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DayTripper: New Hope, Pennsylvania
06/27/2008 - By Teja Anderson
Are you fed up with sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way to the Jersey Shore?
Instead, this summer try a trip to the village of New Hope, nestled along the banks of the Delaware River. This quaint town offers its visitors scenic countryside, romantic hideaways, and lots of family fun. Located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, this sophisticated yet country-casual town provides a much needed break from today’s hectic lifestyle, and offers something for everyone. Here you’ll find unique shopping opportunities, live music and theater, historic barge, train, and horse-drawn carriage rides, museums, art galleries and antiques shops, fine restaurants and casual fare, and romantic bed and breakfasts, as well as family-friendly hotels – all within 1 square mile.
Just a few miles from the site where General George Washington crossed the Delaware River, New Hope (then called Coryell’s Ferry) played an important role in the American Revolution. The town’s patriots provided invaluable assistance to the Revolutionaries and executed numerous military river crossings. In June 1778, more than 10,000 troops marched through New Hope en route to the Battle of Monmouth, which became a turning point in the war. After the American Revolution, the town became prosperous because of an entrepreneur named Benjamin Parry. When Parry’s mill burned down in 1790 it was quickly rebuilt and named the “New Hope Mills,” offering “new hope” to the entire town. Today, this spirit of independence continues as New Hope welcomes guests of all lifestyles and offers new experiences each and every time you visit.
Weekends usually find the streets bustling with tourists visiting the many restaurants, antique shops, and art galleries or taking the popular walk along the river and the Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal. New Hope is also a terminal point on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad where, on weekends, tourists can ride the historic and scenic line through Bucks County. If your son or daughter is into Thomas the Tank Engine, or just generally loves trains, this is sure to leave the kids wide-eyed and fascinated! Union Camp Corporation had a bag production facility in New Hope until the late 1980’s; it employed approximately 100 people and was located uphill from the New Hope Ivyland Railroad. The former factory complex has been recycled as a series of shops and businesses aimed at the teeming tourist area known as Union Square.
Compared to the surrounding communities, New Hope has a vibrant night life, although most businesses are required to close for the night by 2 am. But that still leaves plenty of time to hang out at the local jazz clubs and indulge in a cocktail or two. A popular hotspot is Havana (on South Main Street), which features karaoke on Monday nights, an Open Mic Jam hosted by Joe Vadala on Tuesday nights, and original bands on Thursday evenings; the dance floor is jammed on Friday and Saturday nights with the music of rock/pop/dance cover bands filling the air.
A must-see as part of your New Hope adventure is the Bucks County Playhouse. Located in an attractive historic mill, it features a constant stream of plays and musical productions. New Hope was once a popular spot for Broadway shows to be tested and fine-tuned, and many notable stage actors bought homes in the area for weekend getaways. It was also home to an artist colony that produced important regional work, founded by Edward Redfield and William L. Lathrop. The area later grew to become a popular gay resort in the 1950’s, and today New Hope still has a large and active gay community. A common joke among locals was that the town had three gay bars but no hardware store; now, however, it has a hardware store and only one gay bar remains. Ironically, New Hope also has somewhat of a reputation as a hangout for hardcore motorcyclists (bikers) on weekends during the warmer months.
If you like arts and crafts, the 15th Annual Juried New Hope Outdoor Arts & Crafts Festival will take place this year on Saturday, September 27th, from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, September 28th, from 10 am to 5 pm. This esteemed event highlights the work of more than 125 premiere artists and artisans. Exhibitors sell their works from booths that line North Main Street, East Parry Street, the North Main parking lot, and the PNC Bank parking lot overlooking the Delaware River. This two-day event is organized by the Greater New Hope Chamber of Commerce, and you are bound to find that special something you may have been looking for among the wide array of oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, drawings, etchings, mixed media, black and white and color photography, soft and hard sculpture, wood turning and rustic furniture, pottery, wearable art, including leather and fabric handbags and handspun clothing, and a myriad of jewelry from hand-blown glass to beadwork to precious and semi-precious metals and stones.
In addition to visiting talents from all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and the rest of the United States, many popular local artists participate in the festival. The event includes musical entertainment in various locations throughout the town, and you’ll find delectable treats available from local food vendors. A children’s activity booth offers youngsters the opportunity to experience the festival’s creative atmosphere. The weekend event is held rain or shine and admission is free.
If you plan on staying over, be sure to make your reservations well in advance. The Logan Inn on West Ferry Street is Bucks County's oldest, continuously run inn and is the only in-town hostel on the National Register of Historic Places. The inn has 16 spacious guest rooms furnished with colonial period pieces and antiques. The Lexington House on Upper York Road is country elegance at its finest; it’s a bed and breakfast with six rooms, private baths, a beautiful, two-level pool with waterfall, and 4 acres of grounds located just outside of New Hope. You will feel as if you are visiting old friends at their luxurious, elegant, country estate. Breakfast is a special event here.
There are many more inns and bed and breakfasts where you can stay in the neighboring town of Lambertville. One is The Mansion Inn, a Four Diamond Restaurant and Four Diamond Bed and Breakfast that has a romantic, elegant, yet comfortable atmosphere with delicious world-class gourmet cuisine. It was chosen by Country Inns magazine as one of the “Top 12 American Inns” in the United States. Right next door, for fine dining with flair, check out Marsha Brown on South Main Street, a refined Creole Kitchen built inside a 125-year-old stone church. The menu offers a wide variety of Marsha's own Creole family favorites, such as the Eggplant Ophelia and Granmere's Comfort Custard. If you want something more casual and kid-friendly, try El Taco Loco on Stockton Avenue; their freshly prepared Mexican food is a tourist favorite. The kids will love Weenie World on South Main Street, which serves simply delicious hot dogs of all sorts – American, all beef, kosher, Chicago, Italian, fiesta, Black Angus, and veggie. They also have delicious “baked fries,” sweets, and treats. If you manage to leave without buying at least one Weenie World T-shirt, you’ll be the first! For those who don’t like to be obvious tourists, Karla’s Restaurant on West Mechanic Street is a favorite of the locals and a great place to find good conversation about the town’s history. A favorite, known for its charm and menu, is Wildflowers Garden Café and Thai Corner on West Mechanic Street. The mango shrimp and curried salmon are consistent crowd pleasers. Also, if you can’t bear to leave your pets behind, there are many restaurants with outdoor dining that will allow you to leave your leashed dogs outside (just ask to be sure).
Today New Hope continues to bring the world a positive "new hope" by preserving its own unique tradition of offering visitors an experience they cannot find anywhere else...a fantasy, an escape into the arts, and a page turned back in history. It’s a small wonder that just last year Forbes.com named New Hope Borough one of the best places in the Northeast to buy a summer vacation home. The village of New Hope is the perfect getaway destination for all ages and interests.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Getting there - From Central New Jersey:
Take the New Jersey Turnpike North to Exit 14 and follow the signs for Route 78 West/Clinton. Take Route 78 West to Route 287 South. Continue for about 2 miles to Route 202 South. Take 202 South through Somerville and Flemington to the Pennsylvania Toll Bridge ($0.75). Bear right after the tolls onto Route 32 South and follow for 1 mile into New Hope. Total trip time is about 1 hour from Exit 14.
Bring plenty of quarters for the parking meters!
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