Reading, Pennsylvania

To the uninitiated, it might seem that Reading, Pennsylvania would be the exact opposite of New York City. In some ways, yes, but in other ways they both have their charms, which are not that disparate.

My hotel in Reading was a relatively humble Holiday Inn Express, though I have no real complaints about it. It was clean, spacious enough, and offered an included breakfast. Staff was generally very good, and I felt welcomed and valued.

Across the street was one of my favorite haunts: Willoughby's on Park. I ate there probably five times during my week-long stay at the hotel and, perhaps sadly, never got past the appetizers. But if they are that good, I have to believe everything else is as well.

Steak tips with bleu cheese. DELICIOUS!

Service was top-notch, with both bartenders and the manager making me feel like an honored guest. And the food was great as well.

There were numerous other eateries in the area. Some were OK and there were others to which I would never return. But that's the case nearly everywhere.

I also managed to get a good haircut in Reading.


One of the challenges of being on the road - especially in my position where I represent my agency to the public, elected officials, and the news media - is that I have to look polished and presentable at all times. A good haircut is part of that.

Based on Yelp! reviews, I rolled up to Anthony's Barbers on Penn Avenue, which is technically in Wyomissing (pronounced, "wy-yo-MISS-ing").

I was very pleased with the results! Regulars may have a favorite but I took potluck. I told my barber what I wanted and she said, "Yes, I can tell your style." I thought it was great that she read me correctly.

She gave me a solid cut and didn't hesitate a moment when I asked for the top to to be shortened a bit. Excellent service, and I would definitely recommend them.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot else  I can recommend in the area.  Even the clerk at my hotel confided, "I wish there was more to do here," when I asked about things to see and do.

One of the attractions at least within striking distance is the town founded by Milton Hershey: Hershey, PA.

Hershey plant

The Hershey plant is still there, though they don't manufacture their famous chocolate bars there any more; that's been "off-shored," and don't get the locals started on THAT.  Yes, it still smells like chocolate, but that's thanks to some creative olfactory manipulation. In other words, fake scent pumped into the air.

Thematic street signs

Nonetheless, a visit is still worthwhile.  The chocolate theme is ubiquitous, from the cute names of the streets to the streetlights shapes like Hershey's Kisses.

There is also the Hershey Museum and several decent restaurants in town, which can make the 50-mile drive worthwhile.  As well, the road from Reading to Hershey - U.S. 322 -- takes you through Amish country, which is very interesting as well.

Two caveats to visiting Amish country, however: EVERYTHING is closed on Sundays, and watch for the horse and buggies.  They have the right of way, and drivers of (gasp!) motorized vehicles will have to bob and weave around them.  Still, it's a charming area with some great places to explore amazing Amish hand-made furniture as well as cheeses and other comestibles.

After Reading, Pennsylvania, I was off to Dodge County, Minnesota, about 20 miles west of Rochester, home of the famous Mayo Clinic.  More on that area in my next report.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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