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Let's Go Local in Kutztown

A woman examines the goods as she antiques at Renningers Market in Kutztown.

 

Let’s Go Local in Kutztown, PA!

You may think of Kutztown as home to Kutztown University, the Kutztown Folk Festival, and the Chile Pepper Food Festival, but the town offers so much to see and do. Spend a day getting to know this hopping town.

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  • A great place to start a Friday or Saturday road trip to Kutztown is Renninger’s Antiques and Farmers Market. Head inside for coffee and a fresh bakery treat before exploring all the items available for sale. You’ll find plants, produce, meats, poultry, cheese, tombstones, vacuum cleaners, antiques, jewelry, soft pretzels, t-shirts, beautiful home decorations – all reasonably priced too!
  • Strike gold at your next stop, the Sorrelli Jewelry store on West Main Street. The nationally known brand began in Kutztown. Their flagship store is filled with colorful crystals and beads set in beautifully designed rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and pins. Incredible savings at the retail location make it difficult to leave the shop empty-handed.
  • Paisley and Company is all about feeling good. Pre-pandemic, guests created their own signature scents or choose from Paisley’s own line of lotions, soaps, balms and more. Currently, the shop invites customers to use their Pick-up/ Ordering Window, Wednesday through Saturday, to try their fabulous products.
  • If you love collecting, make time to stop at the antique stores in and around Kutztown. You’ll find a hodgepodge of furniture, jewelry, toys, holiday decorations, household items and more, all yours for the right price. Have fun!
Let's Go Local in Hamburg

Front view of storefront Adams & Bright in Hamburg PA

 

Let’s Go Local in Hamburg, PA!

There’s no need to go far to enjoy new places and experiences. Take to the road and explore fun spots in  Shartlesville, Lenhartsville, and Hamburg – all in Berks County.

  • Begin your day by driving north on Rt 183 to Blue Mountain Family Restaurant in Shartlesville for one of their delicious breakfast specials or coffee and one of Blue Mountain’s freshly made bakery treats.
  • On Tuesday through Saturday, you might prefer starting your visit at the Four Twelve Coffee Shop in Hamburg where you’ll find lovingly crafted hot and cold drinks and the most amazing selection of waffle creations this side of the Schuylkill River.
  • Following breakfast head east to Hamburg. This lovely town offers lots of interesting places to explore and its proximity to the Pinnacle, Pulpit Rock, the Appalachian Trail, and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary makes it a great stop for visitors near and far.
  • Make stops at local shops, antiques, and vintage furniture stores in the downtown Hamburg. Be sure to visit the Adams & Bright Drug Store, an old time pharmacy and soda fountain. Take a seat at the counter for a quick bite or milkshake.
  • While on the subject of food, if you’re looking for more selection, The Westy Bar & Grill is a local favorite for great food, drinks and entertainment. Start out with some of the best wings in Berks County, or try their amazing ribeye steak!
  • Following lunch, take a ride on WK&S Railroad, a great way to relax while taking in the gorgeous views of the scenery from Hamburg’s elevated location.
  • After your train excursion, a visit to Wanamaker’s 1884 General Store is a must. Load up on your favorite candies and take a peek at the local arts and crafts offered for sale.
  • Before heading home, make time for a flight of beer at 1787 Brewing Company, and reflect on your day in Hamburg. Or… if time allows, point yourself in the direction of Cabela’s to see what’s new at this bigger than life store.
The Bridges of Berks County

Visiting the covered bridges of Berks County, Pennsylvania

Load up the car for a leisurely drive along our beautiful country roads as you follow a self-guided tour of the five remaining covered bridges in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region. As you enter the bridges, roll-down your windows and listen to the rattle of the boards as you drive through these magical structures. Try to imagine the countless souls that crossed these bridges before you – some over a century ago.

Download our Covered Bridge Trail for directions, tall tales, and facts about the bridges.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

Where to Start?
There’s no right or wrong way to follow the Covered Bridge Trail, but a good starting point is Berks County Heritage Center.  It’s home to Wertz’s Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania, and at one time thought to be haunted!  Take time to see the park’s other attractions like Gruber Wagon Works and the colorful Distelfink. Take a leisurely stroll along the Schuylkill River Trail or Union Canal Trail before you hop back in the car.

