Lambertville, NJ: Best Weekend Getaway for Stressed out New Yorkers
Sometimes, when you live in a big city like New York, you just need to slow down and recharge the batteries in order to get back on the subway on Monday morning. When I was a stressed out New Yorker, I was always looking for quiet spots, not too far from the city in miles, but far removed in spirit, where I could spend a weekend recharging my batteries. A one or two day change did wonders for me and was in fact, as good as a vacation.
To qualify for my weekend favorite list, a place had to be no more than a three hour drive from the city, full of fresh air, trees, and natural settings that one misses when living in concrete canyons, and also had to be in my price range. In other words, I wanted a place to have fun and wind down that would not be complicated to get to and would not cost the earth. Lambertville, New Jersey, a sleepy yet sophisticated town of about 4000 perched at the western edge of New Jersey, on the banks of the Delaware River is 80 miles and a couple of centuries away from the hustle and bustle of mid-town Manhattan. It totally meets all my requirements. The place is a great stress buster for busy New Yorkers. In fact, I liked it so much I moved there.
Along the Canal Towpath in Spring
A Victorian Atmosphere
Sadly, when most New Yorkers think of New Jersey, they think of the industrial part of the state that abuts New York. They think of TV characters like Tony Soprano and Snooky. They don't think of charming Victorian houses or beautiful lakes fields and rivers. They can't imagine quiet sunsets, ducks, swans, flowers and farms or quiet country restaurants serving fresh from the field local produce—but guess what? It exists.
Lambertville has a " Brigadoon" quality. The minute you hop off the bus from New York, you feel like you have been transported back in time. Quiet tree shaded streets, restored Victorian houses and store fronts make you think that they are going to strike the set once they have finished filming the movie. But Lambertville is real. Walk inside those restored storefronts and find art galleries, antique shops, jewelers, glass blowers, furniture makers, restaurants, coffee bars and more. This is a sophisticated arts community as well as a Victorian time capsule.
Just outside of town is one of the best flea markets you'll ever encounter anywhere. It does a huge weekend business and dealers come from all over. Walk across the river via the old free bridge downtown, and you are in New Hope, Pennsylvania which is why in Colonial times the town became an important transportation hub between New York and Philadelphia, and why during the 19th century it also prospered by providing goods and services to these two cities.
Lambertville exudes an aura of Victoriana. It's tree-shaded streets were made for walking. After all, they were laid out long before the automobile was invented. Walking through town is a relaxing and fun adventure, designed to wash away all that big city worry and strain. There are lovely houses and gardens, shops and restaurants scattered everywhere. There is even an old mule barge tow path that runs along the old D&R Barge Canal, right through the heart of town. It's a perfect spot for walking or biking on a sunny spring Saturday. The path continues up the river for about 20 miles, to Frenchtown. The truly adventerous can hike or bike the whole thing or stop and turn around anywhere along the way.
The How to and Nitty Gritty
The town is really easy to get to by car, bus or train. I would suggest the bus. The Trans-Bridge Bus Company runs buses every day that go from Allentown PA into Port Authority in New York City and back again. There are a number of buses that stop in Lambertville, right in the middle of downtown. Check the Trans Bridge Website for details and fares. They actually run extra buses on weekends which is nice.
There is regular train service via NJ Transit to either Trenton or Hamilton (the nearest stations) but if you opt for that, you are left with a long and expensive taxi ride or with renting a car to get to Lambertville. Forewarned is forearmed.
If you own a car and choose to drive to Lambertville from Manhattan or any of the Boros, it will take you between an hour and a half and two hours depending on time of day, traffic flow and precise distance from your starting point. But driving is an easy choice, and don't forget to fill up your tank while you are in New Jersey. Gas is cheaper than in New York.
Your hotel or B&B may well offer off-street parking, but if not, there is no problem. The business section has parking meters, but the residential streets have free parking and it is easy to find a spot, plus there are several available public lots. Car theft and vandalism are not a problem. It's a small town and the locals park on the street too. Everybody is very friendly. You'll see.
Where to Stay and What to Do
I'm going out on a limb here and am going to recommend three in-town places, within walking distance of the bus stop from New York, as places to stay. Two are boutique hotels and fairly high end and one is a local pub/restaurant in a historic house that also is a small, but very comfortable Inn with just six rooms, where you will feel at home and be treated with real small town American hospitality. However, there is much more to choose from than these three places. Especially if you have your own car, there are many small Inns and B&B's as well as a wide variety of dining and entertainment possibilities to choose from, both in Lambertville itself,and across the Delaware River in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
Guest Room at The Lambertville House
- The Inn at Lambertville Station. It is a full service 45 room hotel right in the middle of town (and only two short blocks from where the New York bus drops you off). It's a perfect jumping off place for everything and best of all they have a number of specially priced weekend packages that are really a terrific bargain. Plus if you drive, there is a big parking lot and lots of walking paths nearby.
- The Lambertville House Hotel offers European elegance, superb service and every amenity you can imagine right in the heart of town. It is expensive, but worth every penny. Plus they too offer some very special weekend getaway deals.
- If you are looking for clean comfortable and economical B&B lodgings in town a short walk from where the bus lets you off, in an old house with lots of atmosphere and good pub grub, try the Inn of the Hawke. They only have six rooms, so you had better call and reserve well in advance. Call them at (609) 397-9555 for more information and check out their website for lots of photos, seasonal menus, and more information. The place is small, but the rooms are lovely, the food is good and the welcome will definitely be warm.
A Few Things to Do
Since this is a de stress weekend I'm assuming that a lot of what you will be doing is just walking around and taking in the beautiful scenery.. I definitely suggest a walk up the tow path or across the bridge into neighboring New Hope, Pennsylvania. I'd also suggest, depending on your taste, dropping into any of the town's wonderful shops, studios and galleries. There are dozens of them but one of my favorites is the River Queen Artisans Gallery housed in a former firehouse at 8 Church Street, just off Union near the big white church.
The River Queen offers an eclectic mix of paintings, sculpture, jewelry and more, including a variety of concerts and receptions. You will love the atmosphere and browsing is encouraged. If antiques are your thing the Antiques Center at the Peoples Store is just next door and houses the wares of dozens of dealers. Haggling is expected and there are bargains to be had galore.
Want to rent a bike and explore the countryside? Hie yourself on over to Pure Energy & Java House where folks are serious about cycling, and you'll have a great, individualized experience and can hang out over some very great coffee as well. Actually, go to the website and you can reserve your bike in advance.They've been doing this for awhile now, and they' ll set you up with some serious cycling or just a jaunt on the tow path—whatever you want. They've got it. While you are down at that end of town, stick your head into The Quiet Life Gallery for a look at contemporary paintings by local and area artists.
So that's the outline. How to get there and a few clues about where to stay and what to do. There is much to choose from but tastes vary, as do appetites and pocketbooks. So now you are on your own.
I can only say, that whatever your tastes, a weekend in Lambertville will recharge your batteries and make you ready to face life in the big city with renewed vigor. Happy travels and if you go, I'd love your comments and recommendations in the comments section of this article.