New Hope, PA, A Country Town
Most people spend only a day in New Hope, PA; there is so much to do around New Hope that you could easily spend a week in the area. Only about an hour from New York City or Philadelphia, whether you prefer outdoor sports and activities – on the water, in the woods, or on a farm – or cultural activities – museums, theater, history – or just great food, it has it all.
Few people outside of the tri-state area know New Hope (tri-state being PA, NJ, and NY or DE). The beauty and diversity of scenery is wonderful; I call it ‘eye candy.’ The activities keep Tom and me busy spring, summer, and fall as well. Before I lived here, I visited regularly as a getaway.
What makes the New Hope area a draw today?
1 – Music in New Hope
New Hope has been called ‘The live music Capital of Bucks County.’ Oscar Hammerstein lived in the area; his home is in nearby Doylestown. Sometimes in the summers there are free concerts outside his home. The area is home to musicians, actors and actresses, and opera singers who want to live in the country with easy access to New York City. That means at any time you could be treated to music by those whose careers are in the music field. Many of the bars, restaurants and theaters feature musicians – some for a fee, some free for listening pleasure while dining or enjoying a cocktail or happy hour.
Find all types of music – rock, acoustic, jazz, blues, musical theater, cabaret, big band, and more. Some of the places to hear known musicians are Havana’s, Jon and Peter’s Place, New Hope Winery, Raven, Triumph Brewery, the Bucks County Cabaret at the Rodeway Inn, and the Bucks County Playhouse to name a few. They all have known talent, up and coming musicians, as well as lesser known talent and local musicians.
Open mic nights are popular all over the area as well. On weeknights and some weekend nights, you can spend an hour or an evening listening to local talent. Often admission is free and you just buy your food or drink. We have thoroughly enjoyed these venues:
- Bowman’s Tavern, New Hope, PA – Friday nights 8 PM – Midnight
- John & Peter’s, New Hope, PA – Monday nights 9 PM – 2 AM
- Havana’s, New Hope, PA – Karaoke on Monday nights 9 PM
- Karla’s Restaurant, New Hope, PA – Thursday nights 8 PM
- City Market, Lambertville, NJ – 2nd Saturdays 7-10 PM
- JB Kline Gallery, Lambertville, NJ – Last Wednesday monthly 7:30 PM
There are likely more, and this gives you a start for your New Hope visit.
It is known for its restaurant scene. When I was a little girl, my parents considered dining in New Hope a special night out; while we didn’t use the term ‘foodies’ back then, my parents were definitely foodies. It still has that reputation; the great restaurants extend from New Hope to Doylestown, PA and Lambertville, NJ. There are so many to choose from. You’ll find organic, vegan, brew pubs, southwestern cuisine, seafood and Creole cuisine, Indian fare, Thai, French, Country French, American, Italian, gourmet, tapas restaurants, and great ice cream and bakeries. I won’t promote my favorites – choose for yourself – just Google ‘New Hope Lambertville Restaurants’ or ‘Doylestown Restaurants.’ Don’t forget to make reservations, as some places are booked weeks in advance, even for weekend nights.
2 – History from New Hope Area
What made New Hope famous?
New Hope dates back to the 1600s and has war, industrial, and art history.
The Revolutionary war turned in favor of the Americans after General Washington’s strike from this area. The night before the famous ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware,’ General Washington stayed overnight in New Hope. Washington and his troops destroyed the ferry during that strike, preventing the British from following them after the battles in Trenton and Princeton, NJ.
This 500-acre park, Washington Crossing Park begins in the southern part of New Hope along the Delaware River; it is where the American Army launched the counterattack on the British during the Revolutionary War. They reversed their losing streak here, leading to the United States’ independence. You’ll see restored colonial buildings, the Ferry house, and Bowman’s Hill Tower providing a 14-mile view of the Delaware River and surrounding countryside. Throughout the year you’ll find historic re-enactments and festivals.
George Washington overnighted in New Hope. Vice President. Revolutionary War soldier, Aaron Burr, stayed in New Hope following his famous duel with Alexander Hamilton. The Aaron Burr House is a Bed and Breakfast today, and rumored to be haunted by Burr.