  • From the Berks County Heritage Center follow beautiful country roads to the next two bridges, both located north of Kutztown. Keep an eye out for barn stars – aka hex signs and horse-drawn carriages. No, the folks behind the reins aren’t Amish, but rather Mennonite. Like the Amish, they are Anabaptists; but far less conservative or resistant to technology.
  • After visiting the bridges, travel south towards Kutztown, home of Kutztown University. As you approach the college town plan to stop at historic Crystal Cave Park, Pennsylvania’s first show cave. Always a cool 54 degrees, a tour of the cave is especially inviting during the hot summer months. If driving our country roads piqued your interest in PA Dutch customs and traditions, a visit to the PA German Cultural Heritage Center – on the Kutztown University’s campus, is the perfect place to take a closer look at this unique lifestyle. The museum captures the spirit of the region’s rural heritage with a fully-restored one-room schoolhouse, an early stone farm house and summer kitchen, a kitchen garden, a classic bank-barn decorated with barn stars, and two log houses.
  • Getting hungry? The many eateries in Kutztown offer loads of options for a delicious meal. Enjoy outdoor dining at Saucony Creek Craft Brewery & Gastropub​, or one of the many fun restaurants that dot Main Street. Get your meal to go and head to Kutztown Park for a picnic. The park provides a quiet place to stretch your legs, complete with picnic tables and a sculpture by world-famous pop artist (and Kutztown local), Keith Haring.
  • Not from the area and not ready to go home? You can spend a night in one of our outstanding hotels. Next time, remember to pack an overnight bag, just in case.
Are We There Yet?
The Reading Pagoda surrounded by a beautiful sunset atop of Mount Penn in Reading, Berks County, PA

Sometimes, you have to think outside of the box when it comes to family fun, especially during a pandemic. A road trip to Pennsylvania’s Americana Region is just the ticket for spending cherished time with your loved ones. Ditch the crowds and pack the car for a day trip to Berks County. You’ll be surprised at the variety of things to do, and the ease of traveling to and in our region. No guarantees, but our drivable location might spare you the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?”

Suggestion: Car travel can be hard on kids. Have them look for signs that you’ve arrived in Berks County. Who will be the first to see hex signs painted on a barn, cows in fields, or a Mennonite family traveling by horse-drawn buggy? Look for mountains in the distance, hawks flying overhead, and best of all, look for our beloved Pagoda sitting high above the City of Reading, welcoming you to our region.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

The Pagoda

Speaking of the Pagoda, why not begin your visit with a stop at our iconic Pagoda? Follow the twists and turns of Duryea Drive to the top of Mt. Penn for a close-up look of the beloved landmark. On weekends, the Pagoda’s volunteer staff welcomes you to explore the inside of the building – all 7 stories and 87 steps to the top floor. This knowledgeable group is ready to answer all of your questions about the Pagoda and help with purchases from the gift shop and snack bar. (The Pagoda is currently closed due to the pandemic, but its still worth the ride to see the building in person and see the views)

  • If the Pagoda is open, enjoy a quick lunch in the snack bar. Try local favorites, a Berks hot dog followed by a yummy, malted Cho-Cho ice cream treat.
  • Duryea Drive is the site of two annual hill climbs sponsored by the Blue Mountain Region of the Sports Car Clubs of America. Be on the look-out for deer, foxes, bald eagles, and turkeys. All have been spotted in the vicinity of the Pagoda.
  • When leaving the Pagoda, follow Skyline Drive for more great views of the area from various lookouts. From the road, look for trail heads to our world- famous mountain biking trails. The trails are also great to stretch your legs after too much time in the car.
  • Are you traveling with a little princess? Not far from the Pagoda is Stokesay Castle. Built in 1931 and inspired by a 13th century English castle by the same name, Stokesay Castle was once a vacation home. Today the castle is a popular restaurant and event venue.

Before traveling any further, grab lunch at The Peanut Bar, a Berks County institution. In addition to great food, you’ll find peanuts on every table. Wait till your kids find out they can throw their peanut shells on the floor!

Following the lunch, make your way across the Penn Street Bridge to the Reading Public Museum & Neag Planetarium.The Museum’s collections and exhibits are sure to delight. Many of their visiting exhibits are geared specifically to children. Not to be missed is Nefrina, the Museum’s resident mummy. She recently “had some work done” and now interacts with visitors via halogram.

You might also enjoy traveling east to Boyertown, where you’ll find painted bears everywhere. Selfie anyone? . This small town has some big fun in store for you. Two of our region’s favorite attractions, Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles and the Colebrookdale Railroad  reside here. Wait until you the museum’s inventory of cars and displays – like the 1938 Diner Car and the old-fashioned gas station.

As for the Colebrookdale Railroad, a ride on the beautifully restored train transports you to another time, when only your Sunday best would do for travel. Themed excursions, a dining car, and stops along the way make for a totally memorable experience. Stop at the Peppermint Stick Candy Store for truly delicious candies and ice cream before you head for home.

