20 Best Things to Do in Bethlehem, PA

Bethlehem, PA
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A city made famous for its history and industries, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is a city that is often overlooked when it comes to booking a holiday destination.

But did you know how big of a role it played in the American Industrial Revolution?

Bethlehem is one of Pennsylvania's hidden gems located in the Lehigh Valley.

With an abundance of fascinating museums, the city also happens to be the perfect place for a vacation.

Here are the best things to do in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:

Book Yourself a Historic Trip

Street view of Bethlehem PA, Downtown
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Bethlehem is a city of history.

There is no shortage of historical attractions in Bethlehem.

You could turn a corner and see something that used to be highly significant.

In such a case, it might be difficult for you to grab a map and visit every place that reeks of history.

This being said, it would be helpful to book one of the historical trips in Bethlehem.

Historic Bethlehem Tours is one of the city's best tour operators.

You can even take part in a walking tour, where you'll explore Bethlehem on foot while the guides show you all the good spots and tell you stories.

They even plan different kinds of tours for different seasons.

The winter ones are the best!

Pay a Visit to the National Museum of Industrial History

Entry way to National Museum of Industrial History
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Steel was one of the biggest industries in Bethlehem.

There were also silk industries that made generous contributions to the economy.

The propane industry was also quite well-renowned.

Display at National Museum of Industrial History
Ryandutcher, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Museum of Industrial History has preserved the once-upon-a-time industrially rich Bethlehem.

It tells the tales of a time when all these industries ruled the city.

It also shows how Bethlehem came up with some of the best engines.

The National Museum of Industrial History is a must-visit to see how grand Bethlehem was back in the day.

Plan a Morning at the Historical Burnside Plantation

Colorful flowers and lush green plants at Burnside Plantation
Shuvaev, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Burnside Plantation is one of the top tourist spots in Bethlehem.

It attracts a lot of people because of its interesting past.

A husband and wife, James and Mary Burnside, first purchased it in 1748.

They lived in the farmhouse on the property.

Front view of Burnside Plantation
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The 6.5-acre plantation has been a farm since the couple first moved in, bearing witness to almost 400 years' worth of history.

On the plantation, there are extremely rare horse-powered wheels that used to be the only ones of their kind back.

Tourists are welcome to check them out.

Orchard at Burnside Plantation
Shuvaev, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can book one of the Open Gate Farm Tours and get a good look around.

Choose a sunny day, come over, and learn about some of the best stories in history.

Go to the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

When you are in Bethlehem, you will come across some quirky attractions that draw a lot of people.

The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts is one of them.

It's made up of three 19th-century houses.

Did you know the whole country has only 15 of these?

This is one of the reasons it frequently gets so crowded.

The exhibited furniture, dinnerware, clothing, and works of art display how different things used to be back in the old days.

In the museum, there are rotating galleries, as well as a garden designed by award-winning designer Scott Rothenberger.

Do check them out while you're here.

Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas market in Bethlehem, PA
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Without a doubt, the best time to visit Bethlehem is during Christmas.

Bethlehem gets in the holiday spirit way before other cities do.

Christmas tree in Bethlehem
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Nicknamed the Christmas City, it gets decorated on another level during the epic holidays.

Tourists look forward to Christmas to plan their best holiday trips here.

Christmas gifts or souvenir shops in Bethlehem
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Do you want to look for some gifts?

All the shops in Bethlehem get ready with some of the best Christmas gift-worthy items a month before the holiday.

The entire downtown gets all lit up in Christmas lights.

You’ll have yourself a jolly good time here!

Go Back in Time at the Hoover-Mason Trestle

Rusted machinery at Hoover Mason Trestle
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You might have heard about the legendary Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which happened to be one of the biggest companies in Bethlehem.

During the time of industrialization, the Hoover-Mason Trestle played an important role.

It is a vast park that stands almost 1650 feet high.

