Poking around the Poconos -- with kids

Families: The mountains of eastern Pennsylvania bubble with attractions for adults and children, and it's all in a guide recently written by a resident

Short Hop

April 11, 1999|By Jodi Duckett | Jodi Duckett,Allentown Morning Call

Before her children were born, Marynell Strunk enjoyed what she thought was the best of Pennsylvania's Poconos with her husband, David. They hiked, they skied, they canoed on the Delaware River, they visited strawberry festivals.

It wasn't until after Kelly and Mackenzie came along that she discovered all the riches of the region.

"You start to seek things out," Strunk explained.

Believing firmly that the Poconos is a great place for families, Strunk decided to create a guide to help families take advantage of what the region offers.

The result is "Discover the Poconos with Kids: A Guide for Families" (JASI, $12.95, 176 pages).

It's a comprehensive guide covering festivals and animal attractions, museums and movie theaters, sports and cultural activities, resorts and campgrounds, amusement parks, state parks and nature centers.

Most of the attractions are within the 2,400 square miles of Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties that are defined as the Pocono Mountains. Strunk also included a few attractions in neighboring cities, such as the Crayola Factory in Easton and the Allentown Art Museum.

A New Jersey native, Strunk moved to Smithfield Township, Monroe County, Pa., in 1989 with David, an engineer whose family lives in Stroud Township. The couple had lived in Easton, Pa., but liked the rural nature of the Poconos.

Family-tested spots

Strunk always had a knack for writing. But she never pursued it until her older daughter Kelly, now 8, was born, and she got the idea for the Poconos guide.

"We would be looking for things to do. I was always researching and had a big stack of papers gathered from different sources. I thought this would be so nice if all this was in one spot. Then the little light bulb went on," Strunk said.

Strunk discovered there were many guides to the Poconos, but none specifically for families.

So she set off, children and sometimes husband in tow, to do research. Strunk and her family already had visited many of the places in the book, but discovered many new ones. Strunk said she has visited about 95 percent of the places listed. The guide is basic, offering a brief description of attractions, along with hours of operation and cost.

Strunk does not give her opinion about the attractions listed, but believes they are all worthwhile destinations.

"I wanted to be objective and give people the information and let them draw their own conclusions," she said.

"I didn't just put anything in there. I really used my discretion. By the very nature of its being in there, I felt that it was worthy."

Strunk said one amazing thing about the Poconos that people probably don't realize is how many state parks there are.

Indeed, among the Pennsylvania trivia sprinkled throughout the book is this fact: "At any point in the state you are within 25 miles of a state park. The Pocono region is home to seven of the state parks as well as a very large national park (The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area)."

"It's amazing what the state parks have, and they're all at our disposal," Strunk said. "Sometimes families say, 'We just don't have the money.' You don't need money all the time."

A journey back in time

One of Strunk's favorite attractions is the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm in Stroudsburg, where costumed guides share a day on the farm as it would have been in the mid-18th and early-19th centuries. Visitors can do things such as churn butter, grind flour and visit a one-room schoolhouse.

"It's somewhat low key. It's educational. It really shows kids what things were like way back when, what kids were like and how little they needed to play with," Strunk said.

Another favorite is the Monroe County Environmental Educational Center and its 120-acre Kettle Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in Bartonsville.

"The programming for children is incredible. The staff is wonderful with them. It's fun. It's educational. I learned things," Strunk said.

Strunk knew about Quiet Valley and Kettle Creek before she began the book. One of the jewels she discovered during her research is the Dorflinger Glass Museum in White Mills, which features more than 600 cut-glass pieces from the Dorflinger Glass Works. The museum is adjacent to a wildlife sanctuary with nature trails. It also has summer outdoor concerts on the grounds.

The guide includes some places most would not consider family vacation attractions, such as libraries. But Strunk said that, when you have children, visiting the library on a rainy day makes sense.

Strunk hopes her guide will clear up any misimpressions people have about the Pocono Mountains.

"I think there is the old impression of it as a honeymoon destination. It still is a honeymoon destination, but it is so much more than that," she said.

ATTRACTIONS

Some of Marynell Strunk's recommendations for family adventure in the Poconos:

* Claws and Paws Wild Animal Park, Lake Ariel, 717-698-6154: Petting zoo and farmyard with 120 species.

* Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, Stroudsburg, 717-992-6161: Original Pennsylvania Dutch farm offers guided tours interpreting 18th-century farm life.

* Pennsylvania Fishing Tackle Museum, Dingmans Ferry, 717-775-7237: Fishing memorabilia from the 1700s to the 1950s.

* Pocono Museum Unlimited, Lehighton, 717-386-3117: A view of an "O" scale train model that shows the world in miniature. There is an amusement park with 16 operating rides and a lake with fish.

* Shawnee Play Place and Water Park, Shawnee-on-Delaware, 717-421-7231: Water slides, pools, ball pit and magic shows.

* Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, Scranton, 800-238-7245: An hourlong tour back in history 300 feet below the earth.

* Canal Boat Rides, Easton, 610-250-6700: Step back into the early 1900s when canal boats were the principal transport along the river.

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