a love letter to new jersey* from a new yorker**

Near Lambertville Station in Lambertville, NJ
*This love letter refers to a very specific point in New Jersey, arguably more well-known for the Pennsylvania city across the river

**I’ve actually been in New York 9.5 years, which is about 6 months short of the 10 year mark that, according to urban legend, makes you a real New Yorker, so I’m slightly jumping the gun

Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA

In college, I would try to save up my pennies (or sweet talk my parents) to get out of town during most of the long breaks. I did the normal college-type things: the all-inclusive in Mexico and Dominican Republic, or trips back to California to see friends. Once I graduated and the spare-pennies, and time, became more limited, I didn’t feel as fulfilled by those long trips, because they had to do so much. They had to be exciting and new enough to feel invigorating, but also restoring enough that I didn’t return more tired than I’d been when I left. With big trips, this is pretty much impossible.

One day, it occurred to me that any weekend could be an excuse to explore something, even if I did live in New York, without a car, and that might mean hopping on a bus and a train or shelling out the dough for a Zipcar. In the end, though, I realized I felt invigorated and restored by getting away from the concrete and seeing “normal” life outside of the city.

Coffeehouse in Lambertville, NJ

Cafe Blue Moose in New Hope, PA
Cafe Blue Moose in New Hope, PA

Arguably my first city-escape that spurred this desire was Lambertville, New Jersey. I found out about Lambertville through an Of A Kind “10 things..” newsletter (RIP), where they mentioned they were going to the Golden Nugget flea market one weekend. Obsessed as I am with flea markets, I google-mapped it immediately and, when I saw it was only an hour and a half way, let Miles know he needed to book a car. Done!

That first trip was in the spring. I was super hungover. But the flea market was expansive, the wares were reasonably affordable, and the people were normal, nice, and slow-moving. Then we got to town and I saw store after store of antiques, adorable cafes, copious lunch and dinner options, and an overall quant little town on the Delaware River. Plus, directly on the other side of the bridge from Lambertville, is New Hope, Pennsylvania–slightly larger, just as cute, and with as many antique store and delicious food options as Lambertville. Win, win.

Shops in Lambertville, NJ

Vintage shop in New Hope, PA

Since that initial trip, we’ve been back several times. The first visit, we just spent a day–ever since, we’ve made a point to book a local Airbnb and stay the night. We arrive in the morning, hit up the flea market or grab a leisurely lunch, roam the shops, then on to happy hour before a cozy dinner. The next morning, it’s coffee and brunch with the locals, before stopping at my favorite shop, America Designs, and getting back on the road, often swinging by our friends’ place elsewhere in the Garden State before getting back to the city.

View from our Airbnb on the Delaware River in Lambertville, NJ

Shops in Lambertville, NJ

America Designs in Lambertville, NJ
America Designs (in the winter months) in Lambertville, NJ

Each time I visit, I have this feeling I haven’t felt too often: I belong here. I know that sounds crazy, and a little cheesy, but it’s also how I felt the first time I visited New York in high school. I just had a feeling that this is where I was meant to be.

I feel the same in Lambertville and New Hope. They’re tiny, cozy towns, filled with my favorite things. And, perhaps coincidentally, we always tend to end up around people I connect with when we visit. Each of the Airbnb apartments we’ve stayed in have been owned by women who love to travel–one who owns a travel agency, and one who just returned from several years of living in Europe. The shop owners are young creatives or ex-New Yorkers. The area is also popular with writers, like Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love (also a traveler, also an ex-New Yorker).

So will I pick up and move there? Who knows, maybe one day. (Miles still needs some convincing.) Until then, I’ll settle for my quarterly sleepovers, and think you should, too.

Now, on to the must-see’s and do’s when you go.

This past weekend, we were greeted with several inches of snow and frigid temps. Luckily, the town has so many cozy and romantic indoor areas that it almost didn’t matter–although shopping was definitely put on the backburner.

Winter in New Hope, PA

In colder months, here are some tips to pass the time:

Eat: Grab a cozy lunch at a classic like Karla’s, where you can admire the snow, like we did, from inside a warm atrium, or go next door to the cute Cafe Blue Moose. For dinner, try a small, upscale meal at D’Floret or vegetarian options at The Hearth.

Karla's Restaurant in New Hope, PA
Karla’s Restaurant in New Hope, PA

Karla's Restaurant in New Hope, PA

Drink: There are so many cozy places to get a glass of wine, before or after dinner. My favorites are the Lambertville Station Pub (it gets crowded, though!) and Left Bank Bistro.

Do: The reality is, winter here can feel especially brutal, since the towns are set along the river. So, spend cozy time indoors, or embrace it and go snow-shoeing. Not up your alley? Try seeing something at the Bucks County Playhouse or go to a Wine & Yoga class at Old York Cellars (omg, I have to do this immediately).

And in warmer months? There’s even more, like:

America Designs in Lambertville, NJ
America Designs (in the warmer months) in Lambertville, NJ

Eat: I love getting lunch at the vegan restaurant Sprig & Vine, it’s always creative and satisfying! Or, try brunch at the cute Caffe Galeria.

Drink: It’s vacation right? So don’t feel bad about day drinking at Triumph Brewing Company. Grab a table on the sunny, outdoor patio. Or, visit one of the many wineries in the area (something I shockingly haven’t done yet, but will!).

Beer flights at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, PA
Beer flights at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, PA

Do: Get outside! Aside from obviously visiting the Golden Nugget Flea Market and shopping on the main drags in each town (Bridge St. in Lambertville and Main St. in New Hope), you can also try tubing or kayaking down the Delaware River or biking/hiking through the various state parks. There’s also plenty of room for history lessons, like visiting the Washington Crossing Historic Park (there you go, Pops).

Warm or cold, where to stay? You know how I feel about Airbnb–that’s always my first choice. I like having ample room to relax and recharge. We stayed here most recently, which is a bit of a walk to town (better for warmer months, or factor in finding parking and $$ in cooler months). We’ve stayed here in the past, which is awesomely located and has a cute little patio. There are also plenty of B&Bs, if you’re in to that–find more info on the Lambertville side here. It’s best to try to stay as close to the main drags as possible–otherwise, get your quarters ready for parking.

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