Exploring Bucks County, PA: A Guide to the Perfect Weekend Getaway

Bucks County PA contains an embarrassment of riches.  Towns like New Hope PA and Doylestown have attracted tourists for over a century.  Author James Michener and inventor Henry Mercer also had roots here. And it’s where General George Washington crossed the Delaware River.

Nestled in the scenic landscapes of southeastern Pennsylvania, the region beckons with its blend of history, natural beauty, and modern-day comforts. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff, outdoor enthusiast, or just in need of a break, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has something for everyone.

Looking for more weekend getaway ideas nearby? Check out our round-up of romantic getaways in PA.

Things to Do In Bucks County PA

TOUR/SEE A SHOW: Bucks County Playhouse – New Hope

The Bucks County Playhouse, situated along the scenic banks of the Delaware River in New Hope, is a historic venue that has been a launchpad for theatrical careers and a cultural hub since 1939, featuring everything from Broadway tryouts to classic plays and original productions, attracting both local talent and renowned artists from New York City’s theater scene.

towns like New Hope and Doylestown have been attracting tourists for over a century. 

TOUR: Fonthill Castle – Doylestown

“Renaissance Man,” Henry Mercer, born in Doylestown in 1856, was an artist, archeologist, writer and lawyer. And an Eccentric with a capital E.

He loved medieval castles, extensive cave systems, Irish fiddle music, and the Arts and Crafts movement. And he apparently hated the way fires consumed homes and buildings of the time.

So, before the advent of cement mixers, in 1908-1912, Mercer combined all of his loves and fears and had this free-form 44-room 32-curved-staircase cement mansion built of hand-mixed concrete.

Mercer adorned the stark grey walls with “Storytelling” Moravian Tiles. These were colorful 3-D relief, sculptural clay creations that depict biblical tales, discovery of the New World, and motifs of nature and ordinary life. All set right into the concrete.

He also eventually built his own Moravian Tile Works on his property. Bucks County owns it and still in operation and open for tours – see below.

Moravian Tile Works pieces, Doylestown in Central Bucks County PA

On your one-hour Fonthill Castle tour, learn about the ten unskilled laborers and a horse named Lucy, involved in building this reinforced concrete, fireproof structure.

Peer into Hobbit-like rooms with arches and asymmetrical ceilings and see wonders galore. Best of all, discover hidden passages and ten secret ways to get in and out of the Central Hall on this labyrinthine trek through the home.

VISIT: Penbury Manor

Step back in time at Pennsbury Manor, the faithfully recreated 17th-century estate of William Penn, Pennsylvania’s founder. Located along the serene Delaware River in Morrisville, this historical gem offers an authentic glimpse into colonial life and Quaker ideals. As you wander through the meticulously restored manor house, outbuildings, and lush gardens, you can almost imagine Penn himself strolling the grounds and discussing matters of state and philosophy.

Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with the site’s knowledgeable interpreters, who are often dressed in period attire and engaged in traditional crafts like blacksmithing and hearth cooking. With its peaceful setting and educational value, Pennsbury Manor serves as both a fascinating and relaxing escape from modern life.

Hand pressed tile making at Moravian Tileworks, Doylestown PA

TOUR: Moravian Pottery and Tile Works

Tour Fonthill Castle and then watch how those great Arts and Crafts tiles were made by hand. Afterwards, buy a few. Or more if you plan to decorate your home a la Mercer.

Movarian Tile Works Handpainted Tiles Doylestown PA
Moravian Tile Works Hand Glazed Tiles Doylestown PA

Watch a 17-minute video that shows the tile-making process.  And afterwards take a self-guided tour that allows you to engage with artisans at work. Ridiculously, each tile starts as clay, dredged from local lakes, sometimes studded with fishing tackle and other detritus.

Artisans press this malleable mud into various shapes using 1850’s brick-making machines. The dried tiles are then hand-glazed. Of course, you exit through the gift shop where you can purchase thumb-sized pieces for few bucks and go up from there.

Vampire Killing Kit Mercer Museum Doylestown PA
Vampire Killing Kit Mercer Museum Doylestown PA

VISIT: Mercer Museum – Doylestown

Opened in 1916, Henry Mercer built this third concrete structure to house his collection of pre-industrial tools.  First-time visitors will just want to stand in the 6-story Center Court of Mercer’s original edifice, look up, and gawk.

