This Pennsylvania Town Is Known As the 'Switzerland of America' — Here's Why

The perfect alpine escape is closer than you think.

You’d probably expect the “Switzerland of America” to be some slopeside resort village in the Colorado Rockies. But the picturesque town bestowed with this enticing moniker actually sits in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.

Nestled in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, Jim Thorpe initially lures tourists with the promise of outdoor adventure and scenic beauty. The area used to be a coal mining hub, so there’s also a lot of interesting history here. Downtown shows off enchanting architecture, heritage-rich attractions, and a creative spirit. The cozy inns and alpine splendor give Jim Thorpe an edge in terms of romance, but it’s an equally appealing destination for family vacations, group getaways, and solo travel.

 Here's how to plan a picture-perfect trip to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

The low clouds on a sunny morning in the Pocono Mountains over Jim Thorpe town, Pennsylvania

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Get outside.

Jim Thorpe presents countless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Kemmerer Park is an idyllic green space with a leafy walking path, playground, and tennis courts near the Asa Packer Mansion in the center of everything.

Scenic view of Jim Thorp (Mauch Chunk) from the historyc Asa Packer's house

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To access the beautiful 6,000-acre Lehigh Gorge State Park from downtown, visitors only need to cross the Mansion House Pedestrian Bridge. It’s possible to do this on foot or via bike. The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, more commonly referred to as the D&L Trail, also winds its way through town.

The Lehigh River, meanwhile, supplies the ideal setting to try whitewater rafting. Kayaking, fishing, and swimming are popular activities on Mauch Chunk Lake.

Interested in alpine pursuits? Drive just 30 minutes to Blue Mountain Resort for excellent skiing. 

Houses Along Broadway In Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

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Learn about the rich history. 

The former mining town we now know as Jim Thorpe was originally founded as Mauch Chunk. The name was later changed to honor Native American sports phenom and Olympic medal winner James Francis Thorpe (though, by all accounts, he’d never even visited). The Jim Thorpe Memorial is the final resting place of the man heralded as “the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century” by the Associated Press. The Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center exhibits an impressive collection of historical items and offers guided tours. It's also worth checking out the Asa Packer Mansion, which belonged to the well-known railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh University.

Explore the darling downtown. 

The atmospheric downtown brims with shops, restaurants, and pubs. It’s also the best spot to experience the vibrant arts and music scene. There are many galleries that display the work of local artists and performance venues to catch a show. Music lovers should consider nabbing tickets for a live performance at the fabled Mauch Chunk Opera House.

Looking Down Broadway In The Town Of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

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Stay at a quaint inn.

Situated right across the street from the famous opera house, The Dolon House is a charming bed-and-breakfast that’s decorated with art and antiques. Past guests describe the experience as akin to staying at a museum that also happens to have thoughtful service and delicious homemade breakfast. Built in 1849 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Inn at Jim Thorpe stands as an enduring example of a grand Victorian hotel. From the main building's facade with its cast-iron balconies to the suites with mahogany furnishings and fireplaces, it exudes an old-world charisma that couples in particular really like.

Ride the rails (or sidecar).

Hop aboard the diesel-powered Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway for some family fun. Passengers can kick back on vintage coaches and enjoy a narrated locomotive journey past stunning natural scenery. Another nostalgic way to see the many sights is on a historic trolley tour of town.

Looking for a totally unique experience that’s not available anywhere else in the Pocono Mountains? Ride around on a vintage sidecar rig. (Don’t worry, you won’t be expected to actually operate the motorcycle.)

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