100 Reasons Why We Love the Lehigh Valley

100 Reasons Why We Love the Lehigh Valley

To celebrate our 100th issue of Lehigh Valley Marketplace, we’ve rounded up 100 of our favorite things about the Lehigh Valley. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons why we love calling this corner of the world our home:

1. If you like seasons, this is the place to be. We get all four, meaning part of the year is spent walking around in an oven and part of it is spent talking about the wind chill. Still, nothing is better than fall on the East Coast.

2. If you want to live on a farm in the country, you can do it and still be less than half an hour away from downtown Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton.

3. If you want to visit New York, Philadelphia, or the beach, you can do so in an easy day trip.

4. Yes, we’re in a valley, but we’re also a quick ride away from the slopes at Blue Mountain or Bear Creek.

5. You (or your children) can earn a degree without a tearful goodbye at the airport, or without even needing to attend a single move-in day at the dorms: there are many colleges to choose from within driving distance.

6. If you’re done with degrees, but still want to learn something new, you can take a non-credit LifeLearning class at Northampton Community College (like cheese making, home brewing, or jewelry arts).

7. There are only about 300 drive-in movie theaters left in the United States, and we’re home to two of them: Becky’s in Walnutport, and Shankweiler’s, which is the country’s oldest, in Orefield.

8. If sitting in your car to watch a movie isn’t your style, head to Frank Banko Alehouse instead, where you can sip a beer (or Cabernet Sauvignon) while you watch the film.

9. And, if you need a little bit more live action, we’re the home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and you can catch a game at Coca-Cola Park. If you don’t like baseball, there’s more to do, like eat Belgian Waffle Tacos or Maple Bacon Funnel Cake.

10. Nobody throws a festival like us. In fact, we love fests so much that in a few years, we might just have a Festfest.

11. There’s Musikfest, of course, a the largest free music festival in the country: a 10-day stretch of live music, deep-fried food, and open containers.

12. And there’s also Baconfest, where you can eat bacon on a stick followed by bacon ice cream chased with bacon beer.

13. But then there’s also Allentown’s Blues, Brews, & BBQ, which is exactly what it sounds like. 

14. For those who’d rather cuddle with pigs than deep-fry them, there’s also VegFest, a row of surprisingly tasty and entirely vegan options along the vibrant greenway in South Bethlehem.

15. And while you’re being healthy (okay, healthy-ish), there’s also the Blueberry Festival, with blueberry-infused treats like pie, ice cream, and beer.

16. Head back to Easton for the Garlic Fest, where you can “eat, drink, and stink.”

17. If you like beer, there are plenty of festivals for you: the PBS39 BrewFest, Allentown Beer Fest, Lehigh Valley Brewer’s Guild Festival, and the Blue Mountain Beer Fest. Cheers to that!

18. Sangria, the fruity booze drink that graces tables every summer, now has its own festival: SangriaFest at SteelStacks. In between festivals, you can keep your sangria sampling local year-round with a bottle from Blue Mountain Vineyards, or try a $5 glass of sangria on Thursdays at Tapas.

19. If you like food trucks, we have a food truck festival. We also have a Border Brawl, where our food trucks go grill-to-grill with the food trucks of New Jersey.

20. You can learn the art of Tomahawk throwing, how to play disc golf, and watch the Keystone Dock Dogs long jump and leap at the Step Outdoors Lehigh Valley festival.

21. It makes sense that Bethlehem—fondly known as “Christmas City”—also hosts Chriskindlmarkt, one of the best holiday markets in the country. The family-friendly event offers handmade goods, German and Austrian delicacies, and live music.

22. If you can’t make it to Munich for Oktoberfest, you can still get a taste of the festivities at Oktoberfest at SteelStacks. 

23. Fancy yourself a card shark? Head to The Sands, which also offers outlet shopping, an event center, and restaurants from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

24. Then again, we’ve got some celebrity chefs of our own. Chef Lee Chizmar of Bolete appeared on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay,” and Oak Steakhouse’s Chef Heather Williams was the runner-up on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”

25. We might not have palm trees or skyscrapers, but we’ve got history. Easton was one of three locations where the Declaration of Independence was originally read, and you can relive the experience every year on Heritage Day.