If you prefer to spend time in the great outdoors, then journey north to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the first refuge for birds of prey. The refuge is considered to be one of the best places in North America to view the fall raptor migration (through Dec 15). Hike to one of the sanctuary’s lookouts for outstanding views of the birds of prey, with the colorfual fall landscape as a backdrop. (Be sure to ask if the sanctuary has any kids activities planned for the day.)

If time allows, follow picturesque country roads to historic Crystal Cave Park. Always a cool 54 degrees, a tour of the cave is especially inviting during on a warm day. As the day winds down, take a break at Saucony Creek Brewing & Gastro Pub before you journey home.

For the Birds


If you enjoy observing wildlife, give bird-watching a try in Berks County. Our region offers an array of places to view our fine feathered friends year-round.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

  • Scenic Hawk Mountain Sanctuary offers outstanding nature experiences with its hiking trails, mountaintop vistas, and bird’s eye view of the fall raptor migration.  Since its founding in 1934, the sanctuary has grown in acreage and reputation as a scientific research center, international conservation training site, learning facility, wildlife sanctuary, and the world’s largest member-supported raptor conservation organization. Hike to one of Hawk Mountain’s lookouts for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and raptors, of course! From August through December, Hawk Mountain is considered one of the best places in North America to watch the annual hawk migration. The sanctuary offers year-round educational programs and family friendly events.
  • Combine birdwatching with other outdoor fun at Blue Marsh Lake. This popular spot for boating, swimming and picnicking during the hot summer months is also a fantastic birdwatching venue. The man-made lake was built and is maintained by the Philadelphia District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, water supply, water quality and recreation. Within Blue Marsh’s 6,200 acres of land, you’ll find 1,148 acres of water, 36 miles of trails, a small beach and boat launches. According to Audubon, the area’s many features provide a high quality habitat for Barn Owls and Field Sparrows, and it is a flyway used by many migratory waterfowl and songbirds.
  • On the other side of Berks County, French Creek State Park offers year-roung birdwatching opportunities. The park’s forests and lakes attract songbirds and waterfowl, as well as raptors including osprey and bald eagles. In fact, many of the 379 bird species that nest, winter or migrate throughout Pennsylvania can be found in the French Creek Watershed.
    The National Audobon Society offers tips on how to start birding.
Let's Go Local in Oley, PA
Let’s Go Local in Oley, Pennsylvania

The Oley Valley’s picturesque landscape make it a popular destination for Sunday drives. We say, why wait until Sunday when there are shops, restaurants, and interesting places to explore every day of the week? Get moving; it’s time to see what you’re missing!

  • A great place to start your day is the Oley Turnpike Dairy. Ice Cream for breakfast sounds delicious, but the dairy serves breakfast, lunch and dinner too. Following breakfast head to the small zoo to feed the goats, donkeys, llamas, sheep and other animals. If you are traveling with kids, not only will they love the zoo, they’ll enjoy the play area,  perfect for a quick romp. Depending on the time of day, an ice cream cone or sundae might be in order before you continue on your way.
  • Not far from the dairy is the Pleasantville Covered Bridge, one of the five remaining covered bridges in Berks County. Cross the bridge slowly, with your windows down. You don’t want to miss the sound of your tires on the wooden floor boards as you make your way through this delightful structure.
  • While on Covered Bridge Road, stop at the Covered Bridge Farm Stand, home of the Valley Milkhouse Cheesemaker. The artisan creamery handcrafts fresh, soft-ripened and aged cheeses in traditional European styles at this centuries-old location. The Farm Stand is open daily, 10 am – 6 pm. from March through December and also sells locally cultivated mushrooms and pastured meats and eggs in the shop.
  • A visit to the Oley Valley would not be complete without a visit to Evelyn & Harriett’s. The shop’s owners believe nice doesn’t have to be expensive and they strive to offer products that tell a story, “otherwise they’re just things.”  Explore items from around the world and pieces made by local artisans on the first floor. The second floor is filled with toys that stimulate imagination and creativity because play is learning!
  • When hunger strikes, strike back with a trip to Bella Italia for everyone’ favorite – pizza and hoagies. The Italian-themed décor and ample portions make for a cozy and filling stop.
  • Take time to explore all the interesting foods sold at Oley Valley Organics, Berks County’s premier source for local organic and natural foods. The family-owned market features organic produce from their own farm and provides an outlet for 60+ local farmers and producers to sell their products. If you’re not sure what to buy, grab something to drink from the Expresso & Coffee Bar and make a mental note to be prepared for your next visit to OVO.
  • If you’re looking for something sweet to nibble on while sipping your warm beverage, Reppert’s Candy is a quick drive from the market. Talk about a candy lover’s dream! You’ll find an unbelievable variety of chocolates, including sugar-free, plus an outstanding array of other tempting delights too. It’s no wonder Reppert’s is a gift-giving favorite.
  • Some of Oley’s earliest settlers made their way to the valley from Germany. Perhaps that is why Ernst Licht decided to locate in this area of Pennsylvania’s Americana Region. The shop specializes in traditional Bavarian German clothing store and offers a full range of Oktoberfest accessories and costumes, even gifts. If you ever wondered how you would look in a dirndl or lederhosen, here’s your chance!
  • Dinner at The Bridge Inn Pleasantville is the ideal way to end a day in the Oley Valley.ample The Bridge Inn’s incredible cuisine and relaxing atmosphere you know you’ll be back for more.
Follow the Stars

