Atlantic City may be a hike for people living in North and Central Jersey, but when it’s time for some weekend gambling, they pack up the car and venture for what can be an almost three-hour drive.
However, there is a much closer alternative for those looking for a weekend away — Sands Bethlehem, a gambling, shopping, dining and entertainment venue about an hour away from Somerset County.
“Sands Bethlehem offers the amenities and features guests look for in a gaming destination but in a closer drive from home,” said Mark Juliano, president of Sands Bethlehem.
Eight million people visit Sands Bethlehem every year, with about 90 percent of them staying overnight in its hotel. These guests play at 3,000 slot machines and 200 table games, including in a 30-table poker room.
Aside from gambling, visitors can head to Sands’ 10 dining options, including three signature restaurants from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, as well as the newly announced Buddy V’s of TLC’s “Cake Boss.”
Plus, after dinner, they can go to the various nightlife venues in Sands, including Molten Lounge, which offers free live entertainment seven nights a week. The Vision Bar, also in Sands, has bottle service and DJs on Friday and Saturday nights, and guests can also head to the Sands Bethlehem Events Center to check out performers, comedians and sporting events.
“Between the gambling, entertainment, shopping and kids activities, there is something for every member of the family without having to leave the property,” said Juliano.
Outside of Sands Bethlehem, guests frequently head to the nearby Allentown Art Museum, the Crayola Experience, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, the Lehigh Valley Zoo or they check out the minor-league Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (baseball) or Lehigh Valley Phantoms (hockey).
During Christmastime in Bethlehem, walking tours, a nighttime bus tour and carriage rides are also available to visitors, as well as Christkindlmarkt on the SteelStacks and Christmas City Village, large outdoor holiday markets.
Sands Bethlehem also plays a huge role in the area itself as it is the cornerstone of the redevelopment of what once was among the largest brownfield areas in the country.
“The resort has generated significant traffic and has exposed many visitors to Bethlehem and the greater Lehigh Valley area,” said Michael Stershic, president of Discover Lehigh Valley. “Also, because of the tax revenue it has generated, it has helped support the infrastructure needed to support projects like the SteelStacks campus and the Hoover-Mason Trestle, a visitor center, public restrooms and more.”
Visitors will notice that Sands Bethlehem has a distinct look involving a combination of exposed steel and brick exterior, appearing as a mill building. This is no accident, as the venue works to preserve the legendary Bethlehem Steel Company that was formerly housed on its property. Bethelem Steel opened its doors in 1857 and produced much of the equipment used by the United States armed forces in World War I and World War II. The company closed in 1995.
In 2007, Sands Bethlehem purchased the 126-acre property and remediated it while also preserving many of the historic Bethlehem Steel plant structures.
Artwork from Bethlehem Steel headquarters is throughout the complex, as well as photographs and engineering drawings from the steel-making process.
Because of Sands Bethlehem’s presence in the community since 2009, the area has seen an increase in tourism and it is the largest visitor attraction, followed by Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom. Nearby hotels have also seen an increase in demand, occupancy and rates.
“Where else can you gamble, eat good food and see blast furnaces up close and personal, all in the birthplace of the American industrial revolution?” said Stershic. “I don’t believe these stories all in one place are available in Atlantic City, or anywhere else for that matter.”
Where: 77 Sands Blvd, Bethlehem (about one hour from Somerset County)
Rates: Starting at $149 a night until Dec. 31.
Contact: Call 484-777-7777 or visit pasands.com