Memorial Day Weekend is generally recognized as the unofficial start of Summer. I like to celebrate this happy occasion each year with a weekend getaway to explore a different part of the United States. This year I chose to visit the Poconos Mountains region of Pennsylvania. Nature, historic villages, and vegan meals were on my agenda. An early morning, six hour drive from my Boston, Massachusetts base got me there in time for a quick lunch break.
When I arrived in the Poconos region town of Stroudsburg that Saturday, I headed directly to Sweet Creams Cafe (Sweet Creams Cafe). For my lunchtime meal, I opted for the stuffed potato with mushrooms, chickpeas, and broccoli. It was a good choice. The casual restaurant has a couple of options that can be altered to be vegan-friendly. Prices are very reasonable.
Only a short drive from Stroudsburg, one finds the popular Bushkill Falls. Known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania” and snuggled within the Poconos Mountain range, hiking trails and wooden bridges makes these spectacular waterfalls easily accessible for all.
A few miles further, I stumbled across hiking trails that took me on an invigorating walk through a section of the Poconos wooded forests.
After a rather scenic afternoon, I drove back to East Stroudsburg for dinner. Beer House Cafe (Beer House Cafe) offers a vegan menu. This restaurant and pub offers plenty of seating and a nice menu. I started with a flavorful “Berries and Cream” smoothie containing coconut cream, blueberries, coconut dates, spinach, cacao, and cayenne.
For my dinner option, I selected the Algerian Vegan Tacos with roasted marinated eggplant, olive oil, garlic and herbs; served with Algerian spicy carrot slaw on corn flour tortillas. They were absolutely delicious.
Since Summer was in the air, I was eagerly searching for an establishment that offered vegan ice cream. I did indeed locate one. However, I had to drive approximately 40 minutes northwest to the city of Easton. Rest assured, it was well worth the extra commute.
Bank Street Creamery (Bank Street Creamery) offers several artisan vegan flavors. Located in a brick storefront in the downtown area, the cafe has an inside seating area, as well. I really liked the pistachio gelato.
The following morning, I headed back to East Stroudsburg’s Beer House Cafe (Beer House Cafe) for some breakfast. A tasty fava bean Toast with fava bean spread on fresh multigrain toast satisfied my morning hunger. My beverage was an amazing peanut butter chocolate smoothie with dates, cacao, peanut butter, and almond milk.
The first stop on my day’s itinerary was the #9 Mine, located below the Poconos in the town of Lansford. Opened in 1855, this is one of our country’s oldest deep coal mines. Anthracite coal was popular at the time for heating buildings in North and East regions of the United States. The mine was in operation until 1972. At that time, it was the longest running anthracite coal mine in the world. In 2002, the mine was re-opened for tours only. My tour group boarded a small train that descended 1,000 feet into the mine caves.
Tools, blasting equipment, the original 900 feet elevator shaft, and a miner’s hospital still reside within the mines tunnels.
A museum resides above the mine. The building houses containing mining artifacts, lanterns and gear, and other mining era memorabilia.
Jim Thorpe is a picturesque town, situated in the Poconos Mountains region. Its building structures and layout are reminiscent of Swiss villages. Upon entering town, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway comes into view. Its 19th century coaches take passengers into Lehigh Gorge State Park. Named after Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, the town’s museums and landmarks are reminders of the region’s coal mining history.
Downtown shops selling everything from clothing to crafts run along the main road. Shops and other buildings with impressive architectural design draw one’s attention.
I dined at Broadway Grill and Pub (Broadway Grill and Pub) for my lunchtime meal. A flavorful vegan paella over mixed veggies was my choice of entree.
Next on my itinerary was the Asa Packer House. This mansion museum is the former home of Asa Packer, a coal and railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh University. Completed in 1861, it is situated upon a hill with a glorious view of the Poconos Mountains.
I strolled back into town center and made by way to the Old Jail Museum, passing by colorful wooden and historic brickstone residences
The two story jail structure contains over 70 rooms and 27 cells, in addition to basement dungeon cells used as solitary confinement for the harshest of criminals. The building is best known as the site of the hanging of seven Irish coal miners known
as Molly Maguires in the 1800s. Before their hanging, the men proclaimed their innocence. One man even placed his handprint on his cell wall. The handprint remains to this day, despite several attempts at cleaning the surface.
Coal miners were provided housing in stone row houses in the mining town’s center. These days, the row houses are occupied by shops and restaurants.
Evening had arrived, so I opted to dine at Stone Row Pub and Eatery (Stone Row Pub and Eatery). My dinner meal was the maple sweet potato lentil loaf with caramelized onions and tomatoes, apple and red peppers chutney, and sauteed veggies. A green iced tea accompanied my meal. Dessert wa homemade sunbutter with maple syrup and strawberries. Everything was delicious. The upscale restaurant offered a beautiful dining room.
The largest country store in the world resides in the Poconos region. Since I encountered the shop during my drive through the town of Lehighton, I paid a quick visit to snap a photo of its exterior.
Monday was my last day in the region, so I headed to the historic town of Honesdale for a bit of exploration. First up was a stop at
Yoga Studio International Cafe (Yoga Studio International Cafe) for breakfast. The yoga studio has a small dining area and a cafe which offers healthy vegan options. Reasonably priced meals and snacks are on their daily breakfast and lunch menu. I chose a yummy vegan blueberryberry cheesecake.
My arrival here was on the Memorial Day holiday. I watched as the Memorial Day parade made its way through town. Patriotic floats and characters dressed in their red, white, and blue finery marched proudly before the crowds.
When the parade had completed, I went back to the Yoga Studio International Cafe (Yoga Studio International Cafe) for lunch. I devoured a wonderful tempeh rueben sandwich with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, and vegan swiss cheese. A side of vegan chili accompanied my meal. Everything was scrumptious.
The northern Poconos town of Honesdale is home to the Stourbridge Lion, the first steam locomotive to run in the United States. During the 1830s, the Delaware & Hudson Railway was chartered to transport anthracite coal from Carbondale to the canals of Honesdale to New York City via steam locomotives. On the outskirts of Honesdale, I visited some of the oldest train cars and locomotives from the line.
Wallenpaupack Lake in the town of Hawley was my next destination. This large freshwater lake in the northern Poconos offers picnic areas, camping, and boating.
The final stop of my Poconos weekend was the Gray Towers site in the town of Milford. This national historic site was the home of Gifford Pinchot, the first director of the United States Forest Service and former governor of Pennsylvania. Tours of the stately residence and its grand landscape are available to tourists.
And so my holiday weekend in Pennsylvania came to a close. I truly enjoyed my trip to the beautiful Poconos Mountains. The stunning landscape of mountains, lakes and waterfalls; the historic coal mine and mining town of Jim Thorpe; the mansions and museums of the region, and the vegan dining scene made the weekend getaway well worth my visit.
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