Home to three state parks, the rushing surge of the Schuylkill River and the forest-covered landscape of the Appalachian Mountains, Schuylkill County is an outdoor playground for kids. With its storied past, including its emergence as an early pioneer in Pennsylvania’s famed railroad and its major role as a coal mining-rich region during the Industrial Revolution, the county also provides children with educational history lessons while maintaining a fun atmosphere.
Play Time in the Fun Zone
While Heisler's Cloverleaf Dairy in Tamaqua is an operational dairy that produces ice cream, the site also provides an array of kid-friendly attractions. Little ones can choose from two 18-hole miniature golf courses or enjoy a host of video games in the arcade. The dairy’s original draw, however, is the shop which sells approximately 40 flavors of ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt made on the premises. Based in Schuylkill Haven, Playtime and Parties is an indoor entertainment center where kids can play inside the bounce house, climb the rock wall, take a spin on the mini-carousel or make their way through a crooked fun house. The venue also has small indoor basketball courts and a ball pit. There’s an area set aside for adults with Wi-Fi and televisions.
All Aboard for Coal Mine, Train Ride
Kids can travel deep inside a real anthracite coal mine upon Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train in Ashland. The facility has a 35-minute tour inside Mahanoy Mountain where, while aboard a mine car, a guide provides details on the inner workings of mining. There’s also a scenic excursion around the mountain on a 1920s steam locomotive. Enjoy a ride aboard antique passenger trains via the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad through densely wooded regions of Berks and Schuylkill Counties. Normal operations run on Sundays from May through November and last for about 45 minutes. The railroad celebrates holidays throughout the year with themed excursions, such as the Easter Bunny Express, where the rabbit hands out candy; a Christmas journey with story time sessions with Mr. and Mrs. Claus; and a Halloween event where kids can pick out pumpkins from a patch.
Seasonal Fun at Farms and Fairs
While family-owned Pioneer Evergreen Farms in Orwigsburg sells Christmas trees during the holiday season, the facility also hosts a fall festival from mid-September through early November. The festival includes 35 activities for kids, including a petting zoo with farm animals, a hayride, an inflatable obstacle course, pony rides, mazes and playgrounds. Schuylkill County Fair runs annually from late July through early August. The fairgrounds in Schuylkill Haven are home to approximately 20 carnival rides, such as a tilt-a-whirl, carousel and miniature train ride. There’s also a kid’s area where little ones can play games, enjoy arts and crafts workshops and participate in contests.
Fishing, Rafting and Outdoor Adventure
Swatara State Park covers more than 3,500 acres of woodlands, rivers, creeks and mountains. Kids can soak up the great outdoors as they float down the Swatara Creek in an inner tube or canoe or set out on the miles of horseback riding and hiking trails. Enjoy a moment of peace and quiet as you bond and fish with your little one in trout-stocked streams. Whitewater Rafting Adventures is a recreational company in Nesquehoning that provides a host of outdoor activities. Children at least 6 years of age can embark on a rafting adventure down the Lehigh River, while those 10 and older can soar at speeds of 30 mph across Red Rock Cliff on a zip lining course or take to one of the 12 paintball fields for an afternoon of play. There also are 13- and 26-mile bike rides, complete with shuttle service and bicycle rentals, through Lehigh Gorge State Park. Child seats or tow trailers can be attached to bikes for kids too young to make the full journey.