Founded on Christmas Eve in 1741 by Moravians, the self-named “Christmas City,” is known for its rich history of industry and trade, and over the years it has transformed into a neighborhood bursting with options for dining, shopping, and nightlife. The town features year-round entertainment but shines especially bright at Christmastime. Start your visit
The overall vibe of Bethlehem is a city with a “small-town feel with an urban twist.” The preservation of various historic elements, melded with a diverse assortment of progressive arts and entertainment options, gives this city of roughly 75,000 people a little something for everyone. It is a city with a rich history and an even brighter future!
Where to Eat and Drink
Considering the historic district has become known as “Restaurant Row,” you can find a large array of dining experiences as you explore Bethlehem. There are all different types of establishments to entice your palate, and it doesn’t just stop at food. The area also features a host of wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Here are a few top spots to get you started on your quest for some fantabulous culinary experiences in Bethlehem:
• Buddy V’s Ristorante - This restaurant, located in Wind Creek Bethlehem, serves up Italian cuisine and some outstanding desserts -- which is no surprise since it’s the restaurant of Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s Cake Boss.
• Emeril’s Fish House - Experience a taste of New Orleans, a city with some of the best food in the world, at the newest restaurant of Chef Emeril Lagasse, located in the Wind Creek Bethlehem. Enjoy seafood, steaks and more at this upscale eatery with a casual vibe.
• Lehigh Valley Wine Trail- The Wine Trail features eight wineries sprinkled throughout the eastern Pennsylvania wine region. Black River Farms in Bethlehem is a family-owned and operated vineyard and farm that is home to 9 acres of grapevines, and produces handcrafted wines, as well as fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The winery also features events throughout the year and offers wine tastings as well as food selections.
• Fegley’s Brew Works - This family-run restaurant and brewery is also a popular venue for weddings and other events. You can enjoy great food and signature beers as you get cozy in the lounge area, enjoy a game of pool or taste one of over 100 bottled Belgian beers in the SteelGaarden Lounge.
• Social Still MicroDistillery & Kitchen - This former bank now houses a restaurant, distillery, and bar, where guests can enjoy an eclectic menu and handcrafted cocktails. Tours and tastings of the distillery are available, and you can sample the spirits that are developed onsite -- many of which can also be found at other local eateries.
• Apollo Grille - Situated in the heart of Historic Downtown Bethlehem, this upscale bistro serves up an incredible selection of food and unique cocktails in a fun atmosphere. As you dine you can enjoy fantastic local artwork, which the restaurant rotates every three months.
Where to Shop
Whether you want flea market finds, antiques, trendy boutiques, Celtic inspired merchandise or great bargains, there’s a place to find it in Bethlehem’s shopping scene. Get your shopping spree started at one of these must-stop-shops!
• Moravian Shopping District - When you walk along the main streets of Bethlehem, many boutiques and antique shops welcome you inside with their assortment of goods. A must-see is the Moravian Book Shop, located at 428 Main Street, the oldest continuously running bookstore in the world!
• The Outlets at Wind Creek - Whether you are looking for the latest fashion trends, newest gadgets or a day of pampering at the spa, you are sure to find just what you seek at the over 25 retailers and specialty shops, located between the Casino and the Wind Creek Hotel. Kids will enjoy the entertainment areas, Kids Quest and Cyber Quest, and you can score some great deals by signing up for the Preferred Shopper Program.
• Donegal Square - This unique shop carries a wide selection of Celtic merchandise, and you can even enjoy a sip of whiskey or beer in the pub. In addition to shopping, the store also offers entertaining stories and folklore about Celtic culture and more.
• Josh Early Candies - This fifth-generation family business delivers some incredible candies, using many of the same recipes that were developed in the 1900s when the business first began. Enjoy chocolates, truffles, brittles, and other sweet treats, and don’t miss the Milk Peanut Butter Cream Egg!
• Bethlehem’s Farmer’s Market - This is Bethlehem’s first and longest-running farmer’s market, featuring over 10 local vendors and a wide assortment of produce, baked goods, and fresh flowers. As you shop, enjoy live music, special events, ready-to-eat lunch items and more!
Five Things You Shouldn’t Miss
With so many different things to do and see, it can be hard to decide where to go first. There’s something for everyone, that’s for sure, and if you don’t know where to start, then let these five attractions get you rolling!
• Wind Creek Bethlehem - This casino hotspot is housed in what was once the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which produced a lot of the equipment used by the USA in both World Wars I and II. It is now one of Pennsylvania’s prime hotspots, featuring a casino, resort, shopping and dining experiences and incredible nightlife.
• National Museum of Industrial History - Take a tour of America’s past, from an industrial standpoint, as you explore over 200 artifacts from all around the world. Some high points are a 115-ton Corliss steam engine and a 20-foot tall steam hammer. The museum has tours available, and it also hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
• Historic Bethlehem River Tours - If the great outdoors is more your thing, Bethlehem has you covered -- from biking to hiking and kayaking and so much more! Experience the beautiful trails and rivers of Bethlehem with a professional guide right alongside you as you embark on an excursion via kayak, with the option of adding a bike ride into the mix.
• PABaconFest - Doesn’t it seem like nowadays you can add bacon to just about anything? Well, that’s what the people behind the PABaconFest think, and they’re definitely onto something! Held in Easton, PA (just about 15-20 minutes Northeast of Bethlehem), the festival takes place in November and has been named one of the top five bacon fests in the world! This family-friendly event features bacon chef battles, pig racing, hog calling competitions, bacon-eating competitions, costume contests, live music, kids’ events, food and of course, lots of bacon!
• Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre - There are several theatres in Bethlehem where you can see talented actors present some incredible productions, and one of the most unique is the Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre. Located at 421 Second Ave., this theatre is especially a favorite of kids, and features a variety of performances by live actors and puppets that have been entertaining audiences for over 33 seasons!
Besides all of the amazing places to eat, shop, dance and more, there is one feature that makes Bethlehem really stand out, and it’s the fact that this town knows how to celebrate Christmas. It isn’t called “The Christmas City” for nothing! The Christmas City Village is a German-inspired market held downtown on weekends during the holiday season, and it features a selection of handmade gifts that you can browse through as you soak in the Christmas spirit.
Strolling through historic downtown during the holiday season is like walking through a classic Christmas story, and the well-known, Christkindlmarkt has been called one of the best holiday markets in the U.S. -- featuring works from over 150 of the nation’s finest artisans. There are also ice-carving demonstrations, glass blowing, live Christmas music and breakfast with St. Nicholas. All of these events and the holiday charm that pulses throughout the town, make Bethlehem one of the best cities in which to celebrate Christmas in Pennsylvania.
Hopefully, this gives you a closer look at what Bethlehem, PA is all about, and you have a good starting point for where you want to head to first. For more information about Bethlehem, visit the city’s website. There are so many great things to experience, that you can explore the area several times and discover something new each visit!