When one of the largest free admission festivals in the United States takes place in your backyard, you have to join in the action! We took a trip to Musikfest to experience it for ourselves. Each August over a million people stream into Bethlehem for the event, which USA Today hailed as one of the 10 Best Music Festivals in America.
Musikfest stretches out over 10 days with more than 500 shows on 17 stages throughout town. When you stay at The Sayre Mansion, you’re literally surrounded by the festivities. We left our car at the Inn and headed out on foot to check out the action on the South side of town. Steelstacks campus is a short walk from the Inn and is the site of all the headlining acts. Big name entertainers such as Boyz II Men, Willie Nelson, Poison, Counting Crows, Kelsea Ballerini and Alabama perform outdoors on the Steel Stage. It’s the only venue that requires tickets. Smaller venues, activity tents and food vendors fill the area here around the historic Hoover Mason Trestle. You can check out a free concert, visit the Hot Glass Tent for some amazing demonstrations and stroll the elevated walkway that runs the length of the now dormant steel blast furnaces.
Musikfest events are spread out on the South and North sides of Bethlehem. As a nod to the city’s Germanic heritage, stages are called platzes and are found everywhere. Continuous concerts throughout the day cover a wide variety of genres. You can enjoy a Polka band at the Wells Fargo Festplatz and then stroll to IBEW Local 375 Volksplatz for Latin music. Even Main Street closes to vehicles to make way for music. On two of the most historic blocks in Bethlehem, you’ll find stages that host everything from Blues, Folk and Americana groups to Funk, Pop and R & B.
There’s a reason locals refer to this as “MusicFeast!” Space between venues is chock-full of food and beverage booths, craft vendors and activities, giving the whole event a fair-like feeling. Have fun tasting your way through the festival. There’s everything from barbecue and bratwurst to fries and funnel cake plus pizza and pie in a cone! Aw Shucks Roasted Corn is consistently the biggest selling food item at MusiKfest. The sweet corn is brushed with butter and a secret blend of Southwest spices and Parmesan cheese. The signature blend is available for purchase at the festival to take and use at home. In addition to traditional fair favorites, there are some unconventional food options to try. Sink your teeth into a Buffalo Chicken Poutine, Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, Lobster Mac and Cheese, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Veggie Dogs, Island Noodles and Garlic Parmesan Pierogi Fries.
Familienplatz, located in the 18th Century Industrial Quarter, is an area devoted to the arts and family activities. There’s the Crayola Creativity Tent, daily community arts projects, artists’ demos and storytelling. You’ll also find a small selection of carnival rides and games, axe throwing, an arcade and sculpture garden. The Martin Guitar Handwerkplatz is home to 37 artisans offering visual and fine crafts as well as glassblowing demonstrations.
Musikfest began as a community celebration of the arts and blossomed into a major event garnering national attention. The Sayre Mansion overlooks all the action. Stay a night, a weekend or all 10 days and you’ll be centrally located to take advantage of all the music and festivities offered at one of the Lehigh Valley’s largest events. Our mansion is a landmark in Bethlehem, home to one of the city’s foremost citizens. Book a room in the restored 19th century mansion or carriage house and soak in the historic charm, unparalleled hospitality and luxurious accommodations.