Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/4/17
Surrounded by elaborately decorated Christmas trees, jolly holiday music, leisurely strolls by horse and carriage, and holiday markets stuffed with artisan goods, you may have a feeling that you might be in the North Pole, but there’s just as good a chance that you’re in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley area, which becomes a Christmas epicenter during December.
“Whether visitors are experiencing the holiday spirit in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton or the dozens of picturesque boroughs that make up the Lehigh Valley, the holidays are special thanks to the small-town charm and age-old traditions that truly exemplify the region,” said Alicia Quinn, strategic brand manager for Discover Lehigh Valley.
Once the calendar flips to December, Lehigh Valley — especially Bethlehem, which is known as the “Christmas City” since it was named on Christmas Eve in 1741 — becomes the place to be to get in the holiday spirit because of the plethora of holiday activities that can be found there.
If you’re ready to get in the holiday spirit with historic tours, amazing meals, wondrous light shows and more, then read on below to find out what you can do in the Lehigh Valley for some Christmas fun.
Brunch at Hotel Bethlehem
Hotel Bethlehem, a historic hotel with a structure dating back to 1794 filled with original charm such as Moravian tile floor, Palladian windows and intricate architectural details, is in full effect in the Christmas season — with 35,000 lights, 31 trees and 36 wreaths, this hotel is the epicenter of holiday spirit.
Whether or not you’re a guest at the storied hotel, which has been hosting visitors since 1922, you are still welcome to enjoy their Santa Sunday brunch. Guests can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy made-to-order omelets or waffles, a carving station, fresh seafood and delectable desserts alongside live music.
If you go: Hotel Bethlehem at 437 Main St., Bethlehem, with brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday until Christmas Day and Christmas Eve for about $50 per adult and $15 per child 6-12. Visit hotelbethlehem.com/bethlehem-restaurants-sunday-brunch or call 610-625-2219 for more information.
150 artisans at Christkindlmarkt
With three heated tents filled with over 150 artisans from across the nation sporting everything from handmade German nutcrackers, to colorful pieces of artwork and photography to organic and tasty food products, Christkindlmarkt, which has been running for 25 years and has been recognized as one of the best American holiday markets by Travel + Leisure, is certainly nothing like your local mall.
Besides aisles and aisles of vendor booths, Christkindlmarkt, set upon the backdrop of the hauntingly beautiful Bethlehem Steel Mill, also boasts live Christmas music, ice carving and glassblowing demonstrations, kids’ crafts and food and bar vendors, so you can make a day of your shopping trip.
If you go: Christkindlmarkt at 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, on Dec. 7-10, 14-17 and 21-23 on Thursdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Christmas Eve until 6 p.m. for $9 per adult and $5 for kids 6-12. Visit christmascity.org/christkindlmarkt or call 610-332-1300 for more information.
Explore history of ‘Christmas City’
Bethlehem is no ordinary downtown when it comes to the holiday season. Founded on Dec. 24, 1741, it’s known as “Christmas City, USA” and entices thousands of travelers to visit every December to the National Historic Landmark District.
There are tons of way to get a taste of the Christmas City by foot — Historic Bethlehem hosts a wide array of holiday tours, including Trees of Historic Bethlehem to see gilded Christmas trees from around the world across six historic sites, Christmas City Stroll to learn about Bethlehem’s beginning, architecture and history, Bethlehem by Night to see the city lit up by Christmas lights or a horse-drawn carriage ride through the area’s downtown.
If you go: 505 Main St., Bethlehem for tours of ranging price ranges and dates. To see the full offerings, visit historicbethlehem.org/christmas/christmas-tours or call 1-800-360-TOUR.
Marvel in lights at Lehigh Valley Zoo
For the past four years, the Lehigh Valley Zoo has hosted their Winter Light Spectacular as their largest annual fundraiser to enable to zoo’s conservation efforts. Each year, it gets bigger and bigger — last season, the nighttime fundraiser attracted over 52,000 guests across 35 event nights.
The Spectacular features over one million energy-conserving lights and new this year, there will be a Toy Story-themed section, new tunnel layouts, more photo opportunity stations, an upgraded Crystal Cave experience and new character mascots walking throughout the zoo.
If you go: 5150 Game Preserve Road, Schnecksville, on Wednesdays through Sundays (and closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for $11-$14 per adult and $6-$9 per child (depending on date). Visit lvzoo.org or call 610-799-4171 for more information.
Eat farm-to-table fare at Glasbern Inn
Adorned with rustic charm in a 19th-century barn setting with 28-foot cathedral ceilings, exposed original beams and field stone walls, the Glasbern Inn, a 150-acre sustainable farm and farm-to-table restaurant makes for a tasty way to end your Lehigh Valley journey, either with a stay in one of their 37 rooms or a meal in their dining room.
Some of their standout items on the menu with entrees ranging from $21 to $42 include the seared Jurgielewicz & Son duck breast with maple sweet potato puree, Brussels sprouts and cranberry almond sauce ($35) or the 12-ounce Lancaster Angus beef strip with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and crispy onions ($42).
If you decide to make a night of it, rooms range from $169 to $395. The Inn will also be hosting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day four-course dinners for $75 per person.
If you go: 2141 Packhouse Road, Fogelsville. with a menu of entrees ranging from $21 to $42 and rooms ranging from $169 to $395. Visit glasbern.com or call 610-285-4723 for more information.
Relax with a glass at Vynecrest Winery
Vynecrest Winery, which makes 22,000 gallons of wine per year of 20 varieties ranging from red to white and dry to sweet, pulls in tons of visitors every day to their Vyneskeller tasting room, where wine lovers can enjoy wines by the bottle and glass, light appetizers and live weekend music.
Those flocking to Lehigh Valley for some Christmas spirit Dec. 7-10 can stop by the Vyneskeller for the winery’s Christmas Open House, where local musician Steve Myers will be playing on the baby grand piano and specials and gift items will be available.
If you go: 172 Arrowhead Lane, Breinigsville, with a wine bar opened seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Christmas Open House to be held Dec. 7-10 featuring specials, gifts and live music. Visit vynecrest.com or call 610-398-7530 for more information.
For even more ideas on how to spend the holiday season in Lehigh Valley, visit discoverlehighvalley.com.