Philly Escapes: New Hope, the
Brandywine Valley, and Winterthur
Because Philadelphia has become one of the great comeback cities of
the Northeast, and it remains one of America's gay-friendliest
destinations, it's worth thinking about some of the wonderful cultural
attractions, charming towns, gay-friendly inns, and fine restaurants
that lie within just an hour's drive of Pennsylvania's largest city.
Greater Philadelphia is known for such verdant river towns as Chadds
Ford and gay-popular New Hope (and its neighbor, Lambertville, N.J.),
not to mention fantastic museums, mansions, and gardens, such as the du
Pont legacies of Winterthur and Longwood Gardens. Here's a look at three
charming weekend escapes just outside Philadelphia.
New Hope and Lambertville
Straddling the Delaware River less than an hour northeast of
Philadelphia and 90 minutes west of New York City, the twin towns of New
Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, N.J., have long been popular gay getaways.
Lambertville is smaller and has fewer attractions, but the dapper little
village does have a handful of noteworthy galleries, boutiques, and
cafes. Across the river, New Hope bustles with fine restaurants, some of
them gay-owned, and is also home to the superb Bucks County Playhouse.
It's an excellent base for touring some of the alluring attractions in
surrounding Bucks County.
History buffs should visit Washington Crossing Historic Park, where they
can learn about General George Washington's important attack on the
British on Christmas night of 1776, an event that completely changed the
momentum of the war in America's favor. Just west of New Hope, Peddler's
Village is a 42-acre community containing more than 75 crafts shops and
restaurants. It verges on kitschy but makes for a fun afternoon
Right in downtown New Hope, you'll find a branch of the exceptional
James A. Michener Art Museum, whose main campus is in the nearby
community of Doylestown. The museum focuses on works by the many
American Impressionist and Modern artists who lived and worked in the
Delaware River Valley, and also has an extensive exhibit on noted
woodworker George Nakashima. Excellent rotating exhibits are mounted at
both branches of the museum.
Doylestown has a noteworthy historic district, comprising more than
1,200 buildings, including quite a few cafes and restaurants. The town's
most celebrated resident, an eccentric philanthropist named Henry
Chapman Mercer, is responsible for two of the area's most famous
structures. He developed downtown's Mercer Museum, a massive 1897 castle
filled with tools, folk art, crafts, and machines that hark back to
America's 19th-century Industrial Revolution. Just outside of downtown,
you can tour Mercer's former home, Fonthill, a 13th-century-inspired
mansion built in 1912 and filled with the elaborate Arts and Crafts
tiles fired in the adjacent Moravian Pottery & Tile Works. Tours are
available of both facilities.
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