26. Allentown was a hiding spot for the Liberty Bell during the Revolutionary War. A replica exists today at the Liberty Bell Museum.

27. The historic Sun Inn opened in 1760 and hosted George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and Alexander Hamilton, among others. Today, you can stroll through the museum, or just hang out in history at the tavern.

29. We literally built this country: Bethlehem Steel manufactured steel for prominent landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Chrysler Building, Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, and the Hoover Dam.

30. Not only is the base of the Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces a photo-op—it’s also the stage of the Levitt Pavilion, where another 50 free concerts take place each summer as part of the Levitt Summer Concert series. 

31. Historic Bethlehem’s Sun Inn Courtyard also hosts Tunes at Twilight, a free series of open-air concerts where you’ll fit right in with your dancing shoes or your lawn chair in tow.

32. We recently adopted a very tall resident: Murphy the giraffe at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. 

33. Budding professional chefs can attend the acclaimed culinary program at Northampton Community College. If you’d rather eat than cook, visit the Hampton Winds restaurant on campus, a fine dining BYOB restaurant staffed by the culinary students.

34. We’ve responded to the craft beer explosion with plenty of breweries of our own. (Insider tip: try the Citrus IPA from Funk, Space Monkey saison from Brew Works, or the Sunday Morning Stout from Weyerbacher.) 

35. Home to the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail and the area’s signature grape, Chambourcin, our wineries are putting Pennsylvanian wine on the map. The Cabernet Franc from Bangor’s Tolino Vineyards was the “Best in Show” winner of the Pennsylvania Sommelier Judgement Day event.

36. If something a little harder is your cup of (Long Island) iced tea, well, there’s never been a better time to live in the Valley. Just three years ago, there wasn’t a distillery in town—now the area is home to five craft spirit distillers. 

37. If you’re a car enthusiast, this is the place for you. Das Awkscht Fescht, the country’s largest antique and classic car show, takes place here every year.

38. And if there isn’t a car show going on, you can always head to America on Wheels, the 43,000 square foot automobile museum in Allentown.

39. You can take a walk along the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel, where the trestle was once used as a narrow gauge railroad. The Hoover Mason Trestle is 46 feet tall and 2000 feet long.

40. For another walk, try the D&L trail, a 13-mile leisurely walk that follows the canal and Lehigh River for almost its entire length.

41. If you like to race, we have the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, with go-karts that near 45 mph.

42. And if you feel more at home on two wheels instead of four, you can head to the Valley Preferred Cycling Center (or the Velodrome).

43. When you need to feel like you got away for the weekend without actually leaving the area, we have more inns, bed and breakfasts, and retreats than you know what to do with, from Glasbern Inn to the Sayre Mansion, Steckel House to the Historic Benner Mansion, and the Globe Inn to the Lafayette Inn.

44. If you love live performances, you probably also love the Easton State Theatre for the Arts. It also hosts the Freddy Awards, the annual recognition of musical theatre accomplishments at local high schools. Not only has the award show garnered awards of its own—including regional Emmy awards—but it also was the subject of a 2010 documentary, “Most Valuable Players.”

45. Literally translated as “night before the fast,” fastnachts are a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition and they have their own day—Fastnacht Day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Whether you like them with sugar, cinnamon sugar, glazed, plain, or cream-filled, there are plenty of Lehigh Valley bakeries that make this delicious tradition year after year.

46. Dorney Park, which has been open since 1884, is right in our backyard if you fancy a thrill ride.

47. If you want to get your thrills with your feet firmly planted on the ground, you can take a historic candlelit ghost tour through historic downtown Bethlehem.

48. Pennsylvania has the most remaining covered bridges in the United States, and the Lehigh Valley has 7 of them.

49. We also have the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, with vintage coaches from the early 1900s pulled by diesel engines. These scenic trips are a beautiful way to take in the gorge, especially in the fall.

