If you’re looking for a fun family getaway or just want to make memories this summer season, consider heading to one of the biggest races in America, the Pocono 500 Festival of Races.
Often dubbed as the Festival of Internationals and the Father of the Belmont Stakes, the massive rock music event also features NASCAR racing and is one of the largest open-air motor sports events in North America.
Despite its name, the 500 Festival of Races takes place at the much smaller Pocono Motor Speedway, which actually seats only 30,000 people. However, that’s enough to make it one of the biggest attractions in the region and a great hub for the summer season.
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Poconos, so it’s the perfect opportunity for event planners to celebrate this unique piece of Americana.
Located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, the Poconos are a beautiful place to spend a summer’s day. The rolling hills, lush forests, and sparkling lakes give the area an otherworldly charm. There are also hundreds of hotels and attractions, including golf courses, restaurants, and amusement parks, which are all within close proximity to each other.
This year, the 100th anniversary of the Poconos, is a good reason to visit this part of Pennsylvania. The area’s geography is interesting too, as the Pennsylvania, New York, and Jersey borders meet at this point.
The Poconos are a great place for a family vacation or a girls’ trip. There’s something for everyone. Even the racing fans can have fun, as the NASCAR races at the Poconos are almost as exciting as the ones at the Kentucky Speedway, where else could you see Kurt Busch or Kyle Larson collide?
Pocono Motor Speedway
If you’ve ever been to a racetrack or attended a major sporting event, you’ll know what a massive rock pile it is that stands in the middle of the track.
Named after legendary American race car driver Tony Bettenhausen, who hails from nearby Scranton, the 14-track motorsport complex has been providing excitement to spectators and participants for over 80 years.
The track measures a majestic 1.688 miles, which is quite long for a racetrack, particularly since it doesn’t have any turns. The layout of the track reminds one of an airplane wing, with the start, apex, and the finish lines at the tip. There are 11,250 yards of asphalt, and the whole thing is surrounded by a six-foot tall chain link fence.
Unlike other racing venues, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is surrounded by a forest, the entire track is visible from the parking lot.
Even if you’ve never been there, you’ll know what I mean, as the area has an eerie beauty that is difficult to put into words. The rolling hills, the dense trees, and the crystal clear lakes are enough to captivate anyone.
The complex features a museum, where you can learn more about the history of racing in the area and see iconic cars from over the years, a Hall of Fame, and the offices of the track’s media partners. On race day, the crowd gathers outside the gates, which are opened a few hours before the first practice session. This year, the 100th anniversary of the Poconos, the festival will be held from June 18 to July 2.
What to See
While attending the 100th anniversary of the Poconos, you’ll want to visit the following locations:
The premier racing venue of the Poconos is called Pocono Raceway. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of this track, so it’s an ideal opportunity to spend some time there.
Even if you’ve never been to a race track, you’ll know what an amazing place it is, as the whole complex is surrounded by a six-foot high chain link fence and is packed with history.
The name comes from the nearby Pocono Mountains, which are also named after Tony Bettenhausen, who owned the land at the time and had a cabin built there in 1922. The cabin is now a museum dedicated to his memory, which you’ll have the chance to visit.
The track’s grandstands are made of wood, concrete, and steel, and have been the setting for some incredible moments in American sports history. The biggest one was the 1980 Summer Olympics, where American rower Peter Sejna won a gold medal for his country.
In 2007, the track played host to the Foodies & Football Champs Showdown, an event that pitted the best American cuisine against top European chefs and their unique takes on traditional American fare, such as BBQ and Cream Car Soup. Tickets for this one-of-a-kind competition were sold out within minutes of going on sale.
Thoroughbred Horse Racing Museum
Located inside the gates of the track, the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Museum is a great place to learn more about the history of American horseracing. If you’ve ever been to a race track, you’ll know immediately what an incredible piece of work this is, as you won’t be able to take your eyes off the horseraces.
The museum exhibits a wide range of Thoroughbreds, from the early 20th century to present day, and you can learn a lot about breeding, training, and racing throughout history. The highlight of the museum is a walk-in closet that serves as a testament to the beauty of these magnificent horses. Being a male attire exhibitionist, this is a definite must-see for me.
Pocono Mountain House & Spa
Another place you’ll want to visit during your trip to the Poconos is the Pocono Mountain House and Spa. If you’ve ever been to a luxury resort, this will feel like a familiar scenario. The hotel has hosted a variety of events, including the Beatles Peace Rally, where the band member shared secrets of their success, and the annual charity golf tournament, which benefits the Jimmy Fund and the North American Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In addition to a championship golf course, the hotel features luxurious rooms, championship tennis, a pool with a waterfall, and an outdoor fire place.
The spa offers a treatment room, which is equipped with a rain showerhead, offering the perfect way to wash away the dust of the day. In addition to that, the hotel has a fully equipped fitness center, with a spa offer as well, should you want to work out after your treatments.
The Lanteri Estate Winery
Located in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, the Lanteri Estate Winery is a popular stop for any food or wine lover. The estate vineyards feature some of the best grapes and wines produced in the United States, so it’s the perfect place for a leisurely lunch or afternoon tea. The vineyard’s owners, Bill and Marianne Lanteri, started their business in the 1970s and today, the winery is one of the best-known brands in Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in trying some of their famous red wines, such as the 1982 Chateau d’Yquem, you can’t go wrong.
The Pinecroft Golf Club
Also in Mount Joy is one of America’s most historic golf clubs, The Pinecroft Golf Club. Opened in 1907 and designed by the great English architect James Braid, the golf club is home to some of the most incredible golf courses in the country. In addition to a superb selection of Scottish and English grasses, Braid laid out the course with lakes, streams, bunkers, and pine trees. Tourists and locals alike often flock to the golf course to play a round, particularly in the summertime. One of the region’s most photographed couples, James and Barbara Braid, still stroll the grounds of their former home and take visitors on walks around the scenic course.
What Else Can You Do At The Poconos?
Aside from attending the 100th anniversary of the Poconos, the following is a brief list of other things you can do at the Poconos this summer:
Go Kart Racing
If karting is your thing, you can head to Thompson Racing Complex in Dunmore, about 45 minutes away from the Poconos. There are 25 tracks, all with grandstands, picnic areas, and lighted flag courts.