A few corners of the Pocono Mountain region earned a tacky reputation for honeymoon hotels with heart-shaped beds and mirrors on the ceiling. That stereotype is wiped clean by old-style class when you roll into Shawnee-on-Delaware, a quaint village on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware Water Gap. The riverside Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is only 70 miles west of the George Washington Bridge—but it stages a comforting, bygone era that’s far removed from New York City’s anxious pace.
The Pocono Mountains region is home to rolling mountain terrain, waterfalls, inviting woodlands, and 170 miles of clean rivers. The historic Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort overlooks the pristine Delaware River and is in the midst of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This river valley had been evacuated via eminent domain for a hydroelectric dam, but the silty soil makeup scraped the project and the watershed area was instead declared parkland in 1978. So, there’s a variety of scenic outdoor activities right on your doorstep, including kayaking, canoeing, rafting, biking, hiking, and fishing—something for everyone.
Opened in 1911 in the style of other Northeast U.S. grand hotels, it’s a piano-player-in-the-lobby sort of place. But before you even step inside, a sagely bellman named Alder shares tales of visits by President Eisenhower, Bob Hope, and Ed Sullivan. Historic photos line every spacious hallway that lead to 80 guest rooms. If all the space and grandeur is too overwhelming, you can escape into the ping pong room, or cozy brewpub.
There are two wonderful dining options that don’t require driving. Within the inn, the River Room overlooks their golf course and several massive maple trees giving birth to syrup, with copious sap bags hanging from their trunks. While enjoying the impressive cuisine in a casual atmosphere, the River Room often hosts live music. When I dined, they featured Pete Begley, a talented man playing “The Stick,” a 12-string guitar neck without a body that’s fretted with all 10 fingers. Deftly played, The Stick sounds like a four-piece band. While entertaining, Begley also calmly chats as he visits various guests’ tables.
A five-minute walk across the manicured resort grounds brings you to the Gem and Keystone Brewpub, home of ShawneeCraft Artisanal beers, which are crafted onsite. Both menus features local produce, all natural meats, PA farm-stand cheeses, and sustainable seafood. gemandkeystone.com. After dinner, stroll a few more minutes down the tree-lined street to the charming 193-seat Shawnee Playhouse, which features inspired, year-round professional theatre—and a gigantic fireplace. theshawneeplayhouse.com.
Shawnee Mountain is a ten minute drive from the inn. The winter season offers 25 skiable acres, 23 trails, Pennsylvania’s newest high-speed quad lift, two terrain parks, a snow tubing park and 100-percent snowmaking. But as the seasons change, so do the mountain’s offerings. From May through November, visitors can enjoy eight special outdoor events, including a Celtic Festival, a mud run, and a one-of-a-kind Garlic Festival, shawneemt.com. Last but not least, the Shawnee Inn is a great place to golf. Arnold Palmer met his wife here in the same era that Jackie Gleason learned how to golf on their 27-hole riverside course. Before heading back to New York City’s car alarm circus, I got a deep tissue massage at Spa Shawnee—talk about a fast track to inner peace. This rustic-yet-luxurious getaway is where romantic couples and families can chill out together, or not.
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* The Shawnee Inn is 70 miles from New York City. Call 570.424.4000 or visit shawneeinn.com.
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Any time of year is a great time to visit the Pocono Mountains, which spans 2,400 square miles—the size of Delaware. Spring and summer invite active travelers to explore 260 miles of hiking and biking trails, 35 golf courses, whitewater rafting, boating, fishing, and open access to nine state and two national parks. Winters invite visitors to ski, snowboard, snow tube, or snowshoe through snowy (natural or made) wonderlands encompassing 165 ski trails. The region teems with history-infused cultural events, theatre, art exhibitions, antiquing, and cuisine—or you can simply sleep in. A full calendar of festivals showcasing the heritage, music, and food of the region is on www.800poconos.com/events. Even the most discerning traveler will find comfortable lodgings in the Pocono Mountains, which offers an eclectic mix of luxury hotels, distinctive boutique properties, and quaint, family-run bed and breakfasts. Visit 800poconos.com.
* From Manhattan’s lovely Port Authority, Martz Trailways has regular service to the region, martztrailways.com.
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The Shawnee Inn owners, the Kirwood family, have an impressive legacy of doing humanitarian work worldwide. Charlie and Ginny Kirkwood met in Turkey where Ginny was serving in the Peace Corps. Later, Mrs. Kirkwood went on to found Thailand’s first Special Olympics program. Their daughter and son-in-law started the Shawnee International Health and Development LCC, an organization that empowers volunteers to advance their experience in international aide and development.