Jim Thorpe is a vibrant, picturesque, and oh-so-charming town
I’ve had the best intentions to write a post about a getaway to Jim Thorpe, PA, practically since I returned from a trip there with a friend back in October. But since it’s taken so long to get to it, and I really want to share info about this awesome destination, I’m doing a more abbreviated version than I’d originally planned. However, the gist is this: Jim Thorpe, PA, is a fantastic place for a weekend (or longer) escape. And even though I experienced it on a girls’ weekend away, it would be ideal for families, too. In fact, I’m making plans to return with mine this summer.
Lots of whimsy to be found
Jim Thorpe is located in northeastern Pennsylvania, about a four-hour drive from DC. It’s apparently often called the “Switzerland of America,” and one look at the pretty town with its colorful buildings and stone clocktower against the backdrop of the Poconos Mountains you understand why. Two main streets, Broadway and Race, are lined with a mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes. There’s a whimsical, almost magical vibe about the town — it seems like several stores have an Alice in Wonderland thing going on, and many of them sell lots of fun, clever, artistic items. My friend and I were there during the Fall Foliage Festival that runs almost every weekend in October, with all kinds of free live music both indoors and out, a big outdoor market, a scarecrow contest, and ghost tours.
Music outdoors during the fall fest
Rolling along the 25-mile trail
Before our trip, I had heard of JT as a popular mountain biking destination, but didn’t know much about the town beyond that. Looking into it further, we discovered even more to enjoy all year round. One of the town’s main attractions is the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which offers excursions along the Lehigh River north into Lehigh Gorge State Park. The small station — and train, if it’s there — is one of the first sights when you drive into town. We actually didn’t ride the train on our visit, since we opted to navigate the route on two wheels instead. We rented bikes and rode the 25-mile Lehigh Gorge Trail through the state park back into town. It’s slightly downhill, so not really strenuous, a ride that experienced young bikers could probably tackle, too.
Take an excursion on the Lehigh Valley Scenic Railway
Or make your way on bike instead
Leaf peeping from the saddle
There’s even more active recreation to enjoy in Jim Thorpe, depending on the season. During summer, whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River is a popular pursuit and lakes in the area are great for boating and swimming. Skiing is the big winter sport with resorts all around the Poconos. And there’s plenty of good hiking most of the year — trails meander through woods, lead to waterfalls, and offer scenic views of the pretty area. Even more, there are festivals that bring all kinds of fun and entertainment (the next one being the Jim Thorpe Hometown Festival on July 6, and the Fall Foliage Festival is a great one to plan ahead for).
During the festival, a scarecrow contest among the businesses brings some hilarity to the sidewalks
Music on the steps of the Mauch Chunk Opera House
We found an Airbnb just across the river within walking distance of town, which was great since we didn’t have to worry about driving and finding parking. There are rentals available in town, too, along with a few inns. Larger homes and cabins can be found a bit further out, where you can spread out more then make excursions into town for fun and food. There are plenty of good restaurants to enjoy a meal and lots of live entertainment — the Mauch Chunk Opera House and Broadway Grille are great places to hear good music. And for some KidFree fun, I highly recommend the totally awesome Back to the 80’s Bar, where it might be possible to convince a bar-ful of tipsy people to sing along to Borderline with you (not that I’d know from experience or anything 😉).
View from the Harry Packer Mansion Inn, where you can stay or just enjoy a drink and nibble
With summer right around the corner when families might be looking for fun weekend escapes, this seemed like a good time to finally post about Jim Thorpe. Learn more about the wonderful destination here and get more of a glimpse in the photos below.
One of the lovely sites on the bike ride
You might get to see a steam engine roll into town, too
Take a New Year’s Day hike at Huntley Meadows Park
A couple things to note as we head into the new week (and year!): * The government shutdown will affect a lot of popular places after January 1, including Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo, National Parks, and the National Gallery of Art (after January 3). This post from the last shutdown has been updated to reflect the current one, and it offers ideas for things to do around DC while many local go-tos are closed. * The Winter Break Guide contains a big mix of ideas for activities and adventures with the kids during the winter break from school, so be sure to check it out.