Mercer Museum interior Doylestown PA

Mercer was a poster-boy for the Offbeat.

Thousands of obsolete tools, representing sixty crafts and trades, either hang from walkways or are crammed into display cases. There’s a whaling boat way, way up there. Plus, you’ll find a cigar store Indian, stove plates, antique buckets, wagons, musical instruments, and thousands more stamped with I.D. numbers.

But make a beeline to the following two really curious items. The museum houses a Vampire Killing Kit – complete with pistol, silver bullets, and crucifix (acquired by the museum in 1989). The 9-ft high hangman’s gallows on the 7th floor was last used to execute a murderer in 1914. Open year round Daily 10-5, Sun.  $15 adults, $8 kids, self-guided tours with headsets.

James Michner Art Museum Doylestown PA
James Michner Art Museum Doylestown PA

VISIT: James Michener Art Museum

An art museum named after the King of the Generational Saga? Yes, the man who wrote Hawaii and The Source had roots in Bucks County. Though dirt poor ones.  And apparently he was an art collector since birth.

The Bucks County Prison closed in 1984, sparking a grass roots movement to repurpose the building as a world-class art museum.  Michener was pressed to lend his name as fundraising draw.

The Michener Art Museum is now considered “The Art & Soul of Bucks County.” It features the largest collection of Pennsylvania impressionists, thanks to a donation of 68 paintings from Gerry and Margaurite Lenfest in 1999.

Fern Coppedge impressionist, James Mitchener Art Museum, Doylestown PA

 A large Daniel Garber mural of the Delaware River anchors the Lenfest Exhibit, which also includes most of the great PA impressionists of last century, including my personal favorite, the vivid saturated barn and landscapes of Fern Coppedge.

In addition to paintings, the Michener showcases unusual modern and texturally grained organic Japanese furniture in stunning floodlit galleries. Most is the work of the “Father of American Craft” movement, George Nakashima. Just incredible.

Painting of Washington Crossing Delaware

TOUR: Washington Crossing Historic Parks

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote on December 23, 1776, as George Washington and the remainder of his militia huddled nearby that harsh winter.

After the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, Washington positioned his troops in what is now Manhattan and Long Island. He lost each of those battles against the British.

By December, with morale at an all-time low, the 11,000-strong Continental Army had dwindled to 4,000 as they retreated to the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.

Tom Maddock, Washington Crossing SP tour guide and former resident

On December 25, with the Delaware nearly frozen, Washington made the decision cross with 2,400 soldiers and surprise the enemy in Trenton, New Jersey.

The Battle of Trenton was the first of his three victories as Commander in Chief within ten days.

For a personal look at Washington Crossing, ask Tom Maddock to guide you. He grew up on site in a home no longer standing. Your one-hour tour begins with a short video and lecture about that famous rendering of Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Painted by German national, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1840, it was meant to be strictly symbolic – not a “snapshot” of what actually happened. For example, Washington would not have been brandishing the American flag. It had not been created yet.

Peddlers Village PA
Peddlers Village PA

VISIT: Peddler’s Village – Lahaska

In 1962, Earl Jamison, a local chicken farmer enchanted by Carmel and Disneyland in California, decided to create his own little “Colonial-Era” village to host community events.

He converted a set of chicken coops into the Cock and Bull Pub. And he made sure that his childhood favorites, like “Chicken Pot Pye,” were on the menu. Since then, Peddler’s Village has expanded to over 42 acres, with 70 independently owned shops and restaurants. And one Inn – the Golden Plough.

Hearts from Peddlers Village PA
Ceramic Hearts from Peddlers Village PA

Earl did much of the work, laying out all the brick walkways himself.  Though he passed away in 2002, Peddler’s Village is still family-owned and operated. Annual Festivals – like Apple in November, Strawberry in May, and Scarecrow in the Fall –  bring in locals and guests by the thousands.

You can pick up a fun Ceramic Heart at Artisans Gallery, infused olive oil at Casa Casale Italian Shop, and monogrammed toilet paper and decorative home hardware at Knobs and Knockers.

TOUR: Malmark – Plumsteadville 

If Pete Seeger had a bell, he’d have a Malmark bell from this artisan-crafted handbell factory in Plumsteadville PA. This is as oddball a factory tour as you’ll ever find – simply because the products are so esoteric and well, beautiful.

