Berks County Heritage Center
A visit to the Berks County Heritage Center is a journey back through the history of Berks County. It includes Gruber Wagon Works, which is a National Historic Landmark that dates back to the late 1800s. There’s also the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, which documents the golden age of canal transportation, specifically, the contributions that the Union Canal and Schuylkill Navigation System made to Berks County. Many of the artifacts on display there were recovered from 1927 when the Schuylkill Navigation Company closed their Reading headquarters. In the end, C. Howard Heister acquired the largest private collection of 19th-century canal memorabilia in the United States, totaling over 1,400 items.
For the art lover, The Distlefink is a representation of German Folk Art. Berks County has a heavy German influence. For those who prefer nature over history, The Union Canal Bicycle and Walking Trail is more than four miles long and winds along the Tulpehocken Creek.
Wertz Bridge (a.k.a. Red Covered Bridge) is the longest single-span covered Bridge in Pennsylvania, spanning over 200 feet across the Tulpehocken Creek. Out of the five covered bridges remaining in Berks County (there used to be 37), the Wertz Bridge is only one closed to motor vehicles. You’ll have to walk through it to get to the Berks County Heritage Center.
The myotis lucifungus bat species live inside the bridge in maternity colonies (only mothers and babies). At about 2″ long with a 10″ wingspan, these little brown bats can eat as many as 500 insects per hour. Each night they can eat half their body weight in insects. While they are prevalent during the summer, they hibernate in caves from October to April.
Central PA African American Museum
Berks County had important stops on the Underground Railroad. The Central PA African American Museum is a former church just east of the center of Reading. There are exhibits on the second floor, which focus on the achievements of African Americans from Berks County as well as the history of the slave trade. However, the most chilling part of the museum is the hole in which the escaped slaves hid. Street parking is easy to find.
GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
The former safety goggles factory on the corner of Washington and North 2nd Street was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Art galleries, a dance studio, glass blowing facility, ceramic studio and 131-seat film theater are some of the occupants of the 145,000 square feet that is GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.
Although it’s located downtown, there’s ample off-street parking in the back. With constantly changing exhibits and different events every week, there are plenty of reasons to visit on a regular basis. For an in-depth history of the building (and the city of Reading), check out the small but informative Willson History Project, which chronicles the 130-year history of Willson Goggles.
The Mid Atlantic Air Museum
Reading Regional Airport does not offer commercial flights, but they do have The Mid Atlantic Air Museum. Anyone old enough to remember Capital Airlines (1948-1961) or Eastern Airlines (folded in 1991, but recently started offering charter flights from Miami) will enjoy this trip down memory lane. In addition to former commercial aircraft, they also have aging U.S. Navy and Coast Guard planes on display.
Penn Avenue – West Reading
Penn Avenue is Reading’s version of New York City areas like Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Vernon Blvd in Long Island City, Queens. It’s an ideal walking street both during the day and in the evening. Unlike New York, it’s relatively easy to find parking. Dining options include A Taste of Crepe, Vietnamese food at Van’s Cafe, Bistro 614 for upscale French, Go Fish for sushi and Aladdin for Mediterranean. There’s plenty of charming bakeries as well. Ady Cakes has been featured on The Food Network (Cupcake Wars) and The Well Dressed Cake has French macarons in over a dozen different flavors.
Locals and tourists alike have been looking down at the city for Reading for more than 100 years thanks to the Reading Pagoda. The winding road leading up to the pagoda is an adventure in itself. When you get to the top, you’ll be looking more than 600 feet down. If you want to get even higher, you can take the 87 steps to the top of the pagoda. If you make it to the seventh floor, take a look at the bell, which was cast in Japan in 1739. It was purchased and shipped via the Suez Canal to New York Harbor in 1906 before being transported to Reading by rail (ever played Monopoly? Take a ride on the Reading Railroad?). Fun fact: the Reading Pagoda is the only one in the world with a fireplace and chimney.
Reading Public Museum
Located inside Museum Park in West Reading, the Reading Public Museum is just south of the Wyomissing Creek. The surrounding area can make you forget that you’re in the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. In fact, if you continue west (just follow the joggers and cyclers) you will end up in Wyomissing (where Taylor Swift is from). The museum was opened in 1928 and focuses on art and artifacts from around the world as well as Native American and Pennsylvania German culture.
Your pictures are quite amazing. Love how you draw me into Reading. Great in depth and fascinating place. Did not know the underground railway was in the area. Seems like a part of the country worth visiting. Cheers!
