Things to do in Bethlehem PA with kids!

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I was invited to discover the best things to do in Bethlehem, PA with kids. Before my trip, all I knew about things to do in the area came from a Billy Joel song. Needless to say, there’s lots more to Bethlehem, Easton and Allentown, PA than I could have guessed, making it one of my top picks for family getaways to Pennsylvania.

Historic downtown Bethlehem, PA with brick streeets and historic buildings.

What are the best things to do in Bethlehem, PA?

It’s probably no surprise that I didn’t know about any of the things to do in Bethlehem, PA before my visit.

I pictured a factory town dominated by the steel stacks of Bethlehem Steel. To be honest, I didn’t even know all the factories had closed down permanently. Picturing an industrial town, Bethlehem was never tops on my list of family getaways in Pennsylvania. I’m not sure it even made the list before this visit!

It turns out that there are lots of cool things to do in the Lehigh Valley — some inspired by the industrial age, others dating back to colonial America.

Hopefully as I share the best things to do in Bethlehem PA, you’ll want to see it, too!

At the Steel Stacks entertainment venue in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Explore Historic Bethlehem, PA

When you consider things to do in Bethlehem, PA allow some time to discover its history. The city began as a Moravian village, serving as a missionary outpost of the Moravian church.

Today, Moravian history is preserved in Bethlehem’s historic buildings, God’s Acre — the Moravian cemetery, and all around Moravian College.

Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a relic of an old riverfront structure.

The historic Bethlehem Hotel sits in the heart of the city. The Bethlehem Hotel overlooks the relics of historic Moravian Bethlehem, a National Historic Landmark District, that supported early settlers to Bethlehem, PA. It offers large rooms in a variety of configurations and some sleep six. For a Bethlehem home base, this is a great option, especially if you don’t want a cookie cutter hotel room.

The hotel is located on Main Street, in the heart of downtown. For your downtown explorations, step out the door and head to the Moravian Star at the intersection of Main Street and Market Street. From there, everything is close.

Tour Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

Moravian Museum of Bethlehem

On the campus of Moravian College, the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem in the historic Moravian Gemeinhaus that dates back to 1741. Docents take museum goers on tours sharing stories of early Moravian history in Bethlehem, including how Bethlehem got its name and the history of the Moravian stars.

Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

Nearby, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts preserves Moravian culture and history with a special emphasis on Victorian history. An impressive doll house collection and children’s play space round out the permanent exhibits, while revolving exhibitions on the main floor keep it fresh and new.

During my visit, the museum hosted a spectacular collection of purses, courtesy of owner Ilene Hochberg Wood.

Admission to the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts is free on Sundays from January to October.

Standing in front of the purse collection with Ilene Hochberg Wood.

God’s Acre, the Moravian Cemetery

Next door to the Kemerer Museum sits God’s Acre, the Moravian cemetery of historic Bethlehem. It’s an interesting place to visit, whether as part of a Historic Bethlehem tour or on your own. It’s the oldest Moravian Cemetery in North America and is a National Historic Landmark.

Interestingly, those buried here are interred in alphabetical order, with poor, rich, Black, White, Native Americans and Colonials buried side by side with no distinction. All are equal at God’s Acre.

This is a popular stop on Bethlehem ghost tours, if you enjoy those!

Visit SteelStacks, Bethlehem’s industry

When looking for things to do in Bethelehem, PA, a visit to SteelStacks is pretty much a given! Once the center of industry in this hard-working region, the steel stacks have been preserved as an entertainment district.

I was flabbergasted by the cool factor of this historic “museum,” park and concert venue. It’s an amazing way to pay homage to the hard work that made Bethlehem what it is today while celebrating the exciting town it has become.

Steel Stacks museum at the SteelStacks entertainment district in Bethlehem, PA.

The steel factory of Bethlehem put the city on the map as a premier maker of steel beams and pig iron, essential to the industrial revolution in America. The steel beams made at the Bethlehem Steel plants built major landmarks across America including the Golden Gate Bridge, Madison Square Garden, the Rockefeller Center and the Hoover Dam (to name a few).

As the United States moved away from industry and steel production costs skyrocketed, the plants shut down. That left Bethlehem with 4.5 miles of empty factory space.

Bethlehem made a bold decision to preserve its industrial history while moving forward to develop a vibrant entertainment district called “SteelStacks,” an eclectic entertainment space offering many things to do in the Lehigh Valley.

Free concerts at Levitt Pavilion

Levitt Pavilion at SteeStacks in historic Bethlehem Pennsylvania.

