It took great restraint to not title this post, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” and I’m proud of myself for showing that restraint.
So, this past weekend, I spent just a little bit of time in Bethlehem, PA, which, if you aren’t familiar, is located in the Lehigh Valley just off both 22, and 78, between Allentown, and Easton.
I’ve always heard good things about Bethlehem, and really it’s criminal how little I’ve explored the entire Lehigh Valley, but never given it a ton of thought. I’d heard much more about the breweries and distillery in Easton, and have driven through there a few times on my way to NY, so that’s been more on my map. And Allentown is well-known to anyone on the eastern side of Pennsylvania for Dorney Park, and what was once the best rest stop on the Turnpike. I knew Bethlehem purported to be a sort of quaint town, a one time bastion of steel making, who like Pittsburgh, had recently revived itself and had entered a sort of renaissance.
I was in Bethlehem on Sunday night in order to attend a Dashboard Confessional concert with my sister. She recently graduated with her Nurse Practitioner degree, and that was my gift to her. It’s not like we’re hardcore fans or anything, but we both are fans of playing “Hands Down” and “Screaming Infidelities” on any bar jukebox we could find. I thought it’d be a fun, low key thing to brother-sister bonding experience for two people who peaked in the late 2000’s.
We stayed at the Hyatt in downtown Bethlehem, and while I often don’t mention my places of lodging, I’m going to give this one a shout out. It was quite reasonably priced, and not because it was the only option. There were actually plenty of places to stay in the area. I was amazed by how nice this place was for the price. The rooms were huge, the pool looked exceptionally clean, and breakfast and parking are included. Additionally, it was a short walk to Bethlehem’s main street, which is where we headed to eat after checking in.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, as again, I was aware that Bethlehem was supposed to be a nice town to hang out in, but I know I wasn’t expecting it to be as busy as it was on a Sunday night. I’m sure the fact that it was a gorgeous day helped, but almost every restaurant on main street had outdoor seating, and almost everyone was full. We ate at Tapas on Main, a Spanish tapas style restaurant, which was excellent. We split a chacuterie board, which by chacuterie board standards was enormous. I had crab croquettes and scallops, while my sister had chorizo meatballs and calamari. Everything was excellent, and now I’m wishing Scranton had something tapas-styled nearby. I did not try their sangria flights, which I’m kind of regretting, only because I don’t have a ton of experience with sangria, but my sister claimed it made her sleepy, and so I just went with Fat Tire. I also don’t necessarily regret anything I had, but do wish that in addition to my other choices, I also got their paella. I saw them carry it out to a nearby table, and it looked and smelled amazing.
We wanted to get one more drink downtown before the concert once we finished. So the true story is I actually wanted to find somewhere to charge my phone for a half hour, because if you can’t snapchat Dashboard Confessional singing “Hands Down,” was it really worth it? My sister agreed that the answer was no, and had no problem with this plan. We went to the Sun Inn, a historic inn, who first opened in 1760, and hosted a number of recognizable historical figures during its tenure, mainly during Colonial times. The inn has a bar, restaurant, museum, as well as a small distillery. Another regret I had, was not trying their “colonial inspired” ciders. I wanted to keep the drinking light that night, and they were heavy. Bethlehem has quite an interesting history, including a few other museums and historical places of interest to visit.
We then headed to the concert at the Sands Casino, and retired to our hotel after. It was just a small sampling of the town, a tapas-style visit, if you will, but I’d really like to go back to Bethlehem. Both the Social Still, and Book Store Speakeasy look like they have great food, and fun environments. We walked past the Red Stag Pub, which looked fun, so I looked it up retrospectively and found it had a solid looking menu, and got good reviews for seeming more authentic then the typical Irish pub. During that internet dive of Bethlehem’s downtown, I found the Wooden Match, a cigar and burger bar in an old train station. That is right up my alley.
And speaking of refurbished old buildings, the Steel Stacks complex dominates Bethlehem’s skyline. This old remnant of the city’s past now holds concerts, outdoor movies, dinners, tastings, etc., and its many events would be a perfect excuse to see everything the “Christmas City” has to offer.