10 Reasons to Drive to the Lehigh Valley

By Danya Henninger  |  March 5, 2014

Just over an hour northwest of Philadelphia lies the fastest-growing region in Pennsylvania. Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton form the core of what’s known as the Lehigh Valley, and make it the third most populous metro area in the state. Building on the rich history of Amish and farming tradition, the recent boom has brought more restaurants, breweries, entertainment and general fun to the area. Here are 10 reasons to plan your visit.

  • Fegley’s Brew Works

    With the 1998 launch of the Bethlehem brewpub and the 2005 expansion to another location in Allentown, the Fegleys family played an integral role in the revitalization of the region. Operating on 100% renewable energy sources, the two huge dining rooms serve GABF-medal-winning beers brewed on-site. Food menus are wide-ranging, from hummus to pierogi, quesadillas, and pizza for lunch and dinner. The common thread? All go great with a brew.

    Allentown Brew Works, 812 W. Hamilton St., Allentown; 610-433-7777
    Bethlehem Brew Works, 569 Main St., Bethlehem; 610-882-1300

  • Bolete

    Life partners Erin Shea and chef Lee Chizmar chose the Latin word for “wild mushrooms” as the name for their farm-sourced New American, and there’s even a pickled mushroom martini on the drink list. The chef’s tasting ($75 for six courses; $125 with wine pairings) is a great way to get a taste of the best of the menu, which focuses on sustainably-raised fish and meat and local vegetables. This is city-level dining-out in Bethlehem.

    1740 Seidersville Rd., Bethlehem; 610-868-6505

  • Musikfest Cafe at ArtsQuest

    Instead of letting the huge steel plant at the center of Bethlehem rot away after it closed down, the town turned it into the SteelStacks, an entertainment complex that hosts huge music festivals and concerts and is also home to several dining venues. One of these is this cabaret theater with tables surrounding a stage, so you can enjoy dinner and then sit in comfort with drinks as the show goes on. There are also standing-room shows, during which you can enjoy apps and drinks on the balcony level.

    101 Founders Wy., Bethlehem, PA; 610-332-1300

  • Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas

    Next door to the music stage is this independent cinema, with two screens showing both Hollywood and foreign flicks. Stop into the Mike & Ike Bistro before your movie and carry your beer, wine and cocktails to take with you into the theater.

    101 Founders Wy., Bethlehem, PA; 610-297-7100

  • Shangy’s: The Beer Authority

    Wowed by the beer selection at Bella Vista Beer or The Foodery? This Emmaus store is the state’s largest retail beer outlet, hosting more than 3,000 customers each week. “Beer heaven,” as it’s known, is open seven days a week, 9 AM-8 PM, giving you plenty of time to peruse over 4,000 different brews. Look for special events and tastings too.

    40 E. Main St., Emmaus; 610-967-1701

  • Tapas on Main

    At Juan Carlos Paredes and Rafael Palomino’s small-plates restaurant, you can get a taste of Spain in the middle of downtown Bethlehem. The menu boasts a huge assortment of small plates, meats, cheeses and flatbreads, most well-sized for sharing. Who says tapas is passé? Not these Colombia natives, and not the guests that fill the dining room. Be forewarned there is often a wait for a table (go for a seat at the bar instead).

    500 Main St., Bethlehem; 610-868-8903

  • Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market

    Think of it as an Appalachian Valley version of Reading Terminal Market. Under one roof, more than 65 independent merchants operate stands selling meats, produce, baked goods, candy, snacks, cheese, Amish pastries and more. Shoofly pie? This is where to go. The historic market is open Thursday-Saturday, morning through evening.

    Allentown Fairgrounds, 17th & Chew Sts., Allentown

  • Galen Glen Winery

    Around 45 minutes northwest of Allentown and Bethlehem is this family-run vineyard and winery. Tours and tastings are available Friday-Saturday now and Wednesday-Sunday during the spring and summer. There’s a $5 tasting fee that can be applied to your wine bottle purchase, and the on-site gourmet store offers local cheeses, salamis, fudge and crackers to make a perfect pairing picnic. (Groups of six or more should call for reservations.)

    255 Winter Mountain Dr., Andreas; 570-386-3682

  • Coca-Cola Park

    This 10,000-capacity Allentown baseball field is the home of the Phillies Triple-A affiliate team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. No outside food and drink is allowed, but the park has several concession stands offering gyros, cheesesteak fries, pierogi and the Three Little Pigs ham-pork-bacon sandwich. Games begin on April 1.

    1050 IronPigs Wy., Allentown

  • Two Rivers Brewing Co.

    Located in a 150-year-old former hotel in Easton, this pub launched in 2011. The on-site brewing half of the equation is still in the works - with a former Dogfish Head brewer at the helm - but the farm-to-table restaurant is well-stocked with 14 craft drafts from other local breweries. Dinner, lunch and brunch are all served, with comfort-food standouts like short-rib poutine, hog wings and shrimp ‘n’ grits. Bonus: 4-6 PM happy hour features free bacon.

    542 Northampton St., Easton; 610-829-1131