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Pocono Mountains Area, PA

In DepthThe name Poconos comes from a Native American word meaning “a stream runs between two mountains.” In this case the stream is the Delaware River, which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey, cutting through a ridge of the Appalachian Mountains and, in the process, forming Mount Minsi in Pennsylvania and Mount Tammany in New Jersey.

The area's 2,400 square miles, spread out among northeast Pennsylvania's Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties, embrace rolling hills and some of the loveliest waterfalls in the East.

Folks have been coming to these mountains for rest and recreation since the mid-19th century. Just 2 hours from both New York City and Philadelphia, the area was (and is today) a ready-made vacation spot for big-city residents eager for a nearby escape.

Summer resorts and boardinghouses near the Delaware River opened to handle the vacationers who came by railroad to relax in the fresh, crisp mountain air and enjoy Mother Nature's gifts. Travelers still come to enjoy the great outdoors, but they now come year-round and more than likely arrive by car to explore this vacationland's enormous mix of activities.

And the choice of hotels has expanded as well. Today's visitors can select from plush lodges (many with their own golf courses and spas), historic country inns, quaint bed and breakfasts, simple mom-and-pop motels, an assortment of chain hotels—and, of course, the romantic couples-only resorts with heart-shaped tubs and 7-foot-tall champagne glass whirlpool towers that have lured honeymooners to the area since the early 1960s.

You won't find any large cities here (all the better for relaxation). Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg are about as big as it gets, but there are plenty of small, friendly towns to explore, brimming with Victorian architecture, galleries, historic homes, museums and shops.

If you're an adventure travel enthusiast and it's recreation you're looking for, a good place to begin is at the eastern edge of the area at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which Pennsylvania shares with New Jersey. The Delaware River and US 209 bisect this 40-mile-long parcel which includes a 27-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail.

And it's just a short drive (or hike) off US 209 to some of the area's most beautiful waterfalls. Bushkill, Raymondskill and Dingmans falls can all be admired from numerous vantage points and make for perfect Instagram moments. Trails and boardwalks suitable for all skill levels lead to scenic overlooks.

If water sports are on your agenda, the place to go is Lake Wallenpaupack, near Hawley in the northern part of the Poconos. One of the state's largest man-made lakes, it was created in 1926 to provide hydroelectric power. With 52 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 60 feet, it's a huge watery playground.

Winter brings skiing to the Pocono Mountains. While the Pennsylvania slopes will never rival those in the Rockies (the tallest mountains here are just over 2,000 feet and artificial snow is often used), Pocono ski resorts are known for their family-friendly atmosphere, so take note if you're looking for fun things to do with kids. An assortment of state parks, state forests, rivers, streams, and lakes provide a rich backdrop for white-water rafting, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, golfing and biking.

Or, if you prefer spectator sports and you're a NASCAR fan, Pocono Raceway (known as the “Tricky Triangle”) near Long Pond is the site of two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, the Pocono 400 held in June and the Overton's 400 in July.

Shopping and being pampered in a spa are also high on many vacationers' lists. Outlets, malls and specialty shops cater to all tastes and budgets, and a popular pastime is combing the boutiques and the antiques and arts and crafts stores along the area's historic main streets, so add this to your itinerary when looking for great places to shop. And spending an afternoon in a luxurious spa is a relaxing way to rejuvenate after taking in all the activities the Poconos have to offer.

Though beautiful all year, the Poconos are particularly scenic in the fall when the leaves change to blazing crimson, gold and orange.

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Pocono Mountains Area, PA

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Best Western Plus Poconos Hotel

2647 Rt 715. Tannersville, PA 18372

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Hampton Inn by Hilton Lehighton (Jim Thorpe Area)

877 Interchange Rd. Lehighton, PA 18235

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Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott - Stroudsburg Bartonsville Poconos

294 Frantz Rd. Stroudsburg, PA 18360

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Hampton Inn & Suites Stroudsburg Bartonsville

700 Commerce Blvd. Stroudsburg, PA 18360

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