Nature, yes, but there’s so much more to explore and experience in the Pocono Mountains region
For more than a century, the Pocono Mountains region has been well known for being an idyllic secluded getaway. Stretching across 2,400 square miles of northeastern Pennsylvania, the Pocono Mountains region has attracted nature lovers, honeymooners and outdoor recreationists alike, many seeking a quiet escape from the crowds and fast-paced lifestyle of such nearby big cities as Philadelphia and New York.
Those Poconos still exist, of course, attracting millions of visitors each year with their tree-lined beauty and picturesque lakes. But the region is not resting on its reputation. These days, the Pocono Mountains also offer a wide range of entertainment options, providing a little hustle and bustle to go along with the peace and quiet.
There are expansive resorts with waterparks and casinos. There are spas and diverse restaurants and upscale shopping. There is an increasing amount of space for business meetings and conventions, as well as activities for families with children. So while you can still get away in the Pocono Mountains, you don’t have to get away from it all.
“A lot of people like to say they have something for everybody, but in the Pocono Mountains we truly do,â€ says Chris Barrett, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau. “We’ve become a true four-season destination with a large variety of activities with wide appeal. If you want to, you can still just sit in a cabin for seven days. But now you can also drive a half-hour or less to a large resort.”
Pools, Poker and Pilates
One of the leaders in this change is Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Pocono Manor, which opened in 2015 with a 110,000-square-foot indoor waterpark. The attraction proved to be so popular that Kalahari recently doubled the size of its aquatic offerings, making it the largest indoor waterpark in the U.S. Kalahari also has more than doubled the size of its convention space, to 205,000 square feet, with a new 38,000-square-foot ballroom and 18 additional meeting rooms.
Meanwhile, Mount Airy Casino Resort Spa in Paradise Township recently wrapped up a $40 million expansion project that includes 100 new hotel rooms (increasing the total to 288), a 16,000-square-foot ballroom and events center, and a 27,000-square-foot outdoor concert pavilion. This is in addition to the property’s existing spa, casino, indoor and outdoor pools, 18-hole golf course and nightclub.
For a calmer experience, The Lodge at Woodloch boasts one of the top- rated spas in the world. It has 27 treatment rooms to go along with saunas, whirlpools, a hydromassage waterwall, fireplace lounges, and studios for aerobics, Pilates, yoga and meditation.
On the horizon, there is a $350 million entertainment and retail project called Pocono Springs scheduled to open in 2021 in Tobyhanna Township near Kalahari. The complex will combine the best of both of Pocono’s worlds, with 600,000 square feet of dining- shopping-entertainment offerings (including a 90,000-square-foot aquarium) along with outdoor hiking and biking trails.
“That’s going to be a huge, huge attraction,â€ Barrett says. “What’s been amazing is the vision of the people who own the properties here in the Poconos. They’ve had the ability to constantly reinvent the product in ways that are always attractive to visitors.”
As a result, Barrett says, the Pocono Mountains region has seen hospitality-and-tourism revenue increase by 27.7% over the past three years, making it the fastest- growing region in the state. Travelers spent nearly $3.9 billion in the Poconos in 2017, a record for the region. That is important, since 65% of the region’s labor income is derived from travel and tourism, and nearly 38% of employment is connected to the sector.
“We are in a very strong growth mode, and it’s because of the strong capital investment in the region,â€ Barrett says. “We’re offering a good, innovative product. I credit that to the people who have been here for a long time. Whenever there has been a change in guests’ wants and needs, they’ve responded.”