20 Things To Do In Jim Thorpe

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Named after one of the greatest athletes of the early 20th century, the town of Jim Thorpe in eastern Pennsylvania is a destination deeply rooted in the region’s once-prosperous coal mining industry. The town was known as “Mauch Chunk” for much of its existence and is one of the most popular places to visit in the Pocono Mountains due to its affordability, rich history and proximity to Philly.

Things to do in Jim Thorpe include visiting the Asa Packer Mansion, the Old Jail Museum and the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and there’s thousands of acres of untouched Pocono nature to explore if city life becomes too hectic. Here are the best things to do in Jim Thorpe. 

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

20 Things To Do In Jim Thorpe

jim thorpe pa
Looking for things to do in Jim Thorpe? Here’s our top 20 list.

1- Hop Aboard The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is a 16-mile-long (26 km) round-trip train journey which cuts through the stunning surroundings of the Lehigh Gorge State Park that’s situated just north of downtown Jim Thorpe.

Originally used to transport coal around the Lehigh River as part of the Switchback Railroad way back in 1827, the railway was converted into a tourist attraction in 2005 and offers narrated tours aboard a series of diesel and steam locomotives.

Each journey lasts about 70 minutes and takes off from the town’s Jim Thorpe Station, with the railway hosting several special events and themed journeys throughout the year to keep the experience fresh and unique.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is at 1 Susquehanna St, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

2- Tour The Harry Packer Mansion

The historic Harry Packer Mansion in central Jim Thorpe is an eye-catching, three-story, red-brick Italianate-style mansion designed and built by renowned 19th-century architect Addison Hutton.

Occupying a block along the town’s Old Mauch Chunk Historic District, the mansion was completed in 1874 and presented as a wedding gift from Asa Packer to his son, Harry.

The mansion has even appeared on the silver screen and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and was even the inspiration behind Disneyland’s popular “Haunted Mansion” amusement ride.

The Harry Packer Mansion is at 19 Packer Hill Ave, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

3- Visit The Jim Thorpe Memorial

Doubling as a public park and burial place of Jim Thorpe, legendary Native American athlete and the town’s namesake, the Jim Thorpe Memorial is one of the town’s most popular outdoor attractions.

The memorial was erected to pay tribute to Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Nation member who became a pro football, basketball and baseball player, as well as a gold medallist at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

Even though Thorpe never set foot in the town of Jim Thorpe, the town decided to rename itself in honour of the legendary 20th-century athlete after his death in 1953.

It’s a space where visitors could enjoy the outdoors and celebrate his achievements.

4- Stop By The Asa Packer Mansion Museum

asa packer mansion with blue sky background
Visiting the Asa Packer Mansion is one of the things to do in Jim Thorpe to explore history.

The Italianate-style Asa Packer Mansion is the former residence of Pennsylvania railway and coal magnate, Asa Packer, the founder of nearby Lehigh University.

Designed by Samuel Sloane and completed back in 1861, the lavish three-story, 18-room estate incorporates impressive architectural features such as arched valances, intricate lacework and a lavish interior filled with antique Victorian-era furnishings.

The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, became a designated National Historic Landmark in 1985, and has been converted into a living museum that ranks among Jim Thorpe’s most visited landmarks.

The Asa Packer Mansion Museum can be found along Packer Hill Ave, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

5- Stroll Along Broadway Street

Spanning a length of about two city blocks, Jim Thorpe’s Broadway Street cuts right through the town’s downtown centre.

It’s straddled by opera houses, art galleries, museums, bars, restaurants and eclectic shopping venues.

The street has been the vocal point of Jim Thorpe’s growth and economic prosperity since coal was first discovered nearby in 1791 and was home to the town’s “Millionaire’s Row” during the turn of the 19th century.

Several impressive and restored Victorian homes and buildings still occupy sections along Broadway today, making the street a popular tourist destination that’s ideal for a casual afternoon stroll.

6- Interact With Nature At The Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary

Close Up On Colourful Butterfly In The Nature
Visiing the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary is one of the relaxing things to do in Jim Thorpe this weekend.

The Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary is an educative, fully hands-on indoor and outdoor attraction near downtown Jim Thorpe that has an impressive collection of critters for visitors to gawk at.

Opened in 2002, the venue features unique attractions and child-friendly spaces such as art and activity rooms, a gift store and an indoor flight room which has been dubbed the “Flutterarium”.

The sanctuary lies about 6 miles (10 km) outside downtown Jim Thorpe and allows visitors to interact with a range of rare butterfly species through a variety of workshops and camps catering to travellers of all ages.

The Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary is at 18 Church Rd, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

7- Experience The Old Jail Museum

Looking Upwards To Entrance And Facade Of Carbon County Prison
Visiting the Carbon County Prison is one of the quirky things to do in Jim Thorpe.

Steeped in legend and infamy, the Old Jail Museum is where some of Carbon County’s most notorious criminals were kept behind bars throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Jim Thorpe landmark entered service as a full-time jailhouse following its completion in 1871, remaining in operation as a jail until its decommission in 1995 more than 100 years after it first opened.

Now serving as a historical and cultural Pennsylvania landmark, the venue is filled with interesting displays and exhibits, and even hosts ghost tours over Halloween for those who aren’t fazed by the venue’s paranormal activities.

The Old Jail Museum is at 128 W Broadway, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

8- Stop By The Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center

The Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center, which gets its name from the town of Jim Thorpe’s previous name, is a unique cultural institution in the town which recounts the region’s humble beginnings and 19th-century industrial boom.

Part event space and part museum, the venue officially opened its doors to the public in 1993 and includes curated exhibits about the Switchback Railroad, the town’s Victorian heyday and the town’s namesake, athlete Jim Thorpe.

The venue is a must if you’re keen to learn more about Jim Thorpe and Mauch Chunk’s past booms, busts and resurgences through a broad collection of artefacts and historical items.

The Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center is at 41 W Broadway, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

9- Hike Or Bike The Switchback Railroad Trail

Spanning a section of the once-vital Switchback Railroad, The Switchback Railroad Trail is a unique Jim Thorpe outdoor attraction that also doubles as a historic landmark.

Featuring 2 intersecting hiking pathways spanning a length of about 9 miles (14 km) each, the Switchback Railroad Trail connects Jim Thorpe with nearby Summit Hill and is suited for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing during wintertime.

The free-to-use trail can be accessed along Jim Thorpe’s western edge and passes by scenery such as Mauch Chunk Lake, the Mauch Chunk Lake Park and thick Pennsylvania woodlands.

10- Tour The Imaginative Stabin Museum

Housed inside a repurposed 19th-century factory along Broadway Street in central Jim Thorpe, the Stabin Museum is a top-tier cultural institution dedicated to exhibiting the works of American artist Victor Stabin.

Stabin’s thought-provoking and unconventional works have often been compared to the likes of Dali and Dr. Seuss, with some of Stabin’s most notable art pieces on display to the public in Jim Thorpe.

The museum is more than just your typical art gallery though and also features the “Vic’s Jazz Loft” jazz bar and “Café Arielle”, two popular Jim Thorpe attractions in their own right.

The Stabin Museum is at 268 W Broadway, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

11- Unwind At Hickory Run State Park

The Hickory Run State Park is a large 16,000-acre (6,474 ha) outdoor recreational space situated about 19 miles (30 km) north of downtown Jim Thorpe that’s home to 3 different state park natural areas within its borders.

Established back in 1945, the park has been dubbed one of the “25 Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks” by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

There are activities such as swimming, seasonal hunting, hiking and cross-country skiing.

Among the park’s star attractions is its 40+ miles (64 km) of nature trails which pass by sights such as the Stony Point Fire Tower and Hawk Falls, ideal for hiking or cycling through the Pennsylvania countryside.

Hickory Run State Park is at 3613 PA-534, White Haven, PA 18661.

12- Stop By Mauch Chunk Lake Park

Mauch Chunk Lake Park is a year-round outdoor destination whose main attraction is a 345-acre (140 ha) freshwater lake, a popular setting for swimming, fishing and boating during summer.

The park borders the Switchback Railroad Trail, which allows visitors to seamlessly navigate between the park, Jim Thorpe and nearby Summit Hill on foot without needing a car to do so.

There are several designated hiking trails to pick from when stopping by Mauch Chunk Lake Park, ranging from the stunning Shoreline Trail to the mildly challenging Fireline Trail.

Mauch Chunk Lake Park is at 625 Lentz Trail, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

13- Plan A Day Trip To Philadelphia

Nicknamed “The City of Brotherly Love”, Philadelphia is just a short 81-mile (130 km) drive away from Jim Thorpe, making it the ideal destination for an unforgettable day or weekend road trip.

Philly served as the United States’ first capital from 1790 until 1800 and was where the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place, with culture, history and entertainment options to explore.

Among Philadelphia’s most iconic landmarks and sights to take in are the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute, all less than two hours from Jim Thorpe.

14- Go Wine Tasting At Big Creek Vineyard

Man With Wine Bottle And Glasses At Kitchen
Going wine tasting is one of the romantic things to do in Jim Thorpe, PA.

