Bethlehem at Christmas Time, December 9, 2021

During the pandemic winter of 2020-2021 we lamented our inability to travel. With the hope of getting away later in the fall of 2021, JoAnn challenged Barbara, Jimmy and me to find the best Christmas markets in a two hour drive from our homes in South Jersey. The four of us researched the issue individually and each of us came up with same answer: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

December 9th found the four of us on the road to Bethlehem. Our first stop was the historic Hotel Bethlehem at 437 Main Street. We really liked the hotel. It was festive and alive with activity. Here are a couple of shots of the lobby area.

The photo that follows was taken from the second floor balcony.

Our room was on the sixth floor and overlooked Main Street. although it was small it was very clean and very comfortable.

Once checked in we took a stroll on Main Street in search of lunch. We decided on McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub on West Walnut Street.

We sat at the bar as no tables were available. McCarthy’s was fully stocked with a wide selection of whiskeys and lots of choices on tap.

After lunch we strolled on Main Street past the hotel and in the direction of Moravian University. Here are a couple of shots taken as we walked along.

Horse drawn carriages operated during the day and into the evening. They drove up Main Street and made a 20 minute circumnavigation of the downtown area.

I liked these doors and the sculpture work.

This was taken from Main looking through a break in the buildings. As you can see Bethlehem is certainly located in a hilly/mountainous area.

The carriage is drawn by a matched pair of horses. As I recall they are named Richie and Ricky.

At the bottom of Main Street we came to Moravian University where I took a couple of photos. We never had the chance to walk around the campus but it looked quite nice as we drove out the next day.

Then we were back to the hotel to relax and get ready for our carriage ride and dinner.

The hotel lobby and reception area is small and active. There is a seating area reserved for guests where we were able to carry a drink from the very busy bar. In fact, I had two of the best Bloody Marys I ever had from that little bar. Here is a shot of the reserved area.

As the sun was setting I took this photo through the window in the dinning room. Notice the pink clouds in the distance.

Here is another photo of the dinning room.

Main Street was a blaze in light once the sun went down.

The evening was cold and we felt it as we waited for our carriage.

While we waited I took a few shots.

Then we were off on our carriage ride. As I said before, it lasted about 20 minutes and took us around the town. I really couldn’t take photos due to the movement of the carriage. It was enjoyable.

We had dinner at the Apollo Grill. The place was very busy. We had a nice table for four tucked away from all of the noise and commotion. Still it was noisy and hectic.

We walked back to the hotel and I took this shot along the way. That’s Jimmy and Barbara ahead.

I paused to take this photo as I liked these steps and the composition.

We checked out of the hotel on Friday and worked our way over to the famous Christkindlmarkt at the old Bethlehem Steel factory.

I was disappointed in the market. I was hoping for something akin to the German markets we visited in December 2015 while on a Viking riverboat trip (see a prior blog). There the markets are all outside, in public squares, and loaded with people. Being outside lends itself to the cold weather and, in my mind, the Christmas spirit. There is nothing like a cup of hot, mulled wine while watching people coming and going.

This market was almost entirely under enormous tents and in weather controlled areas. There were plenty of venders offering a number of diverse things but still in all it just lacked the feeling I got when visiting Germany. In fact, I like the Philadelphia market a great deal more just because it is outside (see my blog from Thanksgiving Friday).

To be fair, this market is well done and offers a lot for everyone. Here are a couple of shots for your consideration. The first is of the food court.

There was a children’s choir entertaining.

As with almost every market in existence, Kathe Wohlfahrt is present with her interesting and attractive wares. We have seen her throughout Germany and in U.S. markets.

Now photos from inside her store.

I took this just because I liked the ornaments.

The day was cool and sunny. There was a limited number of venders outside. Here are a couple of shots of the market and the retired factory.

And then, we were on our way home. We enjoyed our two day visit to Bethlehem. The hotel was terrific and the town was festive. The market, although loaded with vendors offering all sorts of Christmas items, was somewhat disappointing. As I said, my preference is for outdoor venues but it is still a nice place to visit..


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