Help me have a blast in Eastern PA!
August 12, 2010 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Day Trip in Eastern PA filter: Halfway between Harrisburg PA and Newark NJ. What’s a fun Day?

Oh great and powerful hive mind, I come to you for help!

I will be meeting my best friend for a fun and awesome day trip somewhere between us. She’s coming from North Jersey (Newark NJ area) and I will be leaving from Harrisburg PA. It will be this Saturday 8/14/10.

We would like to get together for lunch and then spend the day doing fun things!

We want this to be stress free and relaxing. We would consider fun things to be events, activities, or interesting locations. It could also just be a nice place to sit and talk.

We thought about Philly for a while, but think it might be more enjoyable and less stressful to do it when we have more time.

We haven’t picked a location at all yet. Allentown? East Stroudsburg? Probably within 100 miles of both cities, give or take.

A little about us:

We would like some Food/Restaurant suggestions. Maybe Mexican or Italian and unique places are a plus. A nice park or State Park would rule. We are nerdy. Nothing too physically demanding, we don’t want to go on a long hike or climb a mountain. A museum would be nice too.

posted by PlutoniumX to Travel & Transportation around Harrisburg, PA (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Amish country is between Harrisburg and Newark. Lancaster County will have a ridiculous number of farm stands, touristy (but nonetheless kind of awesome) buggy rides and hay rides, places to buy and/or look at quilts, and really excellent food of the Pennsylvania Dutch variety. The August 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine had a huge rundown of all different restaurants in Lancaster County and how awesome the food is, but unfortunately the article isn't available online.
posted by kataclysm at 7:44 AM on August 12, 2010

Man, these are my old stomping grounds. I grew up in southeast Dauphin County.

I'm thinking you might have fun at Valley Forge. It's got a ton of history, and there's a 90-minute bus tour, so you don't have to hike if you don't want to.

There's also the Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary basically right across the street.

For dinner, I'd suggest heading 30 minutes southwest to West Chester. Awesome downtown area with a bunch of restaurants, shops, and bars. Really cute.
posted by valkyryn at 7:51 AM on August 12, 2010

Bucks Co. New Hope, Lambertville. Yes, it's shops but good restaurants and walking along the canal & river for miles and miles.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:56 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay you didn't want to do a long hike but seriously, the tow path is amazing and you can get off at many places. And it's on both sides of the Delaware.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:58 AM on August 12, 2010

@kataclysm, I'm sitting working in Lancaster right now. A little close to home on my side of things, but thanks! Next time she visits up this way, I am planning on showing her the buggys. :)

Thanks though!
posted by PlutoniumX at 8:01 AM on August 12, 2010

Bethlehem would be great for you. They're in the middle of Musikfest, so there's a lot to see and do. You don't even have to pick a concert to go to, just walk around the main street area. There are lots of street musicians outside and booths and shops and stuff. My favorite place is the Bethlehem Brew Works, which has an upstairs bar and dining area, outside dining, yummy raspberry infused beers and a cool lounge in the basement with pool tables.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:12 AM on August 12, 2010

Convince your friend to join you at Hersheypark!

Saylor Park Cement Industry Museum

National Canal Museum
Bethlehem Steel Plant
posted by billtron at 8:16 AM on August 12, 2010

I came to recommend New Hope in Bucks County, but also, a drive up the border towards the Water Gap is just very very pretty scenery :)
posted by supermedusa at 8:17 AM on August 12, 2010

I'm recommending New Hope/Lambertville also, especially if the weather is nice (which it should be on Saturday). If you want a museum, check out the Mercer Museum and/or Fonthill, Henry Mercer's museum and home, respectively.
posted by LolaGeek at 8:27 AM on August 12, 2010

@billtron - I went to HS about three minutes from Hershey Park. :)

Great suggestions so far!
posted by PlutoniumX at 8:31 AM on August 12, 2010

It's a little off balance (you'd have about an 1-1.5 hour trip, she's have between 2-3 hours), but you could check out Centralia, PA. I've never been there, so I don't know how exciting it actually is.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:39 AM on August 12, 2010

2nding Valley Forge, and the drive (or walk) along the Delaware River Canal from Easton to New Hope. It's absolutely gorgeous.

Also in Bucks County, the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown is totally unexpected and cool. (It was to me, anyway!)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:01 AM on August 12, 2010

Seconding Bethlehem, I spent a lot of time there recently and it was adorable, quiet but with just enough historical and social activity stuff to make it worth the commute.
posted by The Straightener at 9:08 AM on August 12, 2010

My lady friend and I just got back from a vacation where we stayed at a little roadhouse about half an hour north of Stroudsburg. On the way in we stopped by Centralia (we were coming from Pittsburgh) which was pretty awesome, especially once we found the area where smoke was still rising from the ground. (We also checked out the Russian or Ukrainian church graveyard on the north side of town (there's one on the south side too) and snuck down an access road for spectacular views of nearby windmills). Among the other things we did on our vacation: went tubing down the delaware, and spent a day seeing the sights in Scranton (Steamtown Historic Site (I liked it, she didn't), Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour (both loved it), Nay Aug Gorge (just a little park), the World's Largest Glacial Pothole (an even smaller park) and the Houdini Museum).

