A Quick Road Trip to Jim Thorpe, PA

Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.

Jon Bon Jovi

Several months ago we randomly brought up Jim Thorpe in conversation with friends as a fun place to visit. Then, we immediately forgot about it. Since we’ve been traveling so much lately we figured taking a day trip would add even more fun to our schedules. We spontaneously messaged our friends and set up a day to meet in Jim Thorpe. I went into planning everything without knowing much about the town, but researching/planning it was a TON of fun, so I knew it was going to be a good time even before we went.

Two weeks ago we packed up the car, put the dogs in, and set off! Here’s my review of that trip. Hopefully it helps you’re considering making a trip there. Spoiler alert: you really don’t want to miss this small town.

History of the Town

Jim Thorpe, formerly known as Mauch Chunk, is a small town in the Poconos about an hour NW of Philly. The town itself was founded in 1818 and derived its name from the Native American language spoken by the Munsee-Lenape Delaware peoples. While it’s unclear what the exact meaning behind the name was, many think it references Bear Mountain which is part of the Mauch Chunk ridge that looks like a sleeping bear.

The area continued to grow in importance for the coal mining and shipping, especially when the railroad replaced the canals for transporting the shipments. While the town’s growth was due to coal mining, its notoriety had entirely different causes. The first of which was the trials and hangings of the Molly Maguires. This was a secret society active in Ireland, England, and the eastern US who were known for their activism for coal miners of Irish or Irish American descent. I won’t go into too much detail since books have been written on this and that’s not the point of this post BUT 20 men were convicted of murder. Four of those men were tried and hung in Jim Thorpe at the Old Jail which is now a museum you can visit.

Onto the more pleasant part of the town’s history! Jim Thorpe is known for his fantastic athletic achievements. As a member of the Sac and Fox nation, Thorpe was the first Native American to win a gold medal. He would ultimately earn two gold medals in 1912 for the decathlon and pentathlon. He competed in the long jump and javelin throw as well which showed just how versatile of an athlete he was. Thorpe also played in two exhibition baseball games in those same Olympic Games.

Once two boroughs in the area merged into one, the town decided to rename itself to honor its finest athlete. His tomb and memorial can be found there today although there is much controversy surrounding its placement. His tribe has petitioned for his remains to be returned to tribal land, but unfortunately this has not yet happened. If you visit, take some time to visit the memorial park and learn more about the racism he faced and the fight his tribe is facing decades after his death.

My Review

Now that you know a little history, it’s time for the review and to tell you everything we did! It might be a small town, but it is PACKED with things to do, see, and experience!

Dog-Friendly Everything

When we first started planning this trip I was honestly shocked at how dog friendly this town was. I looked up the scenic railway trip thinking we’d have to leave the dogs at home, but got so excited when there was an option to reserve a ticket for our dogs. That changed the entire trip for me.

Here are a few of the dog friendly places we found:

  • Muggle’s Mug Coffe Shop
  • Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
  • Outdoor seating at Molly Maguire’s Pub
  • Marion Hose Bar
  • Mauch Chunk Lake Park
  • Seller’s Books
  • Trend and Source Marketplace

Muggle’s Mug was pretty crowded but our pets loved it. Sellers was tiny and crowded so we didn’t take our pets inside. If we had come at a less busy time of the year we absolutely would’ve taken them in or stayed inside with them longer. I highly recommend these places if you’re looking for fun stops for the whole family, fur babies included.

Quirky and Fun Stops

Our first stop of the day was Muggle’s Mug, a Harry Potter themed coffee shop! I grew up loving Harry Potter and those books are one of the few I will reread. I was beyond excited for this coffee shop and I don’t even like coffee. Everyone else I was with loved coffee so they all enjoyed the drinks while I got a pastry. All of the coffees had HP names like the Hallows, Butterbrew, and Pop-Up Potion. The baked goods were to die for. They didn’t have fun names but that was the best muffin I’ve ever had in my life. Muggle’s Mug did have specialty cookies in the shape of the house crests and those were super fun to look through.

