As Valentine’s Day creeps out to brighten up our otherwise dismal New Jersey winters, many of us find ourselves yearning for a weekend getaway with our better halves.
Unfortunately, a quick trip to the Shore — a favorite of New Jerseyans in the summertime — isn’t much of an option in freezing temperatures.
However, Central Jerseyans will find that if they look to the west, rather than to the south, they will find an idyllic and relaxed destination with a faraway feel right across the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that has plenty of both indoor and outdoor options for couples looking to turn up the heat.
Read on to discover several Bucks County attractions to keep you and your honey happy all Valentine’s Day-weekend long.
1. Shop downtown New Hope and Doylestown
New Hope is home to some seriously eccentric shops, making it quite the stopping point for those looking to pick up something different. Visitors should wander River Road, Ferry Street and Bridge Street, some of the most scenic and historic streets, which feature the largest concentration of interesting stores.
Some of the shops that travelers shouldn’t pass up are Farley’s Bookshop, which offers a diverse collection of books young and old; Love Saves the Day, a vintage shop that holds collections of nostalgic clothes, toys and trinkets; and Suzies Hot Shoppe, which has enough hot sauce to have you running next door to Fran’s Pubfor a cold drink. However, the best way to find the coolest shops in New Hope is to simply take a walk down the street.
Downtown Doylestown has a similar vibe with historic buildings and a colonial air filled with locally owned shops, boutiques and restaurants. To check out some of the most popular shops and restaurants, head down West and East State Street, North and South Main Street and West and East Oakland Avenue.
During your venture, don’t miss a stop at the Tubby Olive for specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars, the Doylestown Food Co-Op for locally grown and organic products, as well as Notoris Clock & Coin to see vintage clocks, coins and other antique items.
2. Grab a flight at Doylestown Brewing Company
For a break from meandering through Doylestown, as well as to escape from the chill, visitors can plan a stop at Doylestown Brewing Company, at 22 S. Main St. nested inside of an open-air marketplace with a reputation for simple yet quality beers in a rustic, European pub setting.
Brewery President Joe Modestine said, “We try to keep it simple but different at the same time. Each beer has a unique style and taste without overpowering your taste buds.”
Modestine, who brings 66 years of his family’s brewing experience to the bar, keeps 10 beers on tap and serves food from Andrea’s Cheese Shop and Spuntino’s Pizza, located upstairs in the marketplace.
The brewing company, which opened last May, offers flights a 3-beer flight for $7.50 and a 5-beer flight for $12.50 and will also be hosting Love and Lager Night on Saturday, Feb. 13, for Valentine’s Day, which will present a five-course dinner with beer and wine pairings for $75 a person or $140 a couple.
3. Climb Fonthill Castle
Finally, for an educational break from romance, couples should head to Fonthill Castle at 525 E. Court St. in Doylestown, which was the home of Henry Chapman Mercer, archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian who built his home as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints.
The building — a mazelike blend of Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles — is a National Historic Landmark that can be toured for $14 a person.
“I think people who have a sense of wonder and perhaps a bit of the romantic in their soul would enjoy a visit to Fonthill Castle,” said Edward L. Reidell, site administrator “It is pretty common for us to hear from guests that they were not looking forward to another house tour and within a couple of rooms, they were completely hooked.”
4. Stay at a charming country inn
Bucks County may only be a short drive from Central Jersey, but the best way to complete a vacation-next-door experience is to stay at one of the area’s historic inns or bed and breakfasts.
The Golden Pheasant Inn of Erwinna, which currently has rooms ranging from $205 to $295 on a weekday and $220 to $395 on a weekend, was built in 1857 and is recognized on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Brittany Faure Booz, co-owner of the family owned inn, said, “The Golden Pheasant Inn is believed to be one of the longest-continuously-operating commercial properties along the Delaware River. We are also lucky enough to have the Pennsylvania Canal right out the back door.”
With stellar views of the Delaware River, an in-room fireplace in the Delaware Suite and romantic touches for Valentine’s Day such as the gift of a dozen roses and special menu items such as Hudson Valley foie gras, Lancaster County lamb shank and fresh East and West Coast oysters, the Golden Pheasant Inn is an ideal stop for couples looking to get away for a night or just a meal.
Other local inn options include the recently renovated, refined Old World-touchGolden Plough Inn, located in Peddler’s Village, which includes a welcome bottle of wine from Chaddsford Winery and complimentary breakfast with every overnight stay for $135 to $225 a night.
The Doylestown Inn is another option for guests looking to extend their Bucks County Valentine’s Day stay for $170 to $235 a night. The 11-guestroom boutique hotel, which has previously served as a hattery, cigar shop, shoe store, restaurant and speakeasy since the building’s 1871 inception, now features the The Hattery Stove & Still, a modern-American tavern restaurant with an industrial and vintage flair.
For Valentine’s Day, the Hattery will be offering two menus — a $60 per-person four-course prix fixe menu, as well as a $350-per-couple seven-course tasting menu.
5. Wander historical Peddler’s Village
Nestled in historic New Hope at 2400 Street Road, Peddler’s Village, the third-most-visited destination in the Greater Philadelphia region, offers 65 distinctive shops and boutiques inside colonial-style buildings among award-winning gardens and winding brick pathways.
“We are the classic Philadelphia region destination — a shopping, dining, lodging and family entertainment village with wonderful architecture, landscaping and gardens reminiscent of colonial America,” said Eve Gelman, director of communication and relationships of Peddler’s Village.
While shopping for family and friends (or yourself), don’t forget to stop at Hewn Spirits for local whiskey, rum and moonshine, Lace Silhouettes Lingerie for top-of-the-line intimate apparel and Pine Wreath and Candle for candles and Christmas goods.
If you get hungry wandering through the Village, stop at Cock ‘N Bull, which serves American classic comfort foods — including at a popular Sunday brunch — such as prime rib, beef burgundy and chicken pot pie. The Village is also host to four other restaurants.
For Valentine’s Day, Peddler’s Village is offering a Chocolate Lovers Tea, a Rose Petal Sunday Brunch, a murder mystery dinner and a Valentine’s Weekend Dinner.
6. Tour and taste at Sand Castle Winery
The Sand Castle Winery at 755 River Road in Erwinna, otherwise known as “Napa East” due to the romantic, relaxed setting of the 1974 winery, may not have Napa Valley weather, but it certainly has the same quality wines, perfect for a tour and tasting for a couple looking to escape the chill.
The winery solely produces wines from vitis vinifera (meaning “in wine is the truth”) grapes, which, as Joe Maxian, co-winemaker with his brother, Paul, said, “have been perfected for thousands of years to produce God’s gift with help of human hands. The quality of these wines is comparable to the best of the wine countries of the world.”
However, the pricing and Maxian’s demeanor is anything but snobbish — wines range from $15 to $40 and tours cost $10, which include a tasting of the 12 current wines and a tour of the facility, shaped like a large sand castle, overlooking 15-mile views of the Delaware Valley.
“I stand on a ladder with a ruler and explain all of the wines to everyone,” said Maxian, laughing in his booming voice and Czech accent. “We have a lot of fun in here.”
For Valentine’s Day, the winery will be offering a wine, cheese and chocolate pairing on Saturday, Feb 13, at 2 p.m. Details will be announced on their website shortly.
February long-distance travel isn’t ideal for New Jerseyans, who frequently become bogged down with unexpected snow and cold. However, you don’t have to stay at home for Valentine’s Day just because of the chill. Instead, pack your bag and drive less than hour for a destination that feels old-world with all of the comforts of home.