VISIT: Ringing Rocks Park

Grab your hammer, walk about a quarter mile (on an uneven path) to a field of boulders, and start hitting the rocks. Literally. If the parking lot is full, you’ll hear this geologic anomaly before you see it. It’s the sound of a construction crew banging on metal pipes.

The most percussive rocks are marked with telltale, white-dusted dents – evidence of repeated hammering to elicit the high pitched “ringing” sound.

TASTE: Hewn Spirits

Barn Hunter, Sean Tracy, has gone into the tiny-batch whisky making business. Fans of GAC show, Barn Hunters know Tracy as the guy who refurbishes distressed barns and turns them into dream homes.

TASTE: Bucks County Brewery

Right across the hallway from Hewn, Andrew Knechel concocts unconventional brews when he’s not directing an IT Department for the NJ Department of Education.

This little brewery touts itself as “Surprisingly Different” with twists on the traditional.  Zagats deems BCB’s Jalapeño Saison “The Best Thing We Drank. Each delicate sip is slightly sweet, thanks to orange blossom honey, and the finish is crisp, dry and just a tinge spicy from jalapeños in the brew.”

SIP: Sand Castle Winery

Gregarious Czech native, Joe Maxian, is a bit compulsive about making wine for the regular guy. After regaling you with stories about his homeland (the winery building is modeled after a Bratislava castle) and his 72-acre vineyard, he’ll provide an entertaining and unpretentious tutorial on the proper way to taste, drink, and pair food with each wine.

DRIVE: Covered Bridge Self-Guided Tour

Twelve covered wooden bridges remain in Bucks County. So, the folks at Visit Bucks County have put together this ambling Driving Tour.

Some of the most serendipitous pleasures come from just driving the beautiful hills and dales, stumbling on farms, woods, and river scenes. And finding the creaky-covered bridges that take you back in time.

VISIT: Parx Casino – Bensalem

As one of the state’s premier casino destinations, Parx offers a sprawling gaming floor replete with a dizzying array of slot machines, table games like blackjack and poker, and even a state-of-the-art sportsbook for wagering on your favorite teams. Beyond gaming, the venue boasts multiple dining options, from casual eateries to upscale restaurants, ensuring that there’s something to satisfy every palate. And let’s not forget the live entertainment; with frequent performances by renowned artists and comedians, the casino’s Xcite Center is a hub of nightlife activity.

Vault Brewery Yardley PA

Restaurants In Bucks County PA

EAT/DRINK: Vault Brewing Co. – Yardley

The Vault next door draws a crowd even on a Monday, Covid night. Guests seemed to be grouped in twos or threes, and each bubble kept their distance.

Guinness Stout Oysters, Honey Restaurant

EAT: Honey Restaurant – Doylestown

Honey Restaurant in Doylestown is worth a drive from anywhere if you want to sit and revel in bite after bite of cutting-edge, imaginatively served small-plate food. “Self-taught” Chef Joe McAtee has been thrilling locals and visitors with his ever-changing world-inspired American cuisine, thinking outside the box. Way outside.

McAtee pairs Black Tea Glazed Spare Ribs with Spicy Ginger Ice Cream ($18), Boar with Escargot on skewers ($24), Black Velvet Oysters with a deeply flavored Guinness Stout reduction ($21); each resulting in a blend of potent tastes, temperatures and textures.

If I lived closer, I’d return day after day for a quadruple portion of the Kale Salad ($12), which offers up a variety of crunches – from the snappy fresh greens, puffed rice, crispy cubes of Asian pear and cashews.

And though I’m not a huge fan of shellfish, I went wild for the Fire and Ice – a mélange of Alaskan King Crab, spicy carrot sorbet and miso-chile mayo – an implausible combo of sweet, spicy, savory, and freezing. Lots going on, but it works.

Franciscos on the River New Hope PA

EAT: Francisco’s on the River

Some great food comes out of this nondescript, simply decorated roadside restaurant on the river road between New Hope and Washington Crossing.

Nosh on Ahi Tuna encrusted with sesame seeds in honey soy sauce or Chicken Rosamaino, sautéed in olive oil with garlic, shallots, and white wine while watching cyclists and the river go by.

