The Mauch Chunk Opera House in historic downtown Jim Thorpe

8 Oldest Founded Towns To Visit In the Poconos

The Poconos, or the Pocono Mountains, sit in northeastern Pennsylvania and are well known as a year-round destination. The natural and diverse landscape, featuring thickly forested areas, lush rolling hills, and flowing rivers and waterfalls, is only one attraction, alongside the endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and beautiful mountain towns. Alongside their beauty, the Poconos Mountains have a rich and layered history dating back to the 17th century. Though several towns were already founded, tourism in the Poconos became popular after WWII, as it was a lovely location for honeymooners and skiers alike. The area's small towns offer a charming summer escape, but the oldest-founded towns share delights and stories of their own.

Bristol (1681)

 King George II Inn in Bristol, Pennsylvania.
 King George II Inn in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Image credit: Smallbones, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Opposite Burlington, New Jersey, on the Delaware River, the town of Bristol was founded in 1681, playing a significant role in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, and once even a major textile-milling center. The town's history lives on today through its antique shops, historic mansions, and important landmarks.

The Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum is a must-see, housing authentic Victorian-era decor and furniture. Silver Lake Nature Center is a great spot to venture into the beauty of the outdoors, enjoying a butterfly garden, lakes, and meadows. The town hosts Historic Bristol Day every October, where visitors and locals alike enjoy locally made arts and crafts, street food, scrumptious desserts, and unique live entertainment. Those searching for an extra historic adventure should stay in the King George II Inn, branded America's oldest operating inn. 

Stroudsburg (1730s)

The Main Street in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. 
The Main Street in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. 

Founded in the 1730s, Stroudsburg is affectionately titled the "heart of the Poconos" for its modern appeal and historic charm. The dynamic town is the ideal vacation spot for those searching for the excitement and business of a hearty small town, as well as easy access to the serene mountainscape and awaiting adventure. Visitors enjoy activities such as strolling the picturesque downtown, hiking the Levee Loop Trail, and visiting interactive museums and galleries such as Stroud Mansion, Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, and Pocono Arts Council. In terms of accommodations, there is something for every adventure, including Stroudsmoor Country Inn, Cherry Valley Manor B&B, and Cranberry Run Campground.

Hanover (1763)

 The Sheppard's Mansion, in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
The historic Sheppard's Mansion in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1763, Hanover is a quaint and historic town featuring a downtown area that boasts a collection of historic Colonial Revival and Queen Anne-style buildings. The Hanover Area Historical Society's History Museum is one of the top spots to delve into the town's history, while the Warehime Myers Mansion, built between 1911 and 1913, offers a glimpse into classic furniture and antiques. The town is also chock full of natural wonders, as visitors enjoy hiking through Codorus State Park and boating, swimming, and water sports on Lake Marburg. The town is also known for its beer scene, home to Aldus Brewing Company, Center Square Brewing, and Fat Bat Brewing Company. Travelers can extend their stay in the Codorus State Park campground or one of the town's bed and breakfasts.

Milford (1796)

French chateau-style home of the Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford
French chateau-style home of the Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, Pennsylvania.

Known for its historic main street decorated with Victorian-era homes, Milford is a resort town from the Gilded Age, founded in 1796. The Columns Museum is an especially unique stop, housing an abundance of stories and artifacts, including the "Lincoln Flag," a 36-star flag from the presidential box the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Alongside its history, the town boasts a collection of rivers, trails, and waterfalls carved within nature over centuries. Explore the natural beauty with a visit to destinations such as Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Milford Knob Trail, and Raymondskill Falls. For a taste of history and natural grandeur all at once, visit the Grey Towers, a breathtaking National Historic Site, where visitors are welcomed to tour the garden and mansion built in 1886. Travelers can take their pick from many accommodations, including Babbling Brook Cottages, Best Western Inn at Hunt's Landing, and Kittatinny's River Beach Campground.

Jim Thorpe (1818)

The historic area of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

One of the most charming towns in Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe, founded in 1818, sits at the base of the Pocono Mountains. Once known as Mauch Chunk, the town has since earned its name from Jim Thorpe, an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. Named after a great sports star, it only makes sense the town is a haven for athletes and adventurers alike – hiking, biking, white water rafting, skiing, and horseback riding are all popular in the area. Aside from its storied sports history, the downtown area boasts a plethora of Victorian mansions revitalized to house shops, restaurants, and even bed and breakfasts. Other historic spots worth visiting include the Old Jail Museum, Mauch Chunk Museum, No. 9 Coal Mine & Museum, and Eckley Miners' Village. Charming places to stay include The Bella Victoria Bed and Breakfast, The Gilded Cupid B&B, and The Harry Packer Mansion Inn.

White Haven (1824)

Hawk Falls in Hickory State Park in White Haven
Hawk Falls in Hickory State Park in White Haven, Pennsylvania.

The town of White Haven, founded in 1824, sits along the Lehigh River, encompassed by Lehigh River State Park, at the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. The state park offers a perfect escape into nature, where visitors explore hiking, biking, boating, and even white water rafting. Lehigh Tannery Historic Site is a unique destination within Hickory Run State Park, where visitors can learn a little history and visit the ruins of the Lehigh Tannery while enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors. Also, in Hickory Run State Park are miles of streams and hiking trails. Traverse the Hawk Falls Trail and marvel at the 25-foot Hawk Falls, and remember to visit Boulder Field, a National Natural Landmark where large boulders have remained in place for 20,000 years. Visitors can extend their stay at the campgrounds in either state park for an affordable summer vacation, or choose from a charming hotel or inn within the town. 

Honesdale (1826)

Main Street in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
The Main Street in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1826, Honesdale is one of the best small towns in Pennsylvania for a weekend escape. The area is often known as the "birthplace of the American Railroad," having housed the first steam locomotive to travel along commercial tracks in the United States way back in 1829. The same locomotive, called the Stourbridge Lion, lives on in the Wayne County Historical Society's Museum. Several historic buildings are a stone's throw away from the picturesque Central Park, including the 1859 Old Stone Jail, Wayne County's historic Courthouse, and the childhood home of Dick Smith. Unique shops and dining spots line the town's downtown streets, including Camp Umpy's Bagels & Stuff, Here & Now Brewing Company, and Maude & Main. Travelers can extend their stay in one of the many charming retreats, including the Himalayan Institute, Inn at Tyler Hill, and Keen Lake Camping and Cottage Resort.

Tobyhanna (1830)

Beautiful nature surrounding Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania.
Beautiful nature surrounding Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania.

Established in 1830, Tobyhanna combines the beauty of natural landscapes with a picturesque, tangible history. The Pocono Manor Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places, encompasses over 70 twentieth-century architectural styles, buildings, and structures, such as the Pocono Manor Inn, built between 1902 and 1949. The town also houses Tobyhanna State Park, covering 5,440 acres, including the 170-acre Tobyhanna Lake. The park features some of the best hikes in the Poconos, such as a 5-mile loop that traverses along the breathtaking terrain. It is also a great location for birding and watching for wildlife, such as wood frogs and salamanders, so be sure to pack a pair of binoculars! For a rustic stay, visitors can enjoy one of the campgrounds in the state park. 

Enjoy A Historic Trip To The Poconos!

The storied history of the Poconos makes its oldest small towns the ideal destination for a unique getaway, no matter the time of year. While the various museums surely have tales to tell, the century buildings and natural environment share a different glimpse into the past. From the natural history and beauty of White Haven to the picturesque and historic Grey Towers of Milford, there is endless beauty and depth to discover in these oldest-founded towns in the Poconos.

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