My friend Koryn and I were in a borough of Bucks County and the owner of the make-your-own-scent shop Bath Junkie had just announced to us, “There’s a lady with a monkey.” We shared a confused glance but later decided that though we were really in New Hope, Pennsylvania to do some premature leaf peeping, it wouldn’t hurt to do a little simian searching on the side. Like most teensy towns, New Hope (population 2,300) is characterized by friendly locals with a handful of amusingly nutty ones (monkey lady included) thrown in for good measure.
Spooks and Spirits
If small towns foster quirks, old ones invite lore, and since New Hope is both small and old (settled around 1700), a multitude of ghosts keeps its monkeys company.
Our search for the former began in a 150-year-old church. It retains stained glass windows and a choir, but where altars and pews once stood now well-heeled foodies nibble on steaks and raw bar delicacies at Marsha Brown (15 South Main St., 215.862.7044), the latest in fine eating establishments from the maven behind Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
Foliage and Feasts
Our tour photos turned out specter-free, but the history lessons continued the next day. The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad (32 W Bridge St., 215.862.2332, $15.50) a vintage steam locomotive, makes hourly excursions through the scenic hills of Bucks County. The trip lasts approximately 45 minutes, during which time passengers learn about the history of Buck County and crane their necks out the windows as they choo choo by the beautiful landscapes.
We capped our train ride off with lunch at The Landing (22 N. Main St., 215.862.5711), a hip spot next to Fred’s, minus the entrance requirements and plus massive courtyard and panoramic views of the placid Delaware and picturesque Lambertville, NJ—a great place to enjoy the foliage over a hearty meal or a drink or two.
We biked off lunch with a journey just outside town to the 17th Century barn that is today home to the New Hope Winery (6123 Lower York Rd., 215.794.2331). The cavernous space is country-chic, with an eclectic decorating scheme that complements its vast and well-stocked antique store. In the cozy tasting area, guests can sample a variety of wines (tastings are free for up to four wines), the main attractions being the pristine fruit wines for which they are known.
As we headed back into town, Koryn and I stopped to watch a lady several yards away, on a pretty little block lined with tall trees whose color-tipped leaves would soon turn fiery with autumn. She appeared, we thought, to have a monkey on her shoulder. Or perhaps it was a ghost. . .
Autumn is the ideal time to visit New Hope, not only for the endless foliage to be seen, but for the haunts that seem even more haunting during the month of October.
The Logan Inn (10 West Ferry St. loganinn.com) is the oldest and largest inn in town. Enjoy a delicious lunch in a beautiful setting and then head inside to see portions of the original building that are leftover from the latest remodel. If you’re truly brave, spend the night in room number 6…
The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad (newhoperailroad.com) offers special fall excursions, including a two-and-a-half-hour foliage excursion (weekends in October) and Halloween train rides.
The wooded towpath where mules once drew boats along the canal runs parallel to River Road, one of the most photographed routes in the state. Take a hie or rent bikes at the nearby New Hope Cyclery (newhopecyclery.com)
Ride out to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve ($5) home to nearly 1,000 plant specials, all native to Pennsylvania. The daily 2:00 pm tour is included in the cost of admission, or you can spend the day hiking on your own.
How to get to New Hope from NYC
Take the Transbridge Bus (Doyleston/Frenchtown/Flemington line) from Penn Station to New Hope. The bus stops at the UPS Store, Logan Square (6542A Lower York Road), and just down the road is the New Hope Cyclery (404 York Road), a short walk to rent bikes and ride into town. Alternately, get off the bus one stop earlier at Lambertville and walk across the bridge (approximately 10 minutes) into New Hope.
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