For nearly 300 years, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has been a holiday staple. From street decor to community events, the Christmas City is worth the trip. Here’s how to make the most of the holidays in Lehigh Valley:
November 22-December 22 (select dates)
Daily admission $10 adults, $6 kids 6-12, free kids 5 and under
Get a taste of Germany at this Euro-inspired outdoor market filled with tasty treats, holiday ornaments and handmade gifts from more than 150 artisans. The market was started in 1993 by ArtsQuest and quickly became one of the top holiday attractions in the northeast (it even made Travel + Leisure Magazine’s list of Top Holiday Markets in the World in 2007). Shop artisan-made goods to the tune of festive Christmas music. The event features Germany’s Käthe Wohlfahrt, famous for authentic German ornaments, nutcrackers, smokers and more. Hang in the courtyard to watch ice carving, wow the kids with the Hot Glass Experience to see molten glass transform into uniquely stunning ornaments and more. New this year are artisan huts, fire pits and igloos in the Outdoor Village. Don’t forget to visit St. Nicholas with the little ones, or go to a Santa breakfast on November 30 or December 7 and 14.
November 26-December 31 (select dates)
Price varies by ride
Picture your crew cruising through downtown from the back of a horse-drawn carriage. Take in lights, landmarks and history from the white Vis-a-Vis Carriage or the Cinderella Carriage (it’ll be all decked out for the holidays!). Mix it up with the new Christmas Carriage Rides, which will take you out in a sleigh instead of a classic carriage. If you have princess-obsessed little ones, get tix to a princess character ride where Belle will join in on the fun and entertain your crew. Reserve your seat online.
This spot has been a town staple since the 1700s so there’s no shortage of history and stories (read up on the three resident ghosts). The hotel gets dressed to the nines for the holidays from decor to seasonal cocktails and special events. Think more than 35K lights, a bunch of decked-out trees, towering toy soldiers and more. Sign up for a magical Christmas tour, or splurge on one of three Christmas packages. The Musical Sunday Brunch is a can’t-miss (and it’s family-friendly!) and is rated one of the top 100 in the US by Open Table, so you’ll want to make your reservations early.
How will your bookworms feel being in the oldest bookstore in the country? The spot was founded in 1745, so it boasts tons of Bethlehem history. You can shop everything from Moravian vinyl stars, Bethlehem Star ornaments, Moravian cookies, beeswax candles and, of course, plenty of books and CDs. Head there on December 7-8 to meet Santa Claus. Pets and long wish lists welcome.
November 29-December 30 (select dates)
Adults $18.50, kids $12
The kids will feel like they’ve hopped a ride on Santa’s sleigh. Take in all the stunning lights and holiday decor in town on a tour led by a certified guide in period dress. The highlight of the tour is arguably the famous Star of Bethlehem, located atop South Mountain. Learn all about early and modern holiday traditions of the region and more historic info. Get your tix in advance online.
Prices vary based on activity
Looking for a special way to ring in the New Year? Bethlehem is gearing up for its 11th Annual PEEPS Chick Drop. A giant marshmallow chick will be illuminated and dropped just like the ball in Times Square to celebrate 2020. The chick weighs a whopping 400 pounds and is 4’9″ in height. Take the little ones: The chick drops at 5:15 pm, so they won’t have to stay up late. Go up a day early to get in on PEEPSFEST fun like a 5K, a Family Disco Lounge, inflatables, experiments at the DaVinci Science Center and more.
If you’re open to exploring the rest of Lehigh Valley, check out the following attractions:
November 15-December 29 (Wednesday-Sunday)
Adults $13-15, kids ages 2-11 $8-10 (discounts for zoo members)
This is the zoo’s biggest fundraiser of the year and works to help animal conservation. More than 1.2 million lights will dazzle your little sugar plum fairies. There’s also a Toy Story-themed section, mascots including Santa, Olaf, The Grinch and Radley the Sea Turtle and live princess appearances on select dates. Keep an eye out for Santa photos, safari-themed light displays and light tunnels. Look online to find out which nights you can meet Elsa or Belle and see them perform.
Lighting on Nov. 30
Visit through December 25
The annual Peace Candle Lighting is a huge deal in Easton. The event boasts live music, carriage rides, ice carvers, strolling street performances and tons more, all to celebrate the glowing up of the largest non-wax Christmas candle in the US (people bid to be The Official Illuminator every year). Once it’s lit, the public can visit the enormous structure in Center Square, then check out nearby attractions like the Easton Farmers Market or Crayola Experience.
November 29-December 29
$12/adults, free/kids under 12
Mini conductors will feel the holiday cheer while watching tons of model trains zip through the museum’s galleries. On select dates, there are additional holiday happenings scheduled at the museum, like Ice Cream with Santa in the 1950s Hubcap Cafe on Dec. 12, Carols, Candy & Music with The Swing Time Dolls on the 22nd and a DIY Marshmallow Snow Buddies craft on Dec. 27. Bring a new unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots when you visit.
Nightly from Thanksgiving-January 1
$12/adults, $10/kids ages 4-10, free/kids 3 and under
This family-owned attraction is celebrating 72 years of Christmas magic tucked away in the dark countryside. This dreamy holiday fantasy lights up the valley at the end of a country road with more than one million bulbs. The seasonal hotspot also has gift barns, a tranquil lake that reflects the Christmas splendor lit up ashore and festive building displays. Don’t miss indoor and outdoor train displays and pics with the the jolly guy himself.
For more information about Lehigh Valley, visit discoverlehighvalley.com.
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