Several spots in New Hope are included on the US National Register of Historic Places. James A. Michener was a nearby resident; Oscar Hammerstein’s house is nearby too. Rodger and Hart wrote many famous musical scores in the area.
For more details on the history of New Hope, see http://www.visitnewhope.com/history.html.
A hundred years ago, New Hope was an industrial town with mills. At that time some artists moved into New Hope, attracted by the beauty of the Delaware River Valley. The area is known for the American Impressionists who painted here along the canal and Delaware River. The town was later populated by some artists, who taught and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). Not only did the American Impressionists live and work in New Hope, also artists of the Ashcan School, Expressionists, and Modernists. Painters, sculptors, woodworkers, and furniture makers were all drawn to the area. You can see their work here and in Doylestown at the James A. Michener Art Museum.
The famous woodworker, George Nakashima, established his woodworking studio compound in New Hope; it is still running today. Nakashima says about his work, “It is a synthesis of old traditions with modern requirements, quite opposite to the usual art or design school in that the fundamental techniques of good workmanship are first resolved and then integrated into pieces designed for contemporary use.” For more details on the Nakashima property, a National Heritage site, see my post.
3 – Things to do
Music, Food, Theater
You can spend your nights having scrumptious meals, listening to a wide variety of music, or going off to the theater.
Spend at least one evening outdoors watching the sunset, stroll across the New Hope Lambertville Bridge. It is fun to people watch while having your favorite cocktail; then listen to music in one of the many local venues.
Walk the streets and meander through the shops and galleries. You’ll find most types of art and fine crafts, fine leather goods, and antiques, plus cigars, pet shops and more. Definitely check out the alleyways (like Ney Alley), as some were famous artist conclaves. Peek into the buildings and see if you can tour them. Stop at one of the many restaurants or outdoor cafes for refreshments or a meal.
The canals along the Delaware provide lovely and often shaded walking paths that soothe the soul. Many people bike on these paths.
The famous Bucks County Playhouse is in New Hope. You’ll also find The Phillip’s Mill Players at the Phillip’s Mill Community Association. Town and Country Players are just outside New Hope in Buckingham, PA. The Bristol Riverside Theater is about 25 minutes south of New Hope in Bucks County, offering terrific theater. The Bucks County Performing Arts Center in Yardley presents music and dance performances; it is approximately 15 minutes south of New Hope. Newtown Arts Company, 20 minutes south of New Hope, presents local theater productions.
The Bucks County wine trail is a great way to spend an afternoon – bike it or drive. There are some wineries in New Hope on the trail are not my preference, but the others on the tour are very good. The countryside surrounding some of the wineries is gorgeous. Check it out!
New Hope has fireworks in the summers and there are lots of festivals throughout the year:
- New Hope Winter Festival
- New Hope Arts + Crafts Festival
- Shad Fest (in Lambertville)
- Pride Week
- New Hope Auto Show
- Scarecrow Festival
- Christmas Festival
- Peach Festival
- Bluegrass and Blueberries Festival
- Strawberry Festival
- Apple Festival
I love the outdoors, and the area is rife with outdoor possibilities. The Bowman’s Hill Wildflower preserve offers gorgeous walks and hikes all year long. Between February and September there is always something blooming; it can be a treasure hunt to find the early blooms! October and November are a feast for the eyes with the fall foliage. There are other parks as well, like Ralph Stover and Washington Crossing State Parks (mentioned above). To learn more about places to hike in the area – http://www.visitpa.com/pa/new-hope/outdoor-recreation/hiking.
Don’t forget the biking along the Delaware River Canal State Park. There are covered bridges all over the area – you can bike them, hike, or drive. Learn more – http://www.visitbuckscounty.com/things-to-do/planning-ideas/covered-bridges/.
You should now have ideas for many trips to New Hope, halfway between New York City and Philadelphia.
For a great overview of New Hope places to stay and things to do, see – http://www.visitphilly.com/towns/new-hope/.
My other New Hope posts: