outdoor

15 Local Outdoor Options for Your Holiday Week (5/28 - 6/3)

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BY SIOBHAN DEREMER

It's officially the start of warmer weather and long weekends! Who is ready for some sun, breeze, and later sunsets?? I know I am. When I'm stuck inside at my desk all day, I'm dreaming of outdoor festivals, concerts, and hikes to come. Here's our list of great Memorial Day week events (most outdoor, some indoor - you never know what the weather will bring!) to keep the momentum from your #MDW going into the first week of June.

Monday

Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy your picnics, cookouts, or just plain old sit at home relaxing day. If you need some inspiration for the day, check out…

The Great PA Music and Arts Celebration (10am - 7pm / Free)
Come celebrate on the last day of this festival of local arts and music including artisans’ market, polka music, and sing-along opportunities. Dive into some local PA Dutch delicacies and tons of activities for kids and adults alike.

Military Days at Dorney Park (10am - 10pm / Free for military; other ticket prices vary)
All Memorial Day weekend, active and retired military members can get into Dorney Park for free and have access to discounted tickets for their family members. If you’ve been wanting to check out the rides at Dorney, let them thank you or your family member for their service with free admission.

Pioneer Band Celebrates 150th Memorial Day (7pm - 9:30pm / Free)
If you’re still craving a little more flag action after your cookout’s over (and you’ve escaped a food coma), listen to the tunes of the Pioneer Band in West Park in Allentown. Grab a bag chair and head down for some patriotic music to end your holiday.

Tuesday

Lively Lunches in the Park (12pm - 1pm / Free)
Every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, the Arts Park in downtown Allentown comes alive with live music. It’s a perfect way to get outside if you work downtown or get yourself outside if you need a lunch break.

Yoga & Creative Arts Night (5pm - 9pm / Free)
After your nights of brats, pasta salad, and beers, let your yoga flow come out at Emmaus’ Wellness Center at Jasper Mountain. It’d be a great night to start a yoga practice (or continue one) and bring a dish to share with others or enjoy what’s available. Donations are gratefully accepted but not required and if you aren’t fond of yoga, an art table will be set up so you can see where your creativity takes you.

Wednesday

Yoga 101 for 55+ and Better (9:30am - 11am / $55 for 5-week series)
Improve your strength, flexibility, and mobility with this 5-week series from Easton Yoga especially designed for bodies over 55 at any fitness level. Bring your own mat—all props needed will be provided.

Thursday

Say Yes to Fresh at the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market (11am - 3pm / Free)
Each Thursday afternoon, Southside Bethlehem gathers local vendors with bread, local produce, kombucha, skincare products, and yes, vegan cheeses. Live music is on from 12pm - 2pm and the market even features the Lehigh University Mending Project which will fix your sewing needs while you shop!

Cigar Factory Artist Studios Open House (6pm - 10pm / Free)
The artists that reside in the Cigar Factory on 4th Street in Allentown will be showing what they do best on Thursday night to give you a taste of the local art scene. Vendors and artists from the over 50 studios and workspaces in the building will be on display.

Friday

Lehigh Valley Underground First Friday Concert Series (5pm - 2am / Free)
Tour around South Bethlehem for drinks and music with a lineup that will start your weekend on the right note. Hit up the Banana Factory, Domaci, and more with live music at each venue (and dancing too, of course). Check out the details and event lineup here.

Where Does Your Food Come From? (7:30pm - 9:30pm / Free)
It may not be outdoors, but this collab between the Nature Nurture Center in downtown Easton and Lafayette College brings together all food nerds alike. 13 historian writers will speak about food history, including that of bread, sugar, beer, and more. Learn more about why we have what’s available to us and what modern food is all about.

Saturday

First Market of the Season (9am - 1pm / Free)
‘Tis the season for farmers’ markets and this weekend is the opening of the Bethlehem Rose Gardens market and it’s sure to be a good one. Featuring some of our faves from Lehigh Valley Kombucha, Colony Meadery, Willow Haven Farm, and more.

Step Outdoors Lehigh Valley (10am - 5pm Saturday, 10am - 4pm Sunday / Free)
This free family outdoor festival in its fourth year offers you your first shot at a mud run, hands-on activities like archery and birding, and our personal favorite, the DockDogs leaping dog show! If you’re already out for this festival on Saturday, then you should check out...