Earl's Restaurant, Peddler's Village in Central Bucks County PA

EAT: Earl’s at Peddler’s Village – Lahaska

Re-named in honor of its founder after his death, this fine restaurant was Jenny’s Bistro, then Earl’s Prime before new General Manager David Zuckerman and chef Bill Murphy took over. They lightened the design, purchased vivid artwork from neighboring artist,Al Lachman, and brought truffles and micro-greens to the table.

Local farms supply chicken and pork. Salad-makings grow in an on-site greenhouse and the 1,800 sq. ft. garden. Earl’s generally wins the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its 170-bottle selection.

Start with the first-rate Chop-Chop Salad. Then spring for the 18oz Cowboy Steak, or toothsome Bolton Farms Chicken with Truffled Polenta and Shaved Brussels Sprouts, and end with Meyer Lemon Ice Box Tart.

EAT: Black Bass Restaurant at the Black Bass Hotel – Lumberville

This place has been popular with the locals for decades. And that goes twice for the signature “Meeting Street Crab,” with triple cream, sherry and cheddar ($33). It’s been on the menu for nearly 60 years.

Herb biscuits arrive hot and crumbly before your meal. Although you may be tempted to scarf up the whole basket, wait for your lunch or dinner. The House Smoked BBQ Beef on Brioche vies for first place (with the Meeting Street Crab) in my book.

EAT: Plumsteadville Inn

Originally built in 1751 as a stagecoach stop between Philadelphia and Easton PA, the Plumsteadville Inn flagged in the early 2000’s, closed in 2009 and reopened in 2012 renovated and once again ready for prime time.

Feast on “Tavern Favorites” like Liver, Schnitzel, and a variety of newly tweaked Colonial comfort food. Choose to dine in the dark, atmospheric tavern room, the bright and airy enclosed porch, or the white-tablecloth fine dining area.

Where to Stay in Bucks County PA

STAY: The Hargrave House Bed & Breakfast – Doylestown

The Hargrave House B & B in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, offers guests a cozy and intimate setting that captures the charm of Bucks County. Nestled in the heart of downtown Doylestown, this bed and breakfast is within walking distance of local shops, art galleries, and the town’s cultural attractions, such as the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle. Each room is uniquely decorated, marrying a blend of traditional aesthetics with modern comforts to ensure a memorable stay. Known for its warm hospitality and hearty breakfasts, the Hargrave House provides an idyllic retreat for those seeking a convenient yet tranquil escape.

STAY: Golden Pheasant Inn – Erwinna

This fieldstone inn 12 miles upriver from New Hope was nice enough. But now rooms (and especially the bathrooms) are exceptional.

Owned by the Faure family since 1986, and recently renovated, four rooms feature the latest technology (electric black-out shades, large flat screen TV), and charming low-tech details. Fresh flowers and stacks of books adorn each room.

The bathrooms, however are standouts. Especially the one in the “Delaware Suite.” Marble basket-weave mosaic floor, floral mosaic glass shower, upscale amenities, one rough-hewn stone wall juxtaposed with the cool smooth marble: it’s a true oasis and the most beautiful salle de bain I’ve ever seen in a country inn.

Order a hot breakfast in the bright solarium. Even on a grey day, the wall of windows brings in light and grants dead-on views of the Delaware River across the street.

STAY: Black Bass Hotel

In 2003, new owners “married 21st century with 1745.” They incorporated the original stone walls and recycling charred beams (from a 1830’s fire) into the improved structure.

You can’t go wrong with any of the beautifully restored rooms. Grover Cleveland loved what is now the “Grover” room, with original antique Shakespeare-carved sink and mirror in the bathroom. But the River Suite is a personal favorite.

A handsome earth-toned room, with thigh-high stone wall separating sitting and sleeping area, also features a large travertine Tuscany-meets-Great-Adirondack-Camp bathroom and a small balcony patio affording alluring views of the canal and river right below.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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1 thought on “Exploring Bucks County, PA: A Guide to the Perfect Weekend Getaway”

  1. Some very good suggestions herein. Bucks County is the home to some amazing chefs doing amazing things in small-town restaurants. In addition to the aforementioned Caleb’s and Sprig and Vine, your readers should check out Charcoal BYOB in Yardley, Barley Sheaf Farm in Lahaska and Maize on Main in Perkasie. As far as I’m concerned, along with Caleb’s, these are the best the county has to offer.

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