Twenty-five minutes from the bustle and crush of Route 1’s traffic is the bucolic village of Allentown, a perfect destination for shopping, dining, and strolling. As quaint as the village is, it is hardly a sleepy little town. “On the contrary,” says Heather Bruno-Saracen of the Allentown Business Community Association (ABCA), “our town has numerous events throughout the year that engage the whole community and brings in tourists from all over.”
One of the most anticipated events is the Fall Festival, held on the second weekend of October. “We close down the main street for two days and have a huge party with well over 100 crafters, local food vendors highlighting our extensive range of restaurants, live music, and best of all, Civil War reenactments.” Prior years have seen upwards of 20,000 visitors participate in the festivities. With pony rides and a petting zoo, the event is a dazzling day out for the whole family.
But wait, there is much more to October than the Festival. One of the most creative shopping opportunities occurs on the Thursday before Halloween when Allentown holds Witches’ Night Out. Retailers prepare with discounts and treats as the town is invaded by folks in fancy dress who take advantage of the wide variety of shops and restaurants. Indeed, Allentown has become famous for its enthusiastic embrace of Halloween. Ghouls and ghosts and all manner of things that go bump in the night revel celebrate in light-hearted fun.
“Other events during the year include a fashion show at the Old Mill and retailers who sponsor live music,” says Bruno-Saracen. “Coming up in December is the Holiday Open House, complete with a visit from Santa, wandering carolers and shopping discounts galore.”
Bruno-Saracen emphasizes, “The ABCA works closely with both the Allentown Village Initiative and the town’s Economic Development Commission to foster tourism for the town. We have created a vibrant community that is known as a day trip destination and a convenient stopping point for travelers on the way to the shore.”
Hand crafted jewelry and ethically traded fashions, handmade ice cream and a relaxing spa beckon shoppers. These combine with a wide range of restaurants ranging from vegan fare to fine Italian dining.
History runs deep in the Village. The land was originally populated by the Lenape Family of the Delaware Tribe of Native Americans. The town itself was founded in 1706 and settled primarily by Quaker, Presbyterian and Episcopal families. The Old York Road, connecting New York and Pennsylvania, was used as a strategic route during the Revolutionary War. This history can be seen at The Old Burial ground where many gravestones date back to the revolutionary war. In the 18th century, Allentown was a major stop on the Underground Railway. The oldest building in town is the Old Mill, where a gristmill ran continuously for more than 250 years.
“We have so much variety to offer visitors,” Bruno-Saracen says. “We are a few minutes’ drive but we’re a world away.”
Allentown Fall Festival, Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ABCAofNJ@gmail.com.