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Posts Tagged ‘A Jim Thorpe Primer – How to Visit and Have Fun’

Kemmerer Park, Jim Thorpe, PA 1Most people don’t even know it’s there. Locals generally ignore it because of the reputation it acquired a few years ago when it held a little skateboard park, which wound up being vandalized. But as with all things, you really need to see Kemmerer Park for yourself.

So I wandered over there recently during a morning walk. My girlfriend had told me the flowers were especially beautiful at the moment. Getting to the park is an easy stroll up Mansion House Hill across from the Harry Packer B&B. I’m not a horticulturist nor do I really know the names of any flowers, but I would have to have had a stone in my chest not to have been moved.Kemmerer Park, Jim Thorpe, PA

I was the only one there, it was about 7:30 AM. The sun was just beginning to crest the hillside and outline the profile of St. Mark’s Church. The air was cool, and I heard the distant hum of the occasional car as it climbed its way out of town on Route 209. Flowers were in bloom everywhere, buds were springing to life on the trees and bushes, and the scent of dew was on everything.

Wentz mansion Jim Thorpe, PAThe Mahlon S. Kemmerer Mansion occupied the area from 1879 to 1927, when it was dismantled to make way for a town park. Kemmerer himself was one of the prominent citizens of Mauch Chunk who had made his fortune in coal. His business interests extended as far as Wyoming, where the town of Kemmerer is named after him. The Wentz mansion was just next door, built in 1886. Deterioration sadly resulted in its demolition in the 1960’s. Now the site is a parking lot for the Carbon County Annex Building.

It’s hard to avoid the sense that the town doesn’t know what it has here: the views are lovely, the benches are positioned to provide privacy and quiet, and  the place seems to brimming with various types of trees, bushes and flowers. I had the sense I was in a garden somewhere in Asia rather than Jim Thorpe, PA.Kemmerer Park, Jim Thorpe, PA 3

I used to always bring my sister’s kids here when they were young. There is a great swingset (I promise you, you’ll try it yourself), and other playground apparatus that are situated in a very unobtrusive way that help make Kemmerer Park a place that everyone can enjoy.

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Courtesy of Amazing Jim Thorpe

Getting Oriented

Try a quick visit to the train station visitors center, operated by the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau and Carbon County. You’ll see some interesting and informative displays on the history of Jim Thorpe and also brochures and information about many local businesses and attractions. The attendants there will help you with questions.

Downtown Train Station

Be sure to pick up a Jim Thorpe Visitors Guide while you’re there. Not only does it summarize the historical, entertainment and outdoors attractions, along with where to shop and dine, it contains an excellent walking map of the downtown. A version of this walking map is on display in Josiah White Park (one of the founders of the town, he was quite a guy), directly in front of the train station.

Parking

We start with parking because it can be difficult to locate street parking in town, especially on weekends. To complicate matters, the streets are relatively narrow and winding so actually maneuvering into a parking spot is a challenge. Here is a summary of your options.

Train Station Visitors Center in Jim Thorpe PA

Train Station / Visitors Center

If you don’t have accommodations lined up, or are visiting for the day, it’s easiest to simply use the municipal parking lot directly behind the downtown train station. From there you can walk to just about everything.

If you’re coming into town from the North on Rte 209, then you’ll see the train station on your right as you approach the traffic signal. Bear right at the signal and proceed a few more yards until you see the parking lot on your right. If you’re coming down 903 from Route 80, proceed into the east side of town (several great places to eat and stay on this side of town!) and over the Lehigh River Bridge and go left on 209 to the parking lot.

With your car parked, now you can relax and enjoy Jim Thorpe. Parking is $6 on weekdays, $10 on weekends. After 5PM it’s free.

If you’re planning on visiting during the 2014 Fall Foliage Festival, go here for general info and here for a map.

Dining

For a small town, Jim Thorpe will surprise you with its diverse restaurants, all with different themes and within walking distance of one another and accommodating any budget. Whether it’s Irish, continental, vegetarian, pub, or farm-to-table fare, you can find it here. Or if what you need is just a cup of coffee, a fresh bagel, a scoop of ice cream, or a slice of pizza, we can handle that too.

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Historical Attractions and Tours

Between the Asa Packer Mansion, the Mauch Chunk Museum, the Old Jail Museum, and tours, there is history everywhere here. Each interpreting organization is well-organized, and learning about the town and the region is really enjoyable.

The Old Jail Museum

But history is also in evidence as you stroll up Broadway and down Race Street. Residents and businesses will be more than happy to answer your questions. Again, pick up the Visitors Guide for a general timeline of the events that shaped Old Mauch Chunk.  In the evenings during the fall season join a Ghost Walk tour for some fascinating stories about who used to live in the residences all along Broadway (and still might!).

