore serving yummy egg creams and other sweet treats.
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Take ski lessons at the family-friendly Jack Frost and Big Boulder ski area minutes away from Split Rock Resort. Photo by Sona Charaipotra/Mommy Poppins.
Split Rock Resort
Split Rock Resort is nestled in the Pocono Mountains on the shores of Lake Harmony. It's is big, a patchwork of four enclaves connected via shuttle. While they don’t have an onsite ski mountain, they are located only minutes from family-friendly Jack Frost and Big Boulder, so you can ski, snowboard or snow tube. In summer, enjoy a day on Lake Harmony in a kayak or canoe or give fishing a try. Tennis, volleyball, miniature golf, and basketball are a few of the many active options. There are a variety of family activities to experience, but the H2Oooohh! Indoor Waterpark is the big winner. There are slides for all shapes and sizes and you can even catch a wave on the Komodo Dragon, an indoor flow rider.
The Town Center is where you’ll find families enjoying the arcade, movies, bowling and much more. Rooms are clean and spacious, many with kitchens. There are adequate dining options at the resort or be adventurous and head out into the surrounding area in search of regional comfort food. Read our full review on the resort and adjacent mountain.
You can opt for glamping instead of traditional rooms at Shawnee Inn if you're feeling adventurous.
The Shawnee Inn
This century-old Delaware River inn is just three miles from Shawnee Mountain, one of the best family ski spots in the area. With 23 trails, 100% snowmaking, and a fantastic children’s learn-to-ski program, it’s hard to top Shawnee Mountain. When the snow melts, the inn has nature-focused programs such as guided hikes and scavenger hunts. There’s a championship golf course, so it’s a good choice for those who enjoy swinging a club.
Dining options include the Buckwood Bakery and Café for drinks and homespun baked goods. For a casual meal, the Gem and Keystone Brewpub is a fine option and the kid’s menu is loaded with easy-going choices like pasta, chicken tenders and grilled cheese. Rooms at the inn offer many creature comforts yet are simple at heart. In summer you can give riverside “glamping” a try.
Woodloch offers a rotating list of daily family activities in a gorgeous setting.
Established in 1958, Woodloch is a family owned hotel with a loyal clientele who return year after year. Farm-fresh meals, activities and bedtime-friendly evening entertainment straight of the throwback scenes of Dirty Dancing are all included in the price at this lovely resort on a scenic lake. Looking for adventure? Woodloch offers many options, so boredom won’t be a problem. There’s a petting zoo, playgrounds, paintball, zip lining, kids club, kayaking and water- skiing on the lake in summer. The crystal-clear water is great for a swim. In winter, consider snow tubing and ice skating, or hit the indoor pool and splash park. The resort also frequently hosts special programming over holidays and school vacation weeks, including visits from Santa and the Easter Bunny.
There are multiple room options, from guest houses and multi-bed suites to more classic two-bed hotel rooms. If you crave adults-only relaxation, The Lodge at Woodloch, just a few miles down the road, offers top-notch spa treatments for parents seeking some well-earned serenity. If you brought the grandparents along, escape for a night or with a day pass for one of our favorite couples' getaways in the area.
Top photo: Aquatopia at Camelback. Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the resorts.