Every summer as part of the Levitt Summer Concert Series, free concerts are performed at Levitt Pavilion. With the amazing background of the Bethlehem blast furnaces at SteelStacks, Levitt Pavilion is the place to go for FREE summer entertainment!

The ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks

The ArtsQuest Center was created to bring art, culture and education to the SteelStacks entertainment district in Bethlehem. The modern steel and glass building, which looks out on the steel factory, is an exciting events venue.

At the Musikfest Cafe, enjoy concerts — sometimes it’s even dinner and a show!

Performers at Musikfest Cafe at SteelStacks, one of the best things to do in Bethlehem, PA.

The building also has a restaurant space, two movie theaters, a brewery and several event spaces that overlook the blast furnaces of the steel mill. For family vacations to Pennsylvania, check the offerings at ArtsQuest during your trip!

Walk the Hoover-Mason Trestle at SteelStacks

As the SteelStacks were repurposed for arts and entertainment, the Hoover-Mason Trestle, once responsible for bringing ore to the stacks, was repurposed as an elevated walkway.

Hoover-Mason Trestle takes visitors close to the blast furnace and other parts of the steel stacks at Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley

Free and open to the public, the ADA accessible, elevated walkway, explains the history of the Bethlehem steel plant and its workers. Native plants provide a soft contrast to the imposing structures. The Hoover-Mason Trestle walkway closes in bad weather, especially when its icy.

When I visited, a father was reading the signs and pointing out the corresponding places at the steel factory to his young kids. Their rapt attention let me know that for families, this is one of the most interesting things to do in Bethlehem, PA!

Relax on the Town Green

In designing the SteelStacks area, planners wanted to create a town square for people to enjoy.

Of course, on family vacations to Pennsylvania, visitors can enjoy these spaces, too.

A children’s play area with climbing rocks, benches under shade trees and a summer water feature does just that — inviting families to come and relax. ArtsQuest, right across the street, provides convenient dining options.

Children's play area in the shadow of the SteelStacks historic site and entertainment venue in Bethlehem PA.

Visit the National Museum of Industrial History

When looking for things to do in Bethlehem, PA, the National Museum of Industrial History should make the list. It is absolutely one of the best things to do in the entire Lehigh Valley!

When people learn that I am a travel writer, they often ask some of the most interesting places I have ever been, and the National Museum of Industrial History is one of them! Museum staff is incredibly helpful and will answer your questions.

Entrance to the National Museum of Industrial History.

The National Museum of Industrial History is housed in the old electrical plant for Bethlehem Steel. The building was completely renovated and engaging displays installed, many of them on long term loan from the Smithsonian. Exhibits educate visitors about industrial history in America, from the earliest days of traveling steam engines to the first world’s fair and beyond.

Steam Engines at the National Museum of Industrial History -- NMIH

I found the information about how assembly lines eased production issues for workers interesting. I had learned about Henry Ford’s assembly lines at some point in school, but the exhibit was way more interesting! There are also exhibits about industry during World War II, an important point in American prosperity.

The museum doesn’t shy away from the tough issues, either. Displays explain the importance of work safety initiatives, the role of unions and even the need for child labor laws.

NMIH exhibits tell the story of the industrial era in the USA, including exhibits that highlight worker safety.

The museum is open year-round. Guests can take self-guided tours or pay a flat fee of $25 (up to 20 people) for a guided tour. Many of the docents at the National Museum of Industrial History once worked in the Bethlehem Steel plants and are happy to share stories of their life experience if you ask.

Ticket information: Adults, $15. Children, $10. Seniors (65+), $12. There are special discount days! Get up to date ticket information here. Online sales are not offered.

BUDGET TIP: On Sundays, children 12 and under visit free with paying adults.

Address: 602 E. Second Street, Bethlehem. Parking is across the street in the lots between 1st and 2nd Streets.

What are the best things to do near Bethlehem, PA?

When considering things to do in Bethlehem, PA, save time to visit the nearby towns of Easton and Allentown.

My top three recommendations for things to do in the Lehigh Valley beyond Bethlehem are:

Crayola Experience in Easton, PA

The Crayola Experience, located at 30 Centre Square, in downtown Easton is a great indoor option for family vacations in Pennsylvania with young kids. The museum offers 25 unique hands-on experiences, some to create artistic masterpieces and others, like the 2-story playground and water works, are more physically active.

Crayola Experience the crayon museum in Easton, PA.

Crayola Experience is open year-round with a parking garage located next door. I recommend the museum for families with kids ages 4 to 10, and suggest looking for discount coupons as they are widely available.

