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Easton, Pennsylvania, is a city that’s very close to my heart, since I grew up just a few minutes away in New Jersey. Earlier this fall, Easton native Brianna of Casual Travelist and I spent a busy weekend there together as tourists. Based on that visit, as well as other visits I’ve made throughout the past year, here are my recommendations for the best things to do in Easton including my favorite restaurants, bars, attractions, and more.
Like most people who grew up in a small town, I couldn’t wait to leave once I was old enough to make that decision for myself. I went to college about three hours north in Syracuse, New York and have spent my adult life living in Colorado, D.C. and Massachusetts.
Much to my delight, in the time that I’ve been away, a neighboring city has become – dare I say – cool. Like really, really cool. That city would be Easton, Pennsylvania, which sits on the opposite side of the Delaware River from Phillipsburg, New Jersey, where I went to high school (the small town I grew up in – Alpha – is about 10-15 minutes from there).
Growing up I spent a lot of time in Easton – it’s where my dance studios were, and it’s where we went to the mall and the movies. However, there wasn’t ever much going on in its downtown area. A major transportation hub before and during the Industrial Revolution, Easton fell on hard times in the mid-20th century like many cities in the northeast U.S.
But Easton has bounced back in a big way. It’s historic downtown has been transformed by many dedicated and passionate residents over the course of the past 10-15 years, and it’s still on the upswing. Its restaurants, breweries, arts and cultural scene, shops, and family-friendly attractions draw tourists from throughout the region and beyond, and it’s where I most enjoy spending time with friends and family when I’m “home.” And even though there’s always something new to see or do, it still retains it’s small-city charm.
The Best Things to Do in Easton
Earlier this fall I got to explore Easton like a tourist with Brianna of A Casual Travelist. She’s an Easton native that I met through blogging, and a few years ago, we made the connection that we were once high school rivals. We finally coordinated a weekend trip together and spent a jam-packed 48 hours eating, drinking, shopping, strolling, and reminiscing. Our visit inspired me to finally put together my guide to the best things to do in Easton including:
- Restaurants – where to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND dessert
- Bars – where to enjoy coffee & adult beverages
- Attractions – where to enjoy the arts, learn about history, and where to take the kids
- Shops – where you can find everything you need & want
- Hotels – where to lay your head
Given that Easton is conveniently located only 90 minutes north of Philadelphia and 60 minutes west of New York City, Easton has a thriving food scene. It’s attracted several big-name chefs, but there’s plenty of home-grown talent as well. You’ll also find a wide range of cuisines from Italian to Lebanese to Thai and beyond, thanks to the area’s large immigrant population.
No trip to Easton is complete (for me at least) without a visit to the Markets. Easton’s Farmers’ Market is the country’s oldest continuously operating open-air market, having been in business since 1752 (!). From May through December, it takes over Centre Square on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon. It’s a place I usually come with my parents, so I had been looking forward to sharing the sights, sounds and tastes with Brianna as well. We particularly enjoyed the samples at the cheese stand, and I had my first cider donut of the season.
After taking a complimentary tour of the business district with the Easton Main Street Initiative, it was time for lunch, so we walked a few steps up Northampton St. to one of my favorite places in the area, The Public Market. This indoor market opened in 2016 and is home to 16 vendors, including my personal favorites, Fieldstone Coffee and Scratch (pizza), as well as a farmstand with fresh produce, dairy products and more.
During my visit with Brianna, I was thrilled to finally try Mr. Lee’s Noodles, the only ramen shop in the region, and I discovered it was well worth the wait.
By far the most unique spot to enjoy a hearty breakfast in Easton is Quadrant Booksellers, where you can enjoy your eggs and coffee surrounded by stacks of used and antique books (bliss!). Newer on the scene is Tucker’s, an authentic Australian coffee shop (owned by actual Aussies) located in the Silk Mill, a former textile mill that’s now a blend of apartments and retail space. Tucker’s serves a variety of unique toasts and, needless to say, an amazing flat white. (They also pay their workers a living wage – bonus!)
What else: Another classic spot – cash only – is The State Cafe and Grill.
Lunch & Dinner
My hands-down favorite place to eat lunch in Easton is Daddy’s Place. Although I was skeptical at first because of the industrial vibe, it turns out they make some of the best Middle Eastern food I’ve ever eaten. Everything on the extensive menu is made from scratch, and made with love by the family who runs it. Also – I’ve never seen this before – they sell more than 3,000 bottles of craft beer, and you can grab one yourself out of the coolers that line the restaurant’s walls.
For my first dinner in Easton with Brianna, I took her to 3rd & Ferry Fish Market, which has a stunning bar, a lively happy hour scene and great seafood (I had the crab cake sliders). After dinner, we had drinks at the hottest place in town, Oak. a high-end steakhouse. The restaurant spans four stories
The next night we went to Bayou, which I hadn’t been to before, and sat outside on the patio, where we were entertained by a fun “oldies” DJ and dancing patrons. Everyone I know raves about Bayou, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with my meal, so I think I need to give it another shot.
