Trip Overview: Located about one hour north of Philadelphia, Bucks County is a pastoral playland that combines history, natural beauty, charming accommodations, unique dining and more to create a relaxing getaway in the Pennsylvania countryside. Here, there’s truly something for everyone, with cultural anchors like New Hope and Doylestown to round out the experience with a dash of lively panache.
Time needed: 2 days
Distance from DC: Around 350 miles, roundtrip
Best time to visit: Late spring through late fall
Best suited for: Friends, Families, Couples… this trip is for everyone.
ITINERARY: 2 DAYS IN BUCKS COUNTY, PA
1.) Covered Bridge Driving Tour
Begin your visit to Bucks County with a scenic tour of some of the county’s 12 remaining historic covered bridges. This area was once home to 50-some covered bridges, and the ones that have been restored each date back to the 1800s.
For a good route that hits the best covered bridges in a fairly compact (and picturesque) area, begin your drive at the Loux covered bridge, then drive rural country roads north along the Delaware River to the Cabin Run, Frankenfield, Erwinna, and Uhlerstown bridges. End the route at the unique Ringing Rocks Park, where all you need is a hammer and pair of hiking boots to experience a one of a kind geological mystery.
TIP: Be sure to print the route ahead of time— Cell service can be a bit hit or miss on the back roads near the bridges.
2.) Lunchtime at Peddler’s Village
Next stop is Peddler’s Village, a quaint 18th century colonial village that is the area’s premier destination for independently-owned boutique shopping and dining. Spend some time wandering throughout the property’s expansive 42 acres, admiring the vignettes of flowers and historic buildings along winding brick paths.
A delicious option is Buttonwood Grill— known for an upscale American menu featuring signature burgers, salads, pizzas and more.
3.) Explore New Hope
From Peddler’s Village head to New Hope, one of Bucks County’s most charming small towns.
New Hope has been a bustling center of activity since the 1700s, when it was known as a center of mill work and transportation along the Delaware River. (About 8 miles where George Washington made his famed river crossing in 1776.)
Back then, New Hope also happened to be located right on the main highway between New York City and Philadelphia, leading to an influx of cultured travelers who helped shape the town into the hub that it remains today.
Landmarks like the Bucks County Playhouse show a glimpse of the history that has been preserved and today, there’s no shortage of activities that celebrate the area’s unique local history and scenery.
Some New Hope activities:
- Take a ride on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, which is a favorite for kids of all ages. Here visitors ride in restored vintage trains from the 1920s along an hour-long route from New Hope to Lahaska.
- Walk across the .2 mile bridge to Lambertville, New Jersey to see the Victorian-style homes and grab a scoop of the amazingly delicious oWowcow Ice Cream (TIP: The Lemon Blueberry is to die for!)
- Sample the local brews with a flight at Triumph Brewing Company
4.) Check into your hotel of choice
Throughout Bucks County, you’ll find countless B&B’s, inns and other boutique properties to help ensure you have a luxurious stay. But one that shouldn’t be missed is the bucolic Inn at Bowman’s Hill— located a convenient 10 minutes outside of New Hope. At this four diamond AAA luxe property, you’ll enjoy rooms and grounds all designed to pamper, resulting in a private and ultra comfortable retreat.
5.) Hewn Spirits/ Bucks County Brewery
Enjoy a pre-dinner drink with a tasting at two of the area’s newest libation creators that both put the emphasis on all things local, Hewn Spirits and Bucks County Brewery. (Which also share adjoining tasting room spaces– how convenient!)
Open mainly on Fridays and Saturdays, during the evening hours food trucks and live music draw crowds of locals and visitors eager to kick back with a pint of their favorite brew or handcrafted cocktail.
First up, Hewn Spirits, a craft distillery featuring unique spirits made from locally-grown and milled grains that are aged in carefully selected reclaimed wood barrels. If it can be distilled, chances are the team here has taken a spin at creating it– from rums and whiskeys, to moonshine and upcoming batches of vodka and bourbon. Their Red Barn Whiskey is a true standout, featuring rye from nearby Meadowbrook Farm (located just 2 miles from their distillery) and milled at a working 1800s-era grist mill.
(Tasting flights are 3 for $5, cocktails are $8-10, and bottles are $28-38.)
