Allentown’s got it all. From an amusement park to an art museum to a symphony hall, the city’s entertainment venues offer something for everyone, no matter how old they are, or what they like. Our guide to the best things to do in Allentown covers the entire city from the south side to downtown, and we don’t stop there. We highlight the best that the Lehigh Valley has to offer also with our coverage of the major attractions and entertainment venues in Bethlehem, Easton and other neighboring communities.
Allentown PA Guide
Our overview guide to this charming city of the Lehigh Valley and what makes it unique.
Best Restaurants of Allentown
A brief feature on Allentown’s most famous restaurants, and a digest of the best rated restaurants in the city compiled from numerous online sources.
Where to go and what to see in Allentown Pennsylvania
Dorney Park, one of the nation’s oldest amusement parks,* was opened as a small fishing pond and summer resort in 1860. Founder Solomon Dorney built the attraction on his property along Cedar Creek on the south-side of the city. Over the years Dorney added other attractions to the property to attract more visitors. This growth has continued for 147 years and today the park is one of the largest in the Northeast.
The amusement park’s 9 roller coasters offer thrills for little kids, teens and adults. These coasters are: Dragon Coaster (small scale coaster), Hydra (floor-less coaster on tubular steel track), Laser (imposing drop, two 360-degree vertical loops), Little Laser (children’s Laser coaster), Steel Force (“recognized as one of the world’s best steel roller coasters”), Talon (vertical loop, zero-gravity roll, Immelmann loop, corkscrew), Thunderhawk (antique wood roller coaster debuted in 1923 as “The Coaster”), Wild Mouse (4 person roller coaster cars) and Woodstock’s Express (children’s coaster).
Other notable rides at the park include: The Dominator (170 foot gravity defying ride), White Water Landing, (flume ride featuring 20-passenger boats and an 80 foot drop), Aquablast (One of the longest elevated water slides in the world), Lightning Falls (70-foot-tall tube water slide attraction), Runaway River (tubes on a 1600-foot winding river with tunnels and waterfalls), The Meteor, The Screaming Swings, The Scrambler, Krazy Kars, Tilt-a-Whirl, an antique Carousel, an old-fashioned replica steam engine, a 90-foot-high Ferris wheel, a river rapids ride, a water flume ride, 30 foot tall humped water slide, and a gigantic wave pools.
The park is open everyday during it’s regular season which runs from the end of May through the first week of September. Dorney is also open on weekends in early spring and on some weekends during the fall season. It is located at exit 54 (Route 29 or Cedar Crest Boulevard) on Interstate 78. The park is located on the north side of the interstate.
Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom
3830 Dorney Park Road, 610-395-3724, Website: DorneyPark.com
5 Oldest Amusement Parks in the United States:
1. Lake Compounce Amusement Park, Bristol, Connecticut
2. Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
3. Idlewild Park, Ligonier, Pennsylvania
4. Sea Breeze Amusement Park, Rochester, New York
5. Dorney Park, Allentown, Pennsylvania
*The actual opening date for Dorney Park is listed as 1884 when the name of the park was changed and more rides were added to the attraction
The Allentown Art Museum founded in 1934 by renowned Allentown artist Walter Emerson Baum, features a collection of over 13,000 works of art. These works range from important European paintings to an entire library designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The museum reaches out to the community through a busy calendar of social events and educational programs for adults and children.
Some of the pieces in the museum’s collection include: Italian Renaissance Paintings (with works by Paolo Uccello, Biagio d’Antonio, Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, Giuliano Bugiardini, Lorenzo Lotto, Romanino and more), Frank Lloyd Wright (Library from the Francis W. Little House, Frank Lloyd Wright Arts and Crafts oak and leather side chair, a Leon Volkmar/Durant Kilns Bowl, a Jacques Sicard/Weller Pottery covered dish, Tiffany Studios Art Nouveau floriform vase, Tiffany and Company enameled presentation vase, a copper dust glazed Fulper one-handled jug and more), Mediterranean Textiles (an embroidered linen and silk Greek cushion cover, an embroidered linen and silk Turkish towel, a woven Moroccan wedding belt, and embroidered silk and velvet Palestinian Taqsireh and wedding dress and a woven Algerian scarf) and numerous changing special feature exhibitions.
The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday. It is located in downtown Allentown, about 15 minutes from Interstate 78 at Route 309. (free admission Sundays, closed on holidays, call ahead or check website to confirm hours of operation and see their calendar of events)
Allentown Art Museum
31 North 5th Street, 610-432-4333, Website: AllentownArtMuseum.org
The Allentown Farmers Market is a local farmers market that has been in business for almost a century. It has grown over the decades into a thriving market where some 60 vendors sell everything from produce to Amish baked goods to antiques.
