*I received compensation for this post, however all thoughts and opinions are my own and honest.
One of the best things about living on the East coast is proximity to historical sites, outdoor adventures and fun seasonal activities. A quick jaunt in the car and we are whisked on a weekend getaway. This weekend’s destination is Greater Reading, Pennsylvania, Where Art & Culture Happen!
Although our weekend of choice was a little rainy, the drive through rolling hills was beautiful. Being a city girl, seeing manicured lawns decorated for fall, changing colors of foliage and grazing livestock was enough to keep me occupied during the 2-hour drive.
There are so many things to do in Greater Reading. While we love outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, hot air balloon rides and golfing, our trip had another focus: Oktoberfest!
Get your lederhosen, flower crowns and beer steins ready!!! Oktoberfest encompasses our favorite pastimes: food, drink and culture. I was very interested to learn about the rich German heritage of Greater Reading, being that this was where the original German settlers landed.
Now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, proud signs of their heritage are present through the city and surrounding country in the form of food, ornate and colorful hex signs and architecture. Even personal dwellings showcase a classic timber-frame made popular during the medieval era in Germany.
Ranked the 4th best Oktoberfest in the world, the Reading Liederkranz festival is worth traveling for. Authenticity and friendliness are of utmost importance to the proud Liederkranz German Singing and Sport Society and it shows in the attention to small details.
Choose from a wide selection of German beers in souvenir steins while dancing to polka music and stuffing yourself on schnitzel, fried brie, potato pancakes and assorted bratwurst all served with grainy mustard, red cabbage and German potato salad. If you missed Oktoberfest, don’t fear, there are plenty of other festivals throughout the year.
Check out the schedule of events at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center or Goggleworks Center for the Arts. While it is tempting, don’t fill yourself up on festival fare, because there are other tasty eateries in town. Prost!
While leaving the Liederkranz Oktoberfest, we spotted signs for a pagoda, and took the right turn for an unplanned adventure. At the end of a winding road, a large, red pagoda will emerge… if you can pull your eyes away from the view!
Skyline Drive will take you to the top of Mt. Penn for breathtaking views of the city of Greater Reading and an interesting tale of how a giant Asian inspired pagoda was built 100 years ago. Hubby and I paid the $1 fee to climb 87 stairs to the top, learning about how this out-of-place structure came to be.
Originally built to hide a nearby quarry, it was destined to be a luxury resort, but failed to gain the funding and license needed. Instead, it was sold to the city and is now a landmark. At night, you can see the glaring red lights that used to communicate vital messages via Morse code to the town residents.
Historic photographs and heirloom pieces are housed on each of the 7 floors showcasing the rich culture of Greater Reading. Next on my to-do list was to sample the top rated restaurants in Greater Reading.
Upon first glance, The Ugly Oyster is a bar with an identity crisis. Set in a 200 year old building, the interior was salvaged from an authentic English bar, shipped across the pond and reassembled by expert craftsman in its current location, however it is considered to be a card-carrying Irish pub known for steaks and seafood serving Maryland Boardwalk fries (got that?).
All of this is set among a strong German population in Berks County, Pennsylvania. After speaking with Glenn Rigg, owner, all the pieces came together. Glenn, a man who spent many summers in Ocean City, Maryland, had the opportunity to become a fully-fledged and licensed Irish pub through an exclusive program offered by Guinness.
He returned his beloved town with new vigor and knowledge, eager to turn his lazy bar into one of the area’s best neighborhood hangouts with an eclectic menu based on his love of the Chesapeake and the local culture. Don’t miss the blue cheese, crab dip pretzel or stuffed shrimp.
Another Greater Reading hot spot is Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar. There is something that feels so innately wrong, yet so right about littering peanut shells on the ground. At the Peanut Bar, as seen on the Travel Channel, you’ll be greeted with a pot of peanuts and encouraged to do just this.
The motive? To oil the hard wood floors! Dark wood and little sunlight create a cozy atmosphere that is historic in Greater Reading. Wings are what they are known for, and rightfully so, they are prepared naked, tossed in your desired proprietary blend wing sauce and served piping hot.
If you aren’t in the mood for wings, The Peanut Bar serves German fare.
If you are looking for a fine dining experience, check out Judy’s on Cherry. Menu items are locally sourced, seasonal and artfully prepared and plated.
The space itself is in a repurposed farmer’s market building with architectural interest and decorated in cooling blue tones and local art, some being for sale. According to the bartender, signature dishes include hearthfire pizzas (not available on Saturdays) and Limoncello Chicken.
If you are in the mood for creative food, but not fine dining, check out Judy’s casual corner at The Speckled Hen, nestled right next door, it is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Berks County.
The last spot we visited was Sofrito Gastropub. From Puerto Rican inspired mofungo to street tacos and Cuban spring rolls, Sofrito spans the Latin cuisine gamut. Located in a residential neighborhood filled with turn-of-the century mansions, you’ll know you have arrived when you see the beige stucco building on the corner. Here the Arroz con Pollo Crab Cakes are the “don’t miss dishes”.
Rain or shine, make sure you check out all of the cultural and outdoor activities that Greater Reading has to offer. We already have plans to return to sample German food at the Kutztown Folk Festival and soak up some tunes at the Berks Jazz Fest. It is easy to see why they call Greater Reading Crazy. Cool. Country.
Thank you to Go Greater Reading and all of the wonderful people we met along the way, especially the lovely hotel accommodations at the Courtyard by Marriott. Located centrally downtown to both indoor and outdoor activities and with helpful staff, we will be sure to stay there again in the future.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Go Greater Reading.