Taste of the Wild at Steel Stacks (2pm - 4pm / $38–40)
In the spirit of Pennsylvania, come try some game- and fish-inspired food (think pulled duck tacos and wild boar bacon) paired with Eight Oaks spirits while you check out a hawk or pet a reptile from the Wildlands Conservancy.

Sunday

Hike & Beer at Jacobsburg Park (11am - 2pm / Free)
Lehigh Valley Girls Pint Out are headed to Jacobsburg Park in Nazareth to hike for about an hour, enjoy the fresh air, and then enjoy a fresh pint at Birthright Brewing. If you can’t make it to the hike but want to chat brewing and beer with some of the savviest ladies around, meet them at Birthright around 12:30pm.

Barre3 in the Vineyard (9am - 10am / Free)
We’ve been touting the workout and tribe that is barre3 on here since we started Live Well and if you’ve been intrigued to check them out, it’s the perfect weekend! On the first Sunday of June, July, and August, the beautiful ladies of barre3 Lehigh Valley will guide you through a workout and then join you at BlendLife food truck for a smoothie (or even a wine slushie or mimosa) at Vynecrest in Breinigsville.

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash.

*Got an event we should list in upcoming weeks? Shoot us an email here or leave a comment to be considered. We have final approval for all listings, but we love suggestions!

Rise & Grind: This Free Outdoor Fitness Class Is The Lehigh Valley’s Best Kept Secret

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By Stephanie Eckelkamp

Do you smell that? It’s that weirdly intoxicating combination of dirt, new plants, and rain hitting warm pavement. And it can only mean one thing: Spring is coming!

For me, that’s the smell that puts an extra pep in my step after a long winter and what motivates me to get my butt outside -- and far, far away from the stuffy gym.

But, if you’re anything like me, motivating yourself to get up and go on an early morning bike ride or jog can still be difficult, even when the weather is glorious. There’s no one to hold me accountable, so I’m never quite as consistent as I want to be.

That’s why Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind is so awesome. This free outdoor fitness group meets every Wednesday morning (rain, snow, or shine) in Allentown’s scenic Trexler Memorial Park -- and its members seem like they'd be the best accountability partners, cheerleaders, and workout buddies you've ever had.

I chatted with LV Rise & Grind founder Alexa M. Huzela to find out what makes this group so special -- and why you should be a part of it.

SE: What exactly is Lehigh Valley Rise and Grind, and what are the workouts like?  

AH: LV Rise & Grind is a free fitness movement that I started in October 2016. We meet at 5:45 a.m. every Wednesday in the main parking lot of Trexler Park. We started with just seven people and soared from there.

It’s a place where anyone can come to workout for free, have fun, and leave to start their day feeling better about themselves despite what’s going on in their lives.

Our workouts incorporate running and cardio using just your body weight – no props required! Every week the workout is a little different, but many of our workouts include intervals of different moves like these:

Burpees
Planks
Squats
Sit-ups
Jumping jacks
Jogs and sprints
Mountain climbers
Push-ups

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SE: Do you guys really meet year-round?

AH: We are #WeatherProof! And on the rare occasion that we do need to cancel, it’s announced in advance in the Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind Facebook group.

SE: Do you have a background in fitness?

AH: I've played sports my whole life and I recently got my personal training certificate for extra knowledge and the safety component. 

SE: I have a bad knee. Do you make accommodations for people who have minor injuries or aren't super fit?

AH: We’re open to all age groups and fitness levels. For each workout movement or skill set, a modification is offered. I try to ask before we start if anyone has any injuries or needs modifications so that I can keep an eye on them during the workout. There's also a big focus on stretching to prevent injuries.

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SE: What's the vibe? Competitive, supportive, a little of both?

AH: The vibe is definitely supportive! When we do partner workouts, everyone is always encouraging each other; and when we do individual workouts, I make sure to tell everyone that no one cares how fast you are or how quickly you do a burpee – you should only be competing against yourself.