Big Creek Vineyard is a boutique winery about 15 miles (24 km) outside Jim Thorpe cultivating a range of high-quality dry red and white wines, rosés and sweet wines.

The winery combines good wines with even better Italian and Mediterranean cuisine to create a complete wine-and-dine experience that’s unlike anything else on offer in Jim Thorpe.

About 26 acres (10 ha) of the 86-acre (34 ha) property is used for cultivating wine, with the property open for wine tastings and vineyard tours to the public.

Big Creek Vineyard is at 120 Keller Rd, Kunkletown, PA 18058.

15- Go White Water Rafting

blue rafts getting ready to hit the river in jim thorpe
Going whitewater rafting is one of the fun things to do in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

With the thundering Lehigh River and the scenic Pocono outdoors right on the proverbial doorstep of Jim Thorpe, it’s little wonder the town is such a popular destination in Pennsylvania for outdoor activities and extreme sports.

One such activity is white water rafting, an adrenaline-pumping water sport that involves hopping aboard an inflatable raft and seeing how long you can stay afloat while navigating river rapids at breakneck speeds.

Several tour operators organise white water rafting trips through the nearby Lehigh River Gorge, including Jim Thorpe River Adventures, Whitewater Rafting Adventures and Pocono Whitewater Rafting, the region’s most reputable white water tour operators with decades of professional experience between them.

16- See High Octane Racing At Pocono Raceway

Dubbed “The Tricky Triangle” due to its odd triangular layout and sharp turns, the Pocono Raceway is among the most famous speed cathedrals in the United States and has been hosting NASCAR and IndyCar races since the 1970s.

The 2.5-mile-long (4 km) track features 3 high-speed corners and a road course with 7 corners designed by 2-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward, and was completed in time for the 1968 racing season.

Boasting a maximum seating capacity of about 76,000 spectators, the raceway is always a must-visit spectacle whenever NASCAR rolls into town and is conveniently just 19 miles (30 km) outside downtown Jim Thorpe.

Pocono Raceway is at 1234 Long Pond Rd, Long Pond, PA 18334.

17- Catch A Show At The Mauch Chunk Opera House

One of the oldest Vaudeville theatres in the United States that’s still in operation, the Mauch Chunk Opera House has been a mainstay attraction on Jim Thorpe’s entertainment scene for well over 140 years.

The Addison Hutton-designed theatre was built and completed in 1881 and opened its doors to the public in 1882 before being renamed the Capitol Theater in 1927 following the venue’s takeover by the Comerford Amusement Company that same year.

The venue fell in disrepair during the 20th century and was even used as a warehouse before being purchased by the Mauch Chunk Historical Society in 1997, who promptly renamed the venue and restored it to its 19th-century glory.

The Mauch Chunk Opera House is at 14 W Broadway, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.

18- Swing By Beltzville State Park

Covering an area of just over 3,000 acres (1,214 ha) of prime nature along the Poconos’ southern foothills, Beltzville State Park is a haven for trout and migrating waterfowl.

The park was created in 1972 with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers and features the 951-acre (385 ha) Beltzville Lake, a large freshwater lake that’s also the park’s main attraction.

Anglers can expect to find large populations of bass, walleye, trout and perch in the lake, while hikers can try and spot the park’s game which includes rabbit, deer, pheasant, squirrel and grouse.

Beltzville State Park is at 2950 Pohopoco Dr, Lehighton, PA 18235.

19- Explore The Number 9 Coal Mine and Museum

The Number 9 Coal Mine and Museum showcases the area’s rich and influential coal mining past in a pretty unique way, by taking visitors on a 1,600-foot (488 m) rail journey into the heart of the now-depleted coal mine.

First excavated back in 1855, the mine remained in operation until 1972 and was the world’s longest-operating anthracite mine before closing down for good.

The venue was converted into a state-of-the-art cultural institution to preserve the region’s mining past and boasts a staggering collection of old photographs, mining artefacts, tools and replica pieces to tour and learn more about.

The Number 9 Coal Mine and Museum is at 9 Dock St, Lansford, PA 18232.

20- Trek The Glen Onoko Falls Trail

The Glen Onoko Falls Trail is a 3.3-mile-long (5.3 km) looped hiking route to the northwest of Jim Thorpe that’s renowned throughout the state for its gorgeous vistas.

Passing by the cascading Glen Onoko Falls, the trail was notoriously treacherous to hike, yet kept drawing large crowds of hikers, which led authorities to close off a section of the trail back in 2019.

A large section of the trail remains open and accessible to the public, treating hikers willing to tackle the steep terrain with breathtaking views of the Lehigh Gorge State Park stretching as far as the eye can see.

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.