Travel to Bethlehem (PA - USA) with Shari

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hello Fenny’s Darling Readers... My name is Shari, and I usually live at Exploring the Wonders of Life. Fenny asked me to do a guest post for one of her Travel Posts, and I was honored and thrilled to do it. I hope you’ll enjoy my post about the little town of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, in the US, not in the Middle East!) that I’ve only just gotten to know, having moved here from California a year ago in July. I’d first like to tell you a little bit about this town...

Bethlehem has a lot of history! It was founded by Moravians from Germany, who built most of the oldest buildings in town. It has the world’s oldest continually running bookstore: The Moravian Bookshop, which has been in operation since 1745! It sits in the same location, in the same buildings that were built over 250 years ago! There is also an historic hotel, the Hotel Bethlehem, which started out as the Eagle Hotel. This hotel was built in 1794, and legend has it that our first president, George Washington, stayed here. It was in operation until 1919. Then in 1922, Charles Schwaab, a Bethlehem Steel Magnate, decided that the town needed a more lavish and elegant hotel, and thus the current Hotel Bethlehem was built. (Some say that this hotel is haunted, but I have never stayed there, since I live right in town.)

If you came to Bethlehem for a visit, you may want to stay here at
Hotel Bethlehem, or you might decide that a little Bed & Breakfast is more your style. In that case, you may want to stay at Morningstar Inn. It’s a short walk downtown from here. It’s in a lovely little hundred year old building, that the owners restored and share with traveling guests. (They even have a swimming pool!)

Above you’ll see the Sister’s House. Originally built in 1744, it was the Brother’s house until 1748. Unmarried sisters did arts and crafts here! Bethlehem has a very long history of art patronage. It’s one of the reasons why I love it here! Below the two photos of the Sister’s House, on the left is the Bell House. Built in 1745, it became the Girls’ School in 1749. The bell up top was cast in Bethlehem, and is still used to this day. I’ve heard it ringing many times! It sounds very beautiful. The photo on the lower left is Horsfield House, the first store in Bethlehem. It was built in 1749, and is now a private residence.

Some of my favorite buildings are private homes, however. They tend to their gardens carefully, and it shows. All these homes are in my neighborhood. I walk around a lot, and just pretend that I live in one of these lovely old homes. Aren’t they gracious and sweet? All the architecture is different... some homes are stone, some brick, others wood with stained glass windows. They all make me feel like I live in an older, more stately time. If you are like me, you’d enjoy walking around this historic area, just looking at the beautiful old homes and their gardens. In the fall, they have a Secret Garden Tour... you are guided by a map, and get to see the inner courtyard gardens of many of the old mansions!

Not only are there gardens at the old homes and historic buildings, they are all around town. The public library has a lot of beauty surrounding it. Gardens, sculptures and lovely trees curve around the library.

There’s a Japanese tea garden that was donated by Japan. There’s a lovely unicorn sculpture at the end of the flower garden. There’s a large modern sculpture out front of the library, where you can also view the Bethlehem Star in the distance, as well as South Side Bethlehem.

There are many festivals that are held in Bethlehem. Earlier in the year, we had the Chili Festival! Many restaurants competed with their special chilis, which people got to taste and then score on a score card. All the ones we tasted were so different! It was all delicious, though!
This month (August) had the Musikfest. Many bands come to play, and people can see them and listen to them for free! There’s food, drinks, arts and crafts vendors, and many other things going on during Musikfest.... something for everyone!

Under the Polka Tent, listening to Motown music

If the free bands aren’t what you’re looking for, then you can also buy tickets to see big groups play, like Maroon 5, Train, or Steve Miller Band...

Steve Miller Band, played at Steel Stacks

I saw Steve Miller Band, and had a wonderful time! There’s nothing quite like listening to music outdoors, in the summertime! One of the things I love about Bethlehem is how they took the old abandoned steel mills and used them for music shows, farmer's markets (every Tuesday afternoon) and other artistic uses. I think that's really cool.

Now, I’ve only told you about things that happen in historic Bethlehem, where I live. One of the best parts of living in Bethlehem, PA, or anywhere in this part of the US is diversity of the seasons...

Spring brings rain, but also blossoms on the trees... (below)

Summer becomes hot, but is also a time for flowers to bloom in gardens... (below)

Fall changes the summer green of leaves to yellow, orange, red and purple... (below)

And winter is a white wonderland, dotted by red cardinals that stand out in the trees... (below)

As a person from California, I have to tell you that I wasn’t used to all these seasons! We don’t have weather like they have in the eastern U.S. I’ve had to adjust! However, each season has it’s beauty and it’s trials. You can probably imagine that you get a little stir-crazy in the middle of winter.

