Bethlehem, My Happy Place
It was August of 2002, and I was moving into my dorm for the first time at Moravian College. I was obviously excited, like most college freshman were, but it was more than that. I always loved Downtown Bethlehem, and the time I spent there. I had some good times there, from games to Musikfests, to just having good meals, but I also had some bad times there, often times also at sports games. Even so, I loved it there, and was excited to be there.
The next four years would be a time of tumult and challenge for me, but also great thrills. My first year was really challenging, not so much academically as personally- I got mono and struggled to make friends since I had no social life. I almost left, but when I didn’t, it was the right choice. I would write for the newspaper, join a fraternity, be elected Class Vice-President, and become politically active during my time there. Sure, I got into some trouble, and ended up struggling academically (entirely because of not applying myself, but that’s another story), but I worked through those troubles there. I dealt with losing my grandfather and losing some other close people during that time too, but I also made some friends who I think the world of, even today. I had way more fun, great times during my time at Moravian than I had down times. I also got a great education and launched my career from there. There’s probably few other places that would have tolerated me on some levels, let alone make me a better person like that community did.
It was a time of growing though, and I spent a lot of time in Bethlehem alone with my thoughts. On week nights in my final two years, I would sometimes walk from my place at Moravian all the way across Bethlehem to Lehigh, and back, with my headphones in and just me and my thoughts. I learned to be a thinker during those walks, and much of the improvement as a person that I’ve made since then was born in that solitude.
Bethlehem has what you’re looking for. If you like music and festivals, they have them- Celtic Fest, Musikfest, and Christkindlmarkt come to mind. It has food, with some really great restaurants in both downtown and across the river. If you want a drink, they have your college bar types like Roosevelt’s, OBT, Molly’s, and Tally Ho, but they also have upscale spots Tapas, the Hotel Bethlehem, Corked, and Brew Works. If you just want a neighborhood pub to hang out, Machs Gute and Ripper’s jump out for me. If you want sports, I’m a huge fan of a game at Steel Field, or a wrestling match over at Grace Hall. If you just want a quiet neighborhood to live in, they have them. If you want a downtown apartment and city atmosphere, they have that too. It really is a great town, with everything, for everyone.
For me though, some of my favorite spots today are in Bethlehem. I enjoy going up to the Lookout Mountain point at Lehigh. I love hanging out on Main Street. The former Bethlehem Steel site is a mix of historic, old factory spots, modern clubs and casinos, and great views of the river. Roosevelt’s is one of my favorite spots on college football game days. And of course, there’s old Moravian.
I’ve been trying to spend more time in Bethlehem lately, which culminated in me joining the Alumni Board at Moravian for the coming year. I’m probably more excited about this than even some of my political positions, because of the opportunity to give back and be a part of my old school. I had a really great time while I was there, and I still love going back a decade later. For me, any day in Bethlehem is a good day. I still feel happy every time I’m there.