A recent Bankrate survey revealed that 70% of Americans are changing their summer vacation plans due to increasing prices of not only travel but goods and services across the board.
If you’re one of those people, consider a trip to Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, bordering New Jersey. It’s home to Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and dozens of other smaller towns. Yet, despite being the state’s third-largest metro area with many amenities and activities, it offers a small-town feel and a small price tag.
There’s Something for Everyone in Lehigh Valley
“Lehigh Valley is an ideal location for those who need a break from two of the country’s most iconic cities, New York and Philadelphia. In addition, Lehigh Valley features an abundance of cultural activities and entertainment,” said Melanie from Partners in Fire.
“The Valley, as it’s often called, is home to great dining and shopping, a casino in an old steel factory, and the annual summer festival, Musikfest. It also has tons of family-friendly attractions such as the Crayola Factory and Dorney Park & WildWater Kingdom amusement parks,” said Kristin from Cents and Purpose.
No matter what you’re looking for in a vacation spot, the odds are that Lehigh Valley has it!
1. It’s a Road Trip Destination for 73% of America
According to survey results from a recent Morning Consult and American Hotel & Lodging Association, the typical vacationing U.S. family spends about 44% of their travel funds getting to, from, and around their destinations. So if you’re looking to cut your vacation spending this summer, driving to a destination is still less expensive than multiple plane tickets.
73% of Americans can drive to Lehigh Valley in one day. It’s only 90 minutes from New York City, 2 hours from Philadelphia, less than a 6-hour drive from most of the Northeast, and 600 miles from Indianapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. It’s Got Amusement Park Thrills and Spills
This summer marks Dorney Park’s 139th year of family fun. Now with over 60 rides, shows, attractions, Planet Snoopy, and Wildwater Kingdom waterpark, it is not hard to see why Dorney Park is one of the most visited amusement parks in the United States.
The larger-than-life global celebration Grand Carnivale takes place from July 23 to August 7. King and Queen Nivale and their royal court host a day-to-night, larger-than-life, global celebration with high-energy live music, delicious international food, lively games, and unique crafts. If you love going around the world at Epcot, but a trip to Orlando isn’t in the cards, check out Dorney Park.
3. Delights for Families with Younger Kids
One way to make traveling with young kids and toddlers easier is to pick a destination with age-appropriate activities, and Lehigh Valley fits that bill too.
See over 300 animals from African penguins to zebras at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, or spend the day exploring the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown with hands-on exhibits that make science fun for kids. If you’re visiting during the week, go to Da Vinci in the afternoon as summer camp groups typically visit in the morning. If you’re a member of a science center in your hometown, that is a part of the ASTC Passport Program, admission to this science center could be free.
Last but certainly not least is Easton’s Crayola Experience with dozens of hands-on, creative activities, including making and naming your own Crayola crayon to take home.
“While Crayola Experience tickets can be expensive, search for discount offers, and consider street parking over the lot to save money, said Jon Dulin of Money Smart Guides. Additionally, go first thing in the morning to avoid some of the crowds.”
4. It’s Considered An American Viticultural Area Like Napa Valley
The rolling hills of the region aren’t just great for photo ops. They’re great for growing wine-ideal grapes too. Lehigh Valley is considered an American Viticultural Area, a federally designated wine grape-growing region like Napa Valley. With 30 wineries, Lehigh Valley is a wine-lovers getaway you may not have known about.
If wine isn’t your thing, Lehigh Valley has 20 craft breweries. Additionally, it is home to several local distilleries creating unique spirits such as spiced rum, authentic old-school Applejack, and cherry bounce, said to be a favorite of George Washington.
5. So Much Scenery to Enjoy
You can hike, bike, or run on Lehigh Valley’s extensive trail network, including the scenic Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the bucket-list Appalachian Trail.
Or, in Easton, near Lafayette College, you’ll find the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. Enjoy this 2.4-mile tree-lined walk along a stream with sculptures and interactive art installations. If you want to introduce your kids to art, this is a family-friendly way to do it.