One time we were doing partner sprints and I overheard someone say, “I’m sorry I’m so slow.” I caught it and said, “No one cares how slow you are, you’re out here pushing yourself and doing this for YOU.”

We do throw in a little competition when we do burpees to the Bring Sally Up, Bring Sally Down song. The goal is to stick together as a tribe to complete the challenge. We also do plank challenges.

SE: It can be tough to get any new project off the ground. How did you make your dream a reality?

AH: My inspiration to start LV Rise & Grind came from a similar free fitness group called November Project, which takes place in various cities across the country. They came to Bethlehem two years ago for the Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival and I attended their 6 a.m. outdoor class.

Afterwards, I thought, I CAN DO THIS! I can start a movement in the Lehigh Valley that is totally free, inclusive, fun, and makes a difference. And now, here we are celebrating almost a year and a half of Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind.

I keep myself motivated from the feedback I get. When people come up to me and say that this one-hour weekly sweat session has changed their lives and their outlook on fitness, or simply helped them form new friendships, it makes me feel amazing. That’s exactly what my goal was, and I can't wait to make an impact on even more lives.

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SE: How has starting LV Rise & Grind changed you personally?

AH: It has shown me that I can actually make a difference in other peoples lives. I never thought in a million years that I could create my own workout, stand in front of 35 people, coach them, and be a fun mentor.

It’s also made me so appreciative of our community and the continuous kick-ass turnout that we get each Wednesday. Sometimes I drive there and wonder if anyone will even be there. But sure enough, all of the car headlights turn off, the doors open, and people are ready to sweat and have fun!

Our motto is #JustShowUp!

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For more information on Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind, request to join their Facebook group. Or you could #JustShowUp and see what happens :) 

 

Step Into What the Valley Has to Offer

By Siobhan DeRemer

Now that it’s sweater weather, what better time is there for a nice stroll through some greenery (orange-ry)? Good for your heart and the best way to view the seasonal change, there are some top notch walking and running trails in the Valley to keep you moving (and motivate you to get out there). If you’re itching to make your 10,000 steps for the day, training for that 10K, or just looking for a way to get out of the house, let these trails be your guide.

Running/Walking 

For those in Emmaus or closer to the Macungie area, it can be hard to run on streets without safe sidewalks and in the midst of busy roads. However, you’re in for some great hills and terrific scenery if you know where to go. South Mountain is great, even for experienced trail runners and newbies looking for a challenge (and has great biking and hiking trails, too). The loop is a well-marked about 8.5 mile moderate terrain wooded setting, with additional loops to choose from for an easier or more difficult run.

Are you in the Christmas City or downtown A-town and need inspiration for parks near you but unsure of their locations? Check out Bethlehem Parks / Allentown Parks Finder for a map view of parks. Bethlehem’s Monocacy Park has wonderful walking and mild hiking opportunities, not to mention the chance to fish or simply sit and enjoy nature, while sitting only 10 minutes from downtown Main Street. In Allentown, the Lil’-Le-Hi Trout Nursery on Fish Hatchery Road provides some quiet-ish pavement running on sidewalks and trails with wooded views and river scenery––and you can stop and feed the fish if you’d like! Lehigh Parkway’s 6-mile loop is great for social runners (there are always people on this one, but check the event calendar; you never know what’s going on in the area!) and has a few hills to add a bit of a terrain change. Some of this area is paved as well, so you can utilize both trail and pavement running options.

The D&L Rail Trail (which is about 165 miles total) section running from Allentown to Easton is a great path for runners looking for a long-distance trek or shorter, well-kept trails. Broken into sections (that all average about 3.5 miles each), the flat concrete path is shaded and turns to gravel/dirt when closer to Palmer. Easy for an out-and-back trip, less crowded, and perfect if you’d like to avoid the hills of other trails in the Valley. Another section of this trail, running from the Northampton area to Lehighton, is a quiet, flat offshoot made primarily of cinders, with other paved options in the Walnutport area and a series of rocky trails closer to Lehighton. Also in Northampton is the 5.1 mile (10 mile out-and-back) Nor-Bath Trail perfect for solo (or tandem) runs as it’s not heavily traversed.

