New Hope & Lambertville -- Four miles north of Washington Crossing on River Road (Pa. 32), which is punctuated by hilly, lovely farmland (as opposed to U.S. 202's factory outlets), you'll come upon New Hope, a former Colonial town turned artists' colony. Although it's now something of a tourist mecca -- the weekend crowds are fierce and parking is cramped -- once you're here you'll enjoy the specialty shops, restaurants, and galleries. The Bucks County Playhouse here attracts top talents. Lambertville, across the Delaware in New Jersey, feels more sophisticated, with its fine antiques stores and restaurants.

Doylestown -- Authentic small-town charm shines throughout the picturesque community of Doylestown, the county seat. Inviting downtown streets are lined with specialty shops and loads of restaurants. There's even a vintage art-house cinema, the County Theater, 20 E. State St. (tel. 215/345-6789). It's a marvelous town to just walk around, but three interesting collections invite you indoors. All were endowed by Dr. Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930), an eccentric and avid collector, archaeologist, and master of pottery techniques. A visit to Mercer's magnificent if eccentric castle is a don't miss activity. The James A. Michener Art Museum, housed in a splendidly renovated historic county jail at 138 S. Pine St. (tel. 215/340-9800), is another worthwhile stop. Motorists should exit the Pennsylvania Turnpike/I-276 at the Willow Grove Interchange (exit 343; note that the exits were renamed to coincide with mile markers, as this road runs east-west the course of the state) and follow Route 611 north to the Doylestown exit. Drive through scenic Doylestown and turn right onto Route 313 (Swamp Rd.).

Where Washington Crossed the Delaware

A trip along the Delaware via Route 32 through Morrisville and Yardley will bring you to Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania, 500 acres that are open year-round (there's a separate Washington Crossing State Park across the river in New Jersey). Most people know that Washington crossed a big river in a small boat on Christmas Eve of 1776, and many people are familiar with the heroic painting depicting this event, with Washington standing in the boat, his eyes on the far shore. This was the spot, and a copy of the enormous painting by Emanuel Leutze is on display at the visitor center, where a new 15-minute film provides a good orientation to the park. An annual reenactment of the historic crossing takes place here at Christmas. There's also a well-stocked museum store.

The park is divided into upper and lower sections separated by 4 miles; Washington left from the lower site, where you can tour McConkey's Ferry Inn (1752), where Washington ate before he crossed the river; several historic buildings in Taylorsville; and the Memorial Building.

A lovely alternative to driving to the lower park site is biking the towpath that connects the areas. Here, you can tour Thompson-Neely House, where General Washington, Brigadier General Stirling, and Lieutenant James Monroe decided on the year-end push into New Jersey. On a nearby hilltop, Bowman's Hill Tower, a 125-foot stone structure built in 1931 -- now equipped with an elevator -- will reward you with a stunning view of this part of the Delaware Valley. Washington Crossing State Park  is located at the intersection of Route 32 (River Rd.) and Route 532, 3 miles north of I-96 from exit 31. The park is open sunrise to sunset.

Once part of the park, Bowman's Hill Wild Flower Preserve (tel. 215/862-2924) adjacent to Bowman's Hill Tower, now operates independently. This enchanting 134-acre arboretum, nature center, and botanical preserve features more than 24 paths that wind through diverse habitats, illustrating different botanical wonders. Grounds are open Tues–Sun 8:30am to sunset. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $6 for ages 4 to 14.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.