Happy New Year!!
Monday – Celebrate New Year’s Eve at one of several events around town that not only welcome kids, but in most cases center around them. See this post for a list of family-friendly options to ring in 2019.
Tuesday – A couple of suggestions: Take a New Year’s Day hike — this post has details on a bunch of great places to hit the trail with the kids (but note that places within the National Park Service system may not be accessible). Or, go out for a fun family meal. All Purpose Pizza at the Capitol Riverfront is doing a special New Year’s Day brunch. Pinstripes in Georgetown has a bistro, plus bowling and bocce. Jaleo, located in Penn Quarter, Bethesda, and Crystal City, has tapas to please everyone — and they might seat you at a Foosball table. Carmine’s serves food family-style and is very family-friendly. Ted’s Bulletin is always a hit with kids.
Wednesday – Head up to Baltimore for a day at the Maryland Science Center. Explore several levels of fascinating hands-on exhibits, play in the Kids Room, and so much more. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is $24.95/adults, $18.95/ages 3+, free for 2 and under. (I suggest checking out their membership options — if your family of 4 goes just twice in a year, it’s worth it. Plus, there’s reciprocity with other museums around the country.) Read more about the museum in this KFDC post.
Thursday – Visit the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress, to explore children’s books, see interesting exhibits, and marvel at one of DC’s most beautiful buildings. The Young Readers Center is open 9am – 4pm and welcomes visitors to read books and hang out in the cozy space. And be sure to spend time checking out the rest of the LOC, too — it’s truly magnificent and a must-see for both locals and visitors to DC. Hours are 8:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is free.
Friday – Reach new heights of fun at ClimbZone. Kids and adults will have a blast scaling the many colorful, whimsically-themed walls at the indoor climbing center in Laurel, MD. Hours are 10am – 9pm (10am – 8pm other weekdays). Admission is $25/age 6+, $12/5 & under for a three-hour session.
The “Round-Up” part of this post title is missing for a reason, and that’s because this is not a regular Weekend Round-Up. I’m keeping it simple for this last weekend of the year — but I’m definitely not leaving you hanging. The links below will lead you to plenty of info and inspo to fill the next few days with as much (or little) activity as you want. You can also check KFDC on Facebook and Instagram for any updates or extra ideas. Happy Last Weekend of 2018!
Count down to the 12pm balloon drop at Noon Yard’s Eve!
The countdown to 2019 is on, and if you’re looking for ways to ring it in with young revelers, you have many options! There are a bunch of family-friendly ways to celebrate around the area, from organized events to plan-it-yourself activities. Here are details and inspiration for your gang to get in on the fun — all of them taking place on December 31 unless otherwise noted. Happy New Year!
Noon Year’s Eve
Where: Tudor Place | Georgetown, DC
When: December 30, 11:30-12:30pm
Admission: $5/child members, $8/non-members (free for adults)
Ring in the New Year a day early with your little one at this special holiday Tudor Tots! Enjoy a festive counting-themed storytime, then count down together to 12pm. Celebrate the noon-year with noisemakers, confetti, a sparkling craft, and toast 2019 with juice. For ages 2-4 and accompanying adults.
A Fancy (Nancy) Celebration
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo, MD
When: 11am, 2pm, & 4:30pm
Join Fancy Nancy, for a performance of Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas on New Year’s Eve! There are a few showtimes throughout the day, and they’ll all include a sparkling cider toast and a rendition of Ald Lang Syne (that’s fancy for memories). It’s the fanciest way to bring in the New Year with the kiddos!
Noon Yards Eve
Where: The Yards Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: 10am – 1pm
The Yards is once again hosting its Noon Yards Eve festival to ring in 2018! The sixth annual event will transform the park into a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration with fun for both kids and adults. Activities will include trackless train rides through the park, inflatable moon bounces, glitter tattoo artists, balloon artistry, music, and a countdown and big balloon drop at noon.
