New Hope aerial view.

New Hope, Pennsylvania

With words like "fascinating" and "straight out of a fairy tale" spreading like wildfire through the internet, New Hope, with its thriving arts culture, unique shops and restaurants, and eclectic nature, is the up-and-coming small town of Pennsylvania. While the residents know exactly why the town is getting so much hype, many tourists remain oblivious, having only heard references to its most popular attractions, the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, or the Parry Mansion constructed in 1874 by Benjamin Parry, one of New Hope's founders. Rich with history that is reflected in its beautiful architecture, it is about time one learns why New Hope is the best small town in Pennsylvania.  

Geography And Climate Of New Hope

New Hope, Pennsylvania
Historic New Hope, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River from Lambertville. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

Set on a river along the former Old York Road that connected Philadelphia to New York City, the town serves as a pit-stop between the two. "York Road" is still used on the section of the U.S. Route 202 that carries the traffic between the two cities today. There are two bridges over the Delaware River, between New Hope and Lambertville, New Jersey, with the Lambertville Toll Bridge hosting the U.S. Highway 202.

Surrounded by picturesque low, rolling hills with preserved forest and farmland, New Hope has a hot-summer humid continental climate. Set at the Delaware River's confluence, the town's total area is a mere 1.4 square miles or 3.6 km2, out of which 11.19% is water, mostly from the river. The Aquetong (Ingham) Creek ends near New Hope's former mill, the Bucks County Playhouse, in a scenic waterfall and a millpond. It starts its two-mile course at Ingham Springs, the most productive spring in Southeastern Pennsylvania, in the neighboring Solebury Township. 

History Of New Hope

As a humble industrial town of the past, New Hope was known as Coryell's Ferry, in honor of the man who owned the town's ferry business. Not accidentally, "New Hope" was symbolized by the reconstruction of several mills that burned down in a 1790s fire.

The mansion mentioned above was occupied by four generations of the Parrys' family until it got acquired by the New Hope Historical Society in 1966. Today, visitors can tour the 11 rooms, each showcasing a period, or representing 125 years of decorative changes the mansion has undergone. 

It is almost certain that George Washington stayed the night in town before his famous crossing of the Delaware River. Having destroyed the ferry as a precaution, upon Trenton and Princeton when the British swept the area with no response, they shelled the town as a gesture of discontent that the town supported the Colonial forces. It is rumored that some older structures in the town still have lodged unexploded British ordnance in their roofbeams.

The North Pennsylvania Railroad

The New Hope and Ivyland rail road. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

The New Hope Branch of the railroad was finished in 1891, running under the Reading Railroad until 1952 when all passenger activity from Hatboro stopped, also marking the end for the electrified track, along with any foreseen future for New Hope. Only freight trains would enter the town from 1952 to 1966, thanks to the Union Camp Paper Corp. and James D. Morrissey Materials Co. that insisted on delivering paper pulp, sand, and gravel to stay in business. 

Worthy of its name, the installation of the 16 miles of track spanning from town's southwest to Ivyland in 1966, upon the formation of the New Hope & Ivyland was the same year that scenic tourist excursions have begun. In 1972, SEPTA took over the Reading Railroad's passenger operations, reinstated passenger service to town, and extended the route to Warminster. To this day, New Hope & Ivyland continues to provide scenic tourist excursion passenger rides between New Hope and Lahaska.

Attractions In New Hope

new hope
Peddler's Village shopping center in New Hope. Editorial credit: JWCohen /

The town is home to the Bucks County Playhouse, known for its celebrity Broadway shows, musicals, and theater productions. Among many eclectic restaurants in town, the riverside-set, The Landing and Stella by Jose Garces serves some of the most delectable dishes in the region. A vintage train ride to the nearby Lahaska, along the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, makes for a fun and scenic family pastime. The town also has a vibrant nightlife, while the area, having been known as a popular gay resort in the 1950s, retains a large, active gay community to this day.

City dwellers come on weekends to get lost in the simple joys of strolling along the river and the Delaware Canal. One can also venture out on a self-guided tour, hitting some historical sights and cultural landmarks. Visiting the New Hope Arts Center, the local Nakashima Woodworkers, and the historic Parry Mansion, to wind down with a riverside picnic would comprise a day-full of adventure and discovery. Some of the historic buildings open to the public date back to the 1700s, while for splendid scenery, one must visit the Bowman's Hill Tower and the Washington Crossing Historic Park. 

Driven by tourism, the scenic small town of New Hope in the heart of Bucks County is just a short drive from Philadelphia and across the river from New Jersey. Travelers come to the picturesque town surrounded by deep woods for relaxation from the big city feel. The abundance of active pursuits and historical wonders are especially popular with tourists. Since culture is integral to the residents, it is no wonder that visitors also enjoy the Art and Culture factor when in town.

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