Christmas is a magical time with lights illuminating the streets and holiday cheer an infectious feeling. But one town takes that to the next level.
The little town of Bethlehem — Pennsylvania, that is — takes its name seriously, enjoying a unique chance to ring in the holiday season. And between the traditional Christmas market and the 81-foot-tall steel star that sits above it all, the people of this small Pennsylvania city don’t leave any yuletide stone unturned.
“Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is quintessential holiday cheer,” Alicia Quinn, the vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Discover Lehigh Valley, told Travel + Leisure. “Simply stroll the twinkling lights on Main Street, tour the historic buildings decorated with candles and shop endless handmade collectables to capture a traditional holiday memory.”
The town — just over an hour from Philadelphia — was originally founded in 1741 by the Moravians, a group originally from the Czech Republic, and named Bethlehem on Christmas Eve of that year, according to Discover Lehigh Valley. And that history is still very much visible today, especially around the Christmas season.
In December, the town transforms into a Christmas paradise with sparkly lights placed in the windows of the Germanic stone Moravian structures and mini nativity scenes (called putzes in Bethlehem) all over the city.
Stroll along the charming streets and take in the evergreen Christmas trees lighting up intersections as you shop for city specialties like Moravian stars, beeswax candles, or a special book at the Moravian Book Shop, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the world, established in 1745.
Later, shop for holiday gifts at this “Christmas City’s” traditional Christkindlmarkt where you’ll find glass blowing and live Christmas music to set the mood before taking a ride in an actual horse-drawn carriage — one of several holiday tours offered — or watching the nightly live advent calendar countdown.
So with Jack Frost nipping at your nose, take in this thoroughly romantic and enchanting city on your next winter trip before Santa and his reindeer go back into hibernation (or take a much deserved beach vacation).