Resorts and Retreats in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Region
Within two hours reach of New York City, Harrisburg, Pa., and Philadelphia, and under four hours from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, northeastern Pennsylvania’s storied four-county, four-season Pocono Mountains region is expanding its already abundant group resources.
“The Poconos offer much to travelers, no matter the reason or season,” said Chris Barrett, CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau. “Continually growing, our plentiful meeting options include immense convention spaces, conductive spaces in historic hotels and unique, multifaceted resorts.”
Along with accessibility and versatility, the Poconos score high on play.
“We know business travelers and conventioneers are looking for venues that offer fun after the work is done,” Barrett said. “Many of our guests extend their stay or bring their families along to explore the Poconos while they have the opportunity.”
Predominantly attracting groups from Pennsylvania, neighboring states and the wider Mid-Atlantic region, the Poconos’ market is expanding.
“With representative industries including environmental, medical, technical, agriculture, and food and beverage, we are seeing growth in the corporate, faith-based and affinity segments,” Barrett said. “Regional and national association bookings are on the rise, along with international leisure and business visitors. Our current sales focus includes emphasizing national conventions.”
Founded in 1967, the American Wine Society celebrated 50 years at the organization’s 2017 national conference. Hosting delegates from around the U.S. at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Pocono Manor, the event exemplifies the Poconos’ broadening audience exposure. And with Kalahari now underway with a major expansion, the destination as a whole is enjoying a new era of discovery by groups.
Mount Airy Casino Resort is also investing for the future. Formerly the fabled Mount Airy Lodge, America’s long-time ‘’honeymoon hideaway,’’ the resort was reborn in 2007 as Pennsylvania’s first AAA Four Diamond-rated casino. Following the $5 million redevelopment of its 11,000-square-foot pool and entertainment complex in 2017, which included the event-capable Wet Nightclub, and May 2018 opening of the 2,000-plus capacity Outdoor Concert Pavilion, the resort is readying for the anticipated spring 2019 unveiling of its latest compelling expansion.
“Mount Airy Casino Resort is the ideal go-to destination for groups seeking full-service meeting experiences,” said Vincent Jordan, vice president of marketing and gaming operations. “Focused on continuously elevating the group experience, this is an exciting time for meeting planners to revisit the property, as we gear up to reveal our multimillion-dollar investment in new accommodations and venue options.”
Skytop Lodge, Skytop, PA. | Credit: Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau
The addition of 100 new upscale guest rooms, including four executive suites and five junior suites, raises its total key count to 288. The new 16,000-square-foot ballroom and events center boosts total group space to 20,000 square feet of multifunctional space, accommodating 750-person seated dinners and 1,200-attendee events and concerts.PageBreak
“With amenities that include a full-service spa, celebrity chef restaurants and 18-hole golf course, the expansion will further enhance the resort as a total group destination,” Jordan said. “And, our dedicated events planning team collaborates directly with meeting planners to create out-of-the-box event concepts, incorporating components throughout the resort.”
Other versatile properties include 238-room Mohegan Sun Pocono, offering the adjacent 20,000-square-foot convention center and nearby 8,300-seat Mohegan Sun Arena. Introducing the waterpark resort concept to the region in 2005, the 400-suite Great Wolf Lodge Poconos flexibly hosts 10 to 100 attendees. The historic Inn at Pocono Manor was rebranded in 2017 as the 237-room Pocono Manor Resort & Spa with 30,000-plus square feet of versatile space. Set on 3,000 acres, the resort also offers wide-ranging outdoor activities and teambuilding events—another hallmark of the region.
Turning 60 this year, all-season Woodloch Resort in the northern Poconos’ Lake Region flexibly hosts corporate and large-scale groups in 18 meeting rooms at three distinct properties, including 162-room Woodloch Pines Resort. From archery to ziplining, the resort’s well-curated menu of team programs includes Improv Night, Cupcake Wars and the Beer Marketing Challenge, in which teams are tasked with creating a new beer product to save an imaginary failing brewery.
Opened in 1928, the 193-room Skytop Lodge is a decade shy of its centenary, but this regal former estate, set on 5,000 acres, keeps groups engaged with meeting space that includes the 10,000-square-foot Skytop Executive Center and energized with wide-ranging activities at the Adventure Center. Team exercises include corporate scavenger hunts, Silly Corporate Olympics and culinary challenges.
Dating to 1911, Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, with 80 rooms plus private cottages and glamping, offers a dozen versatile spaces for 300 attendees. The Shawnee’s island golf course, from 1911, was the first from master architect A.W. Tillinghast. Creative teambuilding options include canoe races, orienteering and Company Game Show, combining elements of popular shows Family Feud, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.
One of Pennsylvania’s largest ski resorts, historic Camelback Resort (1963), features the nation’s largest snow-tubing park. Later adding Camelbeach, the state’s largest outdoor waterpark, the property’s Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark expansion in 2015 transformed the formerly seasonal day-use property to an overnight, year-round destination. Groups based at the 453-room Lodge have 20,000 square feet of meeting space and 100-plus aerial obstacles, ziplines and ground challenge games at the resort’s Mountain Adventures Park.
In mountainous Jim Thorpe, “The Switzerland of America,” groups can create customized, facilitated programs at 700-plus acre paintball complex Skirmish USA. Nearby, Split Rock Resort offers 76,000 square feet of flexible lakeside space for groups of up to 3,000, including 45,000 square feet of convention space.
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Upping The Kalahari Advantage
Scheduled for late 2019, the multimillion-dollar second expansion of Kalahari Resorts & Conventions more than doubles convention space at this Pocono Mountains group magnet. Kevin Shanley, chief revenue strategist and sales executive, spoke about the project and Kalahari’s full-service offerings and all-around appeal.
“More than an event venue, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is a beyond-expectations, vacation-style adventure for the whole family. Meeting attendees are immediately engaged by our authentically African art and decor with the best in entertainment and dining, all under one roof,” Shanley said.
“In addition to outstanding convention facilities, our Poconos property features America’s largest indoor waterpark; Gorilla Grove Treetop Adventures; The Arena, a virtual reality attraction; world-class spa and hydro-oasis; and more. Kalahari Resorts combines the best in family-friendly resort amenities with massive, state-of-the-art convention space leading to an average 20 percent increase in meeting attendance.”
The resort’s comprehensive suite of amenities and tools includes complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi in all guest rooms, meeting spaces, exhibition areas and common areas, at up to 10 Gb/sec.
“Our proprietary help phone provides exceptional service throughout the meeting and convention space,” Shanley said. “There’s a full-service business center, numerous built-in hi-lumen/hi-def projectors and monitors, and 10-hour ergonomic convention chairs. Plus, a dedicated convention center loading dock and large grade-level access to the main exhibit facility, extensive free parking and available valet services.”
To keep up with the growing demand in the area, Kalahari’s latest expansion will add 105,000 square feet of meeting and convention space for a grand total of 205,000 square feet, according to Shanley.
“We’re also adding 18 new meeting rooms, for a total of 33,” Shanley said. “All this, plus first-class service, event support and amenities, and 977 guest rooms in a variety of suite styles.”