50. Easton Public Market is a foodie’s paradise, with hands-on food workshops and events as well as some of the best bites in town under one roof—from crepes to BBQ, noodles to pizza, and coffee to wine.

51. Our farmers’ markets aren’t to be missed, either. Easton is home to the longest continuous-running open-air farmers’ market—established in 1752—while Allentown, Bethlehem, and surrounding cities and towns put on farmers’ markets of their own to show off the area’s rich agricultural setting.

52. If you don’t have the space to grow your own food, you can till the soil at one of the many community gardens in the Valley.

53. Many of our restaurants participate in their city’s own Restaurant Weeks as a way for diners to sample a breadth of flavors and enjoy prix fixe menus at affordable prices.

54. We love our good-spirited rivalries: the high school Thanksgiving football game between Easton and Phillipsburg draws an average crowd of 13,000 every year.

55. And there’s a bit of collegiate rivalry—in fact, it’s the most-played Division I rivalry, even more than Yale and Princeton or Yale and Harvard. The annual Lafayette vs. Lehigh game has been played 152 times—every year from 1884 to 2016.

56. You can shop with your pup at The Promenade Shops, where many stores leave water bowls out for thirsty canines. Even if you don’t have a dog, the scenic outdoor shopping center is also home to some of the area’s most memorable restaurants, like Top Cut Steak House.

57. Looking for a place to scuba dive? You can head to Dutch Springs Aqua Park, which has a 50-acre lake and depths up to 100 feet.

58. For more than two decades, spring in South Bethlehem has meant chili. A chili cook-off, that is, with local restaurants and businesses participating with a wide array of simmering pots that cover all the twists.

59. If you like hot dogs, we’ve kind of turned them into a delicacy: we have Potts’, Jimmy’s, and, of course, there’s Yocco’s (don’t forget the chili sauce)!

60. We care about our roots: you can take a walking tour through Bethlehem and wind your way around historic buildings, artifacts, and ruins of our original settlers, the Moravians.

61. Parents of aspiring gymnasts won’t have to relocate their entire families in order for their children to train—the Parkettes National Gymnastics Training Center in Allentown has produced Olympic athletes.

62. Where else in the world is there also a festival dedicated to Peeps, the chick-shaped marshmallows that happen to be made right in the Lehigh Valley?

63. The guitar manufacturer that created guitars used by Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Eddie Vedder—among many others—is none other than C.F. Martin & Co., which is located in our very own Nazareth.

64. You can swing by Vegan Treats, a bakery with tasty goods made from scratch without the use of animal products.

65. We’re also home to Crayola, the crayon giant that kickstarted the careers of many artists (and perhaps some uninvited playroom wall decor).

66. For even more events—or a Phantoms game—you can head to the PPL Center in downtown Allentown.

67. Nearby, Miller Symphony Hall helps keep the musical culture alive and well.

68. We have our own soda, A-Treat, and you can pry it from our cold, dead hands.

69. You can get yourself a handful of nonpareils from Josh Early Candies. 

70. When you’ve had enough of city life, you can escape to charming locales without much planning: the quaint town of Jim Thorpe, known as “the Switzerland of Pennsylvania,” is perfect for a weekend getaway; the stunning Bushkill Falls, known as “the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania,” is ideal for a hiking adventure.

71. One of the best places in northeastern North America to view the annual autumn hawk migration is at our very own Hawk Mountain. 

72. With 1168 acres and 18.5 miles of trails, Jacobsburg Park is a hidden hiking gem right in our backyard. See the park from a different perspective by taking a guided horseback trail ride instead of hoofing it yourself.

73. We’ve got views. Head to Bake Oven Knob for one of the best lookouts in the Lehigh Valley with an elevation of 1585 feet.

74. If stumbling through a rocky trail to nab a scenic view is out of your comfort zone, you can also drive to one: the South Mountain lookout, located a hop and a skip from Lehigh University, is 625 feet up and gives views of the hill-to-hill bridge to Blue Mountain.

75. Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit more than the tree lighting ceremony in Christmas City.

76. One of Allentown’s most beautiful parks, the Lehigh Parkway, becomes a winter wonderland every year for Lights in the Parkway.