However, there are distractions from the weather, too! Right downtown, there are lots of cute little shops... like the Chocolate Lab, where they make handmade chocolates! And there’s a bakery called Vegan Treats that serves up delicious and rich cupcakes, bombs, cookies and cakes!

There are also many shops that sell arts and crafts made by local artists... downtown, one of them is Artsy Diva... lots of local artists and crafts people sell their work there.

On the South Side, you can check out New Vox Gallery, where they sell lots of cool art, as well as hand crafts like my own handmade books!

New Vox Gallery, South Side Bethlehem
There are also a lot of delicious restaurants and cafes to go to if you’re hungry or just thirsty... you can swing by Re-Wired (used to be Wired Cafe) for a yummy latte, or delicious Kenyan food in the Alando Cafe that sits at the back of it...

Latte at Alando's
Or maybe you just want a quick bite and an ice cream cone! This is where I go when I need some nice cold sweetness: The Chilly Dog. They even have some cute picnic tables outside, where you can sit and finish your ice cream! The kids have their own little table!

There are many lovely places to go for dinner... my favorite is a spot called Apollo Grill. Here they have fresh oysters on the half shell, served with wasabi creme fraiche, a shallot mignonette, and a horseradish cocktail sauce. So delicious! A place I like to go to for breakfast is either Billy’s Downtown Diner, where you can get yummy American diner food. I also like Jumbar’s, which has a southern slant to the menu... both have delicious food!

Maybe you just want to go shopping for antiques? You could find some very cool things at some of the nearby antique stores. Some are just second-hand stores where you could stumble upon unexpected treasures, but others have some truly old and interesting things...

If you want to learn about the excitement of the Great American Pastime: Baseball... then you could check out one of the Double A teams, Iron Pigs, who are part of the Philadelphia Phillies’ ball club. It’s fun to go out in the summer, buy a beer and a pretzel, or a bag of fresh roasted peanuts, and cheer for your team! “Go Pigs! Go!”

One of my favorite things to do, though, is to go for walks and hikes. There are lots of places to go that are nearby... and boy are they amazing! You can see all kinds of mushrooms and fungi, waterfalls, bubbling creeks, ponds with frogs and turtles, and the occasional otter!

Above are photos from a recent hike I took through the nearby mountain range called the Kittatinny Ridge. There were many lovely mushrooms (not for eating!) and moss all around. It was a place where faeries would want to live, and probably do! If you'd like to see more, you can check out this blog post I did, or this one.

Above are photos from a very local trail that I can walk to from my apartment! We found lots of turtles basking in the sun, perched on logs and rocks. Dragonflies zip across the top of the water, catching little bugs in their mouths. In the spring and summer, this place is gorgeous! I haven’t seen it in the fall, yet, but if you stop by my blog over the next couple months, I’ll be posting some fall photos to share!

As you can see, any time of the year that you visit Bethlehem, there would be a lot of beauty around you. The people are very friendly, there are lots of art galleries and shops, always something good to eat, and lots to be inspired by! I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding areas.

I hope you're having a Fabulous day!

Love, Shari &...


  1. Oh, Shari, Bethlehem looks so fantastic! I'm loving the history of it all - the oldest bookstore in town? Mind-blowing!

    Thanks for taking us on a tour!

  2. Dearest sweet shari and penny, Bethlehem is absolute beautiful in all season of the year!! There's so many interesting shops and places to explore. Thank YOU so much for sharing and i always enjoy visiting new places. Have a lovely merry happy weekend to the both of you sweet ladies! Love to you and yours.


  3. I'm so glad that you all enjoyed the "trip" to Bethlehem!

    Actually, Moravian Bookstore is the oldest running bookstore in the States! It's been a bookstore for over 200 years! Crazy, right?

    Thanks to Fenny for being such a gracious host! xox

  4. What a beautiful town. Thanks for sharing Shari! I never would have known otherwise! :) xo

  5. Hi Shari and Fenny! I just happened to end up at this very nice blog and this "trip" to Betlehem in US :) Fantasticly beautiful town, I say as Shannon above, never would have known otherwise. I live in Stockholm, Sweden which is a wonderful city.
    Thank you! Love, Monika Bergman.