How hard can it be when just the two of you want to get away? No kids to pack for or consider…just stuff your essentials into a duffel bag and you’re off to reliving the passion of your first dates or honeymoon…right? Well maybe at first flush it seems that easy until you check into your hotel room and ultimately get down to deciding what to do. I’m assuming you were spontaneous enough not to bother with pre-trip research or formulating an itinerary. After all, it’s only the two of you with the sweet luxury of taking things as they come.
Well here are my ready-made Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania recommendations accommodating both male and female sensibilities …boutique shopping or an afternoon fishing…historic tours & wine tastings or microbrews & cigars alfresco…it’s all here!
Historic Bethlehem – You certainly don’t get the ambiance that Billy Joel really sang about in “Allentown” when strolling historic downtown Bethlehem. For that you have to drive across the Lehigh River where the once mighty Bethlehem Steel still stands. Although shuttered in 1995, its grounds now host Sands Casino Resort along with outlet retail shopping.The entire Industrial Revolution seems to have entirely bypassed Bethlehem’s Historic District heavily framed by brick and stone. The Moravian College campus anchors one end of Main Street while the decidedly more modern Hyatt Place Hotel which nicely blends into a residential neighborhood borders the other. For a quick escape via stairways and a pedestrian tunnel to an even earlier history lesson, Bethlehem’s Colonial Industrial Quarter is essentially an archaeological site in progress with a 1761 Tannery & Springhouse, 1869 Luckenbach Mill, and restored 1750 Smithy clustered around Monocacy Creek. Audio tours available from the Historical Society include a conversation with a working blacksmith and a visit to the 1762 Waterworks, a National Historic Landmark. This Waterworks served as the first municipally pumped water system in America.
Now that you’ve got your history lesson, keep in mind that Monocracy Creek is a fly fishing hot spot with plenty of quiet natural splendor for morning yoga or bird watching. A few moments and a couple stairs upward, tons of local specialty shops, the vaunted Moravian Bookstore, and my following Main Street favorites await exploration:
Bethlehem Brew Works – Grab a cafe table out front on the brick-lined sidewalk and quaff some local brews like a Blueberry Belch or a Steelworkers’ Oatmeal Stout. Their food menu laudably compliments whatever is on tap with Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like regional Bratwurst and Schnitzel dishes along with a Pierogie Casserole resembling a lasagna layered with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed onions, and pasta baked with cheddar jack.
Chocolate Lab Handmade Chocolates– A chocolate wonderland in this small shop filled with rich handmade treats like chocolate covered s’mores on a stick, pop rock milk chocolate bars, inside- out chocolate peanut butter cups, and pretzel rods with a marshmallow on the end covered in chocolate & dusted with gold sugar crystals evoking the appearance of a microphone. Arlene Brockel, veteran candy maker and owner of Chocolate Lab makes every morsel from scratch on site without any hydrogenated oils or fillers like those found in most mainstream brand name chocolates.
Cigars International – Here you get to indulge in the total cigar experience selecting from 500 of the world’s finest brands in a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. Conditions are fully-humidified maintaining the optimum 70/70 moisture ratio for long term freshness. In other words, you’re stepping into one giant humidor which emanates a gloriously rich tobacco aroma. Take a seat outside under the awning and savor the genteel street life while perfecting your smoke rings.
Whether you seek a green and peppery “Family Reserve”, buttery Arbequina, or a Tunisian citrus fruit infused extra virgin olive oil, all of them are top-quality stored in stainless steel fustis preserving the highest level of quality, flavor, and antioxidants. Their in-store taproom not only features a large selection of single estate extra virgin olive oilsbut also traditional balsamic vinegars.Test out some dark as well as premium white balsamics ranging from a 18 year fig to a peach and oregano infused white balsamic. All are imported directly from Modena, Italy and certified by the Modena Balsamic Consortium.
Lehigh Valley Wine Trail – A wide confederation of 8 family-owned vineyards, each owner has a unique personality and background shaping their wine making approach and results. The region’s signature grape is Chambourcin, very versatile and crafted into a wide range of Nouveaus, Rosés, Semi- Sweets, Dry Barrel Aged, along with Sparkling and Port.
Fertile multi-generational farmlands, rich in shale and limestone along with a moderate climate provide an ideal environment for these vineyards. I had the opportunity to visit the Amore and Franklin Hill Vineyards. Each had a story to tell about their origins and what’s behind their ongoing success.
Amore Vineyard owner Dr. Gregg Amore has been making wine since 2000 although the farmland has been in the family since the mid-1940s.
Their tasting room is located in anewly renovated two-hundred year old barn with event space glistening with hardwood planking on the top floor. My favorite here was their Peach Kissed Blanc.
At the end of a dirt road off of some twisting country roads in Bangor, PA, Franklin Hill Vineyards enjoys the distinction of being the first and oldest vineyard in the Lehigh Valley in business for 35 years. Owner Elaine Pivinski eagerly gives tours of her operations by appointment. She is quick to point out many processes have been upgraded to optimize earth friendly technologies. Pivinski utilizes Romfil filling devices typically used in the pharmaceutical industry but here are modified for wine production. 99% of the grapes end up in the wine while the remaining 1% is a gel-like byproduct. All water on the premises is heated by solar and panels for electricity are currently being installed.
Besides onsite and at local restaurants, her wines are also available for purchase online. My favorites here are the Vidal Blanc with a tartness that bursts into a big spicy crescendo and the Kiss varietal which has a harder edge on the initial sip but quickly blossoms into complexity on the palate.
Be sure to visit DiscoverLehighValley.com for more ideas on how to best explore the region.