While I have been to the area numerous times, starting as a kid when our parents took us tubing on the Delaware River, it has only been the past 5 years or so that I have truly appreciated the cross river towns of New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ. They have become a regular destination for me whether it be a day/weekend trip with my partner Teena, my yearly day trip with my sister’s Renee and Dianne (which I always look forward to), or more recently to spend the evening dining on amazing food and seeing a show. The towns offer numerous activities and each have their own distinctive personality. Whether you enjoy shopping, cycling, simple to fine dining, bed and breakfast weekend trips, art, there is something for most everyone.
I don’t think there is a wrong way to see these quaint towns, but if you want to see both in one day, may I suggest starting out in Lambertville. Specifically, with Rojo’s Roastery. Located on Union street a little off the main shopping area. Part coffee shop, part industrial space with glass garage doors that they open when the weather is nice, it is the perfect place to get your caffeine fix before starting the day. The main district centered around Bridge street is the perfect place to walk around and stretch your legs visiting the many antique shops, art galleries, specialty food stores such as Savour, and home decor stores. Once you have worked up an appetite, there are many great restaurants to grab lunch and a good cocktail (or two, or three). We typically dine at either The Lambertville Station or The Lambertville House. Both have an excellent menu and well made cocktails. I’ve always felt Lambertville had a slightly European feel between the art galleries, iron railings, and window shutters commonly seen which again gives it a distinctively different feel than it’s neighbor across the way.
Once refueled, it is just a short walk (or drive) across the bridge to New Hope. One of the few places you can cross the Delaware River without a toll. To me, New Hope has a decidedly different feel. The oddly angled streets, the now defunct canal that bisects the town, and it being more hilly in nature has always made it feel a bit more hobbit like to me. Again you will find more shopping but in contrast, the stores here are more eclectic and exotic in nature. You will also find more local clothiers as well. Likewise, you will find many places to eat of a wider range. From John & Peters, a straightforward bar that showcases local music to Nektar which has a wide selection of wines and whiskies along with small Tapas like dishes. Though very different from each other, the Gemini in me likes them both equally. Sometimes you just want a simple bar and hear some live, original music and sometimes you want a good Manhattan. Again, there is something for everyone and every taste. Restaurant wise, I would say the two standouts are The Logan Inn and Marsha Brown. The Logan has a warm and inviting atmosphere, the main dining area is further warmed figuratively and literally by a cozy fire place which makes for a perfect dinner setting after a long day walking around, especially in the winter months. The inn itself has a reported history of being haunted, with Room 6 supposedly being the most active. Sadly, I cannot report first hand on this as I have for some reason never stayed there. A mistake I must remedy soon.
At this point, I must go on a slight tangent and talk specifically about Marsha Brown. While I have been there once prior and dined in the first floor bar area, it was on a more recent visit that I really appreciated this establishment. An old church converted into a restaurant, Marsha Brown is a Southern Creole inspired venue which offers some of the most unique atmosphere I’ve ever dined in, eclipsed only by their magnificent menu. I do recommend making a reservation as this is not a place you can easily just show up and get a table. Once we arrived, we were escorted to a table located in the balcony that at one time I imagine had and organ and/or choir. Once seated, we have a spectacular view of the main dining area and the magnificent mural on the back wall. A bar that lacks for nothing, unique appetizers to classic oysters to main courses that tantalize one’s taste buds. My Manhattan was perfectly mixed and balanced. Oysters from the West and East Coast created a mollusk variety of goodness. My NY Strip with Creole style Bayou dry rub was cooked to perfection (medium rare) and was the most flavorful, tender steak I’ve ever had. If you ever want to splurge and treat yourself to an out of this world meal, this is the place to go.
As I said, there are many things to do in the area. After our meal at Marsha Brown, we then went to the New Hope Winery to see local singer/guitarist/songwriter and all around nice guy Jeffrey Gaines perform. The winery has a nice 250 seat indoor venue and hosts shows on a regular basis. The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad has an old steam locomotive that has dinner excursions as well as themed rides during Halloween and Christmas. The Delaware Canal Towpath trail offers hiking and cycling along both sides of the river of various distances. There is tubing and rafting down the Delaware River itself and hiking at nearby Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Last and certainly not least, there is the Bucks County Playhouse which not only continues to operate but like the Logan Inn has reports of being haunted.
Some things to take note of. Parking is at a bit of a premium in both towns. Metered parking in Lambertville is commonly found but does use the Parkmobile app for convenience. New Hope has a mix of metered parking and kiosks along with paid lots. Lots can be upwards of $20 but if you park in the lot behind The Logan Inn, it’s free if you are staying at the inn or half price if you dine at the inn and show your receipt. In addition, the weekends can get pretty crowded, especially when the weather is nice.
So, if you are from the area and have yet to visit either of these two towns, I would highly suggest you correct that situation as soon as we are out of this January freeze. They are local gems a short drive away that everyone should take advantage of.