Some of these vendors include: Adams Salads, Atlantic Oyster Company, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Baringer’s Meats, Bedway’s Fresh Fruits, Mr. Bill’s Fresh and Fancy, Bladez, Bread Brokers, Charlie K’s Pizza, Clover Farms, Clover Hill Winery, Clyde’s Barber Shop, Country Butcher Express, Culinary Experts, Dannielle’s Antiques and Collectibles, Dan’s Bar-B-Que, The Dollar Store, Fairgrounds Flower Shop, Fairground Groceries, Fairground Marketplace, Fairgrounds Poultry Market, Fan’s Asian Sushi Bar, Foods of the Mediterranean, Gannon’s Gourmet, Gdynia Polish Market, Heckenberger’s Seafood, Heffelfinger’s Coffee Tea and Specialty Foods, Johnny’s Fresh Meats, Kiffle Kitchen Bakery, Kitchen Ware-house, Lena’s Avon Shop, Mink’s Candies and Gifts, Milcreek Country Store, Mo’s Pasta Deli, Nut Hut, Papa Joe’s Subs and More, Paul’s Dried Fruit Barn, Pearl’s Smoke Shop, Rebecca’s Old Fashioned Beginnings, Red Barn Produce, Ribs N Things, Robertson Magnetic Jewelry, Roger’s Timepiece and Jewelry Service, S. Clyde Weaver Meats, Shaffer’s Health Center, Sheri’s Country Pantry, Spring Glen Fresh Foods, Stoltzfus Amish Deli, Window Pros, Witman’s World Cheeses, Wenner’s Vacuum Sales and Service and more.
Market open Thursday, Friday, Saturday year-round. Trade shows and special events are held all year at the facilities and The Great Allentown Fair is held at the fairgrounds from the last week of August through Labor Day Weekend. The Fairgrounds are located in downtown Allentown, about 15 minutes from Interstate 78 at Route 309. (see website for more information, events, show dates and more)
Allentown Farmers Market
1725 West Chew Street, 610-432-8425, Website: FairgroundFarmersmkt.com/
The Baker Center for the Arts and the Trexler Pavillion at Muhlenberg College, feature the 392 seat Empie Theatre, the 350 seat Baker Theatre, an intimate Studio Theatre, the Dance Studio Theatre, theatre and dance classrooms and offices, music and orchestra practice rooms, photography classrooms, and a small recital hall for staff concerts, recitals, lectures, films and readings. The Center hosts the Mulenberg Summer Theatre, The Muhlenberg Dancers, The Muhlenberg Theatre Association, The Muhlenberg Music Department and the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra.
The Baker and the Trexler are active arts centers with performances held throughout the year. The Center is located on the Muhlenberg College Campus in downtown Allentown, about 15 minutes from Interstate 78 at Route 309. (see website for more information, events, show dates and more)
Baker Center for the Arts/Trexler Pavilion for Theatre/Dance
2400 Chew Street, Boxoffice: 484-664-3333, Website: Muhlenberg.edu/Cultural/Baker/
The Da Vinci Science Center had it’s first location in Bethlehem in 1995 and since then has been growing bigger and better for over 12 years. The new 29,000-square-foot location at Cedar Crest College boasts an amazing array of interactive educational exhibits. These exhibits and labs as we like to call them cover a wide array of scientific interests and fields of study. You can be doctor for a day, investigate the workings of the weather, learn more about energy or take a ride on a huge human sized gyroscope ride much like the ones that NASA uses for weightlessness training.
Many of the exhibits/labs are sponsored by local corporations and educational trusts. These exhibits include: The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust and Lehigh Valley Hospital Medical Challenge where participants become doctors to diagnose a patient’s problem, The Rodale Family Biology Learning Lab where visitors learn about all sorts of living organisms, The Harry C. Trexler Geology and WFMZ-TV Meteorology Lab where visitors learn about the earth and it’s land, water, air, weather, storms, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes and the history of the earth, The Air Products and Chemicals Chemistry Lab where participants learn about atoms and the atomic structure of all things, The PPL Corporation Energy Lab where visitors learn about all types of energy, The Baker Foundation Mechanics/Machines Lab where participants learn about forces and how machines make work easier, The Dan’s Camera Photography Lab where visitors see electronic images of space direct from NASA, The Little Learners Lab for pre-school children, GyroSphere, a gyroscope ride, The Wind Turbine and The Century Fund Curiosity Shop which sells gifts, souvenirs, games, toys and more.