Right next door is Bucks County Brewery. Home brewer Andrew Knechel spent nearly a decade honing his craft before opening up his brewery to the public about a year and a half ago. Since opening day, the craft brewery has featured around 50 different beers on tap with everything from the standard (like the Golden Nectar Pale Ale) to the seasonal (like the locally-sourced Crabapple Cantaloupe English Ale and perfect-for-summer Jalapeño Saison).
Heading back to New Hope, there are two really fantastic options for dinner. Both happen to be BYOB (a popular trend in this part of Pennsylvania) so if you care for a glass of wine be sure to stop and pick up a bottle before you sit down.
First is Caleb’s American Kitchen, a fairly new restaurant in Lahaska just outside of Peddler’s Village. Here, diners enjoy chef Caleb Lenchtner’s modern spins on classics like Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese ($9) and Vegetarian “Corned Beef” and Quinoa ($23.)
For option #2, we head back to New Hope! In the evenings, the town’s restaurants and bars become abuzz with lively energy that extends into the late hours of the night. For possibly the most buzz worthy meal in the area, try the upscale vegan fare at Sprig & Vine. The menu features modern American dishes with gourmet techniques and unapologetically bold flavors leading to a creative, one of a kind meal that even the most devout carnivores could appreciate.
7.) Enjoy a morning walkabout at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
Rise and shine with a morning visit to the Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, a truly lovely place to stop and smell the flowers, particularly in the spring months. Here, 2.5 miles of trails wind through the forests with matter-of-factly descriptive names like “Fern Trail,” “Azaleas at the Bridge” and “Meadow Path.
TIP: If you’re up early enough, stop by the 125-foot Bowman’s Hill Tower nearby for expansive views of the Delaware River and surrounding countryside.
8.) Explore downtown Doylestown
Next, say farewell to New Hope and head 20 minutes west to Bucks County’s other quaint small town, Doylestown. It’s here where we’ll be spending the rest of our visit, so be sure to don your walking shoes!
Doylestown is the county seat as well as the region’s cultural hub, with museums, a historic theater… and even a castle built by an eccentric millionaire! (More on that later…)
Start out by parking and walking down Main Street and the adjoining State and Oakland streets. Stop for an organic coffee at The Zen Den, and check out the independently-owned Doylestown Bookshop before working your way to the James A. Michener Art Museum.
In a building that was formerly the Bucks County Jail, the James A. Michener Art Museum houses the largest public collection of Pennsylvania impressionist paintings and is a frequent stop for touring exhibitions. It’s particularly interesting to see how the old jailhouse architecture has been converted into a home for such beautiful artwork. (Adult tickets are $18.)
All this exploration is sure to work up an appetite! Luckily great options abound in the heart of downtown Doylestown. Consider Maxwell’s on Main for some Southern soul food and craft beer. Or get a dose of local history with your meal at one of Doylestown’s newest dining spots, the Hattery Stove & Still, part of the historic Doylestown Inn.
10.) Experience the “Mercer Mile“
After lunch, jump in your car and head about one mile to experience the wonder of one very special aforementioned eccentric millionaire.
Henry Mercer was born and raised in Doylestown in the mid-1800s, before leaving to pursue an education at Harvard. After traveling around the world, cultivating a particular interest in archaeology and tile works, and coming into a sizable inheritance, he returned to his hometown to create his whimsical dream house, Fonthill Castle.
Made out of concrete and his own elaborately designed tiles, Mercer created the 44-roomed castle in just 4 years, seeing to every single detail personally. Every single artifact from the 6,000 books to the decorations are original and exactly as he had initially placed them, resulting in a quirky glimpse back in time. (Tickets are $14/ adult.)
TIP: After touring the castle, be sure to stop into the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works to see the elaborate workshop where all of the tiles for Fonthill Castle were created.
11.) Head home
After a fun-filled weekend, it’s time to say “farewell” to Bucks County and head back home. I hope you enjoyed your visit!
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU– DID I MISS ANYTHING YOU LOVE ABOUT BUCKS COUNTY? PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!
**DISCLAIMER: Many of my meals, accommodations and activities for this trip were provided by Visit Bucks County. As always, all reflections and opinions are completely my own.**