We are nearing the end of posts for my recent trip to Pennsylvania. So far, we explored Reading and its Pagoda, got stuck in Crystal Cave when the power went out, and have eaten a ton of good food. Now, we are on to Bethlehem. This was a first-time visit for me while Justin had been there a couple of times before. Our main reason for going was, like many people, the Sands Casino. Neither of us are big-time gamblers. For me, it’s a once or twice a year thing. I usually go with $20 and when it’s gone, so am I. This time, I increased it to around $100. Luckily, I ended up breaking even…as I usually do. On my first slot machine pull of the trip, I won $29. The next day, my first pull was a $25 winner. Of course, those amounts would dwindle throughout the night as I was playing with “house money”. For the first time in my life, I also tried a table game. Since Blackjack is easier to me than the others, I stuck with that and did pretty good. I recouped my losses from the slots which were merciless at times.
The one thing about Bethlehem, if you go on a Monday, is that it is beyond dead. As I searched through potential restaurants for us to visit on that first night, they were closed, closed, and closed. One after the other. It was comical. We ended up getting Chinese takeout and having some drinks back at the hotel room. It would have been much cheaper than dining at the casino. I know casino restaurants are known for their exorbitant prices, but their Chinese place (named very creatively, “Chopstick”) got $25 for chicken and broccoli and I think around $18 for pork fried rice.
As for the town itself, it is beautiful. I love Pennsylvania small towns. We were in and out of most shops including Clusters (a place for popcorn), a shop devoted to selling rubber ducks, and then Chocolate Lab on our final day. Everyone was so friendly. At Clusters, they let you sample as much popcorn as you want. All flavors were good and it was hard to make up our mind as to which ones we wanted to purchase. Chocolate Lab had some quality chocolate, candies, and sweets offered as well. We got a half a pound of this and that. We also spoke to the owner on our way out who was extremely pleasant to deal with and wanted to make sure we found everything we wanted.
With Justin getting his casino, I got my historic site. We explored the valley below the Bethlehem Hotel to find the Central Bethlehem Historic District. This was a small collection of old houses, shops, businesses, and ruins which date back to the 1800’s. There wasn’t a soul near the place and it was nice to walk around at our leisure and stopping to relax by the river.
Perhaps the oddest visit of the trip was to the Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery in Allentown. When Justin said he wanted to go there, I thought it was a joke. “What’s a fish hatchery?” I asked. I certainly don’t think of fish when I think of Pennsylvania. But he said it was a peaceful and tranquil place where they hatch, grow, and nurse different kinds of trout. It was actually really cool to see the enormous pools with literally thousands of trout swimming around. The area is tiny, enough to kill maybe a half hour, but it is certainly unique. Visitors are allowed to feed the fish and it is funny seeing them competing for the food with water splashing everywhere.
Last but not least, we made sure to make time for Bethlehem Steel. I was really taken aback but the sheer size and scope of this location. The massive building and towering smokestacks stick out of the landscape like a haunting, rusted monolith. We watched the video inside the visitor center then explored the grounds on our own. The weather had become overcast and cloudy, which was perfect. I would definitely come back to this town. Casino aside, there is more than enough here for a two night stay, or weekend getaway.
Click here for more in this series as the days go by.