By Robert Saldarini
© 2013 Diversity Rules Magazine and Robert Saldarini
Rob Saldarini is a college professor and inclusion training facilitator. Beyond academic publications and articles, Saldarini’s fiction work includes the novel, For the Least of My Brothers, “Leader of the Pack” within the Queer Wolf anthology, and “The Truth That We’ll Miss” published in Mob Men on the Make.
Shorter days and colder nights may call upon us to burrow in; yet, there is so much we can do instead of a ‘long winter’s nap.’ Consider a journey to Northeastern Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Whether for a long weekend, a vacation, or a side trip, Bucks is a great place to visit. The New Hope area is less than a two-hour drive from either New York City or Philadelphia. The region has been a gay comfortable community for decades. Bucks offers museums, antiquing, shopping, local theater and simply a great winter escape. So, grab your scarf and mittens and get ready for a good time.
If shopping is a passion, you must visit the shop-owners lining the streets of New Hope and its sister town of Lamberville, New Jersey. Lambertville is a community only a bridge-walk across the Delaware River. No sales tax on clothing and shoes is an added benefit of the area’s shopping experience. Of course, window-shopping is great for your wallet and the outstanding art galleries provide refuge from the cold. Many find the local towns to be a haven for antiquing. But, if new and fashionable better represents your style, travel Route 202 to Lahaska. Lahaska offers an afternoon of visiting the small shops at Peddler’s Village as well as the factory outlets at Penn’s Purchase where Coach or Izod may suit your taste.
American history buffs can find their fill of interesting experiences. Bucks is one of the three original Pennsylvania counties established by William Penn in 1682. You can visit the Penn estate, Pennsbury Manor, which is located in Morrisville. Maybe you would enjoy standing at the exact spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware in Washington’s Crossing. Doylestown is the birthplace of American novelist James Michener. Within Doylestown’s Cultural District you can find both the James Michener Art Museum and the Mercer Museum.
The Michener stands as the fortress since the original structure was one of America’s first prisons. On the other side of the road, the Mercer Museum’s exhibits cater to a rare taste. Inside this castle-like structure, the Mercer Museum houses thousands of hand-made pre-technology tools used by early Americans. For some, the Mercer may be a bit cumbersome to explore due to the uneven steps and open atriums.
While in Doylestown, be sure to visit the historic home of Henry Chapman Mercer who is the man who built the Museum. Fonthill is the name of his grand home and it is a short walk to Mercer’s Moravian Tile Works factory where tiles are still handmade today. Fonthill is listed among ‘American Queer Places.’ Research on Henry Mercer suggests that he was gay. Ask the tour guide, “Who inherited the Moravian Tile Works following Mercer’s death?” The speculations make great conversation over a meal or cuddled up by a fire.
Part of Buck’s charm is its independently owned lodgings and restaurants. Finding a great place to stay is more of an issue of choice than availability. Many in the GLBT community are aware of New Hope’s cultural landmark known as The Raven. The Raven offers motel lodging, a full-service restaurant and nightlife. If you enjoy the bar, these accommodations are perfect because you can walk to your room. If The Raven is a consideration, make sure you do not book a room off the main entrance should you expect quiet before 2AM. My personal recommendation is The New Hope Lodge which is directly across the street. The wooden-structure, build mid-century, has 28-rooms. The Lodge offers the Cub Room, a quite lounge inspired by the film, All About Eve – complete with a portrait of Betty Davis proudly on display.
If you’re seeking ambiance or romance, the gay-friendly Black Bass Hotel is ‘a thumbs-up.’ Located in Lumberville, six miles from New Hope, the Hotel has been dubbed the ‘Jewel of the Delaware.’ The $200+ price of a night’s stay is a value for those who truly enjoy that elegance of a small country hotel. The Black Bass has a quality restaurant and is a place for dinner if the thermometer suggests a night in; nonetheless, consider venturing out and about.
Dining in Bucks runs the gamut of casual to formal offering great Philadelphia style cheesesteaks to New York City culinary main courses. Bowman’s Tavern is a good place to eat particularly if you decide to do a trip to Washington’s Crossing. The Tavern is located between New Hope and Washington Crossing. Consider staying around for the entertainment provided every night in the piano bar. Should you find yourself in Doylestown, Main Street and State Street offer a wide variety of dining options that can fit any budget. When in Lambertville consider the Swan Hotel. The formal Anton’s restaurant is romantic but read the menu before making a decision since there are limited entrees. The Swan’s bar has great character. Dress is casual, prices are reasonable, and the food is unique. Here is a hint: try the mashed potato pizza.
Just one getaway to Bucks County is a promise to return. Don’t forget that a cold wind off the Delaware that gets you into a café for a hot chocolate turns into a cool breeze come July.