The outside of Muggle’s Mug was everything a Potter fan would love. The window display was so great with a Espresso Patronum sign, owls, and HP decor all over the place. When we walked inside I was kind of disappointed with the decor based on the outside had me expecting. It had a leaky cauldron type of feel and some art on the walls, but none of it was particularly HP themed. I was expecting more like a common room vibe than dark and muggle vibe. I’m glad we got there early because by the time we left with our coffee and baked goods it was PACKED. I mean line around the corner packed. Was it worth it? I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I saw it. Get there early and you and your pups can have some space to explore inside.

Window shopping and walking was one of my favorite things we did. We got to catch up with our friends we hadn’t seen in so long, let the dogs sniff, and see what the town had to offer! There were so many cute shops that we will have to visit when we don’t have the dogs, but the window displays were fun to walk by. There are two main streets for shopping and food, Race and Broadway. Broadway is the main road in and out of town, but both streets are filled with local shops to explore.

Would it really be a trip with me without visiting the local bookstore? Seller’s Books was tiny, but it was filled (literally) with an amazing selection of books. Books were stacked on shelves, on the counter, on the floor, you name it. It was basically small book heaven, a book nook if you will. They were having a sale so, of course, I supported this local business by getting two books for myself.

Donerd’s Donuts was another place with a line out the door. This place was NOT hyped up enough. Donerd’s Donuts got its start in Chile and eventually made its way to Jim Thorpe and oh man I am glad it did. They’re donuts are nothing short of incredible and then there are the macarons… Every bite of their baked goods is an explosion of flavor and I need more of it in my life. I wish we got there early enough to have breakfast because they do breakfast burritos and if they taste half as good as their donuts and macarons then I’ve found my new favorite breakfast spot. Sorry I don’t have pictures… the food didn’t last long enough for me to snap a picture.

Scenic Railway

A scenic railway trip that takes you on a fun 70 minute trip in a railcar? Yes, please. Even though we came right after the leaves dropped, it was still a gorgeous trip. The conductor gave us a brief history of the area and at certain spots along the way. Plus, the views of the river were fantastic. I can only imagine what it’s like during peak season when the leaves are changing colors for the fall.

I thought taking the dogs on a train ride would be way more stressful than it was. It couldn’t have gone smoother. The hardest part was getting them on and off the steep steps. Other than that, they loved it. Wind in their faces, new smells, people to pet them, and the chance to snuggle up to us? They were so happy.

Since the train ride was an out and back trip, we were worried we’d only get to see one side of the rails because of the way the benches were. Luckily, the people across from us wanted to see the mountain side after seeing the river side, so we got to switch and see both! My advice is to make friends with the people around you so you can do the same! Otherwise, the river side is absolutely the direction you want to be facing. There’s just so much more to see.

What You Should Know Before You Go

First trips anywhere are a learning experience and I love every bit of it. We got so lucky with parking, planning, and just wanting a laid back day that we didn’t have any problems. Here are a few things that you should know just in case you’re planning a trip. All of these will help you have a stress-free experience.

  • Parking is limited. Very limited. Street parking is possible, but unless you get there at a very early hour you probably won’t have any luck. There are no garages, but there are small parking lots owned by locals where you can pay to park. We paid $20 for an entire day and the person there was so helpful with tons of suggestions. The lot we used was right across from Donerd’s Donuts and it filled up quickly.
  • It gets crowded very quickly in the fall and I’m sure in the summer as well. Get there early so you don’t have to stress about parking and hit the coffee shops and baked good places early to avoid lines. The streets do get crowded, but as long as you don’t mind walking a little slower or going around you’ll be completely fine.
  • Book your tickets and attractions early. The scenic railway sells out quickly. Get everything early to plan your day around those times. Plus you’ll have the added peace of mind knowing that you are all set and will get to see all of the attractions you traveled to see.
  • Don’t miss both shopping streets. We did this…oops. We stuck to Broadway and as we were tired and walking to the car we looked up and saw Race St and realized we missed an entire street of shops.
  • There are just a handful of restaurants, so try to arrive early to lunch or dinner to miss the rush and long waits. Luckily, there are no shortage of snack items you can get to tide you over as long as you like delicious baked goods or crepes.

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