77. Allegedly the largest non-wax Christmas candle in the country, Easton’s Peace Candle is an important symbol of love and unity, more than 100 feet tall, and is erected annually from Thanksgiving to February.

78. For 165 years, the Great Allentown Fair has provided annual entertainment. While the expected livestock judging and carnival rides are popular hits, the fair has also drawn household names like Johnny Cash, Metallica, Journey, and Meghan Trainor.

79. We’re also home to some household names: Mario Andretti, Larry Holmes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Amanda Seyfreid all either live here or are from here.

80. If you’re in need of a gorgeous backdrop for a photograph, look no further than the Allentown Rose Gardens. And, if you want to take a walk, there’s a 1.3 mile loop throughout
the garden.

81. There’s yet more beauty to behold at Columcille Park, with stunning stone structures that provide an organic sense of tranquility. The largest megalith, Mannanan, rises 20 feet out of the ground and weighs 45 tons.

82. And here you thought the fests were over. No, we’re also home to the South Side Arts and Music Festival, where the abundant creativity in south Bethlehem overflows onto the streets.

83. Bethlehem keeps the arts going year-round with its First Friday festivities. On the first Friday of each month, local merchants, restaurants, and galleries—including resident artists at the Banana Factory—open their doors to the public in celebration of the artistic community.

84. Like Bethlehem’s First Friday, downtown Allentown offers a Third Thursday, so that you can get your art fix from the local studios, museums, shops, and restaurants.

85. Throughout the downtowns of the entire Lehigh Valley, murals from local and visiting artists add vibrancy, art, and conversation to our urban landscapes.

86. Art appreciators can head to the Allentown Art Museum for a day, or visit smaller galleries like Easton’s Connexions Gallery or Allentown’s Alternative Gallery.

87. The Bethlehem Skateplaza opened in 2010 across from the Sands Casino with an impressive 23,000 square feet of rails, benches, staircases, and concrete for skaters to practice their tricks.

88. Save the trip to Colorado—we have plenty of rivers for rafting and tubing trips.

89. And if you’d prefer a little less current, we have plenty of lakes for kayaking, sailboating, and stand-up paddle boarding.

90. English majors, budding playwrights, and Shakespeare fans can attend the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival at DeSales University every year.

91. If you’re more interested in science than humanities, we have the DaVinci Science Center, where a record-breaking near-143,000 people attended exhibits and workshops last year.

92. Where is it always 52 degrees Fahrenheit? Within the Lost River Caverns, a natural limestone cavern with five chambers in Hellertown. Take a guided walking tour through the majestic space that once served as a hiding spot for bootleggers during Prohibition.

93. The Lehigh Valley is also a great place to be if you’re a filmmaker—or if you’re a fan of independent film. Bethlehem is host to two many cinematic events, like the Greater Lehigh Valley Film Festival and the Southside Film Festival.

94. We have a natural instrument: Ringing Rocks, the 128-acre park in Upper Black Eddy. There’s an 8-acre field of boulders that resonate and reverberate when struck with a metal hammer.

95. Wawa sandwiches and coffee have amassed a cult following, and the Valley has more than two dozen of the
beloved chain.

96. Interactive running trains and hand-build buildings are within the sprawling miniature small-town America display that is Roadside America, the off-highway attraction in Shartlesville that should be experienced at least once.

97. In many American cities, horse-drawn carriage rides are a thing of the past, but in Bethlehem, they’re just a Tuesday night in December.

98. And we have another old-school transportation experience: you can take a historic canal ride on a 48-ton boat pulled by two mules in Easton.

99. We’re not too far behind convenient delivery services that are common in cities like New York—the online grocery delivery service Instacart, which delivers your shopping from stores like Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Costco in as little as one hour, finally came to the Lehigh Valley last July.

100. There’s a strong sense of community here. At the very least, no matter who you are or where you’re from, there’s one thing we all have in common: we collectively cannot stand 22.

Photo credits:

11 – Ted Colegrove

22 – Craig Roberts

32 – John Cordes

46 – Courtesy of Dorney Park

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