The Science Center is open everyday, all year long. It is located about 10 minutes from downtown Allentown, It is a short distance from I-78 at exit 55, Cedar Crest Boulevard PA Route 29. The Science Center is a short drive from Dorney Park. (see website for admission prices, special exhibition information, and hours of operation)
Da Vinci Science Center
3145 Hamilton Boulevard Bypass, 484-664-1002 Website: DaVinci-center.org
The Civic Theater of Allentown is a community arts center that was founded in 1927. It sponsors the annual 19th Street Film Series that runs from late summer to early fall and a season of plays that run from the late fall through the early summer. The theater also features a Moller DeLuxe theatre organ that is played from time to time for special performances and acting classes for children and teenagers.
The Civic Theater’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol is a Lehigh Valley holiday tradition. Examples of some of the films that have or will be featured here are: Big Bad Love, La Vie en Rose (life of Edith Piaf), 2005 Academy Award-Nominated Short Films, Paris Je T’aime, Bowling for Columbine, 5 x 2, Ten Canoes (Aboriginal Australian expedition story), Army of Shadows, Some Like It Hot, The Full Monty, To Be and To Have and Moliere. Some examples of past or upcoming theatre productions include: The Patsy, The Haunted House, So This Is Love, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Things That Are Caesars, Our Town, And The Rockets Red Glare, George Washington Slept Here, Taming of the Shrew, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Philadelphia Story, The Late Christopher Bean, Aaron Slick from Pumpkin Crick, Janus, 12 Angry Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, The Sisters Rosensweig, Neil Simon’s Proposals, An Evening of Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Bernstein Celebration, Dirty Blonde and Titanic the Musical.
The Civic Theater is located in downtown Allentown, about 15 minutes from Interstate 78 at Route 309. (see website for more information, events, show dates, times, ticket prices and more)
Civic Theater of Allentown
527 North 19th Street, 610-432-8943, Website: CivicTheatre.com
The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra has been bringing outstanding classical music to Allentown and the Lehigh Valley for over 25 years. The Sinfornia does not have a permanent home but instead performs at venues in Allentown, Bethlehem and Macungie. Those performance spaces include: Allentown Symphony Hall, Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University, Samuels Theatre at Cedar Crest College, Wesley Church in Bethlehem, First Presbyterian and Christ Lutheran in Allentown and Brookside Country Club in Macungie.
The Orchestra presents a 5 concert regular subscription series along with a 4 concert Vivaldi series in the summer.
See the orchestra’s website for more information on their concerts, venues, ticket prices and directions to the concerts.
Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra
1524 West Linden Street, 610-434-7811, Website: PaSinfonia.org
The Allentown Symphony Orchestra had it’s beginning in 1950. The Allentown Symphony Hall has a rich history that stretches back to 1896, when it was called The Central Market Hall. For decades the hall hosted burlesque acts and a long list of famous performers including The Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Placido Domingo, and others. In 1953, the hall became the permanent home of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.
Today the Hall hosts a wide range of events and performances in addition to the Orchestra’s concerts. These include: The Backstage Chamber Orchestra Series, The Musical Treasure Chest, The Symphony Hall Pops Series and the Jazz Cabaret Series. The hall is the home to several other Allentown and Lehigh Valley arts organizations: The Repertory Dance Theatre’s Annual performance of the Nutcracker, The PA Sinfonia, The Allentown Band, Community Concerts of Allentown and the Community Music School of the Lehigh Valley.
The Orchestral Series runs from fall to the early spring each year. In 2007, the series consisted of 5 concerts all held on Saturdays and Sundays, with music from these composers: Brahms, Beethoven, Chabrier, Franck, Schumann, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Strauss, Shostakovich, Wagner and more.
The Mainstage Series runs from September to March each year and features musicals for children and adults.
The Allentown Symphony Hall is located on Sixth Street in downtown Allentown about 10-15 minutes from Interstate 78 at Route 309. (call ahead or check website for concert and performance times and ticket prices)
Allentown Symphony Orchestra
23 North 6th Street, 610-351-9432, Website: AllentownSymphony.org
The Allentown Band performed it’s first documented concert on July 4th, 1828, making it “the oldest civilian concert band in the United States”. The band has an illustrious and fascinating history that is detailed beautifully on it’s website. The band and it’s players had such an incredible reputation that none other than John Phillip Sousa recruited more than 20 Allentown Band members for his own band.
Today the band consists of 65 members of all ages who have or had professions as doctors, engineers, teachers, students, or merchants. The band has an active concert schedule and performs in Allentown at Symphony Hall and West Park throughout the year. They also travel all over Eastern Pennsylvania, Western New Jersey and occasionally New York City for community festivals, benefit concerts, 4th of July celebrations, and special holiday performances. They play in a wide range of venues from city parks to retirement homes to Middle Schools to Carnegie Hall. The band’s concerts are a long lasting cultural tradition in these communities across the region: Chestnut Hill Pastorius Park Concert (31 years), Kutztown Park Concert (63 years), Allentown Waldheim Park Concert (92 years) and the East Greenville Goshenhoppen Park Concert (85 years).
