Best of the Best in Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania

An exterior view of the Historic Hotel Bethlehem
Image provided courtesy of the Historic Hotel Bethlehem.

Date: October 8–9
Registration: Open
Registration deadline: Monday, September 23

Join us as we travel to historic Bethlehem, a charming, fun, and walkable city, whose Main Street is ranked among the top 10 in the United States. Founded by the Moravians, it has played an important role in the development of industry (think Bethlehem Steel) and is in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only 25 in the United States. Bethlehem has more intact colonial buildings than Colonial Williamsburg. An obvious magnet for history buffs, it is also a perfect place for anyone interested in the arts, music and other festivals, and quaint shops and restaurants. Bethlehem was christened as Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 1741, six years later was the first U.S. city to feature a Christmas tree, and was later nicknamed Christmas City USA.

Ranked the #1 Historic Hotel by USA Today the past three years, Historic Hotel Bethlehem has hosted world leaders and renowned celebrities over the years, including Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, the 14th Dalai Lama, Amelia Earhart, Harry Connick, Jr., Mark Twain, William Waldorf Astor, Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Ford, Mohammad Ali, and many more whose photos are displayed in the dining area.

Historic Hotel Bethlehem is located on Main Street. It features 125 elegantly restored guest rooms with spectacular views of Bethlehem, a National Historic Landmark District, Downtown Bethlehem’s Main Street, and the iconic Bethlehem star on the mountain. Located across from the hotel is the Moravian Book Shop, which was founded in 1745 and is the oldest bookstore in America.

Image provided courtesy of Martin Guitar.

Martin guitars were strummed by Civil War soldiers around campfires, helped shape the sound of modern music at the turn of the 20th century, and were played by music’s first superstars like Jimmie Rodgers and Gene Autry. Decades later, Martins floored the crowd at Woodstock, then took center stage on MTV Unplugged, and can be heard across all genres of music. Artists like Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Neil Young, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and many others played Martins. The Martin Guitar Museum features over 170 guitars made by the company over its history and pictures of famous guitar owners. There is a large gift shop and a chance to strum guitars when taking a tour.

National Museum of Industrial History is located across from Steel Stacks in a 100-year-old former Bethlehem Steel facility on the largest private brownfield in America. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, it possesses exhibits that display the nation’s industrial past and is dedicated to preserving America’s rich industrial heritage. The collection includes many rare pieces from industries including textile, steel and iron, and propane gas, many of which are kept in working condition. Exhibits include a hot air balloon simulator showing one of the many uses of propane gas, and the original Jacquard Loom that produced fabric for the White House for almost 80 years.

Itinerary

Physical activity of this trip: Be aware that there are some uneven street surfaces and stairs to climb.

Tuesday, October 8

  • 7:30 a.m. — Depart Fullington Bus Station near the State College Airport. Overnight parking is free. Rest stop along the way.
  • 11:30 a.m. — Arrive in Bethlehem. Lunch and time on your own.
  • 1:30–2:30 p.m. — Overview of the area on a one-hour bus tour with a docent on board to provide historical and other information about Bethlehem and the surrounding area.
  • 3:00–4:00 p.m. — Choice of tour.
    • Option 1: Walking tour of Bethlehem (1-hour). Stroll through beautiful historic downtown Bethlehem with a tour guide in period dress. Learn about Bethlehem’s exquisite Victorian and Colonial architecture.
    • Option 2: Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts (1-hour). The Kemerer Museum is housed in three mid-nineteenth century houses, which are interconnected. Founded in 1951 the Kemerer Museum is the only decorative arts museum in Pennsylvania, and one of only fifteen nationwide devoted exclusively to decorative arts.
  • 4:30 p.m. — Check in at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem.
    • Dinner on your own, either at the hotel or at nearby locations. A list of restaurants will be provided. Reservations might be needed for some.

A detailed map of Bethlehem and sites of interest will be provided to all attendees prior to the trip. Maps will also be available during the bus ride to the destination.

Wednesday, October 9

  • 6:30–8:30 a.m. — Continental breakfast is provided.
  • 9:00 a.m. — Depart the Historic Hotel Bethlehem.
  • 9:30 a.m. — Arrive at Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, PA.
    • Tour times at Martin Guitar are 10:00–11:00 a.m., 11:00 am–noon. or noon–1:00 p.m. Free time when not touring to visit the Martin Museum and Gift Shop.
  • 11:15 a.m. — Boxed lunch provided.
  • 1:15 p.m. — Depart Martin Guitar and travel to the National Museum of Industrial History.
  • 2:00–3:30 p.m. — Docent-led tour of Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of Industrial History.
  • 3:30–4:30 p.m. — Time on your own to explore Bethlehem.
    • Option to explore the Steel Stacks, an awe-inspiring ruins of the former Bethlehem Steel plant. It was the site that made the steel used in the construction of 80% of NYC’s skyline by the 1940s including the Chrysler Building, George Washington Bridge, and Madison Square Garden as well as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. As the largest shipbuilder in the world, it built numerous ally ships for WWII. Exterior steel stairs are used to get to the top where there is a walkway that is exposed to the elements.
    • Interested in art? Another option is to visit the Banana Factory. ArtsQuest’s Banana Factory in Bethlehem is a 63,000-square foot space that is housed in a former banana distribution warehouse. It is home to 30 resident artists’ studios, three galleries, the Hot Glass Studio, multiple classrooms, and the Olympus Digital Imaging Centre. The Banana Factory is a 3-mile walk from the Steel Stacks. Public transportation is available.
  • 4:30 p.m. — Depart Bethlehem.
  • 6:00–7:40 p.m. — Brief stop for food and to use the facilities on I-80 near Blakeslee.
  • 9:00 p.m. — Expected arrival in State College.

Cost per person

Member pricing

  • $440, double-occupancy
  • $555, single-occupancy

Nonmember pricing

  • $485, double-occupancy
  • $605, single-occupancy

Included in cost: Bus transportation, hotel, four tours, breakfast, boxed lunch, and a historian discussion on the bus.

Not included in cost: Meals on October 8. Dinner on October 9.

Register today