Jim Thorpe, PA by Khush // Creative Commons Jim Thorpe, Pa.
Jim Thorpe, PA by Khush // Creative Commons

You’d be remiss to ignore the small towns in the eastern part of the commonwealth that have beautiful scenery, thriving shopping districts, and their own histories to share.

Philadelphia may get the bulk of visitors to Eastern Pennsylvania, and for good reason: the sixth-largest city in the country is renowned for its museums, cuisine, and historic sites. But you’d be remiss to ignore the small towns in the eastern part of the commonwealth that have unique cultures all their own. These towns have beautiful scenery, thriving shopping districts, and their own histories to share.

Stroudsburg, population: 5,950

Stroudsburg is an excellent introduction to the Pocono Mountains, the region famed for its historical honeymoon resorts, but is so much more. Known as “the heart of the Poconos,” Stroudsburg doesn’t make you choose between downtown fun and outdoor adventure. You’ll enjoy Stroudsburg’s walkable downtown area for its shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, art galleries, and even live music. But not far from the business district, you’ll find woodland getaways and hiking trails so you can experience what the mountains have to offer.

In February—usually a sleepy month for travel—Stroudsburg hosts Winterfest, a festival featuring dozens of ice sculptures.

Jim Thorpe, population: 4,560

Jim Thorpe is, in a word, gorgeous. Nicknamed “the Switzerland of America,” this town is tucked among the Pocono Mountains in such a manner that you’d be forgiven for assuming it a small town in the Swiss Alps and not a small town in Eastern PA. You can wander around downtown and admire the historic architecture as you flit between antique shops or stop for a drink at the Harry Potter-themed coffee shop. After your walk, we recommend taking a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to truly appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds Jim Thorpe.

The fall foliage here is almost magical, so an ideal time to visit is during the Fall Foliage Festival in October.

Milford, population: 1,127

Raymondskill Falls, Milford, PA by pontla // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The town of Milford is also in the Pocono Mountains. After all, our very favorite small towns combine outdoor recreation with historic buildings and lively town culture. So it is in Milford, a small town just under an hour from Scranton and near the New York border. But Milford doesn’t only offer the Poconos—it also sits on the Delaware River at the Delaware Water Gap, another scenic area for outdoor enthusiasts. On a trip to Milford, you can kayak the Delaware River, hike trails in either Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area or in the Pocono Mountains, and chase waterfalls, including Raymondskill Falls, the state’s tallest waterfall.

In town, you could take a self-guided walking tour of historic Milford or browse the local shops and art galleries to take a piece of Milford home with you. For food, Waterwheel Café, Bakery, Bar is a popular choice offering both American and Vietnamese fare. You could also head to the famed Hotel Fauchère to dine, where you’ll feel extremely classy and modern, even in a town of just over a thousand people.  

New Hope, population: 2,624

Morning over New Hope, PA | Credit: Photo by Reflections by Ruth, courtesy of Visit Bucks County

About an hour from Philadelphia, New Hope is a small town along the Delaware River that boasts plenty of riverside activities as well as cultural attractions. Whether you’re walking the scenic path along the Delaware Canal Trail or dining riverside at one of New Hope’s excellent restaurants or cafes, the water is never far. The picturesque scenery combined with lots of things to do make New Hope a perfect destination for a day or weekend trip.  

No matter how many days you’re visiting, New Hope’s Main Street is an essential stop. Here, you can browse a fantastic shopping district full of eclectic boutiques, local stores, and vintage markets. 

At night, New Hope is a small town that’s still full of life. You can watch a show at the Bucks County Playhouse, a popular theater that was converted from an old grist mill in the 1930s and went on to host famous actors like Grace Kelly on its stage. Perhaps you’ll spy the next up-and-coming actor before they head to Hollywood or Broadway!

Lititz, population: 9,527

Lititz, PA | Credit: Courtesy of Discover Lancaster

Lititz is a town with a lot of Moravian influence, as it was founded by Moravians in 1749—but there’s also a lot more to it than Moravian shops and historic Moravian sites. Lititz was previously named the “Coolest Small Town in America” by Budget Travel. And like any cool small town, Lititz has a lively and historic downtown that you’ll want to visit. You can explore the town’s unique boutiques and art galleries, as well as the oldest pretzel bakery in the U.S., Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. After enjoying a soft-baked pretzel, you can visit any of Lititz’s local restaurants, but we recommend you order a tomato pie—not a pizza, but a tomato pie, at the restaurant of the same name.

Besides the locally owned businesses of Lititz, you’ll want to visit any of Lititz’s numerous annual events. There’s October’s Chocolate Walk, where visitors tour downtown businesses that are handing out specialty chocolates; July’s free outdoor art show; the huge Independence Day celebration—one of the oldest in the nation; and, of course, Lititz Pretzel Fest.