 

You’ll be seeing stars – barn stars that is, as you travel our region’s winding country roads in search of these colorful art forms. Commonly called hex signs, barn stars are unique to the PA Dutch, and Berks County has more of the fanciful designs than anywhere! Enjoy the fresh air as you take in the views of the historic and authentic artwork on our Barn Stars Art Trail.

Download our Barn Star Art Trail for directions and information about the stars and their meanings.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way –

Where to Start?

  • Start your journey at the PA German Cultural Heritage Center. If you are planning in advance, we recommend you call the Center to schedule a tour. Plus, the museum’s Executive Director, Patrick Donmoyer, is an expert on the subject of Barn Stars and recently updated this very tour.
  • The trail takes you north towards Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the first refuge for birds of prey. By all means, park your car and explore the sanctuary. You won’t believe the incredible views of raptors and far-reaching landscapes. (When traveling with children, be sure to ask if the sanctuary has any kids activities planned for the day.) Following Hawk Mountain, point your car south on route 61 towards Reading. If it happens to be Wednesday, Leesport Farmers Market is open for business. More than a farmers market, this is an experience you don’t want to miss. You’ll find vendors selling everything from fresh foods to household goods, to livestock and more.
    Another suggested detour – The Deitsch Eck Restaurant in Lenhartsville is a great place to order takeout. Not only does the restaurant specialize in PA Dutch fare, it was once owned by famed hex sign painter, Johnny Ott. (Open Wed, Thurs, Fri, & Sat, 4 pm – 7:30 pm (last seating is at 7:30), Sunday 11:30 am – 6:30 pm (last seating is at 6:30), Closed Monday & Tuesday)
  • Further down the road, and not far off of RT 61, is Schell’s 27 Hole Minature Golf . How about a round of mini-golf followed by the best hot dogs and bbq you’ll ever have -seriously?  Or, continue  south on Rt 61 to Centre Park, Reading’s premier historic district. Park and walk the lovely neighborhood, featuring stately mansions and colorful Queen Anne homes.  Berks History Center is located in the historic district and offers great insight into the history and people of our area. (Opens Aug 5 by appointment only Wed through Sat from 9 am to 3 pm)
  • Time to call it a day? Before you leave town, stop for dinner at nearby Jimmie Kramer’s The Peanut Bar, a local favorite for decades. Another popular choice – Austin’s Restaurant and Bar, But be sure to call for reservations, otherwise grab takeout.
  • Safe travels as you drive home.
Rock and Roll

A lone man scales a large rock mass at the Birdsboro Quarry using ropes

If your road trip merely serves as transportation to outdoor fun and adventure, we’ve got you covered. You’ll find a variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Berks County. Bring your bikes, hiking boots, kayaks and paddles for a day of fun in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.

Recommendations on where to begin and other stops along the way:

