Founded on Christmas Eve in 1741 by a small group of Moravian settlers and christened “Christmas City, USA” in 1937, Bethlehem turns its gaze toward the past year-round guided tours and museum exhibits. The 10.9-mile Heritage Trail snakes through 80 historic stops, including two National Historic Landmarks, Victorian-era homes, and the nation’s oldest gift shop. On historic walks, guides lead tour groups through the now-defunct site of Bethlehem Steel, the city’s oldest cemeteries, and the 1762 Waterworks, known as the first municipally pumped water system in the country. The Kemerer Museum Of Decorative Arts is one of only 15 of its kind in the country. Located inside the 1741 Gemeinhaus, the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem curates a collection of exhibits about the town’s settlers, including their missionary work, education system, and medical techniques.
A champagne toast signifies luxury, but Air Ventures provides an even more luxurious amenity—champagne toasts conducted while floating in midair. Customers sip from bottles of bubbly while on one of the company’s hot-air-balloon rides, which float over Chester County’s rolling hills, glistening lakes, and historic estates at either sunrise or sunset. The rainbow-hued balloon’s trips range from one-hour jaunts to flight packages with overnight inn stops. After their airborne adventures, passengers take home a souvenir picture of the balloon, which they can supplement with downloaded shots of their own tour.
The QVC tour gives the television-inquisitive a behind-the-scenes look at how the shopping network tests its products and showcases them to millions of viewers. This guided walking tour whisks sightseers through the 58,000-square-foot studio, where they'll be able to watch live-television QVC programs from the observation deck, possibly even catching beloved on-air personalities such as Sandra Bennett, Rick Domeier, and the carpet. Once you've toured the national headquarters and corporate offices at QVC, you'll have a better sense of the tireless work, the top-quality technology, and the wizard-wrought television magic involved in each program.
Built in 1750, the old bank barn on the Sweetwater Farm bed-and-breakfast property boasted a diverse resumé before it fell into disrepair more than two centuries later; it held malting barley for distilled spirits, sheltered herds of livestock, and even hosted a party or two. After a two-year renovation completed in 2010, the barn came out of retirement to fulfill its new purpose: hosting french-oak barrels and stainless-steel fermentation tanks—custom-made in South Africa—that quietly ferment and age small-batch wines from the property's 5-acre vineyard.
Grace Winery's European-origin varietals, grown on California vines that were transplanted by hand and carrier pigeon, include merlot, pinot gris, and petit verdot. Winemaker Sean Kramer combines new technology with tried-and-true tradition to create wines such as the bright 2010 rosé, which was served at the brunch the day after Prince Albert of Monaco’s wedding. His other wines include the 2010 chardonnay reserve, aged for 14 months in french oak that imbues it with dark caramel and butterscotch flavors, and the crisp 2011 pinot gris, whose light honeysuckle aromas lead to delicate hints of citrus and melon.
Schuylkill River Outdoors outfits guests with tubes and rafts before sending them off to take tranquil, relaxing jaunts downstream. Customers can choose from three different aquatic sojourns—a brief, one-hour float, a two- to three-hour trek, or a five-hour marathon—to complete at their leisure. During trips, tubers and rafters can take time out to wade in the shallow waters or invent backstories for the wild turkey, ducks, and bald eagles they may encounter along the way. Multiple islands populate the gently flowing waters of the Schuylkill River, providing a convenient spot for explorers to stop to picnic or skip rocks. Schuylkill River Outdoors recommends that customers bring along their own snacks and drinks, sunscreen, bathing suits, and a pair of water-friendly shoes as footwear is mandatory.
Blue Mountain Vineyards owners, Joe and Vickie, are pinot pioneers. Beginning with a 5-acre experiment in 1986, they discovered that the soil of the Lehigh Valley does a fine impression of French terrain, making it suitable for growing the grapes of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and other European varietals. Since then, they've expanded to a 50-acre plot, where they now produce wines that have won awards from the Fingerlake International Wine Competition and Appellation America.
Panoramic views of the Blue Mountains overlook scenic terraces at the vineyards, where grapes spring from soil that soldiers roamed during the Revolutionary War. Tastings, concerts, and other events fill the winery's glass-flanked deck, spilling onto an outdoor patio surrounded by ponds as tranquil as a silent lullaby. Visitors admire the vines during tours, and they can also adopt their favorites to preserve the vines' flavorful histories.