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This August, instead of following the hoi polloi to the east end or upstate New York, consider the quaint undiscovered hamlet of Frenchtown, located about 90 minutes from midtown Manhattan. This once bustling industrious river town along the Delaware is like a throwback in time, a sweet taste of New England right in your own backyard.
The boro of Frenchtown got its start back in 1794 when a French-speaking Swiss native bought and settled the town. In the decades that followed, trade in farm products, ferries that carried both people and cargo, and eventually the Belvidere Delaware Railroad came through town, further fueling its rapid growth. Now the river is used for recreation, and hotels that were once busy transit points, are restaurants with covered porches and original mahogany bars to while away your summer evening.
There's a myriad of ways to get yourself into the Delaware River. Now through just after Labor Day, head to Delaware Tubing Company for tubing, rafting, and kayak rentals. 1.5 miles north of town, it's accessible by bike, or a 30-minute walk along the scenic tow path. You can always splash around like the locals do, don your water shoes and scamper in the Nishisakawick creek by the playground or the shady picturesque spot where it feeds into the Delaware on the South side of town.
Rent a bike at Cycle Corner (or bring your own on the bus). Ask helpful owner Dave for directions to the tow path along the Pennsylvania Canal; the covered wooden bridge, the old industrial barns- and mills-turned-houses, and Tinicum State Park make for a delightful ride. Or take the tow path on the NJ side north to Frenchtown's sister village of Milford about 20-minutes up the road. The Milford Station Bakery is a great place for a rest before exploring the town. Want a little romance with your outdoorsy weekend? Cycle Corner has tandem bikes for rent, as well as bikes with kid's trailers for a family-friendly ride.
Eats + Drinks
For a quaint village, Frenchtown offers a mighty selection of quality dining. The Lovin' Oven serves modern American cuisine in a loft-industrial setting and a beautiful shady patio. The food is great but you MUST leave room for most delicious homemade desserts you have ever had.
For breakfast or lunch with a view, check out The Bridge Café in what was once the old railroad station. The food is delicious, as are their old fashioned handmade doughnuts.
For dinner, first make a pitstop at Frenchtown Wine and Liquor for a bottle of vino or a cool six- pack, then try the BYOB Mexican eatery Cochina Del Sol (downstairs in the basement at 10 Bridge St). Or, see and be seen at a table on the porch of the award-winning Frenchtown Inn (7 Bridge St) where the bartender SarahBeth will make you the cocktail of your dreams.
The National Hotel (31 Race St) has lovely rooms and suites for families, friends, or couples (weekends $159-$209/night) with continental breakfast. The B&B in town, Widow McCrea House, has five elegantly furnished rooms from $145/night, plus a pet- and family-friendly cottage with its own private patio for $350/night. If you don't mind a little walk, there are several Airbnb's in the area.
Do not get back on the bus without peeking your head into Country Chic, the resale shop that also sells goodies from local artists. Those in the know flock here from far and wide for good reason. This once-NYC-fashionista has gotten a thousand-dollar suede Gucci handbag for $34, perfect fitting Joe jeans for $10, and several lovely designer cashmere sweaters for about $30.
Transbridge Bus Lines goes directly to Frenchtown from PABT in about two hours. $47.50 round trip. Buy your ticket at the PABT ticket counter, or pay the driver with exact cash from local stops. At the discretion of the driver, it's an additional $7 each way to bring a bicycle, although if you place it under the bus and retrieve it yourself, the drivers often waive the fee.
By Stacey Wolf, offMetro.com. Photos by Violette79, Martin Thomas