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Day Tripper - FRENCHTOWN
10/30/2011 - By Paul Williams
Frenchtown, New Jersey:
The Garden State's best kept secret
Frenchtown, N.J. could very well be the best-kept secret of our great state. Don’t let this quaint Victorian-style community fool you. The town is packed with a variety of luxurious bed and breakfasts, breathtaking antique shops, a local playhouse, clothing stores that sell everything from casual attire to formal wear, and a dozen restaurants and cafés to satisfy your appetite after a day out on the town.
Frenchtown not only offers many entertainment options to the millions of visitors it gets each year, it also accommodates those who wish to take advantage of the gorgeous landscape of western New Jersey that encompasses it. With bike and kayak rentals available, tourists can explore more than 40 miles of trails along the banks of the Delaware River. Whether you are trying to plan a fun weekend out with the family, or some quality time with your significant other, Frenchtown’s charming architecture, rich historical beauty, vast array of entertainment options and convenient location, about an hour and half away from Monmouth County, makes it the perfect place to plan your escape.
History of Frenchtown
As we all know, New Jersey was one of the original 13 colonies, so Frenchtown’s history begins early in the 18th century. James Alexander, the Surveyor-General for New York and New Jersey, purchased a 10,000 acre plot of land that included modern-day Frenchtown in 1744. James and his son William drew up the first blueprints for the layout of the town, and appropriately named it Alexandria.
After the property of Alexandria changed hands between various businessmen prior to, and after, the American Revolution, Paul Henri Mallet, a Swiss man serving in the French military, fled France during their own revolution. He immigrated to the newly-born United States, and bought a farm in Alexandria. Since he spoke with such a distinctly French accent, many locals began referring to the area as “French Town.”
In 1836 Hugh Capner, a successful entrepreneur who just completed a major copper sale to a mining company, bought the land from Mallet and began to design a major housing development along the northern end of the newly-named Frenchtown. This set the framework for the community as we know it today.
When you first arrive in Frenchtown, you’ll enjoy the quiet, comfortable ambiance that makes you feel as if you’ve taken a step back in time. If you and your sweetheart are planning a romantic getaway, you’ll love the vintage B&B and hotel that the town offers, and that all the restaurants and shops are within walking distance. Or if your itinerary for a family day out includes a hiking trip along the Delaware, shopping in unique, artsy stores, and capping the day off by seeing a play, Frenchtown is the perfect place for you. Below are just some of the fantastic options Frenchtown offers.
Shops and Entertainment:
Cathy Smith Designs, 20 Race Street | 908-996-1233
Cathy’s dolls are reminiscent of antique rag dolls, and composed of a collection of various materials from the last 30 years. Her “girls” make a perfect gift for the girls you love, whether they are young in age or young at heart.
Designs for Tranquility, 41 Bridge Street | 908-996-9990
Designs for Tranquility is a contemporary arts and crafts gallery that features different types of fine art. Handmade water features, glass art, sculptures, designer jewelry, and original paintings from US artists are just a few items they create and carry year-round.
Stone Cottage Soapworks, 10 Bridge Street, Suite 5 | 908-996-3600
Stone Cottage Soapworks specializes in handcrafted soaps, bath and spa items, as well as gift baskets for any occasion. They carry over 200 varieties of hard soaps, liquid soaps, bath salts and balms, as well as various bath-related items and towels. It makes for a perfect chance to bring the nostalgic beauty of Frenchtown back to your home.
Alchemy, 17 Bridge Street | 908-996-9000
Alchemy is the perfect destination for women searching for cutting-edge in fashion, jewelry, and accessories. Masterfully crafted hats, handbags and original artwork add to the diverse and stunning assortment of dresses for formal or romantic events.
Book Garden Bookstore and Museum Shop, 28 Bridge Street | 908-996-2022
Set in a charming 1860s Victorian house, this full-service book and museum shop offers novels and short stories that appeal to all ages. The Museum Shop carries collections of fine-art cards and stationery, as well as jewelry and handmade gift imports from Germany, Egypt, Russia and Japan.
River Union Stage, 902 Harrison Street
The Delaware Valley’s professional equity theatre performs an eclectic selection of plays; from Shakespeare classics, to off-Broadway productions, River Union Stage is dedicated to providing diverse and professional entertainment to all guests. For a list of coming events, visit www.riverunionstage.org
The National Hotel, 31 Race Street | 908-996-3200
The National Hotel offers comfort and luxury with its unique and spacious guest rooms and top-quality dining choices. By offering a distinct wine selection and exceptional signature drinks and service, the National Hotel is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of taking in all of the Frenchtown sights.
The Widow McCrea House, 53 Kingwood Avenue | 908-996-4999
This breathtaking 1878 Victorian-style B&B offers stunning suites complete with antique brass and featherbeds. When you stay at the Widow, you will start your day off by enjoying a three-course gourmet candlelit breakfast, and complimentary bottle of wine. With fireplaces framed in oak mantles and romantic Jacuzzis accented with Italian stonework, it is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.
The Frenchtown Inn, 7 Bridge Street | 908-996-3300
The Frenchtown Inn features old world charm, outdoor dining overlooking the Delaware, and exquisite cuisine prepared by award-winning Chef Andrew Tomko. Experience the fabulous lunch, dinner, and cocktails, and find out why Zagat says “this lovely eatery on the Delaware River is a wonderful place to celebrate an important moment.”
Bridge Café, 8 Bridge Street | 908-996-6040
Frenchtown’s former rail station, which served the town for over a century, has been transformed into a café. A full menu of specialty coffee drinks, burgers, salads, fresh baked pastries and breads are just some of the offerings of this rustic eatery.
Lovin’ Oven, 62A Trenton Ave. | 908-996-7714
Providing the best local and fresh fare from the community farms, the Lovin’ Oven offers a diverse, healthy menu that caters to all appetites. With indoor and outdoor seating available, bring your own bottle and take in the sights of Frenchtown while dining on a healthy meal. If all of these fabulous eateries, hotels, and shops, and more appeal to you, make Frenchtown your vacation destination during the holiday craze.
For more information such as specific business hours, coming events, and off-site activities such as the kayak or bike renting, visit the official website of the Frenchtown Professional Business Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving Frenchtown while maintaining its unparalleled, small-world charm. They will provide you with all the information you will need to make your visit a memorable one.
Frenchtown, New Jersey
The Best Kept Secret in NJ
Fun Frenchtown Facts
Most of the buildings in town are well over 100 years old, hailing from the Victorian era. Although it is just 1.4 square miles, Frenchtown houses and entertains over two million tourists each year.
• Robert Cormier’s WWII novel Heroes was set in Frenchtown.
• Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love is a Frenchtown resident.
• All Frenchtown’s businesses are prvately owned.
• The population is a little over 1,300 — roughly the same as it was throughout the 19th century.
• The Lenape tribe’s name for the Frenchtown area was Nishisakawick, which translates to “two outlets of a stream near a house.”
• Parking in Frenchtown is FREE!
From the GSP, take exit 127 to I-287 North. Take exit 21B to I-78 West. Take exit 15, bear right onto CR-513. Continue approximately 11.6 miles to Frenchtown.
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