There is also changing scenery that unfolds Pennsylvania’s history right before your eyes – from tiny towns that coal miners and mill workers once called home to covered bridges and rolling farms reminiscent of decades ago.
6. Sites for History Buffs
If you love Williamsburg, Virginia’s historical experiences, and centuries-old buildings, this region has even more landmarks to explore!
Lehigh Valley landmarks include original 18th-century buildings from Moravian settlers who moved to Pennsylvania from the Eastern Czech Republic. Book lovers will want to step foot into the Moravian Book shop, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the world, dating back to 1745. See these Moravian landmarks before the area receives its World Heritage Designation and the masses discover its significance.
Lovers of history, engineering, or those with family ties to the steel mills, can explore the history of Bethlehem Steel by walking along the Hoover Mason Trestle. This elevated walkway, ⅓ of a mile in length, was built along the railways once used by Bethlehem Steel, the producer of most of America’s steel.
7. Music Festivals and Performances in Cool Spaces
If you’ve heard of Lehigh Valley, odds are it was one of its music festivals or events at the SteelStacks. Or perhaps it was Musikfest, a 10-day line-up of performances, food, and family-friendly fun.
This year Musikfest will take place from August 5 to 14 with Counting Crows, Poison, Ziggy Marley, Willie Nelson, Kelsea Ballerini, and many more. While tickets start under $50 for these global super superstars, there are more than 300 free performances for those looking for free activities.
“The Steelstacks, located in Bethlehem, is one of the best places to spend an evening in the Lehigh Valley and one of the best things to do in Pennsylvania“, said Melanie from Partners in Fire. “An old steel mill turned events center, the facility hosts festivals, concerts, outdoor movies, and more all summer. The Steelstacks complex also includes the Artquest Performing Arts Center, food vendors, and a full bar, making it an ideal place to eat, drink, and be merry on those long summer nights.”
8. It’s a Golf Hidden Gem
Lehigh Valley communities are set in gentle hills and green countrysides, an ideal landscape for golf courses. With over 20 courses, the region offers options for a variety of players, from beginners to advanced golfers, even tournaments such as this summer’s 2022 U.S. Senior Open at the historic Saucon Valley Country Club.
“Saucon Valley is a beautiful hidden gem that is as pretty as it is tough. With rolling hills, sharp curves, and greens that are lightning fast, Saucon is a course that will give even the best golf players a run for their money,” said Jeff Fang.
9. Accommodations Won’t Bust Your Budget
Even if you can save money driving to a vacation destination, inflation and travel demand has driven hotel prices up 15%, even on travel deal sites, like Hotels.com. That’s another reason why Lehigh Valley should go on your short list of summer vacation possibilities. The average daily accommodations rate is $104 a night, which is highly affordable compared to other Northeastern cities and even below the national nightly hotel average.
Choose from boutique hotels, rustic inns, campgrounds, newly built Hyatt properties, and even luxury options for those with a larger budget.
10. Affordable Activities
“We know people are eager to travel this summer, and Lehigh Valley is thrilled to offer affordable activities for families with children of all ages,” said Alicia Quinn, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Discover Lehigh Valley. “From free live music concerts to deals on dining at Dorney Park and scenic hikes that run across Lehigh Valley, we have a variety of activities for all.”
Enjoy one of America’s favorite summer pastimes without emptying your wallet at an Iron Pigs Minor League baseball game. Tickets start in the single digits at just $9. Families will enjoy fantastic baseball, in-game giveaways, t-shirt launches, and weekend fireworks.
“I love going to these games for a few reasons,” said Jon Dulin of Money Smart Guides. “First is the price. I used to go to the Phillies games, but it was so expensive. For a family of four, parking and eating cost you a few hundred dollars. With the IronPigs, it’s less than $100. Plus, they make the experience so much more entertaining for the whole family.”
Monica Fish helps her fellow adventurers live a financially savvy life so they can travel and explore our beautiful world no matter their budget. She writes about smart timeshare ownership, vacation tips and tricks, NYC Metro Area trips and activities, and frugal, yet rich, living at PlannerAtHeart.com.