- The bridge on South Main Street provides a view of New Hope’s waterfall and the famous Bucks County Playhouse, which has welcomed the likes of Grace Kelly, Merv Grffin and John Travolta.
Sometimes, you just need to get away. Really get away. Not to your tried-and-true favorite cities, where you already have a favorite restaurant and know the gallery owners by name, but to a new place, where nobody knows you but everybody is happy to have you there.
We recommend a weekend trip to the side-by-side river towns of New Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, N.J. Both boast small-town charm, picturesque views of the Delaware River and great shopping, and both are extremely walkable. But as you’ll soon discover, these twin towns are anything but identical; each has a unique personality of its own.
New Hope has been a natural gathering place for artists since the late 1800s, when Hudson River School students discovered its beautiful landscape. Today, the 300-year-old community is a sophisticated country town that prides itself on being a place where all are welcome—and it shows. This quirky town packs 200 independently owned boutiques and galleries into just one square mile.
To begin your day, leave your car at the public parking lot on North Main Street, off West Bridge Street. Right across the street on North Main you’ll find Topeo South (15 N. Main St.). Owners Walter Hazzard and André Morin fill the store with American craft in all mediums, including figurative sculpture by Jeffery L. Hall and polymer clay jewelry by Wiwat Kamolpornwijit.
But that’s not all. Just a few doors down, you’ll find a second Topeo location (35 N. Main St.), which focuses on fine jewelry and glass. About 500 artists are represented between the two galleries, with 40 new names added to the roster each year. Newer artists include jeweler Sarah Graham, bronze sculptor Dave Rizzo and local jewelry artist Debra Pinciotti.
Continue up North Main to Gallery Piquel (39 N. Main St.), a newcomer to town. “My husband and I went on a two-year search across the country—from New York to Santa Fe—to find the perfect place to open our gallery, and we have found it here,” says owner Tamara Cannon. The gallery features work from artists local and international, established and emerging.
Turn around and head back down North Main Street, then turn right on West Bridge Street. There you’ll find J&W Gallery (20 W. Bridge St.). Co-owner Walter Czajkowski says they change their displays every three weeks, so things are always fresh. And on weekends during the warmer months, painter David Ohlerking hangs out on the sidewalk to do 15-minute oil portraits.
Continue on West Bridge to reach the Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art (77 W. Bridge St.). “Goliath,” a used-car-parts gargoyle sculpture by Peter Cimino, stands outside the gallery, which is housed in the fifth oldest residence in New Hope, built in 1798. Owner Howard Cooperman is planning his second annual sculpture show Oct. 1-30.
Head back down West Bridge Street toward Main Street, this time making a right onto South Main. Be sure to stop at Heart of the Home/Hearts Afire (28 S. Main St.), started in 1994 by mother-daughter team Phyllis and Catalina Castells. You’ll find functional craft, including pottery by Suzanne Crane, at Heart of the Home, plus plenty of jewelry and wearable art at the adjoining Hearts Afire.
As you cross the bridge on South Main Street, another Cimino sculpture on the right is sure to catch your eye. This time it’s “Draco,” a massive dragon that’s poised for attack outside Image Makers Art’s Gallery of Stars (12 W. Mechanic St.). Take a detour right onto Mechanic Street to visit the gallery, which features artwork by famous musicians and actors like Jerry Garcia and Anthony Quinn. Director Jim Wentzel is the unofficial ambassador of New Hope, happy to offer you a dinner recommendation or introduce you to any of his friends at other galleries on the block.
Turn back onto South Main and continue down to A Mano Galleries (128 S. Main St.), where you’ll end your first day. Owners Martin and Ana Leyland carry jewelry, wearable art, glass, clay, kaleidoscopes and furniture by national and local artists.
If New Hope is like your colorful, quirky aunt, Lambertville is like your slightly more serious, but equally engaging, rich uncle. It’s here you’ll spend your second day. The bridge connecting Lambertville to New Hope is easily walkable, with a separate pedestrian path, but there’s also public parking in town. Lined with Victorian houses and Federal row homes, Lambertville is known as “the antique capital of New Jersey,” so it’s only fitting that you begin at a craft-worthy antiques store.
When you cross the bridge, make your first left onto Lambert Lane. At A Stage in Time (9 Lambert Lane), owners Peter Prorok and Ramon Robledo focus on furnishings from the Arts & Crafts movement. You’ll find an armchair and server by Gustav Stickley, bookends by Roycroft and furniture by Charles Limbert. On the back wall, a picture window overlooking the Delaware River provides the perfect backdrop.
Next, make your way down Bridge Street to Greene and Greene Gallery (32 Bridge St.). Furniture artist Jeffrey Greene and his wife Valerie work hard to fill the gallery with a mix of work by 100 American artists who complement Greene’s own contemporary wood furniture.
Take a left onto North Union Street, and head north to Bjorn Glass (12 N. Union St.). The colorful window displays of sparkling contemporary glasswork are sure to grab your attention. Inside, you’ll meet owner Alexander Bjorn Papageorge, a glass artist who studied at the Corning Museum of Glass, and who now fills his gallery with glass vessels, sculpture and jewelry by a variety of artists.
Continue up North Union and make a right on Church Street. There you’ll find the new kid on the block, River Queen Artisan’s Gallery (8 Church St.). Artist-owners Jacqueline ter Kuile and Jane Spencer Wesby decided to break into the art world less than six months ago, but they knew they couldn’t go it alone. Their gallery represents 10 local artists, with work ranging from mixed-media sculpture to tempera painting.
For your final stop, make a right back onto North Union Street and head north. You’ll come to A Mano Galleries’ Lambertville location (42 N. Union St.), but don’t expect to find a repeat of New Hope here. The Leylands keep the artists 80 percent different between the two locations; in Lambertville you’ll see more furniture, including work by best-seller Sticks.
You can’t leave New Hope or Lambertvillle without feeling energized by the passion both communities have for the arts. Art is everywhere, from the Wedgwood House bed & breakfast, where the ghost of artist Joseph Pickett is often reportedly spotted painting in the backyard gazebo, to restaurants like Triumph Brewing Company, which supports local artists by hanging their work on the walls. After a weekend here, you’ll have a few new friends, a few great stories and some fabulous new pieces of art.