I recently wrote a story for the Independent Traveler website on 12 Great Museums You’ve Never Heard Of. Philly’s Chemical Heritage Museum made the cut, though I had a hard time choosing just one from Eastern Pennsylvania. There are so many unique, unsung places that are worth a look, from the Mercer Museum in Doylestown and the Mutter in Philadelphia to the Charles Demuth Museum in Lancaster. In the end, I chose CHM for turning such a seemingly mundane topic (the chemical and molecular sciences) into a sleek and fascinating experience (the periodic tables NEVER looked this good in junior high). Despite its free entry and location in the middle of some of Philly’s biggest tourist sites (Independence Hall is around the corner), it has managed to stay under the radar and is rarely crowded. As the weather heats up, it’s the perfect place to cool off and learn something to boot.
Archive for the ‘Bucks County’ Category
Pennsylvania has more than its share of interesting bed & breakfast inns. At the 1870 Wedgwood Inn (pictured above) in New Hope, the innkeepers proudly point out a trap door leading to a tunnel that was once part of the Philadelphia-Quaker Underground Railroad network before leading guests to their elegant, Victorian-era rooms. At Hamanassett in the Brandywine Valley, guests can play pool amid antique dolls and games and learn how to prepare Azerbaijani cuisine in the former home of the quartermaster general serving Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
Landhaven (pictured above and below) in Barto may win the title of the state’s quirkiest B&B with Four Seasons-worthy bathrooms in the middle of nowhere. Once a general store and post office for tiny Huffs Church, Landhaven is now a five-room inn with pastoral views and rooms with luxury touches that you might expect at a five-star hotel but not necessarily in an unincorporated community in rural Berks County. While the inn has been open since the late 1990s, it is perhaps best known for hosting intimate live music performances in a large room filled with Windsor chairs, watchmaker’s cabinets, and 19th century U.S. postal guides. Donna Land, who has worked as a recipe tester and consultant for Campbell Soup and other companies, runs the place with her husband Ed, a former news film and videotape editor who may be the only B&B owner to have won two Emmy awards and claim custom decorative blacksmithing as a favorite hobby. They have fixed up the rooms with handmade quilts, period furnishings, and antique fixtures that Ed has salvaged and restored. The concerts, which include local and national acts, are the marquee attraction for many guests, who love the casual BYO environment and boxed dinners for under $10 (the Lands also serve iced tea and cookies gratis). John Jorgenson, guitarist for Elton John, is a regular performer, and upcoming acts in winter include folk singer Tracy Grammer and blues legend Chris Smither.
There’s not much do in Barto, though the hiking trails of Green Lane Reservoir are nearby, and Donna will direct you to a wonderful rock and mineral shop, Bey’s, down the road. Crystal Cave is about 20 miles away, and the inn sits pretty much smack in the middle of the antiques markets of Reading and Allentown. As Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t think of a better way of celebrating than with a concert followed by a peaceful night’s stay at this unique B&B find.
Ice cream is fun to eat all year round, but is there no better time to enjoy it than midsummer? Here is my subjective short list of life-changing ice cream parlors in eastern PA.
Capogiro Gelato, Philadelphia. You know your product is good when a National Geographic book called Food Journeys of the World declares you the best ice cream parlor. In the world. This Center City gelateria out-ranked places in Italy, San Francisco and other foodie kingdoms to take the top prize. My favorite part about Capogiro is that it uses the best local ingredients to achieve many of its sublime flavors: Lancaster nectarines and black walnuts, New Jersey blueberries, milk gelato from an Amish family’s herd of grass-fed cows. Some of this week’s flavors are burnt sugar, Lancaster County watermelon, and Black Mission fig. There are four branches: Center City, Rittenhouse Square, Penn and Manayunk.
Owow Cow Creamery, Bucks County, Ottsville. Amaretto Fudge Ripple, Sweet Honey Cream, Chocolate Covered Lemon Peel. The flavors alone make this young ice cream business a winner. Add to that its local sourcing of organic milk, honey, eggs and other ingredients and an owner with a real appreciation for Bucks County’s beauty. O wow, indeed.
Purple Cow Creamery, Easton. You can’t go to the Crayola Factory without stopping at this cheery family-owned ice cream parlor. The flavors are as colorful as the crayons next door: Chocolate Covered Bacon, Toasted Coconut, Birthday Cake Batter with Rainbow Sprinkles, and the marquee Purple Cow (black raspberry with fudge swirl and chocolate truffle cups). They also make their own waffle cones. The adjacent Pez Museum closed a few years ago, but Purple Cow is still going strong.
Rosenberger’s Dairy Wagon, Hatfield. Whenever my dad is forced to pay more than $3 for a dish of ice cream, he grumbles that he would get double the amount for about half the price at the little cafe attached to Rosenberger’s Dairies. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but we can vouch for the tasty ice cream and all-around friendliness of the place. Closed Sunday.