Railway track at Hoover-Mason Trestle
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Trains used to pass through this trestle, and it was the helping hand in bringing raw materials to the industries.

Hoover Mason Trestle was one of the critical factors in Bethlehem's industrial development.

Tourists looking at the old industrial equipments at Hoover-Mason Trestle
Matt Smith Photographer / Shutterstock.com

The National Museum of Industrial History is built here.

People usually come here to walk through this historic passageway and look at the museum.

Vacation Like a Celebrity at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Exterior of Hotel Bethlehem
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Everyone knows about the Historic Hotel Bethlehem—but did you know how many famous people have stayed here?

The Historic Hotel Bethlehem has seen some of the best guests over the years: American Presidents, the great Winston Churchill, and even the Dalai Lama.

Entrance of Hotel Bethlehem
Discover Lehigh Valley, PA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, how would you feel if you could spend a night in a hotel where these famous people have stayed?

Yes, Historic Hotel Bethlehem lets commoners book a room, too!

The hotel also has one of the very best locations downtown.

Check Out the Historic Landmark of the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem

The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem is not just a single building.

It has a lot of 18th-century buildings under its wing.

You need to book a trip to this site—there are a lot of houses with historical significance here.

To fully appreciate this museum, you need to get into the details and listen to all the stories, so joining a guided tour would be helpful.

The most famous building around here has to be Gemienhaus.

It can also be called the oldest of the lot, for it was constructed in 1741.

This home has five floors, and herein lies the actual museum.

The town was founded by the Moravians.

Learn More about Industrial Bethlehem at the Colonial Industrial Quarter

Huge building in Colonial Industrial Quarter
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If you want to take a closer look at how the industries looked back in the day, the Colonial Industrial Quarter is a great place to visit within the landmark district.

The building’s location beside Monocacy Creek holds some importance as well.

River passing near Colonial Industrial Quarter
Bestbudbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was built here mainly so that they could quickly churn in power.

Monocacy Creek used to give power to all the industries for this reason.

There was a tannery, several blacksmith industries, sawmills, and even soap mills.

Enjoy a Delicious Meal at Billy’s Downtown Diner

If you are looking for quaint restaurants to try out, head to Billy’s Downtown Diner.

This place gives off that old diner vibe.

Tourists love its ambiance and come here several times during their trips.

The breakfast menu has a lot of delicious dishes for you to choose from.

Their pancakes are among their bestsellers.

The restaurant is also working on adding some new and quirky items to its menu.

You could even drop in for a cup of coffee here.

The milkshakes are worth a try, too.

Treat Yourself to Some Beers at Fegley’s Brew Works

Locals and tourists frequent Fegley’s Brew Works at all hours.

The microbrewery has branches and shops all over Bethlehem and neighboring towns and cities.

You can get a lot of food to go along with your beers.

They say that Fegley’s Brew Works makes a killer classic burger.

The fish and chips deserve a special mention here, too—the locals put it on their must-try list.

Most people like to devour their beer with nachos.

Fegley's Brew Works makes some of the best cocktails, too.

Learn More about Canals at the National Canal Museum

The National Canal Museum is located in Easton, a city east of Bethlehem.

Canals played an essential role in shaping the industries and development in the old days.

Though you won’t find a lot of functional canals nowadays, they were once the biggest sources of connectivity.

The National Canal Museum talks about the different canals that were in the area.

The Lehigh Canal is located nearby, and the museum also shows you more about the canal by providing boat rides.

Treat Yourself to Delicious Ice Cream

Is your sweet tooth craving for some of the best ice cream in Bethlehem?

Nuts About Ice Cream is a famous ice cream parlor in the city.

All their ice cream is homemade.

The shop has been here for generations, and truly they know what they are doing.

They also sell flavored yogurt.

Explore Different Exhibits and Performances at Banana Factory Arts and Education Center

Exterior view of Banana Factory Arts and Education Center
BrettLewis88, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

An arts and education center was built in 1998, providing studio, classroom, and gallery space for various area arts groups.

