Return to the Road: Lehigh Valley Tangents

Over their first five years of existence the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have been a rousing success, and in 2012 they once again led all of Minor League Baseball in attendance. I have visited the team on several occasions, the most recent of which are documented HERE and HERE.

On a personal level, I am pleased by the IronPigs’ exemplary operation because they provide that much more reason to visit the Lehigh Valley specifically and Pennsylvania in general (I grew up in neighboring Montgomery County, in the town of Ambler). Last month a group of friends and I spent a weekend in the region, which is documented in this “Return to the Road” post. The purpose, as always, is to document the myriad ways in which a trip to a Minor League Baseball ballpark can be combined with other regional activities.

Ben’s Biz Blog: Exploring the country through Minor League Baseball, one stadium at a time. Let’s go!

This particular Lehigh Valley excursion began in the town of Nazareth, home of the esteemed Martin Guitar company.

Martin Guitars was established in 1833, and is now in its sixth generation of family ownership. Free factory tours are offered daily, and a museum detailing the company’s history is located on the premises as well. The tour was free, although there were strings attached in that there were literally strings attached.

From Nazareth it’s a short drive into Allentown, where we had lunch at the unassuming and welcoming Wert’s Cafe.

I enjoyed my meal here, but this was a case were the restrictions of a gluten-free diet become quite pronounced. No sandwiches, no pies, and no signature onion rings for me! But one regional specialty that I was able to sample was birch beer on tap! I had never had such a thing.

Central Pennsylvania is a haven for birch beer enthusiasts, and in past visits I have been simultaneously confused and delighted by the many varieties. I was certainly confused by the tap offering seen above, at first thinking that the waitress had brought me an actual beer of the mass produced pilsner variety. I enjoyed its smooth, sweet taste, but no ice and low carbonation made it a beverage experience that took some getting used to.

After lunch, Ben’s Biz Blog guest-post writer Steve May suggested that we visit Allentown’s Double Decker records. Great idea!

The store’s exterior may not inspire, but the inside is another story.

Double Decker had a great selection of vinyl both new and used, representing a vast cross-section of (mostly) American music. The store boasts a passionate clientele, whose frequent browsing helped to insure a high turnover rate when it comes to what’s in the bins. If I lived in the area, Double Decker would quickly become part of an early Saturday afternoon routine.

Of course, I couldn’t help but add to my own collection (cat sold separately).

One album I considered buying was Blues Control’s “Valley Tangents,” and I really wish I had. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the band had re-located to Lehigh Valley to record the album (hence its title), and there is even a track titled “Iron Pigs.” This song is awesome and I think it should be played during extra innings at Iron Pigs games once things start to get a little surreal.

As for us, it was indeed time for another valley tangent, as the record store was located quite nearby to the Playdrome Rose Bowl!

I did not bowl nearly as well as I am capable of, but my form remains impeccable. (A rant for another day: Why are 16-pound house balls so hard to find at many bowling alleys?)

My first strike of the day came when “Baby Got Back” was playing. Not a coincidence.

Two games of bowling was the opening act — the day’s headline event was, of course, the IronPigs.

As you know, this particular IronPigs experience has already been chronicled in copious (some would say excessive) detail. But instead of ending this post, I’d like to extend my definition of “Lehigh Valley” to include Elysburg, PA. This humble burg is home to Knoebel’s Amusement Park and for my money (the only money I’m spending these days), Knoebels is the best amusement park in the country — It’s family-run, and there is a level of quality and attention to detail that permeates every aspect of the operation. (Plus, there’s no admission charge! One pays with tickets on a per-ride basis, and a $20 ticket pack has always lasted me throughout the entirety of the day).

The Knoebel’s parking lot, buffeted by rolling hills and formidable cloud cover.

A pickle on a stick and birch beer (in this case a sparkling white) can be had for $2.50, total.

Getting the lay of the land.

The mighty ferris wheel, from below and above.

There was a Theater of Magic pinball machine on the premises. I left my mark.

Each of these airplanes has a built-in rudder, which one can manipulate for maximum aerial advantage.

I miss summer already.


My favorite of all carnival games — you have to roll the bowling ball with enough force to get it over the hump, but delicately enough where it doesn’t simply roll right back to where it started.

A metaphor for life, because what isn’t?

The Haunted House is scary.

“Fascination,” in addition to being an awesome name for a game, is extremely addicting. It’s a form of bingo, basically, in which you fill your card by rolling a ball into numbered holes.

The bumper cars are world class.

As night fell, a large crowd had gathered to see a rock n roll revival show. The band, whose name I cannot recall, devoted the set to covers from each of the Beatles’ solo careers.

So, yeah: Knoebels. It is an awesome place, as is the Lehigh Valley, as is Pennsylvania. I’ll leave it at that, but please know my love extends to all corners like the ever-expanding tentacles of an obtrusive octopus.

Talk to you later.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

4 Comments

Some great entertainment suggestions as my family will be roadtripping there next Summer. My daughter has been wanting to visit the Hershey’s and Crayola factories and it looks like they are in that area as well.

Yeah, Hershey’s a little bit away, but a nice place to visit. Crayola, certainly. Dorney Park is nearby if you want a more traditional (and expensive) amusement park (with water rides). DaVinci Science Center is near Dorney; it’s nice. America On Wheels is a transportation museum not to far from Coca Cola Park.

Also consider, Yuengling brewery isn’t too far. And neither are the Reading Phillies or the Philadelphia Phillies if you want to try to time out a day-night double header of your own on the right day. I’ve done that before…

Appreciate the suggestions! We’re probably taking two weeks total driving up from Tampa so we’ll have plenty of time to thoroughly explore the region and make a few longer side trips from Lehigh Valley. Might even make it as far as Williamsport one day. We’ll see!

Brother had repeatedly told me about how super Knoebel’s was… this sure bears that out! Great for RV campers in particular… campground right next to the park!!

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