I love the photos on your post!! I have never been to PA but you make it sound like a super fun family destination 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful pictures. Being from India, I didn’t know PA has so much, leave alone Reading. Learnt a thing or three today 🙂
Amazing pictures. Hope you had a great fun !!
Thanks for sharing! I am working on a project to visit all 50 states in 5 years, so I’m always looking for interesting US destinations. I had no idea that there was so much to do in Reading! I would especially love to see that pagoda!
There’s such a great variety of places in Reading. I’d love to see the Reading Pagoda!
Also loving how the photos of each place are on a slideshow type option. Is that part of the theme?
Also have never been to PA but it seems it is full of museums and there are many interesting things to do!
that seems awesome! I’m an art fan here 😉 how many days do you recommend visiting there? 2 days?
At least. More if you like to take your time.
I can honestly say that I had never considered Reading, PA as a travel destination, but you made it seem like an interesting place to see. The pagoda seems so out of place but at the same time seems to fit too. I’ve also always found something appealing about covered bridges.
I think there are beautiful places to be found in any city, it just depends on how hard the person is willing to look for them. I think you have an eye for beauty, even if it is a bit hidden! Great post!
Thanks Maria. Whenever I read something negative about a place (like this http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/us/reading-pa-tops-list-poverty-list-census-shows.html?_r=0) I want to go see what is good there!
Well I just learned all kinds of things!! That bridge looks fantastic and I love the story about the
Pagoda! How interesting! Great post!
Love all the spots you chose to highlight. We have the same travel interests. The times I’ve been to PA I’ve really enjoyed it. If I make it that way again I’ll need to pt Reading on my visit list.
I’ve never been to PA and I’ve certainly never heard of Reading, so it’s great that you’re highlight a lesser-known area! I’ll have to add it to my list for whenever I end up visiting PA!
Great pics. I’ve never heard of this place but I’ll have to keep it in mind when I start to explore more of my home country!
I know almost nothing about PA and now I’m so eager to have a visit up there!! where would you suggest to go go first, to someone who has never ever seen PA?
Where are u coming from, Sabrina?
Never been in PA but reading you I find some serious resins to visit . all loos so gorgeous and so tourist friendly . Love your photography style
I love travel posts about little-known places and I always try to pick one myself when travelling, discover something new and write about it in a way others want to visit it
Macaroon. . . . I just loved that picture. as well as the helicopter. Sad state of the vehicle though.
I have never been to Pa or Reading before ( unless you count the one in England!), the public museum is one I would enjoy visiting. I love culture and history.
Pennsylvania is definitely worth the visit. Not only for these reasons but it’s beautiful. I wonder if Reading, Pennsylvania is where the reading railroad came from in the game Monopoly ;p
Yes and there’s a museum dedicated to it in northern Berks County!
My dad would love to visit that air museum. I have never been to PA or anywhere in that area.
I love that you feature places to go to and places to eat as well, it makes me even more interested in the place. Pennsylvania is the type of place that you want to go to if you want a relax tour, a place where you don’t have to do everything in such a fast pace.
Reading is has such an array of varied experiences, that I am sure a visit here would really be a unique and enjoyable experience. I am particularly fascinated by the Goggleworks Centre and the Air Museum and would love to visit it.
The air museum looks really cool. I’d love to check out some of the restaurants too!
This looks like a cool place. That old helicopter is an AWESOME photo op!
I heard Pennsylvania is also great for shopping. I think I’ll wait everything to settle down in the states before I head south.
Love the idea of stepping back through time with this. A pagoda with a chimney? That’s got to be worth a look!
I’m not an aviation buff but I’d definitely visit the avio museum in Reading. Of course right after the GoggleWorks arts center 🙂
Would visit this place anytime with my kids. It seems to me all of us would have a lot of fun in an avio museum like this.
I visited as a child on a family road trip. It looks like a return trip is in order!
I’m a big fan of Goggleworks! The Pagoda is still on my to-do list. It’s a great area.
The pagoda looks really interesting! I don’t think they’re normally made of brick (could be wrong though) so it looks very central PA with the red brick and the chimney. Definitely a culture combination I never expected to see! 🙂
Let me know how you like it, Sarah
I just found out I have a friend who lives in the area! Now I’ll have a local guide, too 🙂
Reading is a cool city. I drove through a few years ago, now I wish I’d stopped and explored a little more. That pagoda looks amazing.
Awesome! I love Reading. Where are you from in PA? I grew up in Easton/Allentown!
Northampton, currently in Carlisle.
Never been to PA but I can tell there is so much history there judging by the number of museums. I think I can plan a 2-day weekend trip there this summer. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks Tony. Feel free to drop a comment on how your trip was!