Keeping Busy in the Keystone State

Family attractions in the Poconos and Lehigh Valley.

Looking for something exciting to do on your next family getaway? Pennsylvania, the tri-state area’s friendly neighbor, offers plenty of possibilities. Whether you intend to hit the slopes, stay warm with indoor entertainment or quench your thirst for the arts and history, the Poconos Mountain Lake and Lehigh Valley Regions are sure to please.

Lehigh Valley

America On Wheels, 5 North Front St., Allentown, (610)432-4200, americaonwheels.org
Discover what drives America at a museum that doubles as the ultimate car show. The muscle cars of the 1960s are always pleasurable to look at, but it’s rare to behold the autos’ predecessors. Before 1901, many of the cars used in America were handmade. Learn more when you stroll back in time through the exhibit, which displays some of the first cars to take to the road. And make way for the Mack Truck display. Did you know that the Mack Truck adopted the bulldog as its logo because of the truck’s stamina and ruggedness on the battlefields of World War I? That’s just a sampling of what you’ll discover during your history lesson in cars and trucks. If you’re visiting during the holiday season, follow up your lesson with the Train Time Charity Holiday exhibit that showcases model trains chugging around the museum. Speaking of charity, consider bringing an unopened toy to donate to Toys for Tots at the train driven by Santa through the end of December.

Blue Mountain, 1660 Blue Mountain Drive, Danielsville, (610)826-7700, skibluemt.com
Pennsylvania’s highest vertical stands at 1,082 feet. With serenity and action, Blue Mountain’s 37 trails cater to everyone on the snow. The Kids Center offers programs and lessons for children. Kids ages 4-12 may take ski lessons while those ages 6-12 may take snowboarding lessons. Adults can master their jumps with the BigAirBag, a variation of stunt bags that makes practicing jumps safer. Blue Mountain also boasts five terrain parks separated by skill level, from beginner to expert. Satisfy your hunger and warm up at three of the on-mountain dining locations. The Summit Lodge, Valley Lodge and Adventure Center grant diverse options, from lounges and pubs to grills and bistros. If you don’t feel like heading in just yet, venture to Ray’s Grill on Skis, where grilled fare is served outdoors.

DaVinci Science Center, 3145 Hamilton Boulevard Bypass, Allentown, (484)664-1002, davinci-center.org
As you travel through the Lehigh Valley, you’re sure to spot the 102-foot wind turbine, one of the tallest structures in the area. The turbine produces some of the energy required to run the DaVinci Science Center, which is dedicated to helping people understand the world while sparking curiosity for energy and science. Interactive exhibits reveal cool truths such as how things can be broken down into nano particles and what the inside of an ambulance looks like along with what it’s like to save lives. Thrill seekers should try out the Gyrosphere, a gyroscope-style ride that is similar to the device used by NASA to acquaint astronauts with the weightlessness of space and the tumbling motion often experienced during moon travel. If that doesn’t have your stomach in knots, explore the Bug-in Out Experience. The display presents creatures and critters from five continents.

The Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illicks Mill Road, Bethlehem, (610)865-6665, paplayhouse.org
What began as a Plays and Players project in 1926 has evolved and prospered, continuing to stage high-quality theatrical performances. The headline production this winter is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, based on the 1954 film by the same name. As no seat in the theater is farther than nine rows from the stage, everyone in the house enjoys a show performed by the region’s finest actors and actresses.

Poconos

Big Boulder, 1 South Lake Drive, Lake Harmony, (570)443-8425, jfbb.com
Recognized as one of the best family ski resorts in the Mid-Atlantic, Big Boulder has a number of trails, from bunny slopes to black diamonds. Does your little one need instruction? Lessons and clinics suit kids ages 3-10 of all skill levels. During your visit, check out Boulder Park, ranked as one of the Top 5 Terrain Parks on the East Coast by Transworld Snowboarding. The park features jumps, gaps, rails and other thrills. Your mini Tony Hawk can even trade in his skis or snowboard for a skateboard to take to the mini ramp, known as Ramplestiltskin. After a day of sport, enjoy a casual meal at Boulder View Tavern, which serves a wide selection of food, from crab cakes to Cajun talapia, as well as a children’s menu with bottomless beverages. Guests enjoy grand views of the mountain and Big Boulder Lake from nearly every seat in the restaurant.

Callies Candy Kitchen, Route 390 Mountainhome, (570)595-2280, calliescandy.com
From brittle to bark, pops to popcorn­, Callies has it all! This gem of a candy and souvenir shop lies just down the street from Callies Pretzel Factory. Both locations sell sweet and salty treats made fresh on the premises. Sample the goods while browsing the endless tables, shelves and displays of seasonal and classic snacks. A great gift or stocking stuffer for anyone on your list, the candies and pretzels may also be ordered on the company’s Web site.

Houdini Tour and Magic Show, 1433 N. Main Ave., Scranton, (570)342-5555, houdini.org
This 150-year-old refurbished building is the only one in the world dedicated to the life, magic and escapes of Harry Houdini. The attraction mesmerizes children and adults alike. The house features hundreds of promotional posters and private photos of the infamous magician. In the intimate theater, guests get to glimpse rare footage of Houdini completing mind-blowing escapes. And during each tour, one guest is selected to float before everyone’s eyes. Don’t worry parents, all magic tricks and illusions are suitable for everyone.

Northeast Wilderness Experience, 30 Village Road, Beach Lake, (570)729-1700, newildernessexperience.com
Do you and your family fancy the great outdoors, but don’t favor the action of skiing and other mountain activities? Join the safety-certified nature enthusiasts who accompany groups of snowshoeing adventurers through scenic forests and landscapes. Paths range from five to 35 miles, with a unique family bonding experience unfolding along the way. Couples seeking something romantic and adventurous enjoy joining a moonlight snowshoeing group under the starry skies. Go online for the winter 2010-2011 schedule of excursions.

S&S Speedways Inc., Business Route 209, Snydersville, (570)420-5500, ssspeedways.com
At S&S, families satisfy their need for speed— and stay warm, too. Bring the gang indoors for incredible go-kart racing. Open seven days a week year-round, the raceway invites visitors taller than 54 inches to take the wheel. Whether it’s your first time racing a go-kart or your family members are seasoned veterans, drivers and spectators will dig the place where NASCAR superstars like Dale Earnhart Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have taken a few laps. Once everyone is done racing around, play games, air hockey and a round or two of pool.