Family Fun For All…For Less

By Katie Brown

It’s that time again. The kids have been out of school for more than a month and parents are faced with the question, “What are we going to do today?”

To ease the daunting task of determining the family’s daily goings-on, I’ve compiled a list of activities that are kid-friendly, wallet-friendly and maybe even educational.

Let’s start with outdoor activities: At least once a week, you can find my family exploring the Nor-Bath Trail. Tucked away in East Allen Township, this trail is part of the Pennsylvania Rails to Trails program, which transformed the abandoned railroad tracks once used by the Atlas Cement Company in Northampton. Parking for the trail is located at the North and South sides of Savage Road in Northampton between Route 329/Nor-Bath Boulevard and Willowbrook Road. Open year-round from sunrise to sunset, the well-maintained path is ideal for younger and more mature feet alike as well as strollers and bikes. So pack a lunch, lace up your sneakers and head over. (Note that dogs are not allowed on the trail, so you’ll have to leave the pooch at home.)

The Savage Road entrance is located on the north side. So as your family heads south, you’ll venture through shaded shale formations and open-air farmland, and over creeks and streams. You may even be greeted by some wildlife along the way. The trail is also accessible from Bicentennial Park off Airport Road in East Allen Township, as well as Jacksonville Park, located on Jacksonville Road in East Allen Township. Your family can share a picnic lunch at both parks and enjoy the playgrounds and various sports fields.

The adventurous can also make their way to Jacobsburg State Park, located in Nazareth, with more than 18 miles of scenic trails for leisurely walking, hiking and biking for family members (and dogs) of all ages and abilities. Visit and select Jacobsburg Park, download the park map, and let the kids plan their own outing. Picnic areas are located throughout the park. The Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center offers a plethora of educational programs for everyone—preschoolers through adults. Check out the website for a list of scheduled programs and events at Jacobsburg and other nearby state parks.

For a full day’s worth of excitement, head west on Route 78 to Crystal Cave Park. Located near Kutztown, Crystal Cave has been an attraction for people of all ages since its Grand Illumination on May 21, 1872.

Visitors can explore the natural formations while venturing 125 feet underground during a 45-minute guided cave tour. Worried about the trek? Don’t fret—a concrete walkway with handrails spans the entire cavern. Remember to bring a sweatshirt, as the cave is a constant 54 degrees. Cost for the tour is $10.00 for adults $7.50 for children ages 4-11 and free for children under three. For more information and hours of operation, visit

If you’re searching for ways to entertain your preschooler, visit the Moravian Book Shop at 428 Main Street in downtown Bethlehem. Every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., children ages two through four are welcome to join the Book and Cookie Club hosted by Jane Clugston, children’s book buyer. Nestled in the back of the children’s book section, your toddler will get to know new characters, and meet new friends each week.

The Book and Cookie Club does not require reservations and is open to regular attendees and newcomers alike. At their first visit, children are given a “cookie” with their name on it and color in a new “chip” with each attendance. Members who fill up all of their chips receive a certificate, a free cookie and 20% percent of one children’s book.

The Book and Cookie Club meets year-round. For more information, visit

Growing up in the Lehigh Valley, some of the summertime activities I most enjoyed were local theatre performances. Now I have the opportunity to share the same experience with my children, one of which is the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival at DeSales University in Center Valley.

“Shakespeare for Kids” runs July 28-August 7. Designed for children ages 4-10, this production brings to life the playwright’s unforgettable characters and language in a new way that the audience will love. The one-hour performances begin at 10 a.m. Tickets are $9.00.

With sets designed by Bob Phillips of “Sesame Street,” the festival’s adaptation of “Robin Hood” promises to entertain the whole family. Performances begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday with 2 p.m. performances on Tuesday and Thursday. Tickets are $15.00 for adults ages 13 and up and $11.00 for children ages 3-12.

