Fun and Frugal Things to Do in Bethlehem, PA

Fun and Frugal Things to Do in Bethlehem, PA

Are you planning a visit and wondering what to do in Bethlehem, PA? The city, once one of the country’s biggest steel producers, has a growing arts scene as it transitions from a town known primarily for its industry to one increasingly noted for culture and technology.

We’ve gathered a list of seven fun things to do in Bethlehem, PA on your next trip to the city. The best part is that these activities all cost under $20, so you won’t break the bank during your visit.

Go to the SteelStacks

Every visit to Bethlehem should begin with a stop at the SteelStacks. This was once the Bethlehem Steel plant, where millions of tons of steel were produced until the 1990s before the company went bankrupt.

Since then, it’s been transformed into a campus that hosts family events, concerts, and festivals. You can still see the “stacks,” or blast furnaces, that helped produce steel dating back to the early 20th century — but now, they’re the background for fun activities such as films and community celebrations.

You can check the SteelStacks website for the schedule of events. One thing to plan your trip around is the annual Musikfest, which is billed as one of the country’s largest and most diverse music festivals.

Cost: Visit the website to see pricing for different festivals

Drop by the Moravian Museum

The oldest building in Bethlehem — and one of the city’s national landmarks — the Moravian Museum tells the story of early Pennsylvania. The Gemeinhaus, as the museum is called, was constructed in the mid-1700s from white oak timber.

The entire group of early settlers to the Bethlehem area lived in this house for a few years before other structures were constructed. That means the building served as a school, kitchen, church, hospital, and more. The house later became a home for widowed and single women before being converted to a museum in the 1960s.

Cost: $12 for adults, $9 for kids ages 4 through 17, free for kids 3 and under

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Get Some Fresh Air at Illick’s Mill

Illick’s Mill is located along Monocacy Creek in Monocacy Park, not too far from downtown Bethlehem. You can enjoy the outdoors by walking through the park before exploring the 1800s grist mill. The mill has a stone exterior covering the timber interior, and today it houses the offices of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mid-Atlantic Conservation Office.

Many people enjoy fishing in the creek. Not a fisherman? Just exploring the gorgeous trail is worth the trip.

Cost: Free

Hang Out at The Banana Factory

What was once a banana distribution warehouse has morphed into one of the city’s must-see arts hubs. The Banana Factory includes 30 artists who put on an annual show. You can see their work each month at the free First Friday event, where the community can interact with the artists and discuss their work. Many artists also teach classes. The Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley also have offices here.

Cost: Free

Explore the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

Did you know there’s only one museum in all of Pennsylvania dedicated to the decorative arts? The Kemerer Museum houses objects from three different centuries, all of which feature both beauty and practicality. Each item has utility, from china to dollhouses. But they also tell the story of this region’s birth and growth.

The museum’s second floor appeals to kids. It’s stocked with old-time toys and dollhouses from the 1830s to 1930s. In addition to being fun to look at, the dollhouses illustrate artistic trends of the eras they represent.

Cost: $12 for adults, $9 for kids ages 4 through 17, free for kids 3 and under

Cruise the Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum

Model trains set up to replicate the Reading and Lehigh Valley railroads may be the epitome of real world-meets-imagination fun. Members of the Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Club have painstakingly re-created every twist and turn. The model also includes historic sites such as the old Bethlehem Steel plant and Allentown Freight Yard.

The exhibit is one to remember, and it includes the sounds of the engines, too. Kids will love exploring the fun miniaturizations.

Cost: Contact Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum for pricing

Flip Some Pages at the Linderman Library

When you visit Bethlehem, you will definitely want to stop by Lehigh University. While you’re there, take a few minutes to walk around the Linderman Library — it’s not your average book depot.

Travel + Leisure named Linderman one of the country’s most beautiful libraries, and you’ll agree. With a stained glass skylight and Victorian structure, it’s a throwback to a bygone era. You might just get lost in the stacks as you wander from floor to floor.

Cost: Free

There are so many wonderful things to see in Bethlehem, and these seven locations are just a start. You may want to plan on spending several days in town just to see everything.

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