New Hope is less than an hour’s drive northeast from Philadelphia, but the charming Delaware Riverfront town feels worlds away from the city’s far more buzzy pace of life. Historic homes, Main Street’s antique shops and eclectic boutiques, stellar restaurants, and the renowned Bucks County Playhouse are a few of things that make New Hope one of the “coolest suburbs worth a visit” according to Travel + Leisure.
These were some of the draws that, more than 40 years ago, prompted Carl and Nadine “Dinie” Glassman to leave corporate jobs to move to New Hope, eventually opening the 1870 Wedgwood Inn Bed and Breakfast. They were happy to swap commuting to Philadelphia and Princeton for innkeeping in the small town, located about 40 miles northeast of Center City.
“The ‘live and let live’ attitude of acceptance of who you are” is one reason Carl Glassman says the town is special. “New Hope is a small riverside community with a big, loving, accepting heart.”
Whether you have a few hours to spare, or a long weekend, head north to explore New Hope’s lively entertainment, year-round outdoor activities, and a dining scene that punches way above its weight for a small town.
History of New Hope
Set on the west bank of the Delaware River, the roughly thousand acres of land that now make up New Hope was first home to the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans.
In the early 18th century, William Penn approved the sale of land to a man named Robert Heath, who built a mill where the community of New Hope subsequently sprung up.
In 1776, George Washington led troops over the river on Christmas night to surprise and capture Hessian troops, spurring support for the Revolutionary War. The site where the army crossed, just south of town, is home to aptly named Washington Crossing Historic Park that hosts historical reenactments of the fateful Christmas night passage.
New Hope’s central position on the Delaware River, situated between Philadelphia and New York made it a transportation hub over the centuries, but today its main industry is tourism.
New Hope is best accessed by car and it’s an easy drive from towns in Chester County, Bucks County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County. It’s also a scenic 40-mile drive from Philly that generally takes about an hour.
The closest train stations — Trenton and Doylestown — are still an Uber, Lyft, or taxi ride away, but are a good option for those taking SEPTA (which runs to both stations), Amtrak, or NJ Transit (which run to the Trenton station).
Things to Do
Toward the south end of the town, “America’s Most Famous Summer Theater” Bucks County Playhouse is situated in an old grist mill, and has been home to performances — hosting stars like Grace Kelly and Robert Redford — since 1939. Nowadays, entertainment ranges from plays and musicals to concerts and stand-up comedy shows, as well as yearly events like the Rocky Horror show in October, and Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big Playhouse Christmas Show in December. Besides its entertainment draw, though, Megan McGuff, co-owner of Salty Pineapple, a Hawaiian fusion eatery inside the nearby Ferry Market, suggests sitting outside to “take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds it.”
To get a more comprehensive (and verdant) view of the area, book a ride on the New Hope Railroad. Departing from the charming Witch’s Hat train station, built in 1891, the nine-mile ride takes passengers past countryside farmland and foliage. Besides the classic rides, the railroad is also home to holiday events for Halloween and Christmas, and some 21-plus tours like the wine-and-cheese-fueled Grapevine Express.
To explore nature at a slightly slower pace, seek out the Delaware Canal towpath, alongside the river. “It’s a quiet path along the canal that’s scenic and peaceful, even on the busiest days in New Hope,” says Carl Glassman, “And it’s zero elevation: ideal for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing.” The 60-mile path that runs from from Easton to Bristol was forged by the mules that once pulled boats along the Delaware canal. Nowadays, it makes a beautiful backdrop for outdoor adventures. Carl Glassman and his family also take advantage of the town’s many riverfront pocket parks, including the tiny oasis that is Lenape Park on 54 West Ferry Street, as well as the three iconic red Camelback Bridges that span the Delaware Canal. “We enjoy people watching … from our perch on these bridges,” he notes.
Just outside of town, Washington Crossing historic park marks the spot where the country’s first president led the continental army over the freezing river on Christmas night. Now, visitors can tour the 500-acre expanse, taking in gardens, historic homes, and the site of the crossing.
About five miles outside of town, Solebury Orchards is an 80-acre, family-run farm with pick-your-own peaches, plums, and berries. Come fall, the farm is buzzing with apple harvesters. Reserve a time slot online before you arrive to gather Crotlands and Crimson Crisp, and pick up fresh-pressed cider and donuts at the on-site market for the ride home.
Also not far from downtown New Hope, just south of Washington Crossing historic site is Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Make a reservation online to walk the trails through meadows and forest. (You can also buy tickets in person, but they’re slightly less expensive online at $8 instead of the in-person $9) Look out for the triple arch Pidcock Creek Bridge, which dates back to 1933 and is one of the most photographed bridges in Bucks County. Note: picnics are allowed in the Wildflower Preserve, but pets, apart from service dogs, are not.
