Correspondent Andrea Williams enjoyed a weekend full of fun in the Pocono Mountains with the DC Travel Blogger Crew. Read about her jam-packed weekend including whitewater rafting, beer tasting and amazing cuisine.
Last weekend, the Pocono Mountain tourism board hosted the DC Travel Blogger crew for a FAM tour of their lovely region. I’ll admit, I was only vaguely familiar with the Poconos after hearing a few of my pals from New York & New Jersey talk about frequenting the area for quick weekend getaways. I couldn’t wait to go so I could see for myself what the Pocono Mountains had to offer. I must say, even through the rain, it exceeded my expectations!
The Pocono Mountains
The Pocono Mountains region spans 2,400 square miles of land throughout four counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s located less than 90 miles from New York City and Philadelphia, but is easily accessible from pretty much any major city in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The demographic of tourists is largely made up of families and active explorers. However, don’t let that deter you if you are neither! The array of activities offered are endless. Whether recreational activities like kayaking, hiking, and skiing are your thing, or relaxing activities like spa treatments, dining, and yoga meditation, there’s something for everyone in every season. The mountainous terrain, stunning bodies of water, and expansive woodlands make for an extraordinary backdrop to nature’s promised land.
The weekend started on Friday evening with us checking into our hotel rooms at Chateau Resort and Conference Center, located in a town called Tannersville. Our rooms were lofted suites with a view of a beautiful lake, surrounded by miles of verdant land.
No sooner than we put the key in our doors, it was time to meet up with our tourism guide to head out for a site visit. The first property to welcome us was the Camelback Lodge Resort, also located in Tannersville.
The massive hotel just opened this past April, housing 453 rooms, three restaurants, a sizable kiddie arcade, and a partridge in a pear tree. The hotel also touts itself as having “the biggest” in quite a few of their attractions: the biggest snow tubing course in the country (they double as a ski lodge in the winter), the longest uphill water coaster in North America, and two of the biggest indoor AND outdoor waterparks in the Northeast. After touring their indoor waterpark, I became a believer.
Thirteen mammoth waterslides envelop the building (some even expanding outside), while the rest of the park includes a wave pool, kiddie pool, indoor cabanas, and plentiful seating. The waterpark is heated at 84 degrees year-round and is covered by a special glass that allows the natural sunlight to permeate the park for an extra beach feel.
We ended our tour with a buffet dinner at Camelback’s Hemisphere’s restaurant. Everything was delicious, but nothing compares to their crab stuffed lobster. YUMMMM!
Our next adventure was a whitewater rafting excursion with Whitewater Challengers. My aversion to all things aquatic and the aforementioned downpour notwithstanding, the rafting activity proved to be quite an experience!
Whitewater Challengers’ campground-style quarters gave off a vibe reminiscent of day camp. After a buffet breakfast (replete with all of our favorite cereals from childhood), we were issued wet suits and given safety tips before setting off to Lehigh River via yellow school bus.
Overall, the dam was calm with a few rapids to break up the monotony. The tranquil tide afforded us the opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery along the stream. Thanks to our wonderful guide (hi Scott!), we made it through the 9-mile course without getting stuck on rocks or more importantly, falling from the raft.
You can only imagine after a day of intense (not really) upper-body activity, we’d worked up quite the appetite. Our dinner on this particular night was special because it involved a drink presentation. And as you who’s reading this very blog knows, we here at Will Drink For Travel love a good drink!
We dined in the taproom of Shawnee Craft Brewery, which is housed on the grounds of The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort. The property, built in 1911, is nestled along the banks of the Delaware River on 250 acres of private property. The land includes a farm, where fresh produce is grown exclusively for use in their restaurants, and a 24-hole golf course that sits on its very own island in the Delaware River. If that isn’t enough, the abovementioned brewery is used to produce handmade beers with organic, locally sourced ingredients. Their motto: “Beer from here, food from near.”
Our 4-course dinner was immaculately prepared and matched with one of their specially-crafted beers. It was a cool twist on a wine tasting.
My personal fave of the 4 beers was the Berliner Weisse, which had a splash of raspberry added to sweeten the tartness of the brew. It gave the beer more of a fruity taste instead of the usual bite.
We were then offered tours of the brewing facilities to see how their beer is made. Once the beer is ready to manifest, the liquid is fermented in one of the many fermentation tanks on hand. A “beer cow” is used to bottle the contents, and the beer is then packaged. Finally, the beer undergoes a bottled fermentation that provides natural carbonation.
Kudos to the staff at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort for a lovely evening!
Our last day in the Poconos was very low-key after such an action-packed Saturday. We were given a tour of the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center, which just opened July 1st, located in Pocono Manor, PA.
Another sprawling property, it includes 457 guest rooms, 65,000 sq ft of meeting space, 100,000 sq ft of indoor waterpark (an outdoor park is open seasonally), 30,000 sq ft of a Family Entertainment Complex (complete with miniature golfing, bowling, and an arcade), and three full-service restaurants – and this is all in the first phase. A second phase, to be completed in 2017, will include 515 additional guest rooms, 100,000 sq ft of additional indoor waterpark space, and an expansion of the outdoor waterpark by 2-3 more acres. Are you having number fatigue like me?
The coolest part of the resort was the rich African theme. The owners took a 26-day sojourn to 6 different African countries to purchase original artwork and décor for the hotel. They traveled along with a videographer to capture moving and still photography of their journey that is displayed all throughout the hotel. I loved to see the immersion of African culture so genuinely exhibited!
The last stop on our whirlwind trip was to Desaki, a Japanese restaurant that specializes in Hibachi and fresh sushi. According to the owner, Desaki is the largest family-owned restaurant in the area. The building was inspiredby Japanese architecture, with high-ceilings and wood panels.
The staff is extremely customer service oriented, providing a bus that picks up families from the surrounding hotels. They also have multiple activities to keep kids occupied in the event of long waits, including small flat-screen TVs with Xbox set-ups, rickshaw rides in the restaurant parking lot, and a large dance floor to dance the time (or food) away.
Speaking of food, it was outstanding (and plentiful)! We tried a range of appetizers, from bacon-covered scallops to various styles of sushi. Our meals were then preparedby a wonderful chef named A.J. Let’s just say we all left with enough food to eat for dinner that night.
All in all, I give our weekend a solid 10! For those looking for a break from city life and want to be one with nature, I highly recommend heading to the Pocono Mountains. There are a host of activities, whether relaxing or robust, to ensure a proper getaway is had by all. Log onto PoconoMountains.com for more information. Tell them we sent you!
Photo Credit: Andrea Williams and Travelaine.com
*While this was a press trip sponsored by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, all opinions expressed are those of the author.