The Allentown Band concerts are scheduled throughout the year, from March through December. In Allentown they perform annual concerts at Allentown Symphony Hall, West Park, Waldheim Park and Muhlenberg College. (check their concert schedule online for a detailed list of performance dates, locations and ticket prices)
The Allentown Band
PO Box 1142, Allentown PA, 18105-1142, 610-437-1116 Website: AllentownBand.com
The Pioneer Band of Allentown, organized in 1889, had their first public performance at the 4 County Fireman’s Parade in Slatington Pennsylvania in 1890. In 1899, the band performed at a local nursing home, Cedarbrook, and they are still playing there every Christmas some 108 years later. During WWII the band held concerts at Symphony Hall in Allentown. The history of the band is presented in the form a detailed timeline on their website.
The Pioneer Band appears in concerts in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and across the Lehigh Valley from March to December. They appear at West Park each year for numerous free concerts during the summer. (check their concert schedule online for a detailed list of performance dates and locations)
Pioneer Band of Allentown
PO Box 1613, Allentown PA, 18105-1613, 610-797-8911 Website: PioneerBand.com
Other Allentown and Lehigh Valley Attractions
The Museum of Indian Culture, also known as the Lenni Lenape Museum, features exhibitions that focus on the everyday life of America’s first peoples and the Northeastern Woodland Indians in particular. The displays illustrate their family life, clothing, hunting and gardening habits, as well as their contributions to American life. The museum grounds also feature a fish hatchery and two nature trails. Special events at the museum include: The Spring Corn Festival, The Roasting Corn Festival and A Time of Thanksgiving Festival.
The museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 PM. The Museum of Indian Culture is located on Fish Hatchery Road in the southern section of Allentown. From I-78, take exit 55 (Pennsylvania Route 29), take a left on Cedar Crest Boulevard for 1/2 mile, then turn left on Fish Hatchery Road. (see website for more information on the museum and the festivals)
Museum of Indian Culture
2825 Fish Hatchery Road, Allentown PA, 610-797-2121, Website: MuseumOfIndianCulture.org
The story of the Velodrome goes back to the 1960′s when Bob Rodale, president of Rodale Press in Emmaus, became enamored with competitive bike racing on his trip to the Olympics. Rodale dreamt of bringing the sport to America, and in 1974, he began building his dream. In 1976, the Velodrome staged it’s first full season.
Today the Velodrome offers a wide array of programs from a 4 month competitive cycling series, to educational biking and racing programs for amateurs, professionals, competitive team cyclists, adults and children. The racing series runs from May to August with races held usually on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Educational biking/cycling classes and competition training sessions are held throughout the week. The Velodrome’s popular cycling swap meets are held twice a year in the spring and fall.
Races held on Tuesday, Sunday, May-August. Velodrome is about 20 minutes from downtown Allentown. To get there, you can take I-78 to exit 54A, merge to Hamilton Boulevard [US-222 South], then travel 4.6 miles and turn right at Mosser Drive. (call ahead or check website for race and class times)
Lehigh Valley Velodrome
1151 Mosser Road, Breinigsville, PA, 610-967-7587, Website: LVVelo.org
The Banana Factory is a cultural arts center and art gallery in downtown Bethlehem. The center occupies 63,000-square feet of space and features galleries, classrooms, a clay studio, a glasswork studio, The Olympus Digital Imaging and Photography Center, artist studio spaces, and a gallery shop.
The Banana Factory hosts 14-16 exhibitions annually from internationally famous artists, national juried shows, invitational exhibitions and local artist shows.
The art center is open every day, all year long. The center is located on the South side of Bethlehem, about 15-17 minutes from downtown Allentown. (see their website for exhibition schedules and more information)
The Banana Factory
25 West Third Street, Bethlehem PA, 610-332-1300, Website: BananaFactory.org
The Crayola Factory is located at the heart of historic Easton Pennsylvania, a short drive from Allentown. The Factory is a great place to take the kids when you visit Dorney Park or the Da Vinci Science Center.
The Crayola Factory is not the manufacturing plant for the company’s crayons and markers, but the entire process is demonstrated at the facility. In addition to this Crayola has a wide range of hands-on art projects that are made to inspire creativity and promote fun learning.
The factory is open every day during the months of June, July and August. At most other times of the year, it is open every day except Monday. (see their website to plan your trip, check days they are open and hours of operation, you’ll also find information there on their many scheduled special events they sponsor during the year and admission prices)
The Crayola Factory
30 Centre Square, Easton PA, 610-515-8000, Website: Crayola.com/Factory