In the Coplay/Whitehall area, the Ironton Rail Trail provides a 5.3 mile loop that is mostly paved, well-traveled, and easy to traverse. This would be a great spot to join a friend for a run or easy walk. Great for a small run (and perhaps for intervals, sprints, or run/walk training) in North Whitehall is Kolapechka Park trail, wrapped around a kids’ park, clocked in just under a mile. This one could be perfect if you’re transitioning from city/pavement running to trail and you’d like to test your strength on a cinder trail. In Schnecksville, the Trexler Nature Preserve (this one has awesome hiking options too - see below for more on that!) has great running trails, suitable for all levels and ages. Mostly packed dirt trails, there is an outer 8.5-mile path and a mixture of shorter paved/dirt trails to choose from. Since it surrounds the Lehigh Valley Zoo, it’s a great spot for meetups, team/family runs, or just a friendly, scenic stroll.

Also within the northern reaches of the Valley in Bangor is Columcille Megalith Park, which is perfect for outdoor meditation, simple walking, perhaps a bit of trail running, and just enjoying nature (Side note: Their illustrated park map is enough to awaken the fantasy nerd in all of us). Self-titled as an “outdoor sanctuary,” this park’s collection of large stone structures provides spiritual and inspiring scenery. 

Are you a social runner or just looking to meet others who share in your love of hitting the pavement or might give you the boost you need to start running on a more regular basis? Maybe you love running on your own but would like an ear to the ground about local races. Check out these running clubs and running opportunities in the Lehigh Valley and lace up your sneakers and go! 
Lehigh Valley Road Runners
Group Run with Run Inns (Nazareth/Emmaus)
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Hiking

One of the best parts of living in (or visiting) the Lehigh Valley is the great mix of the outdoors and city life. You can head out for a morning hike or afternoon trek and then find a multitude of happy hour options when you return. Check out some of our picks for hiking trails/parks (for all levels) to try today and then get together with friends, family, or the friendly people in the meetup options around the Valley to fuel what will most likely become a need for nature once you see the local beauty that’s only minutes away.

Mentioned above for its stellar running trails, Trexler Nature Preserve (Schnecksville) has a ton of hiking options of varying degrees of difficulty as well. The extensive Trail map provides information about the just over a dozen trails that the Preserve offers. There are spaces for mountain biking, picnics, bird viewing, fishing and kayaking in the Jordan Creek, and camping as well. While the Trexler Border trail can be a tough one, the views make the trek more than worthwhile. 

Hawk Mountain, which is about a 30-minute drive immediately to the west of the Lehigh Valley area, has five trails that are mostly short but have some elevation changes. This site is a Sanctuary for local raptor and hawk populations and serves as a model for conservation of these birds of prey worldwide. There is a minor fee to hike here, but be rest assured that the small price is helping to improve conservation and protection efforts.

For the experienced hikers (or casual hikers looking for a challenge), the section of the Appalachian Trail from Bake Oven Knob to the Lehigh Gap, stretching about 9.5 miles, is one of the highest rated in the area––both for scenery and bragging rights. The trail’s great for a day trip or overnight and takes you over the Lehigh Tunnel. Just beware that this one isn’t for beginners and while it’s moderate at times, it’s exposed and you should be prepared for the elements. If you want all the views but a bit less of the length and the work, hike the teeny 0.4 mile trail from Bake Oven Road to the top of Bake Oven Knob.   

If you’re closer to Nazareth, then you can check out the 18.5 miles of trails in Jacobsburg State Park (also known as Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center). The attractive area in Henrys Woods (part of the Center) has wooded scenery, streams, Bushkill Creek, and community events and education opportunities for visitors of all ages. Just a note of caution: Part of the Center’s land is used for hunting, so if you’re planning to wander the area during hunting season, plan to grab yourself some blaze orange or super bright apparel to bring along.

For group meetings and chances to explore hiking trails you may not want to try on your own, check out the Allentown Hiking Club or the Greater Lehigh Valley Outdoor Adventures Meetup (and check out their site for even more meetup options in the area). TrailLink is also a great resource for more running/walking/hiking trail options in your area!

Do you have a favorite walking, running, or hiking trail in the Lehigh Valley that you’d like to share? Be sure to let us know in the comments!