Musikfest in Behthlehem, PA
Musikfest is a 10-day celebration of music, art and food held each year in early August in Bethlehem, PA. What began in 1984 as a small local festival has grown into a major event that attracts over one million visitors from across the country.
Starting in 2011, Musikfest is spreading to Bethlehem's South Side and will now be a two-campus event. Ten of the festival's venues remain in the historic downtown area while the festival's two ticketed venues and Muskifest's largest free venue will now be about a mile away at SteelStacks entertainment campus in Bethlehem's south side.
Musikfest features over 300 national and international performers appearing at 14 different indoor and outdoor venues. The selection of musical styles is vast and includes classical, reggae, rock, salsa, folk, blues, dance, polka and just about everything in between. In our opinion, one of the best things about this festival is that about 75% of its performances are free. Headline acts, Performing Arts Series Performances and Candlelight Concerts all charge admission fees and have advance tickets sales.
Insider Tip: To get access to advance ticket sales before the general public, consider becoming an ArtsQuest Member. ArtsQuest members also get access to special members' lounges during the festival
The layout of Musikfest can be a bit daunting for first-timers, particularly now that events are spread over two locations. If you are new to the festival, your best bet is to grab a map and performance schedule as soon as you arrive (or print one from the festival website www.musikfest.org). Festival sites are divided by "platz" which is German for "place". The performance schedule will indicate at which platz an act is performing and the map will show you how to get there.
Shuttle buses run between the north and south side venues for a $2 fee (children are free). The distance between the two festival locations is about one mile and it is walkable. The most direct route is over the Fahy bridge which has a sidewalk (albeit it a narrow one).
Insider Tip:Festival organizers recommend leaving an hour to walk between venues on the north and south sides.
Head to Festplatz to hear polka music and experience a festival tradition - the chicken dance. Festplatz is also one of the largest dining areas featuring plenty of diverse food stands and about 300 tables for dining. Food at Musikfest is not cheap, but you will find more variety and ethnic options than at most festivals. Festplatz is located on the festival's north side.
Insider Tip: Save some money if you're planning to enjoy some brew while festing. Buy a festival beer mug and have it filled at one of the watering holes along main street for less than you pay at the festival beer stands - the lines may be shorter too!
Want to see artisans creating and selling their work? Then you'll want to check out Handwerkplatz. Festing with kids? Head to Banana Island for family friendly musicians, storytellers and puppet shows. If Latin music and cuisine are more your style, spend some time at Plaza Tropical. All of these platz's are located near downtown on the festival's north side.
Musikfests South Side: SteelStacks Campus
Those of us who have attended Musikfest performances at RiverPlace and emerged with multiple mosquito bites are thrilled that the venue by the water has been replaced! Sands Steel Stage is the new venue for headline ticketed acts. The new site will seat 7,200, about 700 more than RiverPlace.
The Musikfest Cafe at the ArtsQuest Center will be the site of the PNC Performing Arts Series. These are the ticketed events that were formerly held at Moravian College's Foy Hall (Candlelight Series) and Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center.
Americaplatz, Musikfest's largest free venue will now be located at the new Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks. Even though the old location at Payrow Plaza will no longer host a Musikfest platz, it is still one of the best locations from which to view the spectacular Musikfest fireworks!
Rounding out the SteelStacks stages is Air Products Town Square, an outdoor plaza that hosts various free performances starting at 4pm each weekday and as early as noon on weekends.
- Leave Fido at home. No dogs allowed except for service animals.
- Take time to visit some of the great shops along main street. Although some shops and restaurants close during the festival, the ones that stay open are worth a peek..and provide an opportunity to get out of the heat.
- Consider parking at a Musikfest remote lot. Parking is free and it will cost you $4 per person (children under 12 are free) to take the shuttle from the parking lot to Musikfest. Parking at Musikfest has always been challenging and there is no parking in the general area of the south side venues. Remote lots are located at Martin Tower (off of 8th ave) and Musikfest Central at Route 412 and Commerce Center Boulevard.
- If you need to cool off, head for the Hawk 99.9 misting area for a little relief.
Musikfest to other PA Events
Go to Pennsylvania Vacation Guide
Festival features,performances and policies subject to change. Please verify features directly with the festival organizers.