First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: Starting at 6pm
Admission: $30-35/adult, free/age 12 & under
Fun and entertainment will be in abundance at the area’s largest family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration. There Kids Karnivals in three locations, with loads of activities for young revelers — face painting, story time, balloon sculptures, interactive games, and much more. And more than 100 performances on 30 indoor stages throughout Old Town Alexandria will feature live entertainment from an amazing variety of genres. The evening will conclude with a spectacular fireworks display on the Potomac River at the foot of King Street. For details on where shows will take place, see the schedule on the website.
Rocknoceros New Year’s Eve Party
Where: Jammin Java | Vienna, VA
When: 11am & 2pm
For the 12th straight year, the widely popular band that always gets kids rockin’ will be playing a special New Year’s Eve gig at Jammin Java. Sing along to some of your favorite tunes and enjoy the full menu of food and drinks while you’re there. Opt for the lunchtime show at 11am, or go in the afternoon at 2pm. Doors open half-hour before the show and general admission seating is on a first come, first served basis.
End the Year Medieval-Style
Where: Medieval Times | Hanover, MD
When: 3:30pm (doors open at 2pm)
Admission: $37.95/adult, $30.95/child
Experience an epic afternoon of fun and celebration as you countdown to 2019. Along with a four-course feast and thrilling jousting action, young guests can experience special activities just for the occasion before the extravaganza begins. Knight training, a queen story time, and free posters will make the day extra exciting a for young revelers. Be sure to use the code NYE18 for the ticket discount!
Where: Maryland Science Center | Baltimore, MD
When: 10am – 2pm
Admission: $24.95/adult, $18.95/3-12, free/2 & under
Join the MSC for their annual New Year’s Eve celebration, Midnight Noon, where children can enjoy the ball drop before bedtime. There will be fun New Year’s festivities throughout the day, including a live concert by popular kids band Milkshake — their Grammy-nominated tunes will keep everyone dancing throughout the day. And, of course, the rest of the museum will be open to explore! All activities are free with paid admission (and completely free to members).
Noontime New Year’s Celebration
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: 10am – 5pm
Admission: $15.95 ages 2+
Out with the old, in with the new! Celebrate the wonderful memories, fun, and adventures of 2018 — and the magical new things to come in 2019 — at the children’s museum in Baltimore! Festivities will include a noontime countdown, juice and cookie toast, indoor dance party, special performances from Eric Energy, The Kolonder’s, The Kindersinger, a fairy dancer, and more. Along with the New Years’ themed fun, this event will also be a great opportunity to explore Port Discovery’s much-loved exhibits ahead of the wonderful transformations planned for 2019. Check out the Noontime New Year’s schedule of activities on the website for more details.
Watch Night New Year’s Eve Celebration
Where: 100 Block of West Broad Street | Falls Church, VA
When: 7pm – Midnight
Ring in the New Year with free, family-friendly festivities at Falls Church’s 21st annual New Year’s Eve celebration. Enjoy food, music, singing, dancing, entertainment, performances and interactive festivities that appeal to all ages. Highlights include a children’s scavenger hunt, a wide variety of inflatables, free balloons, karaoke, face painting, caricaturist drawings, and restaurants with special Walking Watch Night Menus at local restaurants. The evening concludes at midnight with the traditional countdown and lowering of the City of Falls Church Star. All events take place within a four-block area that begins on the 100 Block of West Broad Street. A free shuttle bus stops at each venue and the East Falls Church Metro throughout the evening, including a shuttle from the East Falls Church Metro station.
Family Fun on the Eastern Shore
Where: Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay | Cambridge, MD
When: December 31 – January 1
Admission: See room rates on website
How about an easy getaway to ring in 2019? The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay is offering special room rates and family-friendly activities to celebrate the new year. The fun includes a magician, indoor mini golf, carnival games, bounce houses, a game room, photo booth, indoor pool, s’mores, and more. There will also be several special dining options, live music, and strolling entertainment around the resort.
