DAY TRIP – NEW HOPE, PENNSYLVANIA By Joanne Colella
Just a little more than an hour’s drive from this area, along the banks of the Delaware River, lies a lovely town that boasts a combination of the quaint and the quirky: New Hope, Pennsylvania, the top tourist attraction in Bucks County. This historic village, and the surrounding area, offers a perfect nearby respite – that somehow feels worlds away — every month of the year. Amid picturesque scenery that changes with the seasons, New Hope visitors will find it the perfect, hugely popular day trip destination for everyone from bikers to artists , students to seniors, couples to families, and everyone in between, thousands of whom come to enjoy New Hope’s charms each week.
With its strategic location on the river, midway between New York City and Philadelphia, New Hope has been an important transportation hub for hundreds of years for stage coaches, canal boats, trains, trolleys, and cars. Once home to the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans, the community was established by the sale of land, authorized by William Penn in the early 1700s, in order to build a mill. During the American Revolution, George Washington marched several times through New Hope, which played a vital role in plans for the Battles of Trenton and Monmouth. Fast forward to the early 1900s, when the area’s beauty attracted the great Pennsylvania Impressionist School of artists, followed later in the century by the arrival of Broadway summer stock theater, with acting greats such as Helen Hayes and George C. Scott. Today, New Hope is home – within its boundaries of roughly one square mile — to dozens of art galleries, fine antique shops, two museums, unique boutiques, a renowned theater, more than 100 historic buildings, and nationally acclaimed craft shops and restaurants.
One relaxing way to take in the sights would be a trip on the New Hope Historic Canal Ride, to experience life along the Delaware Canal as it was in the 1800s. The 45-minute roundtrip excursion aboard a replica of a historic mule-drawn canal boat provides lessons on the history of the canal, including its most productive Civil War years, and the lives of workers along its banks. It also allows a glimpse of New Hope from a new perspective, with scenes from the waterfront. To find out more, call (215) 862-1410.
Another great touring option is the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. It features restored 1920s vintage passenger coaches, an antique bar car, an authentic steam locomotive, and old-time diesel locomotives, all taking riders on a 45-minute roundtrip journey through the picturesque hills and valleys of Bucks County. Special themed trips are available seasonally, also, including Fall Foliage Trains, The Shoppers’ Express, The Wine & Cheese Grapevine Express, Haunted Halloween Trains, Evening Star Dinner Trains, Murder Mystery Dinner Trains, The North Pole Express, and Sunday Brunch Trains. For more details, call (215) 862-6167 or visit www.newhoperailroad.com.
If you’d prefer to be transported to another time and place entirely, get tickets to one of the entertaining theatrical productions at the Bucks County Playhouse, whose history is deeply intertwined with that of New Hope. Originally a grist mill, called the Hope Mills, the structure burned to the ground and was rebuilt in 1790, and renamed the New Hope Mills – and gave a new name to the town, as well. In the 1930s, it was purchased and renovated, and established a reputation as America’s Most Famous Summer Theatre, featuring dozens of famous stars of stage, screen, and television. Its accolades continue to this day, not just in the summer months but throughout the year, with an array of outstanding dramas, musicals, and youth programs. See the schedule of upcoming shows and more at http://www.bcptheater.org/.
Is shopping the star attraction for you? Up and down the streets of New Hope, you’ll find a terrific selection of boutiques and shops offering everything you need – and everything you didn’t know you did. There are tobacco products and biker gear, kitchenware and Christmas ornaments, leather goods and lingerie, handmade crafts and hookah pipes, and intricate works of Irish, Spanish, and Celtic design. You can get a tattoo, renaissance jewelry, or a suit of armor, or lose yourself in aisles of books. Explore it all along Main Street and the assorted intersecting side roads, and for even more shopping pleasure, take a short drive to nearby Peddler’s Village in Lahaska. There, you’ll find an 18th-century style village boasting 70 specialty shops, five restaurants, the Giggleberry Fair family entertainment center, and terrific seasonal events. For more info about this day- trip-within-a-day-trip, go to www.peddlersvillage.com.
Like the shops, a wide variety of fine art, craft, and photography galleries line the streets of New Hope. Admire and acquire the lovely collection of creations, such as stained glass items, contemporary art, collectible art knives, ceramics, functional art for the home, hand-dyed silk scarves, oil paintings, sculptures, and more.
And when, at last, you decide to stop a bit and make some time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, your mouth will water at the culinary treats that await. Like everything else in New Hope, the cuisine is diverse and delightful. Sample some BBQ and “comfort food classics,” freshly prepared Mexican or Cuban dishes, fireside French dining, gourmet cheeses and meats, organic pizzas and salads, Italian specialties, or a choice of sizzling hot dogs in flavors you probably didn’t know existed. One personal recommendation that I can’t resist making is a meal at Marsha Brown, with a refined Creole kitchen built inside a 128-year-old stone church on South Main Street. Enjoy a cocktail at the gracious downstairs bar, or go for lunch or dinner (order one of their outstanding favorite dishes, Eggplant Ophelia) in the upstairs restaurant. Be prepared as you climb the stairs for the sight of a breathtaking mural on the facing wall of the former church.
If, by now, you have new hope of making a great day trip to this inviting destination, check out the websites at www.newhopechamber.com or www.newhopepa.com for even more details on places to visit, shop, and dine, and an updated listing of events.