  • For the truly adventurous, the Birdsboro Climbing Quarry offers serious thrills. For over 20 years, the abandoned quarry turned sport climbing area has challenged climbers from across the Mid-Atlantic. We recognize rock-climbing isn’t for everyone, but you might enjoy watching these daredevils in action.
  • Not far from the quarry, enjoy lunch, ice cream, or both, at Scoupe deVille. The 50s themed ice cream shop has reinvented itself into a 50s drive-through so customers can safely dine on these marvelous treats.
  • Next stop, French Creek State Park.The park’s 7,730-acres constitue the largest block of contiguous forest between Washington D.C. and New York City and provides visitors with countless ways to enjoy the setting. While there, hike, mountain bike – you can connect with the Schuylkill River Trail, disc golf, kayak and watch the wildlife. For the ultimate French Creek experience, reserve a campsite or cabin prior to your arrival.. BTW – Kayaks are available to rent.
  • Add some history to your trip with a visit to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The remarkable site sits adjacent to the French Creek, and the two share hiking trails. Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic furnace community. Due to COVID-19, the Visitor Center and Hopewell Village remain closed.  The historic site is working to increase access to the park in a phased approach. Main parking lot and restrooms are open and the park grounds are open Wed – Sun, 9 am to 5 pm.
  • If you enjoyed Hopewell, you might want to squeeze in some time exploring the Daniel Boone Homestead. That’s right; the famous frontiersman was born in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region. While parts of the historic site remain closed, the grounds are open for pedestrian use from sunrise to sunset. This allows you to see the Boone homestead and the outbuildings that served the family before they moved from Berk County.
  • No sense driving home hungry. Drive west on 422 towards Reading and West Reading. While enroute, have your co-pilot check our website for local restaurants. Or stay the night at one of our hotels so you can spend more time in our region before going home.
 

 

Odd, Curious and Unusual

The Reading Pagoda sits against a blue sky dotted with clouds.

Discover the places and experiences that distinguish Pennsylvania’s Americana Region from all other destinations. These locations and attractions may seem odd, curious, or unusual to you, but they are part and parcel of who we are.

Recommendations on how to begin and other stops along the way:

  • Add a little Zen to your day with a visit to our iconic Pagoda. Follow the twists and turns of Duryea Drive* to the top of Mt. Penn for a close-up look at the structure, and the sweeping views of Reading and Berks County it affords. On weekends, the Pagoda’s volunteer staff welcomes visitors to explore the inside of the unusual building. This knowledgeable group is ready to answer questions about the Pagoda, and help with purchases from the gift shop and snack bar.
    *Duryea Drive is the site of two annual hillclimbs sponsored by the Blue Mountain Region of the Sports Car Clubs of America.
  • Speaking of snack bar, before leaving the Pagoda, enlighten your taste buds with some locally-made favorites. Enjoy a Berks Hot Dog followed by a yummy, malted Cho-Cho ice cream treat.
  • Next, stop at the Berks County Heritage Center. If finding an oversized and colorful Distelfink in the parking area doesn’t strike you as odd, there’s more to see. The Heritage Center is home to Wertz’s Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania; C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, the most extensive private collection of 19th century canal memorabilia in America; and Gruber Wagon Works one of the most complete examples of a rural factory in the nation.
  • Walk along the Union Canal Towpath, but be warned, the trail is the site of the shocking 1875 murder/suicide of Louisa Bissinger and her three children. Witnesses describe seeing three children dressed in homemade garb playing by the water, and then, disappear. Visitors have also reported feeling a wet hand on their arm as they walk the tow path.
  • Following the Heritage Center, we direct you north to Centerport (Rt 183 to Rt 222 to Rt 61North) to see a Fork in the Road – literally. Towards the end of Main Street in Centerport, you’ll arrive at an intersection that splits. At this spot, a 9-foot steel fork sits between two road signs –a real live Fork-in-the-road.
    break here
  • A fourteen-mile drive from Centerport to Shartlesville brings you to Roadside America, “the world’s greatest indoor miniature village.” The tiny town is a completed piece of artwork created by Laurence Geisinger over his entire lifetime. Be sure to catch the half-hour show, complete with a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” Now that’s Americana.
  • As you travel our country roads, ease of the gas so you can take in the colorful barn stars (hex signs) painted on the barns that dot the landscape. Be on the look-out for our Mennonite neighbors traveling these roads via horse-drawn buggies. It’s all part of our PA Dutch culture. Speaking of PA Dutch, stop at Deitsch Eck Restaurant in Lenhartsville for a taste of PA Dutch fare. The building was once owned by well-known hex sign painter, Johnny Ott.  Today, hex signs and other touches of PA Dutch art hang on the restaurant’s walls, a complement to the authentic PA Dutch cuisine that keeps locals coming back for more.
  • Before leaving Lenhartsville, take some time to explore another Berks County oddity. Just outside of the town explore Blue Rocks – cascading rocks that form a boulder field almost a mile long. This unusual river of rocks has been studied by geologists, but it’s origin is still unknown. (Need more time to explore the phenomenon; nearby Blue Rock Campgrounds might just have a cabin available for the night.)
  •  Crystal Cave is next on our list of curious places in Berks County. The cave was discovered in 1871 and became the first show cave in Pennsylvania. People flocked to the cave to be wowed by its endless number of crystalline formations on the walls and ceiling of the cave. The cave is always a cool 54 degrees. Crystal Cave is open daily from 9am – 5pm.