Where to eat:
For a quick bite, find something for any taste or dietary restriction at the Ferry Market, an indoor food market housing a dozen vendors. Within the indoor dining space, the Vegan Butcher sells plant-based burgers and rice bowls, while the Pork Shack is known for its ham sandwiches and cheese sauce-drenched tater tots. Lima Fusion, is known for its Peruvian empanadas and Venezuelan arepas, and Salty Pineapple makes sweet treats like Dole Whip, shave ice, and smoothies. Both Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company and Unionville Vineyards have outposts here, too, so you can have a beverage while you eat.
For more than 40 years, Karla’s has been serving classics like mac and cheese and French onion soup from a charming, ivy-covered brick building. Go for brunch on the covered patio — try the Eleni, a version of eggs Benedict with spinach and jumbo lump crabmeat or the caramelized butter-coated crème brûlée French toast.
Set inside a stone building dating back to 1751, The Salt House is a favorite town gastropub for oysters and elevated bar snacks — think bacon-wrapped dates and local deviled eggs — and specialty cocktails made with some unexpected ingredients, like beet juice or black walnut bitters. Opt for a seat outside on the stone patio, or in the tavern, by a wood-burning fire.
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A little farther south on Main Street, find Stella in the Ghost Light Inn. Jose Garces opened the sprawling riverfront restaurant in the fall of 2019. Although he isn’t at the helm anymore, his spaghetti pie has endured, as well as thoughtful cocktails and a menu of local vegetables and seafood dishes.
Across the road from the Bucks County Playhouse, find an outpost of Great Barn Taproom, a farm brewery based in Kintnersville. Sip a farm-to-glass New England-style IPA or hefeweizen on the gem of a back patio, overlooking the Aquetong Creek.
Besides her own laid-back spot, Great Barn co-owner Maryana Ferguson recommends Nektar wine bar for its award-winning wine list and robust whiskey menu. Order one of their themed whiskey flights, available in Japanese, Scotch, Bourbon, and local Rye varieties.
Ferguson also suggests heading to Havana, “for late-night music to wrap up your night on the town.” The Cuban-inspired live music venue also offers a hefty menu of burgers, tacos, and more, plus a dozen different mojitos, tiki cocktails, and a rotating selection of craft beer.
Finish the day with dessert from Nina’s Waffles — Liège waffles are made with pearl sugar that, when heated, crystallizes into a sweet, crispy vessel for Nina’s small batch homemade ice cream.
Start on Main Street, which runs through town parallel to the river, to browse shops like Farley’s Bookshop, a family-run town fixture for over 50 years. Find a robust selection, filled with lots of local authors (many who stop in to sign copies), plus a thoughtful staff recommendation section.
At the aptly-named Creeper Gallery, find Gothic art, antique jewelry, and a selection of purportedly haunted and otherwise macabre items for sale. Come Halloween, the shop window is decked out in delightfully creepy decor. Cross the street if you’re terrified of clowns.
Heart of the Home makes gift-buying a breeze with its well-curated mix of American-made crafts. Find hand-turned Maple wood bowls, delicate sterling silver jewelry, and organic cotton scarves, plus a wide selection of artisan-made pottery — most of which you won’t find in big box stores. If you’re still stuck, the friendly staff can help guide you to the perfect present.
Antique shop Hobensack & Keller specializes in fountains, iron benches, urns and other 19th and 20th century decor (and meticulous reproductions) to spruce up your garden. If you’re looking for something a little offbeat or hard-to-find — stone Celtic crosses or a tambourine-playing pig statue, for example — chances are you can find it here among the narrow paths of the leafy backyard.
Where to stay:
Set on the waterfront, eight of the 12 rooms in the boutique Ghost Light Inn have sweeping Delaware River views and are an easy walk to the shops of Main Street and the Delaware Canal towpath. The one-time Playhouse Inn went through an eight-year renovation, reopening in 2019 with modern rooms (each with custom-made king beds) and a new riverfront promenade.
Carl and Dinie Glassman’s blue Victorian “Painted Lady” the Wedgwood Inn B&B is on the Bucks County Registry of Historic Places, but rooms are outfitted with modern amenities like fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Set on two grassy acres, the inn feels like a peaceful respite, even though it’s right in town. Set your alarm for breakfast — the spread includes fresh-baked muffins, fruit, and savory casserole made with local eggs.
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At the recently-opened River House at Odette’s, also find riverfront views, plus a lobby Piano Lounge and members- (and hotel guests) only rooftop bar. The resort’s 38 rooms and suites are outfitted with plush, homey amenities like spa-inspired baths, Frette sheets, and coffee makers.