As to food, we were a bit disappointed by this spot in East Stroudsburg, the ambiance was lovely, but the food was pretty boring. We had been excited to find a spot that catered to both vegetarians and carnivores, but I think the restaurant suffered from trying to be all things to all people. Also, traditionally spicy rice dishes should be spicy.

Oh we also had plans to do this waterpark one day, but it rained... we're thinking of heading back later in the month.
posted by jrb223 at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding New Hope/Lambertville. They are wonderful places to wander around and walking along the river is beautiful. Great food choices, too.
posted by sickinthehead at 10:04 AM on August 12, 2010

Nthing New Hope. If you want to do something outdoorsy but not strenuous, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve has some lovely walking trails.
posted by miagaille at 1:14 PM on August 12, 2010

Jim Thorpe is a nice small town. You can see where they tried the Molly Maguires. Hickory Run State Park is nearby.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:59 PM on August 12, 2010

Also somebody mentioned the Moravian Tile Works. Nearby is the Mercer Museum which is all made from concrete and full of cool stuff like old machinery, boats, wagons, even a gallows. And William Mercer's home Fonthill. I was going to visit Fonthill one day but I spent so much time at the Mercer Museum I didn't have time.
posted by interplanetjanet at 3:03 PM on August 12, 2010

Oh sorry it was Henry not William Mercer. Anyway he made tiles and collected a lot of stuff!
posted by interplanetjanet at 3:05 PM on August 12, 2010

Doylestown is very nice. It's a great place to shop, there are nice restaurants and there are three museums, actually. Honestly, I think it's a nicer way to spend the afternoon than even New Hope (but Doylestown, New Hope, and Lamberville, NJ are all so close to each other, that you could do them all in a day or a weekend, depending on what you're interested in seeing in each town. If you go to all the Mercer sites (Fonthill, Moravian Tile Works, and the Mercer Museum) you may as well go across the street (from the actual Mercer Museum, which is the best of the three Henry Mercer-related sites) to the James A. Michener Art Museum. The Michener has an outdoor sculpture garden which would be pleasant on a nice day. Last year, they had a fantastic Jim Henson show from the Smithsonian. Now, they've got an exhibit about Hollywood costumes that looks really good. Eclectic shopping and dining experiences are just blocks from those two museums (I sound like a snooty tourism pamphlet!). You can catch an independent or repertory film at the beautifully refurbished art deco County Theater. I can't really give you any dining recommendations (there's a barbecue place called Lil's that I've been interested in trying), but if you would come to Doylestown for the shopping, I recommend Siren Records (great used record shop) and the Doylestown Bookshop (one of the best independent booksellers in Philadelphia region). Actually, there's a live music venue called Puck's that is down an alley. Apparently, it's pretty nice, and it does get nationally known musicians. Doylestown is just nice to walk around.. even in the residential areas around the downtown area. The architecture and gardens are quite lovely. (PM if you want addresses or directions around town -- it's basically just two or three streets).

New Hope is nice for walking around as well. If I would venture out of the Doylestown area but stay in the general region, I'd skip New Hope and go to Lambertville, NJ, which is just across the bridge from New Hope. Another lovely shopping/dining district along the river, and you're very close to a large indoor/outdoor flea market/antique mall called the Golden Nugget. I love that place.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:24 PM on August 12, 2010

Thirding Bethlehem! The Lehigh University campus is beautiful. Downtown Bethlehem is gorgeous. They have a fantastic bookstore (um.. the Moravian Bookstore). It's been.. maybe a year or so since I was there, but there was a nice Irish store where you could buy English foods. I've never been to Musikfest, so I don't know how congested Bethlehem gets during the festivities. I don't know if it's a bad time to visit if you're not interested in the fest. If you are interested in the fest, it's worth checking the schedule.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:35 PM on August 12, 2010

Sorry for posting AGAIN. I just noticed that you want food/restaurant recommendations. Here's a link to Doylestown's Smokin' Lil's, which is kind of an casual yet upscale barbecue place. There is an Italian restaurant that has been in Doylestown forever, but I've never been there: Paganini's. There's a nice outdoor seating area with a fountain. There used to be a sandwich/coffee shop/gelati annex across the street from Paganini's, and I think it might still be there. There's also Cafe Alessio, but I haven't been there. I have a restaurant recommendation for Bethlehem, though. My sister went to Lehigh, and there wasn't a time that we visited her that we didn't go to the Confetti Cafe. This is the cutest place, but it gets really crowded. That's a testament to how good it is, though. They used to have the BEST split pea soup in the world.. and quiches and salads that were sooo delicious.. and the best ice cream. I could really go for their pumpkin ice cream. That's right in the heart of downtown Bethlehem, just a block or so from the Moravian bookstore (where you can find some good food, too.. oh! and Kinder eggs and other European sweets. I'm always on the look-out for European sweets.)
posted by Mael Oui at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2010

Thanks everyone, we decided to check out Bethlehem and the Musikfest!
posted by PlutoniumX at 7:27 AM on August 13, 2010

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