Swoosh into 2019
Where: Ski Liberty | Carroll Valley, PA
When: 5pm – 1am
Admission: Lift tickets start at $24/child (free/5 & under)
Hit the slopes to ring in the new year! Ski Liberty’s celebration will include late-night skiing and snowboarding until 1am, fireworks at midnight, and a variety of special events happening around the resort. Enjoy a decadent fixe prix dinner at Ike’s Chophouse. There is also a special, by reservations only, party at Boulder Ridge with Snow Tubing from 10pm to 1am. Find something for everyone and every age!
Glide into 2019
Where: Ice rinks around the DMV
When: Throughout the day & evening
Admission: Varies by rink
Skate under the stars to celebrate the start of the new year. Gliding on ice surrounded by twinkling lights, art sculptures, and/or the hubbub of people in festive spirits is a fun, active way to revel. Join a special event like Rock & Skate at Washington Harbour or just do your own thang. Be sure to check times for each rink, as hours may change for the holiday.
New Year’s Night Lights
Where: Around the DMV
When: After dark
Admission: Varies by locale
Start your own family New Year’s Eve tradition with a seasonal treat: Bundle up for a stroll or take a drive through one of several spectacular light displays! Most of the light shows that dazzle this time of year are open on New Year’s Eve. Combine an outing to see them with dinner out — this guide from Edible DC from last year has suggestions on where to eat nearby all the holiday lights. If you’re enjoying it from the comfort of a car, pack a thermos of hot chocolate, yummy snacks, and prepare a festive playlist for the ride.
Last week I posted the Winter Break Guide, a big mix of ideas for activities and adventures with the kids during the winter break from school, so be sure to check it out! Below is a suggested itinerary that you can easily switch up with the recs from the guide. Have fun & Happy Holidays!
Monday – Watch Santa have some fun before his big night out, as he water skis his way up the Potomac along with knee boarding reindeer, flying elves, the jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman in a dinghy! You can view it all for free from the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria starting at 1pm sharp — the best viewing spots will be from the Torpedo Factory to Point Lumley Park.
Later on, celebrate Christmas Eve by viewing some holiday lights! Visit one of the many twinkling displays around the area or go see the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. (This is something you can do any evening during the week, though check schedules on Christmas night, as some of them are closed.)
Tuesday – Have a very Merry Christmas! And enjoy some activities out of the house, too! The U.S. Botanic Garden and Mount Vernon are open. You can bundle up and get out for a hike (though be aware that National Parks may not be accessible). Or do what’s a tradition for many who don’t celebrate Christmas and go out for Chinese food and a movie.
Wednesday – Get Q?rius at the National Museum of Natural History. Visitors can view up close — and in many cases handle — real artifacts and specimens from the museum’s collections. It’s recommended for ages 11 and up, but some younger ages could also enjoy it. For really little ones, there is Q?rius Jr: A Discovery Room for more age-appropriate exploring. And, of course, there’s the whole rest of the museum for everyone. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.
When the sun goes down, go ice skating! There’s something kind of magical about skating under the stars, and there are several rinks around the area where you can glide on ice at night.
Thursday – Bundle up the kids (and yourself) and take advantage of The Beauvoir School’s Winter Break. Their fantastic playground is open to the public when class is not in session. Open all day. Admission is free.
In the evening, experience Georgetown GLOW, the annual exhibition of outdoor public light art installations that makes the neighborhood sparkle. Plan on dinner while you’re there — you’ve got your pick of places in the bustling community.
Friday – Visit the National Gallery of Art while it’s still open during the government shutdown. (It’s been reported that the museum will be open through New Year’s Day and Smithsonian Museums through December 31.) The East Building is full of contemporary works with bold colors and captivating designs. Be sure to stop in the Alexander Calder room on the 4th floor, where mobiles of all shapes and sizes will dazzle, and head to the roof to at least have a peek at the giant blue rooster and some great city views. The West Building houses more classical pieces, including collections featuring many of the masters and the only Leonardo da Vinci painting on public view in the U.S. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free. If weather permits, take a stroll through the Sculpture Garden and maybe even go ice skating at the lovely outdoor rink (open 10am – 11pm, admission is $8/child, $9/adult, $4/rental).
The National Gallery of Art will remain open during the shutdown at least through January 1