Framed by unfiltered wilderness and the occasional supports of a crossing bridge, the Schuylkill River is a secluded getaway for water lovers looking to float down nature’s slow-motion roller coaster. Reading Rivertribe shuttles aqueous adventurers to chosen points along the river for leisurely kayaking, canoeing, or tubing, with each trip ending where it started: in the stomach of a dreaming whale or next to a CPR-certified shuttle driver.
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.
Crystal chandeliers, stained-glass windows, and Austrian drapes adorn Abigail's Tea Room, where guests savor freshly brewed tea and finger foods inside a three-story Victorian manor house built in 1883. The tearoom hosts up to 50 diners for lunch, as teas pair with a seasonally changing selection of salads, sandwiches, and quiches. During high tea outings, attendees nibble snacks delivered on Victorian china and a tiered luncheon server while sipping tea decanted from pots with intricate floral patterns. Afterward, visitors can stock up on tea gear in the gift shop, browse the Gilded Age Hat Gallery's cranial accouterments, or unsuccessfully try to hook up their iPods to the parlor's gramophone.
The Zombie Mud Run finally gives people an incentive to exercise—the survival of their species. Amid forested trails, muddy creeks, and challenging obstacles, participants of this post-apocalyptic 5K face off to either save the human race or feast on human flesh, respectively. Clad in a flag-football belt with three flags that represent their brains, heart, and entrails, human participants race to get themselves and their fellow living athletes to the Green Zone, which grants salvation in the form of food, water, music, and beer. Meanwhile, costumed zombies—each of whom are either slow-moving “creepers” or fast-moving “leapers”—positioned along the race course pursue the humans to devour their organs or simply return that contact lens they dropped a mile ago. Human runners who reach the Green Zone with at least one of their flags survive.
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.