If you’re looking for a charming downtown, something to do outside or a taste of history, look no farther than Honesdale.
The county seat of Wayne County, Honesdale offers quite a bit to do — and has quite a few interesting stories behind it.
“The vibe includes lots of art (murals and galleries) as well as a great deal of history,” said James Hamill, a spokesman for the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau. “It has a charming downtown with new businesses ranging from breweries to coffee roasters and more that make any visit worthwhile. Main Street features amazing architecture, farmer’s markets at the Cooperage, shopping at Gather and Wallflower, (and) delicious farm-to-table meals at Native Food & Drink and Here & Now Brewing Co.”
And while it’s fun to stroll the streets, it’s also great to hop on the Stourbridge Line. After all, Honesdale is known as the birthplace of the American railroad.
“On Aug. 8, 1829, the first commercial steam locomotive to turn wheels on rails in North America happened right in our small town,” said Tim Wright, excursion manager for the Stourbridge Line. “We are keeping that tradition alive 191 years later today with our scenic rail excursions.”
The rides travel over 25 miles of railway among Honesdale, Hawley and Lackawaxen. Depending on the excursion, the ride lasts anywhere from an hour to 3.5 hours.
Theme and seasonal trains are very popular, Wright said. A new twist this year will be the Santa Christmas Tree Express, a two-hour round trip that takes riders from Honesdale to the Santa’s Christmas tree farm.
“Riders can get off the train and enjoy free hot chocolate and cookies,” Wright said. “Kids will be able to visit Santa, and there will be photo opportunities.”
Riders also can pick and buy a tree at an extra cost. The tree will be baled, placed on the train’s flat car and returned to Honesdale. Those rides began Nov. 27 and will runs Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 20.
During the summer months, the Stourbridge Line offers the Ice Cream Express.
“We team up with our good friends at Creamworks Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm and creamery located outside of Waymart,” Wright said. “We climb aboard the train and head down to Hawley where we will get off the train and enjoy an awesome homemade ice cream sundae and take a sunset.”
Other theme excursions are held throughout the year, including the Pumpkin Patch and Easter Egg Hunt trains. All depart from Honesdale and follow the Lackawaxen River. Some travel through narrow rock cuts that were hollowed out — by hand — in the 1860s.
“We have a great amount of wildlife that lives along the river, including bald eagles, bears and deer” Wright said. “Our trips are relaxing in our historically restored passenger coaches, and there is no better way to see the scenic Northern Poconos.”
For more information, visit thestourbridgeline.net.
Wayne County Historical Society
Carol Dunn, executive director of the Wayne County Historical Society, said two of the its five museums are open despite the pandemic.
At its 810 Main St. headquarters — the former Delaware and Hudson Canal Co. offices — sits a full-scale replica of the first locomotive to run in the Western Hemisphere. The rendition of the Stourbridge Lion locomotive was built in 1940; original parts are at the Smithsonian Institution. The museum also has an 1880s rail coach visitors can tour.
Dunn said an exhibit tells the history of the county’s glass industry, including how some of the glass made its way to the White House. A number of works from Impressionist painter Mel Stark, who was born in Honesdale, hang inside the museum, which also has an exhibit on the Native Americans from the upper Delaware River valley.
The museum is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information is at waynehistorypa.org.
D&H Canal Park
For outdoor opportunities, look to the D&H Canal Park at Lock 3 along Route 6 outside of Honesdale. The D&H Canal started in Honesdale and fed New York City with coal in the 1800s, fueling the industrial revolution. The historical society bought the 16-acre park in 2001.
“It’s a very nice place to walk,” Dunn said. “The nice thing is that you’re immersed in history, and you’re not next to anyone (because of the pandemic).”
The park features 3 miles of walking trails. Visitors can see the 1820 Daniels Farmhouse, the locks and the Lackawaxen River, Dunn said.
Another outdoor spot is Irving Cliff, which walkers can reach in about 15 minutes. From the top, visitors can see a panoramic view of Honesdale. The cliff is named after Washington Irving (author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) and has a system of hiking trails.
A star lights the cliff each holiday season, and back down in town, Main Street is lined with Christmas tree lights, adding a great downtown vibe for the holidays.
“Honesdale is the inspiration for (the song) ‘Winter Wonderland.’ Dick Smith lived across from Central Park on Church Street and penned the lyrics, thinking fondly of the beautiful winters in the park and town,” Hamill said.
The Cooperage Project, 1030 Main St., usually is a happening place when there isn’t a pandemic, said Arrah Fisher, executive director.
“Right now, the only event that’s coming up and open to the public is our Main Street Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., so it is a recurring event,” Fisher said. “If it isn’t arctic or snowing sideways, it will be held outdoors to keep things as safe as possible.”
Visitors can view vendors on the Cooperage’s website, thecooperageproject.org.
In normal times, the Cooperage offers an array of programming for all ages and interests.
“Typically, we have over 350 events in our building a year from concerts, theater performances, art shows, film screenings, a beer festival, DIY workshops, lectures, farmer’s and artisans’ markets, youth programs, yoga and so much more,” Fisher said.
Because of COVID, the Cooperage’s main focus is on youth programs, which happen virtually or in a hybrid style with collaboration from local schools districts; supporting the local food system by hosting markets for artisans, farmers and producers; and offering food assistance programs, such as the Family Food Relief Program.
For more information on Honesdale, check out the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau’s Honesdale in a Day video at https://youtu.be/ZibP1smSBrA.