The C.F. Martin Guitar Factory

Located at 510 Sycamore St. C.F. Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, PA offers guitar factory tours year-round, between 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To learn about current tours or book a group tour, call the Martin Guitar Phone Number at 888-433-9177,

Martin Guitar Factory tours last about an hour and are free, available on a first come-first served basis. Close toed shoes are recommended.

Rows of guitars at Martin Guitar Factory in the process of being finished.

Martin Guitar Factory tours take guests through the entire guitar building process from initial design through final finish. The tour is fascinating, but I recommend it for families with kids ages 8 and above.

During the summer travel season, the tours can fill up, so arrive early to ensure you’ll get in. And remember, this is a working factory, so close toed shoes are a must!

Allentown Art Museum

The Allentown Art Museum, located at 31 N 5th St, in Allentown, PA, is one of my top picks for things to do in the Lehigh Valley. There is limited off-street parking behind the building and ample paid street parking nearby.

Allentown Art Museum in the Lehigh Valley, PA with a painting of the valley on prominent display.

The Allentown Art Museum created a Children’s Treasure Hunt to help kids think about works on display like an artist would. When they complete the treasure hunt, they can return it to the museum gift shop to receive a prize. The treasure hunts at the admission desk on the main floor.

The top floor of the Allentown Art Museum hosts temporary exhibitions which change every few months. Also on the top floor is an expansive children’s area which allows kids to explore their own artistic skills inspired by the works they see in the museum.

The Allentown Art Museum offers FREE admission on Sundays and a Spanish Immersion program as well. See the museum website for a complete list of programming and for information on their upcoming exhibition, “Rembrandt Revealed.”

Are there any special events in Bethlehem, PA?

When I visit a new destination, I check to see if there are any special events that might be interesting (sometimes, I find special events to avoid…). There happen to be several special events in Bethlehem, PA throughout the year that families will enjoy. When planning family vacations to Pennsylvania, see if these Bethlehem events fit your schedule:

  • Blueberry Festival: Historic Bethlehem hosts a two-day blueberry festival every July. The two day event features food, drinks, live entertainment, demonstrations and shopping the whole family can enjoy.
  • Musikfest: Held at the end of July/early August, this ten day music festival offers both FREE and ticketed live music events, food, and other activities in venues throughout Bethlehem, including SteelStacks and the riverfront. Plan ahead because there’s lots to enjoy!
  • Christkindlmarkt: Recognized as one of the best Christmas markets in the U.S., Bethlehem Christkindlmarkt features gifts handmade by expert artisans, live Christmas music, a Christmas ornament shop, ice carving and glass blowing demonstrations and, of course, breakfast with Santa. Christkindlmarkt runs from late November to late December each year.

What are the best hotels in Bethlehem, PA?

Since Bethlehem is home to Moravian College and is close to skiing nearby, there are many hotels in the Bethlehem area that are great for family vacations in Pennsylvania.

On my trip, I stayed at the newly renovated Hyatt Place Bethlehem at 45 W. North Street in Bethlehem, PA. It’s just a few blocks from Moravian College on the north side of town. Spacious suites, free parking in the garage across the street, free breakfast and free wifi make it a great value for families.

If you stay here, I recommend dinner at Apollo Grill — a short walk from the hotel. The food is delicious, the servers amazing and the atmosphere relaxed.

The Holiday Inn Express, Bethlehem, PA is located just of I-78, convenient for travelers but with easy access to all the things to do in the Lehigh Valley. The hotel, located at 2201 Cherry Lane, offers rooms and suites, free wifi and, depending on the package, breakfast is included.

The Hampton Inn, Bethlehem, PA is located at 200 Gateway Dr, just north of the city about halfway between Allentown and Easton. The hotel offers a free hot breakfast daily, free wifi and free parking as well as specials. It’s highly rated by guests for customer service and location.

The historic Hotel Bethlehem, which I mentioned early in this article, is in the heart of the Moravian village part of town. The hotel was rated one of the best historic hotels by USA Today, offering upscale charm that is true to its history. It’s conveniently located in the heart of historic Bethlehem, a premier option for people visiting Lehigh Valley, PA.

I hope this post has helped you discover the many things to do in Bethlehem, PA for families. It’s a relaxed place to visit, with lots of places to see, great entertainment and great restaurants!

Pin it for later

Save this post of the top things to do in the Lehigh Valley for later to make vacation planning easier. Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley make a great weekend getaway destination for budget minded families who enjoy the outdoors, unique places, history and food.

Things to do in the Lehigh Valley, PA, a collage of images showing the historic attractions of the region.