Travel: Jim Thorpe, PA: “The Switzerland Of America”

By: Nicole Pensiero, Special To Follow South Jersey

Downtown Jim Thorpe, Pa., is charming and memorable. Photo courtesy

The charming town of Jim Thorpe, Pa. — often referred to as the “Gateway to the Poconos” or the “Switzerland of America” — provides the perfect weekend getaway.

The Split Rock, near Lake Harmony, is an amazing pre-historic wonder. Photo by Nicole Pensiero.

Nestled in a valley in Carbon County, Pa., Jim Thorpe is an enchanting town; a mix of late 1800s/early 1900s history, with a solid amount of hipness thrown in. Whether visiting during the summer months – when white-water rafting is all the rage – or autumn, when the popular Fall Festival turns the town into the go-to destination for several weekends in October, Jim Thorpe is fun any season.

South Jersey resident Dana Earley has been a fan of Jim Thorpe for nearly 20 years, exploring all the town has to offer during different seasons – and with different family members and friends.

“It’s a perfect girlfriends’ getaway, family weekend or romantic weekend with my husband,” Earley, of Sewell, says. “My sister and I also took our mother there in December 2018, and she loved it. My youngest daughter even got engaged there in March 2022!” Most recently, Dana and Bob Earley visited Jim Thorpe in November, to celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary.

South Jersey residents Dana and Bob Earley pose in front of the historic Asa Packer Mansion. Closed since the pandemic, the mansion — said to be the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion in Disney World –still makes for a great photo stop. Photo courtesy Dana Earley.

Dana Earley, who likes to stay at historic Inn at Jim Thorpe because of its central location, says the town “has a special charm and always makes me feel like I’m stepping back in time when I’m there.” She has also enjoyed many concerts, including various tribute rock shows, at the historic Mauch Chunk Opera House.

Indeed, summer and fall are especially popular, but even in the winter months, the lights of its main street, Broadway, the pubs and the entertainment scene all create a fun experience.

A two-hour drive from South Jersey, Jim Thorpe — originally known as Mauch Chunk, Pa., before being renamed in honor of the acclaimed Olympian in 1953 — has long been considered a jewel of the Pocono Mountains region, and for good reason.

The Dolon House is one of Jim Thorpe’s most popular, and historic B&Bs. Photo courtesy Michael Rivkin.

My most recent trip to Jim Thorpe was made even better by our fabulous accommodations at the Dolon House. Not only is this gorgeous and historic B&B located right in the heart of town — across from the 1882 Mauch Chunk Opera House — it is a destination in its own right. Owned and operated by Michael Rivkin and Jeffri Coleman, who met more than 40 years ago at culinary school, the 7,000-plus-square-foot Dolon House was built in 1888. This architect-designed, millionaire’s mansion retains its amazing historic details throughout — from jeweled stained glass to hand-carved woodwork. Rivkin and Coleman are avid art collectors from their various worldwide journeys, and there is plenty to keep the eye occupied, both in the private guest quarters and in the common areas, which are spacious and welcoming.

Each morning Coleman prepares breakfast for the inn’s guests; Rivkin stays “front of the house,” explaining each meal’s course while providing helpful sightseeing information. These morning meals are far beyond your typical B&B pancakes and bacon. We were especially “wowed” by the homemade pierogis, served with a hash made of sweet potato, caramelized scallions, house-smoked bacon, and roasted fresh chestnuts — plus a touch of sour cream as per tradition in the Pennsylvania coal regions.

Boulder Field is an amazing sight — the size of about six football fields. Photo by Nicole Pensiero.

Any visitor to Jim Thorpe will likely spend some times in its fun array of stores, including the Country Cottage, with its house-made dill pickles and jalapeno salsa; and the charming Bee Stung boutique, which promotes itself as being geared toward “old souls, gypsies, vagabonds, rebels and flower children.” The Jim Thorpe Olive Oil Company offers samples of some surprising balsamic and infused olive oils; The Everything Nice gift shop on Race Street sells everything from candles to pottery and personalized signs.

There is no shortage of good restaurants, too: we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch — a burger and pulled pork sandwich — at the Broadway Grille, where we were especially pleased to get a balcony seat so we could simultaneously enjoy the fresh air and people-watch. You can relax over a charcuterie plate at Wild Elder Wine & Cider Co. or savor dinner at Moya Restaurant, the #1 TripAdvisor-rated restaurant in Jim Thorpe.

The Jim Thorpe Memorial houses the famed athlete’s grave and information about his life and sports career. Photo by Nicole Pensiero.

Don’t miss the actual Jim Thorpe Memorial in town, where the late sports icon is buried. There’s an interesting array of placards and photographs that tell Thorpe’s life story, as well as two life-like statues at the memorial, which are located in a lush, wooded area outside of the town’s main commercial district.

In the warm weather months, you can enjoy a train ride on the historic Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Trains operate weekends in the winter and early spring, then daily through most of the year. This is a great way to see the beautiful Lehigh Gorge State Park and river.

Nature-lovers will want to visit the nearly 16,000-acre Hickory Run State Park in nearby White Haven. With 44 miles of walking trails, along with designated fishing and swimming areas, its star attraction is Boulder Field, a National Natural Landmark that is exactly what the name says: a jaw-dropping, walkable field of fossilized boulders larger than six football fields. It made for some amazing photos. We also took a drive to Lake Harmony, Pa., to visit the actual Split Rock that the nearby resort is named for. Hidden at the end of Split Rock Road, this 300 million-year-old glacial rock monstrosity is worth a visit. There is also an observation tower, which gives a sweeping view of the Pocono Mountains.

For more information, visit For more information on the Poconos, visit

Nicole Pensiero is a South Jersey resident and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).

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