Outdoors

It’s beautiful every time of the year in Jim Thorpe, with each season offering different outdoor attractions. There are several different companies in town that can help you with your rafting, biking, paintball and skirmish, hiking, and skiing plans. Both families and avid cyclists can enjoy the bike trail (more rails-to-trails info here) that runs 26 miles from Jim Thorpe to White Haven and beyond.

Jim Thorpe PA Countryside

A short drive up West Broadway out of town is beautiful Mauch Chunk Lake. It’s a great family destination with its charming beach and snack stand. You can also enjoy terrific boating and kayaking, and many other recreational opportunities. Campgrounds accommodate RVs and tents alike and also offer cabin facilities.

Trains

Trains in Jim Thorpe, PA From May through December, Jim Thorpe is home to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which operates rides into the Lehigh Gorge from the train station at Jim Thorpe.

Other excursions are scheduled by LSGR, such as trips to the Hometown High Bridge and journeys from other towns into Jim Thorpe on one of their authentic steam trains. Be sure to check their schedule before confirming your plans.

Accommodations

Jim Thorpe is known for its beds and breakfasts and guest houses, along with its famous New Orleans-style downtown hotel.  Hotels and B&Bs in Jim Thorpe The variety of places to stay is one of Jim Thorpe’s unique features – learn more about where to stay here. Be sure to call ahead during certain times of the year to guarantee availability, especially during our festivals (more info below), which attract thousands of visitors to town each year.

Shops and Galleries   Art Galleries in Jim Thorpe, PA

Jim Thorpe provides an authentic small-town shopping experience with an excellent variety of gift and novelity shops and even a downtown 5 & 10.

At the same time, there are artists here whose big-town work is exhibited regionally and nationally who operate galleries and studios. Be sure to call ahead before you visit – hours of business vary depending on the season and the day of the week.

Race Street

Race Street in Jim Thorpe, PA While you’re in Jim Thorpe strolling along Broadway, be sure to visit Race Street, home to the historic Stone Row, a series of townhouses built by Asa Packer for his engineers in 1847. Now home to shops, restaurants and the iconic St. Mark’s Church, Race Street is truly picturesque.

Entertainment

National touring acts perform downtown at the renovated 380-seat Mauch Chunk Opera HouseEntertainment in Jim Thorpe, PAjust 2 blocks from the train station as part of their diverse program of entertainment. Select your seats online or call 570-325-0249 to reserve. It’s relaxed and intimate, so have a glass of wine or beer and enjoy a great connection with whomever you see. Just a couple of miles from downtown is Penn’s Peak, a 1500-seat facility with excellent parking, a great outdoor deck with a gorgeous mountaintop view, a restaurant, and an outstanding schedule of big-name performers.

Annual Events

Jim Thorpe’s downtown is home to festivals and events that celebrate every season of the year. The Jim Thorpe Birthday Celebration, Fall Foliage Weekends, Olde Time Christmas, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, WinterFest and Earth Day are the staples of our events scene, each with a special flavor and theme.

Riding Bicycles in Jim Thorpe

It’s hilly here. You can get going fast – so slow down. Realize that you’re sharing the road with local automobile traffic.

For someone at all experienced in this sort of environment, it’s not a problem. This little bit of advice is for anyone not so familiar:

1. Wear a helmet.

2. Be aware of traffic and stay over to the right.

3. Stop at stop signs, otherwise it is very easy to collide with a car.

4. Don’t ride two abreast. The streets are narrow, there are parked cars, and there is traffic in both directions.

5. If you’re going down Hill Street towards Broadway, seriously, take it slow. You’ll see a mirror at the intersection with Broadway for observing traffic coming around the corners.

The Jim Thorpe Rail Trail

It’s a great run, stroll or bike ride any time of year. Check it out here!

In Conclusion

Jim Thorpe, PA You may have guessed that the pace is relaxed here. If that’s what you’re looking for, we’re less than an hour from the Lehigh Valley, an hour and a half from Philadelphia, about two from New York, and less than four hours from the DC/Baltimore area. When you get here you can relax with a good book, have an excellent meal, or take in a show without ever getting back in your car. Or you can take a great ride or hike, sip some coffee and stroll around town and browse the shops and galleries.

People here are very pleasant, and there’s good reason to be! However, a very small minority of folks honk their horns and shout at visitors, but, having lived in Boulder, Colorado and Cape Cod, Massachusetts – it’s apparent that people like this are everywhere you go. The best advice in any community is to avoid stopping your car in the middle of the road or crossing the main drag on foot in front of oncoming traffic. These basic courtesies will go a long way.

So have a great time here, whatever your interest may be. We work hard so that you can relax.

Copyright 2013 Amazing Jim Thorpe

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