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Travel Guide: A Taste of Berks County, PA

Located in South Eastern PA

About 30 miles from Lancaster, PA and 56 miles outside of Philadelphia Berks County PA is just waiting to be explored. There are a thousand ways to spend the day exploring this region with hiking trails, mountains and waterways, shops, restaurants, museums, historic landmarks and a thriving art scene, there is so much to see, explore and take in.

We love how different parts of Berks County can feel like snippets from another time or place worlds away. A Pagoda?  Yeah they’ve got that! Tuscan Winery? Check. Irish Pub? Sure thing. You want Artists, makers and innovators-hold my beer, we’ve got a five story community arts center! 

Video Travel GUIDE

For this travel guide, we’re giving you a taste of some our absolute favorite stops across the region with the hopes that you’ll feel free to wander in your own directions and find even more ways to wonder at this part of Pennsylvania, as always supporting local businesses and appreciating the local community as you explore.

Shopping, Tasting, Caffeinating

We are starting this travel guide itinerary in West Reading. You could honestly spend the whole day leisurely walking up and down Penn Avenue  just popping in and out of storefronts and shops. “The Avenue” is lined with boutiques, restaurants, specialty shops, galleries, an escape room and breweries making this part of west Reading a walkable wonderland of things to see and do, and places to shop and explore.

We recommend grabbing coffee from Simply Bold Cafe, exploring the boutique upstairs and sipping your coffee on the porch or sidewalk seats while you fuel up for the day.

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There are so many shops to pop in an out of on Penn Ave. We loved Ady Cakes for sweet treats, Be Mine Boutique for fun fashion, and Say Cheese for cocktails, burgers, and of course…cheese. If you stop in at Ady Cakes, try the cake pops. If you grab a bite at Say Cheese, we HIGHLY recommend the bleu cheese burger (cut it in half before you dig in, that cheese is piping hot and ooey gooey delicious!) Get a side of sweet potato fries with raspberry mayo on the side and thank us later! The canned in house cocktails were favorites as well.

Once you’re caffeinated and have had your fill of interacting and engaging on the Avenue, we recommend turning a corner, and ducking away for some quieter exploring along the mural walk. The entire walk is about 20 minutes on foot  and one mile long. It covers 45 works of stunning public art, each with an intriguing story and artist behind it. There’s an interactive map and audio tour online that tells you about the artists and shares some of  the stories behind the artwork (you can find those links on the blog post) but we definitely recommend taking your time, taking some photos, and taking it all in!

An Authentic Guinness Pub

After shopping, caffeine, and public art, it’s time to hop in the car and cross the bridge to explore more of Pennsylvania’s Americana region.

 Our pick for lunch is the Ugly Oyster Drafthaus on S. 5th Street in Reading. The Ugly Oyster is an Authentic Guinness Irish Pub that feels like the first place you’d pop in for a pint if you were visiting Ireland instead of Reading PA.  The original building was founded in the 1700’s making it the oldest pub in Berks County but the flavors and the hospitality feel fresh and new.

The ugly pretzel, scotch eggs, fish and chips and the reuben are our top lunch picks and we think you’ll agree that somehow a draft beer always tastes better when authentic Irish music is piping in the background.

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If you have time and room for a milkshake on this side of the bridge, be sure to stop in at Franklyns for the best milkshakes in Reading, PA.

Creating & Exploring

After lunch, it’s just a couple minutes down the road to the Goggle Works Center for the arts. With free admission and parking, the GoggleWorks is the kind of place you can just pop in and start exploring, but we recommend booking a tour or class ahead of time to get the full experience.

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The GoggleWorks is a 145,000 square foot, five story factory turned community arts center. The center is made up a mix of communal teaching and working studios that are used for classes, public demonstrations and working spaces for artists. There are also exhibitions and gallery spaces to explore, as well as a shop that features work from local artists and makers which you can purchase. We think the GoggleWorks is a destination unto itself with so many options to create and explore that are accessible to anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of the action. 

I love how the studio spaces invite visitors to be curious about the artist’s process. I could wander the halls and just people watch here all day! I also love the make and take add-ons to tours that allow visitors to try a new medium..like glasswork which is equal parts thrilling and terrifying the first time but such a cool..i mean hot experience to have!

The GoggleWorks is also home to the Boscov theater and you can catch a film or rent the space out for special events or a movie night with extra flair. 

We love how no matter your age or experience level, there’s a place for you at the GoggleWorks to create, to learn, to try something new or be swept away by something someone else poured their heart into. You’ll want to visit again and again.

In past visits we’ve just popped in and walked around. It’s such a fun venue to explore. I’ve met several of the artists who have studio space and I feel like getting to be a fly on the wall in someone’s creative space is such a magical and inspiring experience.

Try the Make & Take Add On

We booked a private tour and added on the glass flower experience when we visited last. It was absolutely thrilling to be a part of creating with such a complicated medium. Having a guide and teacher made the experience approachable and accessible and now I have a beautiful glass flower on my shelf to remind me of what I learned and how I created something beautiful.

Tuscan Winery: Folino Estate

For your last Berks County stop, we enthusiastically recommend heading about 18 miles outside of Reading towards Kutztown -it’s a short trip but the destination feels like you’ve traveled worlds away. 

Folino Estate is a Tuscan Villa style tasting room and restaurant sitting on a glorious 54 acres of rolling hills, vineyard and garden. The views from the outdoor seating areas are breathtaking especially as the sun sets behind the vines if you can reserve an outdoor fire-pit, I highly recommend it.   

The wine is complex and flavorful, the kitchen offers delicious homemade pasta, authentic Italian offerings both traditional and newly imagined, everything is made from scratch and designed to pair beautifully with the handcrafted wines and signature cocktails.

The meatballs are everything. The wood fired pizzas and rustic bread are ten out of ten, you have to, and I mean have to, save room for cappuccino and dessert!

If the lemon meringue gelato is on the menu when you go…ORDER IT! If heaven was something you ate with a spoon, this would be it! Lemon Meringue Gelato with imported Italian vanilla gelato, lemon curd, graham cracker, and meringue topping. I would buy a gallon if that was a thing!

Save time to shop around in the shop on your way out too! If you come from far away and fall in love with a Folino wine, you can bring a bottle home with you! I also love their sangria kits-, makes bartending at home feel extra easy and extra special!

LEMON MERINGUE GELATO

If heaven was something you ate on a spoon, this would be it!

Lets Explore Together

Like everyone else, these months of being grounded and confined have had us aching to get out and about in the world once again. While things are slowly opening up and we have more and more opportunities to safely get out and explore we are challenging ourselves and you too to appreciate the beauty and wonder and culture of the places that are right here, close to where we are right now. Supporting and engaging with your corner of the world until you can explore everywhere once again!  Wander often, wonder always and I hope you’re making the most of your one wild and precious now.

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Local Non-Profit Support

* Wild Precious Now is supporting Opportunity House in Reading, PA. We respect the work they’re doing to combat homelessness and hunger and create opportunities in Berks County.

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