I also have to give a shout out to my parents’ favorite restaurants, Sette Luna, which specializes in brick-oven pizza, and River Grille. The food and service at both is consistently excellent. Recently, I tried to make them branch out and took them to Aman’s Artisan Indian Cuisine for the first time. Family-owned Aman’s, which serves high-end Punjabi cuisine, just relocated to across from the Public Market in summer 2019. My paneer tikka masala was fantastic.
What else: The next place on my list to try is Thai 1001.
We like our sweets in Easton, that’s for sure. Sweet Girlz has been a go-to for creative cupcakes for the past few years. I also recently had yummy cupcakes from the uniquely named Cake & Corolla, which doubles as a flower shop. I’ve also been to Bank Street Creamery, which has 120 flavors in rotation.
During our weekend together, Brianna and I stopped at Khanisa’s to take a break from sightseeing. Khanisa’s is new in town and serves a variety of decadent pudding desserts served in shot-type glasses, and we were so impressed with these unique creations. My favorites were the red velvet and sweet potato pie.
Two insanely popular foodie-focused festivals held in Easton every year are BaconFest in November and GarlicFest in October.
I was so excited to take Brianna to my two favorite coffee shops. We first met my parents at ThreeBirds Coffee House, which just opened in summer 2019 in a gorgeous restored mansion (yes, a bird lives there!). They don’t have a kitchen but do have some light fare like pastries and yogurt. Terra Café also has fantastic coffee, as well as a large selection of smoothies, salads and wraps. Terra’s owner sources the coffee straight from Colombia, so I was really excited to be able to buy a bag for myself.
Breweries & Pubs
Luckily, Brianna likes beer as much as I do, so I took her to Two Rivers Brewery, which has one of the best bar scenes in town (they also have good food – they’re known for their duck fat fries and burgers). Unfortunately we didn’t have time for Weyerbacher, which is one of the more established breweries in the Lehigh Valley. It’s 30,000-square-foot brewery and bar is a short drive from downtown.
Other old-school favorites of mine are Pearly Baker’s, which is right at Center Square, and Porter’s, which is further up Northampton St.
What else: On my list for my next trip home is Easton Wine Project, which is also located in the Silk Mill.
The State Theatre is an Easton institution, having been open since 1926. Not only is it where I first took dance lessons when I was five, it’s where you can see a wide variety of music, dance, off-Broadway, and comedy performances throughout the year. Lafayette College also hosts more than 100 performances, exhibitions, films, and lectures each year that are open to the public.
If you want to get some fresh air close to downtown, head to Stirner Arts Trail. I actually hadn’t been there before I went there with Brianna and my dad, and we had a lovely stroll. Karl Stirner is credited for bringing the arts to Easton, and the two-mile trail along Bushkill Creek is lined with public art. It’s a really peaceful place for a stroll.
There’s also plenty of free art to appreciate throughout the city – the Easton Mural Project has four murals downtown and is installing its fifth nearby in the West Ward. You’ll also notice smaller works that have popped up on doors and buildings as well as bike racks that have been designed by local artists.
The Sigal Museum on Northampton St. is worth a stop. It’s a small but very well curated museum that tells the story of the area’s history and people through displays of Native American artifacts, farming tools, household items, clothing, and more.
For the Kids
Easton is an incredibly family-friendly town. One of the flagship attractions is the Crayola Experience, a brightly colored 65,000-square-foot facility located right in Centre Square that draws almost 500,000 visitors each year. Even though the Crayola Experience has several locations, Easton is actually home to the Crayola headquarters. I haven’t had a reason to attend in years, but I hope to take my nephew in the new year. Also the Nature Nurture Center seeks to educate visitors about the natural world through permanent and rotating exhibits.
What else: Sadly, it’s hard to find an independent bookstore these days, but Book & Puppet is thriving – it has three locations in downtown alone. It’s way more than a bookstore, too – there’s often free entertainment for kids.
I’m not a big shopper, but there are a few places in Easton that I always love supporting. Top of my list is Easton Outdoors, which has a wide variety of outdoor clothing and gear, and always has good sales. Brianna and I also had fun browsing the unique offerings at Mercantile Home.
What else: I took to Facebook to get some recommendations on Easton shops, and here are a few that my friends and family frequent:
- The Carmelcorn Shop – an Easton classic selling popcorn, candies and other sweets
- Polliwogs and Petunias – for high-end, eco-friendly children’s clothes and toys
- Easton Exchange – a pawn shop that’s great for finding records
- Easton Antiques Emporium – a 6,000 square-foot-space packed with treasures from 35+ vendors
- Christine’s Bath and Gift Boutique – candles, soaps, jewelry, accessories, and more
- The Loving Piece – a “metaphysical shop” selling sage, crystals, tapestries, and dreamcatchers
- Token – unique cards and gifts with a touch of snark (love it!)
Easton does have a shortage of hotels, but hopefully that will change soon. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Easton, which is at the perfect spot for exploring the area – right off Rt. 22 and only about 10 minutes from downtown. Our rooms were spacious and very clean – mine even had two TVs.
Brianna and I were hosted by the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Easton and were given a generous gift card by the Easton Main Street Initiative. We also were assisted by the staff of Discover Lehigh Valley. Thank you for your hospitality!