It’s not every day that you can view a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize under the same roof. But that’s just what you will find at the Pearl S. Buck House in Bucks County, along with a collection of books, sculptures, and other world artifacts that tell the story of Mrs. Buck’s fascinating life and travels. She was the first American woman to win both the Pulitzer (for The Good Earth) and the Nobel prizes, and it was here in Perkasie that she wrote many of her books, short stories, and articles.
Aspiring artists can take inspiration from Mrs. Buck’s success this Sunday, July 16, when her organization, Pearl S. Buck International, hosts an afternoon of music, art and photography displays on its landscaped grounds. Among the featured artists are Chris Mills, a local photographer specializing in nature and underwater shots; Jamie Seeger, a blind pianist; and a group of artists called “Push, Pull, Print” who convert oil, pastel and watercolor paintings into screen prints in an attempt to push artists beyond their normal training.
It’s $8 to enter the grounds, and visitors are encouraged to bring easels, sketchpads, and other tools to let their creativity flourish in the spirit of Pearl S. Buck. Docents will lead tours of the home at 1 and 2 p.m. for an additional fee.
You may know that a 20-year-old Philadelphian named Grace Kelly made her stage debut at the Bucks County Playhouse in 1949. But did you know that John Travolta, Audra McDonald, Robert Redford, Colleen Dewhurst, and about a thousand other instantly recognizable names also performed on its stage?
It’s hard not to root for the latest effort to restore the former gristmill to its mid-century heyday, when New York playwright Moss Hart ran the joint and Neil Simon tested out a play called “Nobody Loves Me” that later moved to Broadway as “Barefoot in the Park.”
The beloved New Hope theater will reopen July 2 after major financial troubles forced its closure in 2010. The Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, “A Grand Night for Singing”, will kick things off July 2-29, followed by (drum roll) that Neil Simon favorite, “Barefoot in the Park,” Aug. 7-26.
The future looks bright, and good karma likely awaits anyone who shells out $50 for a ticket or two.
Philadelphians eat about twelve times as many pretzels as the average consumer does. It’s not surprising — soft pretzels are one of Pennsylvania’s greatest products, though they often get overshadowed by the glitzier cheesesteak and Italian hoagie.
Pretzels (scandalously) didn’t make Parade magazine’s recent Memorial Day list of all-American classic foods, but I miss them desperately when I am out of the area (those mall kiosks just aren’t the same). Here are some favorite stops along the state’s unique pretzel network. I’ll save the sublime ice cream and pretzel cone combo for another post.
• The Sturgis empire. Julius’ side runs America’s first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, where visitors can check out the original 19th-century ovens and learn how to twist dough. Brother Tom’s side operates the factory and outlet store about 25 miles away in Shillington. Here, you can sample all types of pretzels, from cinnamon-dusted to spicy jalapeno and buy huge tins at a discount (but there are no tours).
• Philly Soft Pretzel Factory. This 14-year-old franchise has won a slew of awards, and its storefronts are everywhere from Chalfont to Reading. Plus, it had the audacity to invent the cheesesteak pretzel. So wrong, but so good.
• Hanover, Pa. The factory tour of Snyder’s of Hanover is a must – a front-row look at the conveyor belts and mammoth machines needed to mass-produce salty snack foods — but the smaller, more personal Revonah (Hanover spelled backwards) is also worth a stop.
• Don’t let the humble name fool you. Gettysburg’s lively Pub on the Square sells a terrific appetizer simply called Pretzel Twists. Served hot with marinara sauce and dusted with garlic, it’s a perfect way to carb-load after a day of biking or walking the battlefields.
• Sweet pretzels in Amish country. Pretzel purists may object to this one, but there’s something about the butter/sugar combo they slather on the dough that is heavenly. I don’t even know the name of the small shop that sells them, but it’s next to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area: Plain & Fancy Farm.
When my husband and I sought a place in eastern Pennsylvania to get married, New Hope seemed like the perfect setting. Walkable streets, quaint inns to accommodate out-of-town guests, and a unique combination of history and artistic whimsy—all anchored by the mesmerizing Delaware River.
Much has changed since we wed a decade ago in an old stone church on the hill above town. For one thing, the church is now a community center and police headquarters, and flooding over the years has wreaked havoc on access roads and caused some longtime businesses to close or relocate.
Yet the things that make New Hope such a popular weekend destination remain exactly as I remember them: the steel truss bridge that links New Hope to the lovely town of Lambertville; modern sculptures fronting 18th-century buildings; shops selling mystical potions, Indonesian masks, and unique watercolors; bed-and-breakfast owners who point out Underground Railroad tunnels beneath their homes one day and deliver cream-cheese-stuffed French toast to your door the next.
A Dunkin’ Donuts has taken over the fancy dress shop that once anchored Bridge and Main Streets. Ney Alley on the canal towpath, once a collection of art galleries and meeting place for Pennsylvania Impressionists like Edward Redfield, is now deserted save for a tattoo parlor. But it’s still the New Hope I fell in love with years ago, a place to wander and discover or just break bread and relax with friends for an hour or two. The river has tested the town’s patience in recent years, but it still has the ability to charm and comfort anyone who visits.