It was housed in an old banana distribution warehouse when it was built.

Many groups in the arts share six distinct buildings.

It houses the ArtsQuests visual arts curriculum, three galleries, 30 artist studios, and several classrooms.

A performing arts school for pupils aged 6 to 18 is situated in this neighborhood.

Every year, the artists host a gallery display and free First Friday activities for the public to appreciate their work and meet the artists in person for the first time.

Catch a Concert at SteelStacks

Concert performance at SteelStacks
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Located on a 10-acre complex, SteelStacks is a cultural hub with indoor and outdoor events.

Bethlehem Steel's old manufacturing site has been transformed into a community center for the arts, culture, entertainment, and education.

Exterior of SteelStacks
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More than 1,000 concerts, many yearly festivals, and a wide range of private and public activities take place here.

After Bethlehem Steel's long-gone "stacks," it's called five massive blast furnaces.

In SteelStacks, you can see how a once-dormant industrial site can be converted into a bustling and visually stunning neighborhood component.

Try Your Luck at Wind Creek Bethlehem

The Wind Creek Bethlehem is one of the top locations in Bethlehem if you want to gamble.

It's often referred to as the state's premier resort and casino.

You'll find everything from penny slots to a 26-table poker room when you visit Wind Creek.

In addition, it has a retail mall, restaurants, and bars where people may go out to eat and drink.

Wind Creek in Bethlehem is a haven for thrill-seekers, gastronomes, shopping addicts, audiophiles, and drinkers alike, whether you're seeking a luxurious stay or just something to do in Bethlehem tonight.

Bring Your Kids to Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum

Traveling with kids who love trains?

Visit Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania's Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum.

It has a model train layout depicting the Reading, CJ, and Lehigh Valley Railroads' former lines through the region.

In addition to the Huber Coal Breaker, the model railroad shows the Phillipsburg, Easton, Bethlehem Steel, and Allentown Freight Yard regions.

From photographs taken in the 1960s and 1970s, several of the buildings of the Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum have been reconstructed.

Try the Wines Made by Black River Farms

Over a dozen grape varietals are grown by Kris and Andy Warner, the owners of Black River Farms, an urban winery and vineyard located on the outskirts of Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Some of the white wines produced in this region are Vidal Blanc, Seyval, Traminette, La Crosse, Chardonnay, Kerner, and Cayuga.

Wines made from Sangiovese and Lemberger to Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin are available at Black River Farms' winery.

There are also a variety of red and white combinations.

In the tasting room, visitors may make reservations, and the personnel is known for being polite, knowledgeable, and helpful.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Know More about the Transportation Aspect at America on Wheels

Miniature railway set up at America on Wheels
Klaus Nahr from Germany, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

America on Wheels is a rather interesting museum to check out.

The only drawback is that it is not in Bethlehem.

It's located in Allenton, a small city west of Bethlehem.

Wish to know how transportation used to be back in the day?

Know the entire system of Bethlehem and its surrounding towns right in this museum.

Lehigh Valley was quite modern when it came to the motor industry.

It saw cars way ahead of others.

Henry Nadig made a car in 1889 that was powered by gas.

It is also said this car was among the first of its kind.

Go Scuba Diving at Dutch Springs

Are you looking forward to having some fun in the water?

Dutch Springs is one of the rare locations just outside of Bethlehem with immense natural beauty.

It's an excellent place to enjoy during the summer.

Want to go scuba diving during your trip?

Dutch Springs offers those services, too.

It's actually known as Pennyslvania's scuba diving mecca.

Final Thoughts

The Christmas City provides something for everyone, whether you want to immerse yourself in history, entertainment, or gastronomy.

From modern eateries to a 275-year-old bookshop, a sparkling casino to the first institution in America to teach women, you'll keep coming back for more!