Following in the footsteps of other Lehigh Valley Christmas attractions, including Christkindlmarkt and the Lehigh Valley Zoo’s Winter Light Spectactular, the elaborately decorated Hotel Bethlehem is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 437 Main St. hotel, which earned the No. 2 spot on USA Today’s 10Best 2020 Readers Choice Awards list for “Best Historic Hotel.” is expected to be completely decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving this year to accommodate guests coming in early for the Christmas season, according to a news release.
Management felt it was necessary to kick off the holiday season early like ArtsQuest and the Downtown Bethlehem Association have done with their outdoor Christmas markets.
The hotel, a member of the Historic Hotels of America, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is professionally decorated by designers Gary Berger and Robert Averill, who have decorated the hotel lobby, restaurants, grand ballroom, meeting spaces, and exterior of the hotel for the past 15 years.
This year will be no different for them, except they must start early and move at “super-elf” speed to finish the enormous task by mid-November, according to the release.
Together, the pair designs the elaborate displays that highlight the hotel’s ornate architecture, while working with the hotel’s engineering staff to organize their set-up.
“We have always sought to make Christmas at the hotel a truly magical experience for visitors to Bethlehem,” Bruice Haines, managing partner of Hotel Bethlehem, said in the release. “This year will be more challenging to manage this annual experience.”
Due to the pandemic, the hotel will require all guests to have a reservation before entering the hotel in order to “help the staff and the management team manage the crowds” during the hotel’s busiest season, according to the release.
In past years, the hotel would have opened its doors to thousands of guests per day to view their decorations, dine with them or enjoy cocktails in their grand lobby. Unfortunately, that will not be the case in 2020.
If locals or guests visiting Bethlehem wish to view the striking decorations throughout the hotel, they must make a reservation in advance on EventBrite for a self-guided tour. Tours are limited and early reservations are strongly encouraged.
“The primary purpose for reservations this year is to ensure the safety of our staff and hotel guests,” Dennis Costello, Hotel Bethlehem’s general manager, said in the release. “This means taking a proactive role to better control the flow of visitors in our lobby and throughout the hotel. It is not our intention to preclude from experiencing our decorations but this action is a necessary one this Christmas season.”
Hotel guests are also encouraged to make dining reservations in advance on OpenTable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Overnight accommodations at the hotel can be made by calling 610-625-5000.
The nine-story Hotel Bethlehem, which also features a gift shop showcasing women’s clothing and accessories on the ground floor, was built in 1922 under the direction of Bethlehem Steel Chairman Charles Schwab.
It was constructed on about the same spot as the First House that the Moravians built when they settled the land in 1741. The site also was the location of the Golden Eagle hotel for about 100 years.
Historic Hotel Bethlehem – Christmas Decorations Fun Facts
More than 35,000 Christmas lights are used
More than 1,000 hours of labor are needed to complete the decorations
20 sparkling Christmas trees throughout the hotel
Two 16 ft. trees in the lobby
Six 7-foot-high toy soldiers
Nativity scene by St. Joseph’s Studio
Every tree is recreated every year
The Mural Ballroom is designed with a gold and silver classic Christmas theme
A handcrafted gingerbread replica of Hotel Bethlehem is on display in the lobby
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