Family Reunion Fun

By Cathy Kiley

There is nothing more special and enjoyable than gathering up the family for a reunion to share fond recollections and make new memories. One of the many beautiful things about the Lehigh Valley is its unique location between New York and Philadelphia is its accessibility from every direction. There are so many great spots where you may gather and celebrate your family ties.

There is certainly no shortage of activities in the Lehigh Valley no matter what your family enjoys doing.

Let’s take a look at what our area has to offer.

The usual fun spots for reunions are obviously the parks as the Lehigh Valley park system is incredible. Nearly every municipality has their own public park with different amenities but there are a few parks in particular on which I’d like to focus. We have attended huge picnics at Louise Moore Park in Nazareth where there are covered pavilions, a baseball field, horseshoe pit, volleyball and badminton courts, walking paths, playground equipment, tennis courts and outdoor grills all in close proximity so keeping your eyes on the kids is an easy chore. This is a beautiful, serene and relaxing location on Country Club Road just off the Route 33 and Hecktown Road interchange. It is suitable for any family gathering and has ample parking.

Hugh Moore Park sits on the Lehigh Canal in Easton near the Glendon Bridge where you may rent a pavilion for your family picnic in a woodsy area to keep you cool on a hot day. There are playground areas for the kids and fishing along the Lehigh River. Your family will definitely enjoy taking a leisurely ride on the mule-drawn Josiah White II canal boat. A costumed crew calls boat riders to board blowing into a conch shell, as the captains did years ago to warn the locktenders of their arrival. Drivers lead the two mules “Hank” and “George” along the towpath adjacent to the canal while riders enjoy an oral history of the regional canal system and life along the Lehigh long ago. Later, take time to meet the mule team as they rest in their barn, see the locks and visit the locktenders’ house before visiting the Emrick Technology Center. I spoke with Jonathan Markloff and Sue Francisco who were crewing the Josiah White on Memorial Day. They told me that depending on the size of your family gathering, you can make reservations for a dinner cruise on the Josiah White II or rent the entire boat for a private dinner cruise just for your group. You may bring in your own caterer or The National Canal Museum will arrange for that as well. There is a sound system for CDs or live entertainment may be brought on board. Permits are required for alcoholic beverages.

The National Canal Museum shares a building with The Crayola FACTORY® at Two Rivers Landing in downtown Easton. The Josiah White II canal boat is just one part of the National Canal Museum where you and your family may explore the history of the extraordinary canal system that exists to this day. At The Crayola FACTORY®, your family is able to see in detail the manufacturing process of Crayola Crayons and kids will love the fun crafts and activities available after the tour. Both locations may be included as part of your plans and each offers private locations and packages for parties. Check out their official websites (canals.org or crayola.com.) for more information.

The Bob Rodale Cycling and Fitness Park in Trexlertown offers a different “spin” for a family get-together. Home of the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, this 70+ acre park offers a unique setting for any reunion but biking enthusiasts will love this venue. The park affords tracks and trails for biking, hiking, jogging and rollerblading as well as playground and picnicking facilities. Organize softball and basketball games with those favorite cousins of yours before setting off on a wooded nature trail through the wetlands. Be sure to check out schedules for the Velodrome to see if you can coordinate your reunion with one of their special events.

The best way to book local parks is through your county parks and recreation department website. There you will find all pertinent information. Keep in mind, there may be residency and permit requirements to be met for booking the pavilions.

A perfect summer location for a family outing would certainly be Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom. Everyone of all ages loves Dorney and just imagine being able to enjoy all of Dorney’s exciting rides, the cooling wave pool and waterpark and later have a great catered picnic waiting for you at your reserved party area. What a concept: all the fun, with all the food, without having to do all of the work. Menus vary depending upon group size. Call 610-395-2000 for more information.

There are many families who coordinate their reunions with the timing of annual Musikfest celebrations. Stay at any of the local hotels and hop on a shuttle or walk to the festivities to enjoy hundreds of performances of varying genres, in countless venues, over a ten day period in August. Advance tickets are available for many performances so get the gang together and everyone can hook up at Festplatz to do the Chicken Dance and enjoy a few beers with great festival foods. Remember to reserve rooms well in advance as many hotels are booked years in advance for Musikfest.

While making your Musikfest plans, check out the Portugese American Club in Bethlehem which would be a wonderful place to hold your reunion dinner finale. This historical social club was founded in 1928 and is an attractive private club just perfect for your special night. The club was decorated for a wedding when I stopped by and Anna Viscoso showed me around. The attractive décor is reminiscent of Portugal’s castles and you can fit the entire family and then some in their comfortable dining rooms. I was even more impressed by the food. The Club’s private caterers will prepare any fare in their private kitchen. I was lucky enough to be able to try a sampling of their Portugese pork and clam casserole and fish balls, as well as fried shrimp and meat pastries. The Comfort Suites Hotel is across the street and this location offers the convenience of Southside Bethlehem’s attractions that include great shopping and The Sands Casino.

In nearby Hellertown are the Lost River Caverns which would be another educational addition to your reunion weekend. Here, amateur spelunkers may explore a series of five underground chambers connected by passageways formed by the Lost River underground stream. The dolomitic limestone caverns were discovered in 1883 during local quarrying excavation. Discover crystalized stalactites, stalagmites, helectites and other formations in this live cave which continues to grow thanks to the active stream that flows throughout. Robert Gilman and Beverly Rozewicz manage the caverns and adjacent gift shop which were opened to the public by their grandparents over 80 years ago. Log onto: lostcave.com for more information.

For another reunion option, check out Rascal’s Food and Fun located just off Route 100 in Allentown. There are so many activities here that kids of all ages will have trouble deciding what to do first. There is a wall for rock-climbing taught by certified instructors; an incredible 3300 square foot black-lighted laser tag facility that will delight your teenagers; and 66 mini-bowling lanes which are fun for everyone, especially younger kids. Next, knock yourself out on the very cool bumper cars. They turn 360 degrees, don’t get stuck in corners, don’t send sparks flying from the ceiling and are suitable for everyone from five to 95. There are video games and a host of other activities to delight everyone. Rascal’s Food and Fun has a full-service restaurant and the Hideaway Bar is adjacent to the attraction area where adults can enjoy a cocktail and still keep their eyes on the kids. The lofted Upper Deck Sports Bar is available for private parties, with widescreen televisions just perfect for watching that important sporting event. Check out Rascal’s website: www.rascalsfoodandfun.com to see what they have to offer.

Cathy Kiley has lived in the Lehigh Valley area for nearly 30 years. Previous publications include the weekly “About Easton” column for “The Morning Call” as well as dining and human interest stories for “The Islander” magazine on Long Beach Island, NJ.”

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