To learn more or to reserve tickets, visit

More of a movie buff? The Valley offers various chances to grab free flicks with your family. Every Tuesday and Wednesday through August 11, Regal Cinemas – Northampton Cinema 14, located on Route 248 in Lower Nazareth, presents the Free Family Film Festival. Since 1991, Regal Cinemas throughout the country hold free viewings of “G”- and “PG”-rated films. Movies begin at 10 a.m. and tickets are available at the box office on the day of the show. For movie listings, contact the Regal Cinemas – Northampton Cinema 14 at 610-559-8200, or visit

For a unique outdoor movie-going experience, grab some lawn chairs or a blanket and head down to the park for some fresh air and an evening film this summer. This year marks the third season for the Bethlehem North by Northwest Movies, Games and More program. North by Northwest is a state-run organization devoted to the upkeep and improvement of areas surrounding downtowns through various initiatives including park improvements and residential façade restoration programs. Movies, Games and More presents free movie nights in Bethlehem parks.

Movie nights planned for 2010 include “Ocean’s 11” on July 22 at the Sun Inn Courtyard (Main Street, Bethlehem), “9” on July 24 at the Rose Garden (Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard), “Son of Rambo” on August 7 at Friendship Park (East North and Penn Streets), “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” on August 14 at Fairview Park (Fourth Avenue and West Market Street) and “Coraline” on August 21 at the Rose Garden.

Themed activities begin around 6:30 p.m. and the movies begin at sundown. For a full event listing and to learn more about Bethlehem North by Northwest, visit their interactive websites at and

Miss your children running to you after school and proudly presenting their latest work of art? Why not let them put their latest masterpieces on display this summer? At the Allentown Art Museum Artways Interactive Family Gallery, families are welcome to do just that. Located on the second floor of the museum, the Artways gallery is transformed to match the theme of the current exhibition.

Whether you’re searching for a way to spend a rainy day or just trying to break the same old routine, the Lehigh Valley offers an array of summertime activities that promise to entertain without breaking the bank.

This summer, through September 5, the gallery is featuring “‘Sew’ Beyond Tradition” during the summer 2010 exhibition of the museum’s collection of quilts from around the world. After visiting the exhibition, kids and parents can try their hand at the craft in the quilter’s workshop and learn the basics of color, line, shape, texture and pattern.

Artways is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is included in the fee for the special exhibition.

The museum’s Artventures program is another venue where young creatives can refine their skills. The program is locoated in the Crayola Learning Center, where every Sunday afternoon staff educators and trained volunteers work with families to create works of art to the tune of the monthly themes. Themes for this summer include “Pressed,” “Hot Colors” and “In the Moment.” In addition to the week’s project, families are encouraged to explore the museum and discuss the artwork with activity sheets focused on specific pieces within the collection. Furthermore, a variety of supplies is always on hand if kids just want to do their own thing.

Artventures is open to the public every Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. No reservations are required. For more information on the above programs, visit

Another unique museum experience awaits you within Historic Bethlehem’s Kemmerer Museum at 427 North New Street. Through August 31, the Kemmerer Museum is presenting “Where the Animals Live,” a special exhibit of the world-renowned Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collection. A child-friendly venue, “Where the Animals Live” features the miniature animals from the Johnston collection in their safari and zoo habitats. Visitors are urged to hunt for the animals within the museum, after which they can create their own artwork to exhibit.

The Kemmerer Museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. Admission is free for all. For more information, visit

Night owls? Take some time this summer to visit one of the many scheduled activities in Easton’s center square. On the last Friday of every month this summer from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., the Easton Main Street Initiative presents “Live in the Square,” a free open-air concert series. Or families can put on their Friday night dancing shoes and head to the Third Street Alliance (41 North Third Street, Easton) for Dancing on the Thirds. For $10 per person, family members of all ages get a one-hour dance lesson and two hours of open dancing. This summer, Dancing on the Thirds is scheduled for July 30, August 20 and September 17 from 8 to 11 p.m. For more information about these and other events this summer, including Lebanese Heritage Days and the Riverside Festival of the Arts, visit

This summer, whether you’re searching for a way to spend a rainy day or just trying to break the same old routine, the Lehigh Valley offers an array of summertime activities that promise to entertain without breaking the bank.

Katie Brown was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley and loves uncovering new and creative ways to share it with her two sons.

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